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Evacuations Postponed In Aleppo amid Safety Concerns; Gunmen Attack Tourist Spot, McCain's Ominous Warning; China to Return Seized U.S. Drone; Trump Team Criticize Intelligence Community Over Hacking; Jon Stewart Advocate for 9/11 Responders, Survivors; Surgically Separated Twins Move to Rehab Center. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired December 18, 2016 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:03] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: According -- there are some new developments out of Syrian. The evacuation of thousands of civilians and rebels trapped by fighting in Eastern Aleppo is being postponed, again, over safety concerns. According to Syrian State T.V., buses had arrived in the city and were expected to start bringing people out to neighboring towns, but a Syrian human rights group reports that plan is now on hold indefinitely. Some buses in nearby Idlib were burned even before they could reach their pickup points.

I want to bring in CNN's Muhammad Lila, he's live from Turkish-Syrian border. Muhammad, what happened?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, essentially what happened was the groups on the ground didn't have security guarantees in place to make sure that this evacuation could take place without more people getting hurt. We saw the evacuations a couple days ago to try to get off the ground but there was some shooting from one of the militia groups on the ground, and as a result, they had to cancel the whole operation.

Today, there was actually a much bigger development where there were some buses that were set on fire. And we have seen that very dramatic footage. And this is a very stark reminder, Boris, that starvation is being used as a weapon in this war, not just by the Syrian government but also some of the militant groups that are on the ground.

In this case, there are a couple of smaller villages that have been encircled by the militants and laid siege to by the militants including elements of Al-Qaeda. So as part of this evacuation deal, people in those villages were supposed to be released and at the same time people in Eastern Aleppo, the rebels, their family, as well as civilians were suppose to be released. That release, obviously, never happened because the buses that were going to those villages were set on fire.

Now, we don't know who set those buses on fire but it did happen in territory where Al-Qaeda has a presence. So what may have ended up happening was that Al-Qaeda may have tried to sabotage this peace agreement and, of course, there are rebels in the Eastern part of Aleppo that are not happy because this evacuation deal was designed from the outset to save thousands of lives on both sides.

SANCHEZ: Muhammad, some of the rebels are claiming that it's actually Iranian militia forces that are creating a lot of delays and problems in trying to get people out of there. Why is that?

LILA: Well, it actually shows just how complex the situation is on the ground, Boris. I mean, this is an asymmetrical war with so many different players on the ground. You have the Iranian proxies, you have militias on the ground, you have the militants and among the militants, you have so-called moderate opposition, however small they might be and then you have the hard core opposition including Al-Qaeda and ISIS. How on earth can you set up an evacuation plan with all of these varying interests on the ground? It's not like they are sitting in a conference room taking a vote. These are people with very defined interest that are fighting each other and killing each other.

And it's very difficult to get any kind of consensus. And this is something that you're weighing (ph) in the Red Cross. They have been pushing for, for so long saying, look, just give us the security guarantees that we can get the civilians out of harm's way. And up until today and, in fact, today was a stark reminder that those guarantees just aren't there because these groups seems so intense on fighting and killing each other.

SANCHEZ: All right Muhammad, thank you for keeping an eye on the situation there. We will check in with you later. Thank you.

I want to bring in retired U.S. Army Major General James "Spider" Marks. He's a CNN military analyst and a former U.S. army intelligence officer in the Mideast. General, why can't these evacuations get going? Are they simply lacking political will?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think it's more than political will. Clearly on the ground, you have all of the conflicting interests as was just described very, very well. That have not been aligned and will not be aligned. Everybody has a desired outcome that is dissimilar from everybody else.

And the notion that human suffering has to stop and then everybody would agree that human suffering is a bad thing simply does not exist. I mean, it's a very sad state that we're looking at right now, where there's no confluence of interest, there's no desire on anybody's part to try to reach some instate that makes sense. So internationally, there are several but not very significant options that are at play that might be able to address this. But again, it will result in additional destruction on ground.

SANCHEZ: All right. President Obama has said that Syria has been one of the biggest challenges that he's faced while president. Listen to what he said about Syria before he left the White House on Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: Responsibility for this brutality lies in one place alone, with the Assad regime and its allies, Russia and Iran. And this blood and these atrocities are on their hands. I understand the impulse to want to do something. But ultimately, what I've had to do is to think about what can we sustain, what is realistic but I continue to believe that it was the right approach given what realistically we could get done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: We've seen the United States essentially lose all leverage in the effort to try to bring peace in Syria. Is there still a role for the United States there now?

[15:05:05]: MARKS: Yeah, that's a great question. I would suggest that United States always has a role but it is a very difficult one to achieve at this point. Look, we gave up the initiative when our president drew a red line, what you should never do in any case but when you draw a red line which is an ultimatum, you then follow through or we didn't do that.

Strategically, we gave away the initiative and clearly Russia and Assad have a relationship that's unactionable (ph) and is not going to be challenged at this point. So, if we are to acknowledge that Assad is not going anywhere, as horrible as that individual is and his regime is and let's not try to put any other type of descriptor on that. This is an abomination. But it exists. He's in power, the resistance is diminishing right now and our new president, the incoming, has indicated he's not going to spend any time overthrowing dictators but he wants to spend time on trying to defeat ISIS.

In these particular cases, Syria, those two are mutually exclusive. A strongman in the form of Assad, the backing by Putin, that could be sad as it sounds, the only type of path towards if we're going to try the path towards the destruction of ISIS if, in fact, we are significantly focused on getting that done. It is a world that's completely turned upside down right now.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, it is general. I want to bring your attention something John McCain said earlier today. He made a case that the failure in Syria that the hacking of the election essentially by the Russian government, that the issues we're having with China in the South China Sea illustrated on Thursday by the seizure of this unmanned drone, that this is a pattern of other countries checking the United States power. He sees it as a failure of leadership in the United States. Do you see American power weakening abroad? Is this a pattern or these instances just a separate and unrelated?

MARKS: No, totally related. This is -- whether American influence. We have over the course of this president's time allowed American influence to become diminished, sadly and we've not been able to establish the strategic initiative in areas where we need to. Our pivot to Asia didn't really exist.

Our ability to try to influence actions in the Mid East, we've been able -- there are some successes. We've been able to hold ISIS and the geographic location of that caliphate that they created in Syria and Iraq has, in fact, been -- we've been able to put pressure on the outside and move it in. But as a result of that, it's like pushing into a balloon and expands elsewhere and it's expanding online and very cynical way recruiting young men to agree and now we see challenges elsewhere around the world to include North Africa, we see it in Europe and clearly we see it happening in the United States as well.

The United States must establish a very strong policy of building alliances and getting those alliances to do things so we can accomplish our national security objectives abroad. We can't allow these types of incidents to occur.

SANCHEZ: It's going to be fascinating to watch how president-elect Donald Trump approaches all of these. Major General Spider Marks, thank you so much for taking time on this Sunday for us.

MARKS: Thanks Boris.

SANCHEZ: Police in Jordan are battling several gunmen in a city of Karak, south of Amman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Some of the harrowing scenes they are watching there, nine people have been killed since the attack began early today. Near a medieval castle that's a popular tourist spot. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is joining us live from Amman, Jordan. Jomana, what's the situation there now?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're trying to get more information but little information is coming from the Jordanian government at this point, Boris. It seems to be that this is an ongoing incident as you mentioned in the city of Karak. What we do know from the Jordanian authorities, that they had multiple shootings today in southern Jordan. It started off in a town to the north of Karak. Their security forces came under fire.

And then in the city of Karak, first, a security patrol came under fire but it seems the main incident that took place here today was in and around the Karak Castle. As you mentioned, this is a 12th century crusader castle. It is one of the main tourist sights in southern Jordan.

And according to authority were happened there was that several gunmen positioned themselves in a castle. This is on a hilltop overlooking the city of Karak. And from there, they opened fire on a police station nearby, a fire fight ensued, the area was cordoned off and they were surrounded by security forces.

[15:10:05] And as you mentioned, at least nine people were killed. The majority of them, security forces, but also civilians and at least one tourist, a Canadian woman according to the Jordanian security forces. The latest that we had heard from a special branch of the Jordanian police is that they're saying that this is an ongoing operation but what's going on right now is a clearing and combing operation of the castle where they say that they have killed a number of these gunmen. Right now, it is unclear if this is over or if it is currently still going on, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Now Jomana, we know that no group is yet to take responsibility for these attacks, but do you have any indication as to who these gunmen might be?

KARADSHEH: It's still unclear who's behind this. We heard from the Jordanian prime minister a few hours ago while he was addressing parliament. He described this as a group of outlaws but we've also heard since then several Jordanian officials describing this as a terrorist attack and describing as a terrorist.

As, you know, Jordan is a key U.S. ally. It has been at the forefront of the battle against terrorism and extremism in this region. And authorities here have foiled several terror plots over the past year. And I have to stay attacks like this are quite rare in this country. It's a country that really prides itself with its security and stability in the midst of this really turbulent region.

At this point though, it is still unclear what the motives are or who is behind this attack, Boris.

SANCHEZ: All right, Jomana Karadsheh, reporting live from Jordan. Thank you.

Up next, an ominous warning from the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: This is a sign of a possible unraveling of the world order that was established after World War II.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: What prompted Senator John McCain to say this, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: One of the country's most prominent Republicans is issuing a warning about Russia's hacking in of the U.S. election. Arizona Senator John McCain told CNN's Jake Tapper this morning, the meddling could be a sign that the world order is unraveling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: The president has no strategy and now policy as to what to do about these various cyber attacks that have possibly disrupted an American election.

[15:15:00] We need a select committee. We need to get to the bottom of this. We need to find out exactly what was done and what the implications of the attacks were especially if they had an effect on our election. There's no doubt they were interfering and no doubt it was a cyber attacks. The question now is how much and what damage and what should the United States of America do? And so far, we've been totally paralyzed. I'm sure that when Vladimir Putin was told cut it out, unquote, I'm sure that Vladimir Putin immediately stopped all cyber activity. The fact is they are hacking every single day in other areas of our military and all kinds of different aspects of American life that they are able to penetrate. And we have no strategy, nor do we have any policy towards that and it's very disturbing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Joining me now to talk more about this, Julian Zelizer, he's a historian and professor at Princeton University and CNN political commentator, Ryan Lizza, he's also a Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker." Ryan, you heard John McCain, they're calling for a congressional select committee to investigate this Russian hacking but without support from Donald Trump, how far is this investigation going to go?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, not only as there are not support from Donald Trump -- I mean, Trump has not been willing to actually admit what the consensus opinion of our intelligence agencies is. And, frankly, anyone that has just looked at the private sector reporting about this hack, it's very clear when you look at any of the reporting where it came from. It's no mystery.

So, I think there are two things. One, the president-elect has not been interested in going along with what the unanimous view is on this and two, you have Republicans in Congress, John McCain being an important exception who don't really seem interested in setting up a separate select committee the way he does. He want something high profile committee on the order of the 9/11 commission, something that is independent.

A lot of other Republicans on the Hill want the current intelligence agencies to look into this. And, you know, without the authority of a select committee, we're really not going to have a comprehensive report, a comprehensive view of what happened.

SANCHEZ: Julian, is the hesitation from Donald Trump and some of his supporters really just hesitation because they don't want to build a narrative that his presidency might be illegitimate?

JULIAN ZELIZER, HISTORIAN & PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Well I think there's two things going on. On Donald Trump's side, on President-elect Trump side there's clearly been posture that's sympathetic to Russia and not interested in increasing hostilities. We've seen this from the cabinet picks. We've seen this from President-elect Trump's own words. And that is connected to a defensiveness, that this is really about the legitimacy of his victory.

And then on the Republican side this is polarization, clashes with the responsibilities of Congress. Many Republicans don't want to undercut the distinct part as an advantage. They now have as a result of this election through a select committee. SANCHEZ: All right. Ryan, McCain claims that the Russians are hacking the U.S. even now. If that's true, what do you make of McCain's criticism that President Obama could have done more? The president says he responded to this in the way he should have, adequately. Do you think that's the case?

LIZZA: I don't -- I think from what we know, there's has been no response except for a public sort of -- what they sometimes call ...

ZELIZER: Shaming.

LIZZA: ... name and shame. That's right. So we've identified who it was. Although I think the administration might want to put out some more information and hopefully they will to sort of prove to people who are still skeptical what the source of this hacking was. But it seems like from the reporting that's been done on this that the administration dithered in the run up to Election Day about a more forceful response and decided that that in itself would interfere with the election.

And since they frankly believed that Hillary Clinton was going to win, I think they believed that they would wait until after the election to do anything. Now, of course, we're in a very unusual situation where the intelligence agencies believe not only that Russia did this hacking and essentially propaganda effort, but that their intent was to elect Donald Trump. And that's now the consensus view of the intelligence agencies.

And you're in this very strange situation where the president-elect doesn't believe it was Russia. The president is now under pressure from some Republicans like McCain to now do something. And it's very unusual because, you know, you would want the situation like this, you would want the president-elect and the president of the United States, the outgoing and ingoing presidents to be on the same page about what the United States response should be to this.

[15:20:02] And they're not there. That's why I find McCain's criticism only of Obama a little unusual. I think he's right to criticize him for lack of a response. But there's criticism on the president-elect's part here as well.

SANCHEZ: Julian, do you think that McCain should have gone after Donald Trump more aggressively?

ZELIZER: I think he's going to need to if he's serous about trying to build support for some kind of investigation. Ultimately that's the avenue towards an investigation, not simply looking back at President Obama but examining these connections between a Trump administration, between the hacking and between Russia. That's the kind of issue that can galvanize even Republican support, especially Republicans who are never totally comfortable with Trump's campaign. So I think McCain will have to if he's serious at all about pursuing this path.

LIZZA: And -- yes, a long term, this is a new form of warfare and long term just like the advent of the atomic age, what we -- the way we dealt with it was treaties. We need long-term and arms control treaty that deals with cyber war. Because right now, it's just the Wild West and we don't really know what the new rules are yet.

SANCHEZ: Julian, do you agree very quickly with John McCain that the president simply has no strategy for cyber warfare?

ZELIZER: Well, I don't think the existing administration has enough of a strategy. I'm sure he has one but given what we've just seen in the election, it has to be more aggressive. The forms of retribution have to be more thought through. And some kind of treaty has to be put into place. If this was a military attack rather than a cyber attack, the response would be very different, and we'll going to have to start thinking of how to handle it that way.

SANCHEZ: A lot more to talk about gentlemen. We thank you for joining us now. We'll see you later this hour.

LIZZA: Pleasure.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Next, we'll go live to China, the country still holding this American underwater drone that it seized from international waters this weekend. On Saturday, Chinese officials said they would return it. We'll tell you what they are saying today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:25:09] SANCHEZ: This morning Senator John McCain blasted the seizure of a U.S. underwater drone by China. Here's what he said on "State of the Union".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: But the fundamental here is that the Chinese have taken an American vehicle in international waters in a gross violation of international law. There's no strength on the part of the United States of America. Everybody is taking advantage of it and hopefully that will change soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: You might remember Donald Trump tweeted out this curious thing yesterday writing, we should tell China that we don't want the drone they stole back. Let them keep it.

CNN International Correspondent Matt Rivers now joins us live from Beijing. Matt, Senator McCain says that everyone is taking advantage of perceived weakness in the United States, that there's no strength because of a failure in leadership. What does this say about how the U.S. is viewed by the rest of the world?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Of course, I think first and foremost, the Chinese would dispute what Senator McCain said there. They said that they would only take the drone for navigational safety reasons but I think most experts will tell you that they probably took this drone for a couple of reasons. One, perhaps, they wanted to get their hands on this technology or two, that they wanted to send a signal by taking it out of the water, that they're unhappy with U.S. naval operations in this part of the world.

And so, you have people like Senator McCain arguing that the Chinese took the drone in the first place because of a perceived weakness in foreign policy. But the other side there would argue that the Chinese were perhaps just lashing out against what they perceive to be U.S. aggression in the South China Sea, things like U.S. naval ships sailing through contested waters, things like aircraft surveillance operations and even these research ships that launch the kind of drone that got stolen.

The Chinese regularly accuse the U.S. of using their ships simply to spy on Chinese military activity in the region. So you have people like Senator from Arizona saying that the Chinese are expanding militarily because of U.S. weakness. But on other side, there is an argument to be made that they're only do so lashing out like this because of a consistent U.S. naval presence in this part of the world.

SANCHEZ: And we've seen them make moves recently in the past two weeks in the South China Sea that have been questionable and elevated tensions perhaps between the two countries. How do you see this continuing? Is it going to escalate?

RIVERS: Well, I think for that, you have to look at what's been going on with the incoming administration and frankly the U.S.-Chinese relationship under the incoming Trump administration has gotten off to a rocky start. You had the president-elect comments about Taiwan and the One China policy. You had him taking a phone call with the president of Taiwan and then sending out that tweet you mentioned right off the top here, and that's getting noticed in Chinese state- run newspapers, no official comment from the Chinese government but in an state-run newspaper editorial this morning, actually, they called the president-elect irresponsible and said that well, Chinese rhetoric from the government has been relative measured so far. Once Trump takes the White House, the Chinese government will react more strongly.

And so, right now it does appear that the U.S.-Chinese relationship is on some rocky footing and this is just the latest incident.

SANCHEZ: Matt, we only have a few seconds left. Any idea when we might see that drone again?

RIVERS: As of this point, no. No word from either side. Both sides playing it very coy as to when that drone will be officially returned, Boris.

SANCHEZ: All right, Matt Rivers reporting live from Beijing.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:31:39] SANCHEZ: Thanks so much for joining us on NEWSROOM. I'm Boris Sanchez in for Fredericka Whitfield. The court of lawmakers demanding an investigation into Russia's hacking of the election is getting louder by the day. Meantime, team Trump continues to downplay Russia's role even going as far as criticizing the Intelligence Community's assessment that Russia tried to help Trump win the election. CNN's Ryan Nobles following a story. He joins me live now from West Palm Beach where President- elect Trump is spending the holidays at Mar-a-Lago Estate. Ryan, what's going on?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah Boris, hello from a sunny and warm Mar-a-Lago Resort where the Trump team is here for the holidays. And you're right, the Trump transition at this point have not said whether or not they support this idea of a congressional investigation but they have said repeatedly that they are frustrated by what they are calling leaks from the intelligence community regarding this Russian hack.

And Reince Priebus this morning on Fox said that the CIA and the FBI and these intelligence organizations should be more transparent about what they know and that they should provide this evidence to the public. Listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: If there is this conclusive opinion among all of these intelligence agencies, then they should issue a report or they should stand in front of a camera and make the case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: Now, Priebus also forcefully pushed back on this idea that the Trump campaign was in any way connected to what the Russians were doing, if the Russians were even doing anything. Now, this despite the fact that Trump ally Roger Stone, told CBS Television Station back in October that he had a back channel connection to the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and Stone later predicted on Twitter that John Podesta would be the target of a hack which he turn out to be.

Now, it's important to keep in mind that at that time Stone had no official role with the Trump campaign and the Trump campaign repeatedly refutes the idea that he or anyone connected to them was involved in this hack.

Now, it's also important to point out that, if this investigation does go forward and there seems to be consensus from both Republicans and Democrats that it should, it would be made much easier if the incoming Trump administration approved of the idea and was involved because of course Boris, it will be Trump appointees that will now be running these agencies that will contribute to that investigation. Boris.

SANCHEZ: Ryan speaking of Trump appointees, any indication today that there might be an announcement of someone else in the cabinet soon?

NOBLES: No, we don't have any specific idea of appointees that could come this week. There's been talk that perhaps the next Secretary of the Veterans Administration might be announce something along those lines, but just some names being floated, nothing concrete. We do know that the Trump transition is in somewhat slow down mode because of the holiday, but even though they haven't said specifically that something could happen, that doesn't mean that it won't. So that's where we're going to standby here if something does come out of the Mar-a-Lago Resort.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, enjoy your time there, Ryan. Thank you very much.

Lawmakers have also been very critical of President Obama's response to Russia's actions. Here's what Arizona Senator John McCain had to say this morning on "State of The Union".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I'm sure that when Vladimir Putin was told "Cut it out", I'm sure that Vladimir Putin immediately stopped all cyber activity. The fact is that they are hacking every single day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:35:03] SANCHEZ: Let's dig deeper on this more. We're joined by Julian Zelizer, a Historian and Professor of Princeton University, Ryan Lizza, a CNN political commentator and NATO General James "Spider" Marks, a CNN military analyst.

General earlier this hour we were talking about the state of the American power in the world and I mentioned that something that John McCain said during "State of the Union", he said that Russian hacking is just one example of other world powers taking in advantage of a lack of American leadership and strength. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: There's no strength on the part of the United States of America. Everybody is taking advantage of it and hopefully that will change soon but it's almost unheard of, Jake, for American vehicles and ships in international waters being taken by another Iranian or in this case Chinese ship in gross violation of international law. They're flaunting it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: General, he also went on to say that we could be seeing the world order established after World War II unraveling. Do you see it that way?

MARKS: I don't see it unraveling but I must agree with the senator that the United States has to take advantage of this transition and reclaim our position in the world internationally. And you don't do that by wilding a whole bunch of power wantly. You have to be very precise and very prescriptive in terms of what are these you want to try to achieve. And that's why it starts at the policy level and then strategy is derived from that. And it has to be very clear what the consequences are, of meddling and actions that are in the antithetical to what, we the United States are trying to achieve.

Now, that's been the order forever, look nations have forever spied on each other although it's been said that it's unseemly for gentlemen to reach other gentlemen's mail. It happens all the time. But there have to be consequences for that. And frankly right now they don't exist and that needs to be a very tight conversation that needs to take place within our national security apparatus that says, look we got established ourselves, we got to be very strong in terms of how we're going to respond, but more importantly how are we going to act to get others to respond to us.

SANCHEZ: How do you think the United States should respond to Russia's alleged meddling in the Election?

MARKS: Yeah, well, the United States has stated very clear and I support what the IC has said. I don't think we've seen anything that would refute the very clear evidence and of good intelligence and the analysis that came with that, that Russia is in fact meddling and is engaged in online activities that are going after our ability to try to communicate. They're trying to establish influence operations that's what this is taking place.

What their intentions were, I think we need to back up from that, but we need to state very clearly that Russia is routinely trying to get in to our networks and doing it quite well as are the Chinese. And in fact, we need to understand it every time we pull out our device and we hit send, we consent to monitoring. Somebody is looking over our shoulder and in fact is breaking down that data, whether it's metadata or specifics. That doesn't need to be discussed. But we have to acknowledge that that takes place and we have to be able to do something in order to move forward that with very strong policies that allow us to establish our place and what we want try to achieve.

SANCHEZ: Julian, I'm interesting in getting your perspective on this, because Trump campaigned on this idea that America was failing at home and abroad. He has pledged to be more aggressive. But between Russian efforts in Baltic countries and Syria, Ukraine and meddling in the election, he doesn't really seem to be motivated to confront Vladimir Putin.

ZELIZER: That's true. I think that's hard to deny that at his point his basic response to the story that has now been circulating for some time has been defensive. His primarily talked about his election. He's primarily talked about the legitimacy of outcomes rather than really offering some kind of argument and policy about how he will deal with this, and we haven't heard that outrage. I think many Americans and both parties want to hear from the President-elect about this intervention that's taking place.

Let me just add, diplomacy was also important to the post World War II order, that was essential, international alliances strengthening our diplomatic institutions in the State Department. And do think that's going to have to be very important right now to all of these threats and that's a concern with the President-elect, how serious he takes that.

SANCHEZ: Ryan, tailing off that John McCain said this morning the president doesn't have an expansive strategy when it comes to handling cyber attacks. How do you foresee Donald Trump handling that? [15:39:57] LIZZA: Well, the first step in -- Trump handling those cyber attacks is recognizing an important fact, he may have been the beneficiary of this cyber attack and which explains his reluctance to admit that it happened and admit that the intentions of the Russians were indeed to help him, which is the consensus view of the Intelligence Community now.

But come January 20th, he is going to switch from being the target of the attack -- excuse me the beneficiary to the target, right? And it's going to be his responsibility to take this seriously and not only to defend the United States from future attacks like this but to come up with a plan to respond because look, Obama's -- you know, I take McCain's point about the Obama administration not having a fully clear policy to respond to cyber attacks, you know, this is the first administration that has had to deal with it on a level that they have.

Trump is going maybe very important in this debate. He's going to have to come up with a cyber strategy that is much clearer and whether that involves negotiating treaties with some of these states or stating very clearly what will happen if a country attacks us in this way.

This is going to be one of the issues on his plate from day one. And so the first thing he needs to realize is, you know, get stop being so defensive about the nature of the attack because it had the effect of helping him and start realizing he's going to be the target of this attacks and the person that needs to defend us against them.

SANCHEZ: We may still be very far from that moment of acknowledgment. General, John McCain says that reality is going to intercede when it comes to Donald Trump's bromance with Vladimir Putin as we've seen another administration where things start out kind of rosy and then they become a bit a train wreck. But which point of contention between the U.S. and Russia and many that have been mentioned, do you think will spark that deterioration of relations?