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CNN NEWSROOM

President-Elect Donald Trump Is Still Refusing To Concede That Russia Hacked The DNC; Evacuations Out Of Aleppo Are Being Postponed; Donald Trump's Pick For Ambassador To Israel, David Friedman; Trump Reaches Out To All Americans On Thank You Tour; Lynch Uptick On Hate Crimes Against Muslim-Americans; Jon Stewart Serious Mission, Advocate For 9/11 Responders And Survivors; Director of National Intelligence: No Intel Briefing For Electors; Pro Trump Electors Receive Death Threats. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired December 18, 2016 - 16:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:00:35] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Happening now in the NEWSROOM.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This is a sign of a possible unraveling of the world order.

SANCHEZ: An ominous warning from Senator John McCain, who is calling for an investigation into election meddling by Russia.

Plus, thousands of desperate people who are about to be evacuated from Aleppo now have to stay. We'll tell you why.

And a popular tourist destination under attack in the Mideast. A standoff lasting for hours, and the death toll is climbing.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Boris Sanchez in for Fredricka Whitfield.

We start with two acts of defiance from two foreign governments that are escalating diplomatic hostility during the transition. Hostility during the presidential transition. President-elect Donald Trump is still refusing to concede that Russia hacked the DNC, and he is taken an unexpected chance on China, after the Pentagon said the Chinese will return the underwater drone it seized from international waters.

Trump tweeted out this. We should tell China that we don't want the drone they stole back. Let them keep it.

What exactly did he mean by that? CNN's Jake Tapper asked Arizona Senator John McCain his take on Trump's comments. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: What does it mean to tell the Chinese to keep the drone? Is there a strategy behind that?

MCCAIN: I don't know. I know that the Chinese are able to do a thing called reverse engineering where they are able to, while they hold the drone, able to find out all of the technical information. And some of it is pretty valuable.

But the fundamental here is that the Chinese have taken an American vehicle and in international waters, in gross violation of international law. Maybe they saw the success that the Iranians had after they captured two American vessels and put American sailors on their knees. And then when they were returned, the secretary of state thanked them for that.

Look, 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 in -- and ships in international waters being taken by another Iranian or, in this case, Chinese ship, in gross violation of international law. They are funding it.

TAPPER: Let's turn to Russia and president Obama on Friday, defended his response to the Russia hack during a press conference. Take a listen.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In early September, when I saw president Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that didn't happen was to talk to him directly. And tell him to cut it out. There were going to be consequences if he didn't.

TAPPER: What do you think of the president's response, and how do you think the U.S. needs to respond going forward?

MCCAIN: Well, the president's response was sort of an acknowledgment that an endorsement of what they have already done, the president has no strategy and no policy as to what to do about these various cyberattacks that have possibility disrupted an American election.

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 is no doubt they were interfering. And no doubt it was a cyberattack. The question now is, how much and what damage and what should the United States of America do? And so far, we have 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 toward that. And it is very disturbing.

[16:05:10] TAPPER: But just to underline what you said, you're calling for a select committee, joint, house and Senate, to investigate what exactly happened with the Russian hack.

Let me ask you, you're being critical of President Obama's posture toward Russia. But president-elect Trump seems to have a friendly posture toward Russia, one that must upset you, given the fact you've been long suspicious of Vladimir Putin. When president-elect Trump called you to discuss the nomination of

general Mattis for secretary of defense, which will obviously go through your committee, did you raise your concerns about Russia to him?

MCCAIN: No, because it was a brief conversation, and he mentioned that he was -- that general Mattis was going to be his nominee. There was not a conversation.

Look, Jake, what is happening here seizure of the ships, and we see the cyberattacks, when we see the dismemberment of Syria, when we see the tragedies that are taking place there which are heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking, while we sat by and watched all this happen, this is a sign of a possible unraveling of the world order that was established after World War II, which had made one of the most peaceful periods in the history of the world. We are starting to see the strains and the unraveling of that and that is because of an absolute failure of American leadership. When America doesn't lead, a lot of other bad people do. And that's why we're seeing the slaughter in Aleppo that breaks your heart.

TAPPER: I understand that you are critical of President Obama on this issue, but are you not even more concerned about the fact that president-elect Trump seems to want to be friends with Vladimir Putin? I haven't heard him ever criticize Putin ever. Have you?

MCCAIN: No, I have not heard him criticize Putin. I think reality is going to intercede at one point or another just because of the Russian activities. And I hope that with people like general Mattis and some other people around him, that he will very quickly understand what the Russians are all about. And that is, they are ahead of us in many respects in this whole issue of cyber warfare. So we not only need a select committee on exactly what they did in this case, but the whole issue of cyber warfare where we have no strategy and no policy because it is one of the areas where they have an advantage. Perhaps the other area where our adversaries have an advantage over us.

TAPPER: Hillary Clinton spoke to her donors on Thursday night in New York City. She sought to explain the election's outcome. She pointed the finger at Putin. Take a listen.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Vladimir Putin himself directed the covert cyberattacks against our electoral system, against our democracy, apparently because he has a personal beef against me.

TAPPER: I have heard some commentators criticize Clinton for saying that Putin directed cyberattacks against quote "the electoral system," suggesting that she's misleading voters about what happened. That it sounds like she's saying the voting machines themselves were attacked. Do you agree with the criticism? And what do you make of her overall argument?

MCCAIN: I have seen no evidence that the voting machines were tampered with. I have seen no evidence that the election would have been different. But that doesn't change the fact that the Russians and others, Chinese to a lesser degree, have been able to interfere with our electoral process. Whether, how serious it is and how, whether it would have effect the outcome of the election or not is the reason why we need to have a select committee.

Jake, the responsibilities for cyber is spread over about four different committees in the Senate. Each doing their own thing, frankly, is not going to be the most efficient way of arriving at a conclusion. This is serious business. If they're able to harm the electoral process, then they destroy democracy which is based on free and fair elections.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Now since that interview this morning, three other senators have joined John McCain in calling for a select committee to investigate Russia's role in the election.

Let's discuss this further with political analyst Ellis Henican and republican strategist Brian Morgenstern.

Gentlemen, good afternoon. Thank you for joining us.

Brian, let's start with you. Seeing as how president-elect Trump is friendly with the Russians, ultimately, what is this select committee going to achieve?

[16:10:17] BRIAN MORGENSTERN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, this is about, you know, I think, shining light on this very important issue of cyber warfare and figuring out what the capabilities of our adversaries are and how we can fight back. It is sort of an inside baseball debate though, over how they are going to do it. As senator McCain said, there are four committees with jurisdiction over this sort of thing who can investigate today who already have this capability. He would like it to be more efficient, a streamlined, you know, single select committee.

But again, this is something that -- it is not a matter of if Congress is going to be concerned with this and, you know, trying to push the administration to be tough on our adversaries. It is a matter of how they're going to do it in an organizational way.

SANCHEZ: Sure. But Ellis, if Donald Trump is really not that keen on going after Vladimir Putin, doesn't that kind of render any decision or consensus by this committee ineffective?

ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL COLUMNIST: Hold on a second, Boris. I mean, yes, he is going to have to be dragged there kicking and screaming. But let me tell you. There are a lot of people in both parties pulling in exactly that direction.

Brian, let me interpret this senate arch (ph) maneuvering here. If you spread it out among four different committees, it'll all be done in secret. A little will be done here, a little will be done there. Nothing will happen. If you put it in the hands of one select committee, members from the house and the Senate, shine a big light on it, get tons of media coverage, they will have to deal with this fact, that the Russians meddled. To some extent we still need to figure out the extent. But they tried to alter the results of the election. Don't we want to know the answer to that?

SANCHEZ: Brian, I have to ask about Donald Trump's tweet on the drone that was taken by China. He said, we don't need it anyway. He said, we should tell China we don't want the drone they stole back. Let them keep it. Is this strategy? What does he mean?

MORGENSTERN: Hard to tell. Some mixed messages going on there, right? And one of his advisers, Ambassador Lee was not aware of it and sort of didn't really know what to make of it. I don't think anybody does. Seems like an off the cuff, Trumpian tweet. That, you know, maybe was thought out, maybe there is strategy there, or maybe it was just an off the cuff remark. But I wouldn't use that tweet as a basis for any sort of, you know, foreign policy. Or, you know, I wouldn't take it too seriously.

SANCHEZ: Sure.

Ellis, to you. President Obama has been criticized again and again today by John McCain for not being more aggressive on foreign policy. He cites the issues with China and the South China Sea, the myriad of issues with Russia, between the election, and Syria, the Baltic States and Ukraine. Ultimately, he says it is a weakening of American power. Do you think president Trump might be more aggressive than president Obama, specifically with Russia? Do you think he is going to change his toe tone?

HENICAN: It is the opposite with Russia. I mean, maybe China, yes. But when it comes to Russia, no. Compared to senator McCain, Barack Obama looks like an unreconstructed, cold warrior. If anything, particularly the naming of Rex Tillerson as the secretary of state, if any, we are looking to make friends over there, not slap anybody around with any new sanctions.

SANCHEZ: Right.

Brian, finally to you. I want to play some sound from Trump's final thank you tour stop in Mobile, Alabama. This is him to something -- reacting to something that Michelle Obama told Oprah this week. That quote "we're not feeling like we have hope." Here's what the sound what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Michelle Obama said yesterday that there's no hope. But I presume she was talking about the past, not the future. Because I'm telling you, we have tremendous hope. And we have tremendous promise and tremendous potential. We are going to be so successful as a country again. We are going to be amazing. And I actually think she made that statement not meaning it the way it came out. I really do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: To be clear, here's exactly what Michelle Obama said. We are feeling what not having hope feels like. Is Donald Trump correctly interpreting what she said?

MORGENSTERN: I mean, her remarks were dark and sort of ominous. But symbolic, maybe, of how liberals are feeling in the aftermath of this very unsuccessful election for their party. But, you know, Trump's response is consistent with his message all along which is that, you know, we're going to make America great again, and we have huge hope, tremendous hope, the best hope. And so, you know, he counterpunched in the way that only Trump does. Not surprising to me. His supporters, of course, rally around him. And of course, did not appreciate Michelle Obama's remarks. You know, his response, of course, I think, was Trumpian.

[16:15:36] SANCHEZ: Certainly was. Brian and Ellis, we are going to continue this conversation soon.

Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us.

Just ahead in the NEWSROOM, a postponed evacuation plan and busses set on fire. This is the situation in Aleppo right now. We are going to take you live to the Syrian border for an update. Please stay with us.

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[16:18:26] SANCHEZ: We are following new developments out of Syria. The evacuations out of Aleppo that were supposed to happen today are being postponed, once again over safety concerns.

Thousands of civilians and rebels trapped by fighting are desperate to get out. According to Syrian state TV, busses have arrived in the city were expected to start bringing people out to neighboring towns. But a Syrian human rights group reports the plan is on hold indefinitely. Actually, some busses in nearby Idlib were burned even before they could reach their pickup points.

I want to bring in CNN's Muhammad Lila who is live from the Turkish- Syrian border, and Lieutenant colonel Rick Francona. He is a CNN military analyst and a former U.S. military attache in Syria.

Muhammad, what was the main safety concern that stopped these evacuations?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the safety concern was that there are so many different elements on the ground. You have got (INAUDIBLE) militias, you got the Syrian army, you got Russia overhead with air strikes, you have got the militants. And of course, within the militants and the rebels, there's no unity, no formal agreement between all of them. And they all have their own agendas.

What happened this morning was that one of those groups, most likely the Al-Qaeda group, which is strong in that area where the busses were burned, they acted on their own and they burned those busses. There were people who were rebel commanders in Aleppo that were upset with that because they wanted the evacuation plan to go through. And it was designed to save thousands of people on both sides from starving. But unfortunately, given the situation on the ground on how fluid it

is and how messy it's become, it is very difficult now for anyone to get those security guarantees, to get everyone to agree and say, look, we are all going to stop the fighting to let this evacuation plan go forward. And unfortunately, that just hasn't happened. And it may not happen because these groups are all fighting each other.

[16:20:00] SANCHEZ: Muhammad, a lot of the people that were fleeing Aleppo were supposed to go to Idlib, but are they really just jumping from the frying pan into the fire? Isn't that the next front in this war?

LILA: Well, don't forget, I mean, Idlib has been subject to Russian air strikes several weeks. So the question is, if they leave Aleppo and go to Idlib, what guarantee is there they're going to be safe in Idlib?

Well, we know Turkey is starting to exert a lot of influence in neighboring Syria. They are talking about maybe setting up a buffer zone, where some of the rebels or civilians could come and rebase. But what's going to happen after that? I mean, Assad has come out and said that he intends to retake every inch of his country. And that suggests, you know, that he is going to take this battle to the rebels. And although the rebels might be on the run, the war is not over. And so we can expect more fighting to come. And so even if the rebels are evacuated, they're not in safe territory just yet.

SANCHEZ: Colonel, we heard President Obama call Syria one of the biggest challenges of his administration. We have seen a deterioration in the past few weeks of any shred of humanity. Is there a role for the United States to play in this conflict?

LT COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Unfortunately, Boris, we have been fairly marginalized. And that's been a downward spiral since 2013, 2014, when we didn't enforce a red line with the chemical weapons use.

And in 2015, when we saw the Russians intervene, I think that's when the handwriting was on the wall for American involvement especially on the removal of Bashar al-Assad. Right now, if you look at America on foreign policy in Syria, what is it? To remove Bashar al-Assad and defeat ISIS. Those objectives are mutually exclusive. You can't do one and you can't do both. You have to pick one or the other. So I think in the future, our role will be, which one of those are we going to side on? And if we decide we're going to fight ISIS, is there a role for us to ally with, say, the Russians to do that? Because the Russians have a vested interest in going after ISIS as well.

So I think our role is shifting. And I think that we are not really in control anymore. The two power brokers in the country, Russia and the Iranians.

And I want to pick up on something that Muhammad says is very key. When we talk about the Syrian rebels, it is not one monolithic group. There are so many factions there. And the breakdown today was the cause of one faction not following the agreement. Unfortunately, it torpedoed what was supposed to happen today in Aleppo. A big problem is the lack of unity.

SANCHEZ: Colonel, we are running out of time but I really want to ask you this. John McCain said today the situation in Syria is one example of a series of instances where foreign powers have challenged American power. You're looking at the South China Sea. You are looking at Russia meddling in the election, Ukraine, obviously, Syria. Do you see that being the case, that America is weak abroad, or at least weaker than it used to be?

FRANCONA: Well, I think that our reluctance to engage has hurt us over the last few years. People regard any sign of a weakness as an opportunity for them to act. In the absence of American leadership, of course, you have a vacuum. And people are waiting to fill that. I know that our administration has been saying we're going to take the high road and we are not going to engage in these kinds of activities. And unfortunately, we are in the west, taking the high road is a good thing. In the Middle East, it is regarded as a sign of weakness. And the Iranians, the Russians, the Turks, they have all exploited it. And that will continue if we don't reestablish our leadership role.

SANCHEZ: Gentlemen, thank you so much for being on. We appreciate the conversation. We will be back after a break.

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[16:52:07] SANCHEZ: Donald Trump's pick for ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is known for his hard line views and his controversial stance could really change U.S. relationships in the Mideast going forward.

CNN's global affairs correspondent Elise Labott has more.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, Donald Trump has tapped his hard line campaign adviser as ambassador to Israel. David Friedman has voiced opposition to decades of U.S. policy in the region on settlements, the two-state solution and the embassy in Jerusalem. And the reaction is swinging from a potential true partner with Israel to totally unqualified and risking U.S. credibility around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LABOTT (voice-over): In tapping his long-time friend and bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman, as his ambassador to Israel, Donald Trump moved to make good on a campaign promise.

TRUMP: We will send a clear signal that there is no daylight between America and our most reliable ally, the state of Israel.

LABOTT: Israel's right-wing education minister Naftalie Bennett praised Friedman, calling him a, quote, great friend of Israel. By appointing the hard line Friedman as am ambassador, Trump could be signaling plans to reverse decades of policy toward Israel.

Friedman, an orthodox Jew, has no experience in diplomacy. He strongly supports legalizing settlements and Israel annexing the west bank. And his questioned the need for a Palestinian state. Righting that a two-state solution appears quote "impossible," as long as the Palestinians are unwilling to renounce violence against Israel or recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.

AARON MILLER, DISTINGUISHED SCHOLAR, WILSON CENTER: I'm reminded of the line from Wizard of Oz when Dorothy Lands and says (INAUDIBLE), I don't think we're in Kansas anymore. The issue is that the positions attributed to him on two-state solution, settlement activity that clearly contradict decades of U.S. foreign policy.

TRUMP: We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.

LABOTT: In a statement, Friedman said he looked forward to doing his job quote "for the U.S. embassy in Israel's eternal capital, Jerusalem," echoing his promise to Israelis in Jerusalem in October.

DAVID FRIEDMAN, AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL NOMINEE: The law provides that the obligation to move the embassy to Jerusalem can be waved at the desire of the state department. The reaction from Donald Trump is going to be, guys, you are all fired.

LABOTT: For decades, U.S. presidents have argued the status of Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians see as their rightful capital, can only be settled as part of a peace deal.

Friedman has criticized the left-leaning Jewish lobby, J Street, which has criticized some Israeli policies, calling them quote "far worse than (INAUDIBLE). Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the death camps."

As to response to those comments, Friedman says quote "they are not Jewish and they are not pro-Israel."

[16:30:09] In a statement, the group that supports the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians said it was, quote, opposed to Friedman's nomination. Calling it reckless and putting America's reputation in the region and credibility around the world at risk.

Current and former diplomats say that by picking Friedman as ambassador and promising to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Donald Trump is running counter to his profess desire, which is making, what he called the ultimate deal between Israelis and Palestinians, because it raises doubt about whether the U.S. can continue to be an honest broker in future Mideast peace talks, Boris.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN NEWSROOM HOST: All right, Elise Labott, thank you for that.

Coming up, Donald Trump extends an olive branch to those who didn't vote for him, but is it enough to unite a much fractured country?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: President-Elect Donald Trump closed out the last leg of his thank you tour in Mobile, Alabama, in front of a crowd of thousands of people. He extended an olive branch, to all Americans including to those who didn't vote for him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: My message today is for all Americans. From all parties, all beliefs, all races, all walks of life. Whether you are African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American, we're all American. And we're all united by one shared destiny. So I'm asking everyone to join this incredible moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: But is this gesture enough to bring together a country that is divided? Let's talk about all of this with political analyst Ellis Henican and Republican strategist Brian Morgenstern. Ellis to you first, there were a lot of immigrants among immigrants, people of color, Muslims, about what a Trump presidency could mean and whether or not it could embolden some of the uglier portions of his support to do very ugly things. Do you think Trump has gone far enough in convincing people that he is going to be a president for everyone?

[16:35:20] ELLIS HENICAN, POLITICAL ANALYST: No. I love the words. I mean, they sounded almost poetic. I thought it sounded terrific. Listen, you know he didn't run a campaign that was very uniting. I would say some of the appointees to the cabinet and other high administration officials do not all seem like people who are likely to bring Americans all together into one big family, but you know, in the end, we'll know. He is going to have some policies. And they're going to answer that question for you, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Brian, what do you think? Is he doing enough to bring everyone that is afraid of a Donald Trump presidency together?

BRIAN MORGENSTERN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: This is a great first step. As Ellis said, the words are poetic, they are inspiring. And now he has an opportunity to use these words as a launch pad to building a very large and inclusive movement that could lead to electoral victories in the future. And something that the Obama campaign apparatus did incredibly well, I think.

The Trump organization, not the business, but Trump's organization can take a similar path that would lead, I think, to some success, in that he can now use the RNC and whatever outside groups end up sort of coming of the campaign once he starts to govern. He can then build these coalitions in inner cities, in places where Republicans have not been really courting votes in a while.

He can use this message and the existing organization that got him elected president to build a bigger and very inclusive group. So I think it is a great speech, and I think that they have an opportunity now to back it up with action.

SANCHEZ: Brian, staying with you, one of the places that some critics say they want to see more color is in the cabinet. I'm not sure if we can pull up the graphic right now, but if you look at his initial picks, with some exception, it looks very similar, a lot of older, white men. Do you think he needs more diversity in his cabinet?

MORGENSTERN: He has some diversity in there. Of course Dr. Carson, Ed Hud and Elaine Chow at transportation and Betsy DeVos for education, of course Governor Haley at the U.N. ambassador post, I mean he has got, it's pretty diverse, but it seems to me that the administration is making choices based on qualifications and Trump's confidence in these picks, not based on sort of, you know, I guess aesthetic criteria and appearances. He seems to be basing it on, who he is comfortable, you know, with doing the job and based on their experience.

SANCHEZ: Ellis, do you see it simply as aesthetic criteria?

HENICAN: Can I get out of this phony optimism mode for a second? I mean, hello. This is a guy who ran the most divisive campaign in modern American history. He insulted almost every group you can imagine. He has built a cabinet with mostly generals and billionaires. I mean we can hope, the tweets keep coming, and they are just as hostile as ever. You know, what do they say, optimism rings eternal, but I don't know. I'm doing my best to hang on to a cheerful tone now, but I haven't seen a lot of firm evidence yet. Why don't I put it like that?

SANCHEZ: One thing we heard from Loretta Lynch today in her interview during "State of the Union," is that there has been an uptick in the reporting of hate crimes during the election cycle. I want you to listen to this sound bite in an interview with Jake Tapper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LORETTA LYNCH, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We've been seeing this uptick really in the last several years. The report the FBI just issued focused on 2015 and saw a rise in hate crimes overall and a rather alarmingly large increase of hate crimes directed against Muslim Americans. Certainly we've gotten more reports of incidents over the last several months. And those reports are under investigation, also. And so we're watching it very, very carefully. So, I think it is a combination of things. I think the rhetoric certainly around the election makes people -- it awakens certain views in people, and they may or may not feel empowered to act on it. My advice to the new administration would be to look at this issue very carefully as we are. And I know they'll take public safety very seriously. And I'll leave it to them as to how they want to respond to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Brian, do you think Donald Trump at some point should perhaps acknowledge that the rhetoric of his campaign specifically was divisive?

MORGENSTERN: I -- this is a guy who doesn't apologize for anything, right? But I also think it is important to note that you can't blame somebody for having some wacky supporters. You know, it is not like Trump is out there telling people to go out and commit acts of violence.

[16:40:03] SANCHEZ: Certainly not. In his rallies, he is telling his supporters to punch people. That was, send them out on a stretcher.

MORGENSTERN: That was early on in the campaign.

SANCHEZ: Very early on.

MORGENSTERN: It also, you know, I think people take Trump awfully seriously when he of course makes offhand remarks and is sarcastic quite a bit. Look, what's going to really sort of make-up people's minds on this is how his Department of Justice proceeds. And if they do, as Attorney General Lynch said, you know continue to give a good, hard look at hate crimes and prosecute them and investigate them, then I think that are really what people should pay attention to. And so I have no reason to believe the Department of Justice won't continue to do its job once Donald Trump is inaugurated. And assuming they do, I think, you know, that'll go a long way.

SANCHEZ: Ellis, do you have any maybe doubts that Jeff Sessions may continue the work that Loretta Lynch started, when it comes to specifically prosecuting hate crimes?

HENICAN: Go, I'm trying so hard to be hopeful today, Boris. It is the holiday season. You know, if you look back at the history of Jeff Sessions over the years, I'm not sure that it ought to bring you a lot of encouragement on that. Some of the Republican Party rhetoric around the issue of voting rights, I think might give you a pause. I'm assuming, but the way that Loretta Lynch's statistics aren't just hate crimes in the vicinity of Trump rallies, but was more general. Let me leave it at that. I'm remaking hopeful. Leave it there.

SANCHEZ: All right Ellis and Brian, again, very much appreciate a lively conversation. Take care.

HENICAN: Nice seeing you.

MORGENSTERN: Thank you, Boris.

SANCHEZ: He is best known for his comedy, but today, Jon Stewart is talking to CNN about a tragedy. That story is next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: This was about honoring a commitment to people that had honored a commitment to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:00] SANCHEZ: Comedian Jon Stewart is best known as the former host of the "Daily Show" and his scathing reverend commentary on politics and, of course, the media.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART: It is an incredibly, I think, complex and well-reasoned and eyewitness view to the history of those four years. And I think I speak for everybody when I say no one cares. They just want to know if you're running for president.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: That was then, but today, the comedian is getting serious about helping the heroes and survivors of the attacks of September 11, 2001. Stewart is trying to make sure they get the medical attention and the money that they're entitled to. Sarah Ganim just spoke with Stewart about his mission. Sarah, apparently, there could be thousands of people who aren't receiving the benefits that they qualify for.

SARAH GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is right. There is about 75 people -- 75,000 people, Boris, who have signed up for this program, but there is another 30,000 estimated out there, who may not know about it. That is why Jon Stewart is speaking out about it today. This act, you know, is instrumental for the people who came in to help this country in their time of need. This is about giving back to them in their time of need. Instrumental in annual monitoring for illnesses that could, you know could have afflicted them, because of their work, for example, at the site of the twin towers, Doctor's visit, prescriptions that are paid for, treatments and surgeries that these people need, many of them who are suffering now from cancer and other ailments. You know, Jon Stewart was instrumental in the renewal of this act in 2015. And according to him, it was a big fight with the members of congress, to be able to make sure that these medical services are available to these first responders for the next 75 years. This is a big part of what we talked about today. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was the frustration?

STEWART: Not supposed to curse on CNN, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well you can, but we have editing.

STEWART: You know it was an exercise in being appalled. They would literally have to chase down congress people in the hallways and they would hide when they knew those guys were coming. It was outrageous and these are the same people that are tweeting out every year, never forget the heroes of 9/11. And what these guys witnessed down here was, you know incomparable in terms of its madness and horror.

You know, that peace of mind is a big part of navigating these types of ailments and illnesses. Veterans are the same position. So the idea that it was -- that they spend an incredible amount of energy and stress battling their own governments to prove that these -- you know, I understand, look, everybody doesn't want to worry about waste fraud and abuse. But not sure this is, you know -- let's shift the benefit of the doubt in certain instances like this.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GANIM: Of course, Boris, this is a very serious topic, but Jon

Stewart, he is the king of talking about something serious with a little bit of comedy. So we did have to talk a little bit about his beard, the post-show beard that he is growing. And also, I asked him, I said, is there any job you'd take in a Trump administration? He said, no. He said he doesn't miss his show. He is happy with what he is doing right now. And he is not looking for any more of the spotlight, other than these important issues right now.

SANCHEZ: Despite all my letters, he still is not coming back to TV. Sarah Ganim, thank you so much. We'll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:51:53] SANCHEZ: Tomorrow, the Electoral College meets to cast its votes for the next president of the United States. And electors will do so without an intelligence briefing on Russian interference in the election. A group of Hillary Clinton electors had called for a briefing ahead of the vote. In an open letter, to the Director of National Intelligence, Trump Senior Aide Kellyanne Conway addressed the question this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: The entire nonsense about the electors trying to use the Russian hacking issue to change the election result is really unfortunate. I think that actually undermines our democracy more than any other conversation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: While hacking has dominated much of the discussion, so has the question of pro-Trump electors changing their vote. And for some, the pressure is very real and, at times, threatening. CNN's Rosa Flores has more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this one came in a day before the election. Hey, blank head, I'll find you and put a bullet in your fat blanking mouth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Death threats fill Michigan elector Michael Banerian's social media accounts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BANERIAN, MICHIGAN ELECTOR: So this is a tweet I received, has a picture of a noose on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: He's mailbox pack with demands coming from around the country, 2,000 just this week, he says. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BANERIAN: Oregon, Oklahoma, Washington State.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm so sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: The mailman even interrupting our interview to deliver another 600 letters, all calling on him not to vote for Donald Trump. Something Banerian along with Michigan's 15 other electors, pledge to do, regardless of the pressures.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BANERIAN: I've had death wishes. People just saying, I hope you die. Do society a favor. Throw yourself in front of a bus. And just recently, I was reading a blog about me, and unfortunately, these people not only called for the burning of myself, but my family, which is completely out of line.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: Banerian has no choice. Michigan state law keeps him from changing his vote. Electors in 27 other states and the district of Colombia also have what are known as fakeless elector laws, but in 22 states, electors can go rogue.

Anti-Trump groups are not letting up. Posting the names and addresses of 283 electors on the internet, encouraging people across the country to write the electors, asking they vote against Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe I must cast my vote for an alternative Republican.

FLORES: The group, Hamilton electors, is leading the charge to block Trump from 270 electoral votes. They say at least 20 electors are on board. But they need 37 for the election to go to the House of Representatives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republican members of the Electoral College, this message is for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: Hollywood stars are pushing for an alternate ending, as well, releasing this video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By voting your conscious, you and other brave Republican electors can give the House of Representatives the option to select a qualified candidate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:55:00] FLORES: But that is never happened before. And Banerian says his vote won't help this year be the first.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BANERIAN: It is otter hypocrisy, because I don't think that if the roles were reversed, most of these people would be ok with electors being faithless and voting for anyone other than Hillary Clinton, had she won.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: Rosa Flores, CNN, Chicago.

SANCHEZ: The reality is that tomorrow's Electoral College vote is mostly just a formality. But that doesn't stop some for hoping that electors could go rouge and "Saturday Night Live" of course jumped over that with a parody of the 2003 movie "Love Actually." Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(LAUGHTER)

Sleep in heavenly peace sleep in heavenly peace silent night holy hallelujah Christ the savior is born Christ the savior is born silent night holy night son of god

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: We'll see if the President-Elect tweets about that. I'm Boris Sanchez. Thank you so much for joining me this weekend. Poppy Harlow has more from the Newsroom, right after this break.

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