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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Soon: How The U.S. Will Retaliate Against Russia; U.S. Convinced Russian Hackers Influenced Election; Syrian Government, Rebels Agree To Ceasefire; U.S. Aware Of Recent Movements Of ISIS Leader Baghdadi; Trump Talks Jobs, Russia, Mideast Peace; Smooth Or Not? Trump Waffles On "Roadblocks" Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired December 29, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. John Berman is off today.
Today, President Obama sending a message to Russia, essentially we are coming for you. Government Officials telling CNN the president is planning covert action against Russia, hitting back over evidence showing Russian hacks intended to interfere in the U.S. election. So what exactly are they planning?
CNN's justice correspondent, Evan Perez, has been tracking this, getting all the details from Washington. Evan, what are you picking up right now?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Kate, in the next few hours if all goes as planned we expect to finally hear the names of Russian officials that U.S. officials want to punish for meddling in the U.S. election. U.S. officials tell us to expect new sanctions and diplomatic measures.
They are expected to name individuals associated with the Russian disinformation operation that U.S. intelligence agencies say was at least partly focused on harming Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and helping Donald Trump.
There's also the covert action that we may never know about which the U.S. says it can take whenever it chooses. The Russian reaction so far is well, lies and misinformation. That's what they say the Obama administration is up to.
A foreign ministry spokeswoman in Moscow says, I quote, "any action against Russian diplomatic missions in the U.S. will immediately bounce back on U.S. diplomats in Russia."
Of course, in just a couple of weeks here, we will have a new president in Washington who doesn't believe that the Russians were behind the cyber-hacks of Democratic Party organizations.
Kate, you know these are actions that Donald Trump can undo if he chooses. Obviously, we know the White House is probably watching right now. We would love to see what they have got up their sleeve. Hopefully, they can press the button on that announcement any time now.
BOLDUAN: Everyone would love to hear exactly who is named in the sanctions and what diplomatic measures they are talking about. Evan, thank you so much. Evan Perez working his sources on that right now.
So for more on this, let me bring in Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is traveling right now in Russia's neighbors, the Baltic States. She, Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain are in Lithuania. The senator joins me by phone. Senator, can you hear me?
SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA (via telephone): Yes, I can, Kate. Thanks for having me on.
BOLDUAN: Thanks so much for jumping on the phone. We really appreciate it. These sanctions that will be announced from the president, do you think the sanctions the president will be rolling out go far enough or do you still think Congress needs to act as well?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I do think Congress has to act in two ways. First of all, I'm pleased that President Obama is moving forward. The one thing we have learned in the Baltic States is they have seen this movie before.
This is not about one country or one country's election as horrific as this conduct was. Estonia was attacked in 2007 just for moving a bronze statue, cyber-attacked. Their web access shut down. Lithuania was attacked.
There are members of parliament attempts to spy on them, bug them and when they invited members of Crimea parliament in, they actually cut off their web access and did a cyber-attack. This is something that they have done systematically.
This was an attack not just on an American election or one political party. It is an attack on all democracies. That's why it's so important that the call for Congress to do two things have come from Republican and Democratic senators.
Senator McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham leading it. Investigations, public hearings and then also, increased sanctions beyond what the administration may be announcing today.
BOLDUAN: Does seem this is one area where there is bipartisan support around something to come out of Congress. The Russian foreign minister responded to this news saying essentially bring it on. Any hostile steps they said will be answered is the words coming out of the Foreign Ministry. Do you take that as a real threat, Senator?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, obviously they have acted on threats before but the point is, we have not responded to this. This is an attack on the fundamental American election system, which is as critical to our system of governance and to the world's democracies as anything can be when you have the world's greatest democracy attacked this way.
If we were to do nothing, it's tantamount to saying go do it in the German or French elections. They can say what they want, but we have to stand tall, Democrats and Republicans, and say this will not be tolerated. That's why I'm glad the president is announcing these steps today.
BOLDUAN: Here's how the president-elect, Donald Trump, reacted to talk of new sanctions against Russia. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think the computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what's going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I'm not sure have you the kind of security that you need. But I have not spoken with the senators and I certainly will be over a period of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:05:01]BOLDUAN: Senator, might have been a little hard to hear that especially over the phone but essentially --
KLOBUCHAR: All the way to Lithuania.
BOLDUAN: Here's the important line. When asked about Russian sanctions, the president-elect said we need to get on with our lives. Your reaction to that?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, getting on with our lives means life based on freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of democracy, and not being influenced by foreign powers and hackers, and so I am hopeful that when the president-elect gets into office he will take this very seriously. He must.
That is -- the office is bigger than anyone who serves in the office and the government is based on this fundamental principle of a democracy. I can tell you that we have equal branches of government and there are Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and the House that feel very strongly about this.
So I hope as we move forward that he has voiced wanting the NATO countries to get up to 2 percent, which I support spent on defense. He has voiced support for NATO. NATO is very important right now because there's nothing Russia would like more than a divided NATO or divided U.S. from NATO.
So my view is that Congress will stand together on this, Democrats and Republicans, and I'm hopeful that the president-elect will as well.
BOLDUAN: You said you hope when he takes office he takes this seriously. Do you think he takes this issue seriously now?
KLOBUCHAR: I'm not going to base my decisions on his tweets and off- hand comments. I'm going to base my decision on what he does when he gets into office. I know that President Obama takes this seriously or he wouldn't be announcing these increased sanctions and diplomatic responses today. BOLDUAN: Trump can, with regard to the announcement coming from President Obama and the White House and the administration, Trump can reverse any moves that he announces against Russia the moment Trump takes office. What if he does, Senator?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, that would be horrific. I cannot believe despite the fact that he has commended Putin over our own president, something I won't forget, I can't believe that he would take that step to reverse these executive actions if in fact the president decides that our current president that we need to change his executive order so that it includes attacks on one of our most critical pieces of infrastructure, our election system.
Because remember, Kate, this isn't just about Russia. Any other nation, whether it is China or any other country, could attack our election system. So if the president either issues a new executive order or amends his 2015 order, this will be about protecting the integrity of our election system from any foreign power or any foreign influence.
So I think it would be hard-pressed for the new president to come in and make that kind of change, and I would be hopeful that he would not do that. I hope he listens to Senator McCain and Senator Graham and some of the other Republican senators who have been very vocal about this.
BOLDUAN: You --
KLOBUCHAR: We stood today, Kate, with some of the people who 25 years ago, 25 years ago asserted the independence of Lithuania and were willing to stand up to Russia at that point. We are not going to let these people down.
BOLDUAN: As you mentioned, you are traveling, touring with Senator McCain and Senator Graham right now. Senator Graham said this week about Russia, about the Russian hacks that Trump is at odds with 99 of the 100 members of the Senate right now on this issue. Who is that one senator that is with Trump on this, do you think?
KLOBUCHAR: Needless to say, I have quizzed Lindsey about this at length. He was just generally speaking that maybe one senator wouldn't be there or would maybe miss a vote because they were taking a nap or maybe had a different view. He was not singling out any single senator.
I think he made the point for a reason. That is that there's widespread bipartisan support for standing up to these Baltic nations, standing up for them, to supporting NATO and certainly to not allow foreign powers to affect our elections.
As Marco Rubio has said, you know, one day it's the Democratic Party that gets attacked, the next day it will be the Republican Party that gets attacked.
One of the things that is coming out loud and clear on this trip is that Russia has done this before. It has been a method they used in Ukraine. They used in Estonia. They used in Lithuania, and they will continue to do it unless we put a stop to it.
So I'm glad that there's forward movement today and it's meaningful not just to our country but to the national security for democracies across the world.
BOLDUAN: Senator, thanks for letting me put you on the spot there. Really appreciate the time. Please travel safe. We'll talk to you when you get back. You keep quizzing him. Tell him to call in. We will always take his calls. Thank you so much.
KLOBUCHAR: OK. Thank you.
[11:10:05]BOLDUAN: Another big headline regarding Russia right now, brokering a ceasefire in Syria. Turkey and Russia just announced this fragile agreement set to go into effect in just hours there. Could this be a glimmer, a sliver of hope for that war-torn country?
Let's bring in CNN's senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance in Moscow and CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr as well. Matthew, first to you. What are you hearing? What is the very latest on this cease-fire? How is this different?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's much broader, first of all, than other ceasefires that have been agreed and have failed in the past. It brings in both Russia and Turkey. It's been guaranteed by both of them.
That's important. Because these are two countries that are on opposite sides of the conflict in Syria with Russia supporting Bashar Al-Assad, the Syrian president, and Turkey supporting a variety of rebel groups opposed to Assad.
It's not just the ceasefire which goes into effect from midnight local time tonight. It's also an agreement to police that ceasefire although the details of how that's going to be policed aren't clear.
And there's a third agreement for there to be peace talks next month in Kazakhstan, in Central Asia, where all the parties will get together and they will try and work out how a long-term solution to this long-running Syrian conflict can be hammered out.
There are a couple of important caveats. The main one being that the main groups fighting the Assad regime in Syria right now, the Islamist groups of Islamic States and the (inaudible) previously known as the al-Nusra Front affiliated of course with al qaeda, do not appear at this point to be included in this ceasefire agreement. Definitely ISIS isn't.
There's some debate over whether the al-Nusra Front is included in it. But of course, that would mean that these are the groups that do most of the fighting against the Syrian regime at the moment. So the actual conflict is not necessarily going to come to a sudden end because of this ceasefire -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: And as Matthew points out very appropriately, Barbara, these ceasefires, if you even want to call some of them in the past a ceasefire, they have fallen through before. What is the U.S. watching for this time?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're right, Kate. It's very, very difficult to get these things into place and have them have real meaning. I think they are very much watching here at the Pentagon and throughout the Obama administration exactly what Matthew is talking about.
ISIS is not included in this, the al-Nusra Front is not included. So if the fighting goes on from those groups, what are we really talking about here? Does it leave the U.S. with two untenable positions --
CHANCE: I can tell you (inaudible).
STARR: -- either support the Russian effort with the Iranians?
CHANCE: Exactly that, Barbara.
STARR: Or you know, support those terrorists and ISIS.
BOLDUAN: Matthew, can you hear us still?
CHANCE: Yes, I can.
BOLDUAN: OK. Great. Just wanted to make sure. As Barbara was saying, kind of what the U.S. is watching for on this side, I also want to get what you're hearing, Matthew, in terms of what's behind the Russian foreign minister's comments today that he hopes that President-elect Trump will join their effort to end the crisis in Syria. Of course, the United States, as much as they can and have been trying to end the crisis in Syria, isn't this more up to the main actors here like Russia?
CHANCE: You know, actually what Barbara was saying was absolutely right. This is a major Russian achievement in the sense that they have achieved one of their big goals in Syria, which was first of all to support Bashar al-Assad. Yes, they have done that.
But they wanted to neutralize the moderate Syrian opposition, to take the moderate opposition off the table, out of the field, to turn this conflict into a simple choice. Do you support the terrorists, the al- Nusra Front and Islamic State, or do you support those who are signed up to this now new Russian initiative?
That's the choice that they are going to be presenting as a result of this deal to the United States. Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, basically said that directly to the United States today, saying, look, we hope when Donald Trump becomes the president of the United States, he will join us in these discussions, in these peace talks, to bring to an end the Syrian conflict.
The alternative isn't viable if this ceasefire lasts, which would be to support ISIS or the al-Nusra Front or whatever name they go by now. So it's been a major success strategically for the Russians on that level.
BOLDUAN: Speaking of ISIS, Barbara, we are also picking up some new reports, information that the U.S. is aware of at least recent movements of the ISIS leader. What can you tell us? How recent are these movements, do you think?
STARR: Well, what we have learned this morning, Kate, is a U.S. official, I want to tell you exactly word for word what this official has said to CNN. This official has said quote, "In the last few weeks, we have been aware of some of Baghdadi's movements."
[11:15:08]So what we have here is perhaps the most recent indication that Baghdadi is alive somewhere out there. We don't have a location. We don't have a time frame. It's our understanding this is not realtime intelligence.
We are not being told that they have information where he is right now. But they got information about where he might recently have been so U.S. intelligence, the U.S. military, now by all accounts working that tip.
Seeing what they can develop, whether they can carry any of that information forward and get more recent information about where he might be and could they possibly move against him -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Barbara, great to see you. Matthew, thank you, guys, so much. Appreciate it. Watching that as the ceasefire set to set in in just hours.
Ahead for us, mixed signals, Trump says the transition with President Obama is going very smoothly just hours after he said it was not so much. Which is it?
Plus, Hollywood in tears, just one day after her daughter's death, actress, Debbie Reynolds passed away. We are going to take a look back at her incredible career including how she learned to dance in just months for that iconic role in "Singing in the Rain."
BOLDUAN: It's now been 155 days since Donald Trump held a full press conference but who's counting? He did, though, speak briefly with the press last night outside his Palm Beach resort with controversial boxing promoter, Don King, by his side, no less. He took a few questions on the transition, on Russian hackers, on Mideast peace and American jobs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:20:06]TRUMP: So we just got some very good news, because of what's happening and the spirit and the hope, I was just called by the head people at Sprint and they are going to be bringing 5,000 jobs back to the United States. They are taking them from other countries. They are bringing them back to the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Let's get more on the transition, what's happening today. CNN's Scott McLean is watching it right now for us. Scott, what more are you learning about this job announcement that he made?
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate, so it seems like Donald Trump is taking credit for jobs that were previously announced through investment by a Japanese firm called Soft Bank. Now earlier this year, Soft Bank announced it would invest billions in the U.S. creating some 50,000 jobs.
It also invested in Sprint and a Florida tech startup called "One Web" that's going to hire 3,000 people. Sprint did mention Donald Trump in its statement, but it's pretty unclear what role he played in any negotiations that went on behind the scenes.
Last night, Trump also took questions on his relationship with President Obama. They have had a bit of a rocky patch lately, but judging by his description of their phone call yesterday, you really wouldn't know it. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He called me, we had a very, very good talk about -- generally about things. He was in Hawaii. It was a very, very nice call. I actually thought we covered a lot of territory, lot of good territory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCLEAN: And Kate, we know that Trump will not be meeting with anyone from outside of his inner circle today, but he will meet with his staff to talk about inauguration day and his speech which he plans to write mostly himself.
BOLDUAN: Yes. Some fascinating details coming out about that. We will talk about that in just a second. Scott, thank you so much.
With me now, Errol Louis, a CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News. Joseph Borelli is also here, a New York City councilman, a Republican commentator, and supporter of Donald Trump throughout the campaign.
Peter Daou, he is a Democratic strategist, who advised Hillary Clinton in 2008 presidential bid. Guys, great to see you. Thanks for being here.
So Joseph, in one breath you have Trump saying that the transition is on the rocks. The relationship with Obama is on the rocks. Then he says it's fine. Then he says everything is going smoothly and he's back on the phone with Obama.
For our viewers, here's a fuller sound bite when Donald Trump was asked last night about his relationship with Obama. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He called me, we had a very, very good talk about -- generally about things. He was in Hawaii. It was a very, very nice call and I actually thought we covered a lot of territory, lot of good territory.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you satisfied with the transition thus far?
TRUMP: Well, our staffs are getting along very well and I'm getting along very well with him other than a couple of statements that I responded to and we talked about it and smiled about it, and nobody's ever going to know because we're never going to be going against each other in that way, but it was a great conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Please explain. Smooth, not smooth, Donald Trump is blaming Obama for these inflammatory remarks that he at least pointed out in some regard vaguely on Twitter. Which is it, Joseph?
JOSEPH BORELLI, REPUBLICAN COMMENTATOR: I'm sure they both can sort of partially and largely be true. We know that these two men probably have some sort of bond that we couldn't imagine because we are not faced with being the president of the United States at any point in our life. But that said, the president's boastfulness in the past week or so probably caused problems and even when you look --
BOLDUAN: How has it caused problems?
BORELLI: Well, I mean, he went on a news interview and said that he could have beat President Trump. That's not really being very kind to the new administration and not undermining them going forward.
But even when you look at policy stuff, so the Trump administration appoints someone who may be described as someone maybe pro-settlement with Israel, the next day John Kerry announces and follows through with the speech basically undermining and scolding the new administration for doing what frankly the people in this country have elected them to do. Trump was clear on Israel throughout the campaign. Now he's just following through on this stuff.
BOLDUAN: Peter, there was a honeymoon period of sorts. They sat together in the oval office, it was kind of like a truce between these two men. Do you think it's over? Do you think it should be over? Maybe from your perspective, you are wishing the honeymoon period is over between these two men.
PETER DAOU, ADVISER TO 2008 CLINTON CAMPAIGN: You know, what's more interesting to me is the contrast in styles. What are you seeing here is Donald Trump, President-elect Trump, doubling down on his pugnacious in your face, break all the rules, you know, raw power projection versus President Obama who is known to be thoughtful, deliberative, and contemplative.
And the contrast in styles is what so interesting over here to me. I certainly don't agree with Joe's criticism of the president on these issues. But to me what's more interesting is how America's proceeding, the two parties, this is a proxy for how Democrats fight for their issues and how Republicans do.
Just one more point I want to make on that. This is about change, about President-elect Trump saying I'm going to break the rules, I'm going to be different. I'm not a typical politician, and to millions of Americans that's very appealing.
[11:25:05]The concern Democrats have, and many Republicans as well, is change can be good change or bad change. You wouldn't want a heart surgeon to walk in and say I will bring in my on equipment, I'm not going to scrub. I'm going to do it my own way.
There are protocols and conventions in place for a reason to protect both the president and the people from unpredictability. So that uncertainty is scaring a lot of people.
BOLDUAN: But do you think how Donald Trump -- this is kind of a common theme that we have discussed throughout depending on what issue pops up, Errol, but there is this conversation among many Democrats, some Republicans who say Donald Trump will be different when he feels the weight of the office on January 20th when he steps in there. Do you see any signs --
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the famous pivot.
BOLDUAN: Don't use that word. Do you see that at all?
LOUIS: No, I don't, actually. He's determined to do things his own way. It has brought him unimaginable political success that nobody predicted including members of his own team. There's no reason, no incentive for him to change.
I do think, though, that there's a question that we all want to sort of be mindful of, which is if Donald Trump runs as an anti- establishment politician, he then inherits the White House, the largest and most powerful armed forces in the world, the nuclear codes.
You are the establishment at that point. You know, and things start to look a little bit different when people continue with an anti- establishment theme. He's not going to be able to lead a revolution from inside the oval office.
I think that's going to be something that we should all be mindful of and will start to see both his rhetoric and actions change not because some new revelation has descended upon him, but because he becomes the establishment.
BOLDUAN: Kind of that point, one of the clashes that seems to be really setting up right now is on the issue of the Russian hacks and the sanctions and what Congress wants to do. There's bipartisan support to call out Russia for what the intelligence community says it has done.
When asked about Russian sanctions, though, I'm really struck by Donald Trump's comments last night when he said I think we ought to get on with our lives. I mean, is that the kind of message you want to hear the president sending? Do you think he's taking it seriously?
BORELLI: I think in terms of the part of that where it undermines the results of the election, I think it is time for Democrats and for many people to get on with their lives. BOLDUAN: So many Republican senators who do not want to undermine the results of the election, they are calling Russia out?
BORELLI: He also changed his tune slightly when he said that the intelligence community should do its best to investigate the circumstances. Which is a departure from him saying a few weeks ago they shouldn't do that. So he is being a bit more responsible, bit more focused on investigating the causes and problems associated with the race.
BOLDUAN: We are -- Matt, our reporter was talking about that we are learning more details about his inaugural speech, kind of where Donald Trump's head is right now in terms of that speech. He spoke to Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley about it, Errol.
And a few of the things that Doug talked about after leaving his conversation with the president-elect is that he wants to draft this speech in its entirety by himself. He wants it to be short.
And they also discussed past inaugural speeches from JFK and Reagan. Maybe his inspirations. What does that tell you about what will be the biggest speech of this man's life?
LOUIS: Well, I am hoping that he don't do what you just described. There's a --
LOUIS: -- look, there's a reason that you have historians, for the same reason that even as a builder, Donald Trump didn't go and hammer and nail himself. You find people who are experts in their areas, you draw in their expertise and insight and wisdom, let them find the echoes of past speeches from Teddy Roosevelt or Franklin Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan, and so forth and so on.
He can try and go it alone, I suppose. He can try and make it sort of a short campaign-esque speech, which is frankly what I would expect from him, but we are hoping I guess for something grander, for there to be some kind of transition.
If Donald Trump has decided, though, that this is not going to be the moment to announce a change from the campaign trail to the leader of the free world, to the head of the government, I don't see any force on earth, not even Joe Borelli, who can compel him to do what he's decided not to do.
BOLDUAN: What is the one thing you think Democrats, the code word, what's the one thing Democrats want to hear in his inaugural speech that will bring them comfort when you say they're scared?
DAOU: I think it's what we want to see rather than hear. Donald Trump is moving to the phase of governance as Errol says, Trump campaigning and now it's about showing, not telling. We want to see what happens. We all hope for the best.
No Democrat would want ill for the country or would want Donald Trump to fail and to harm people. We want this to work out. There's a lot of nervousness for the reasons I explained before but I think it's about let's do this and let's hope this works out.
And to bring justice and fairness to everyone. This is not about red America, blue America. Everybody has to benefit from this presidency.
BOLDUAN: Red America, blue America, this is the United States of America. I hope he doesn't use that line because that has been used before. Guys, great to see you. Thank you so much.
All right, kicking up controversy, dancers for the Rockettes are scheduled to perform --