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Trump Tweet: "Great Move" By "Very Smart" Putin; 2 Luxury Estates Owned by Russians Shut Down; Outgoing NC Gov Strips Powers from Successor; Heavy Security For New York Celebrations; Fragile Ceasefire Holds For A Day Despite Clashes; Relatives: Joint Funeral Likely For Reynolds, Fisher; CNN Explores Legendary Rock Band Chicago. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired December 30, 2016 - 16:30   ET


JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: And, Susan, we were just on the phone with Amy Klobuchar earlier, who was traveling in Ukraine with Lindsey Graham and John McCain.

[16:30:02] And John McCain is going to hold hearings on this starting next week. You know, this is, along with Lindsey Graham, these are two senators who have tangled with Donald Trump before. There's no love lost for them. If they decide to dive into this, you know, big time come next week.

SUSAN MILLIGAN, SENIOR WRITER, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Yes. I think this is actually going to be a problem for the president-elect. I mean, look, on the Hill the sense that I get up there is that they don't see Trump as the leader of the party or even their leader. They see him as a person who's going to rubber stamp something they have been trying for eight years to get done. But that's mostly domestic policy.

When it comes to matters like Russia, and what's happening in Eastern Europe, I mean, I lived there in the late '90s and reported from there, and it's pretty distressing to see this region of the world which was blossoming with democracy and openness just kind of reverting. And Russia is a big part of that. And Lindsey Graham and John McCain are not just going to sit around and watch that happen.

ACOSTA: Right. And on the domestic political front, Michael, we learned today that President Obama will be going up to the Hill to meet with congressional Democrats to work on strategy for beating back these efforts to repeal Obamacare.

I mean, talk about another unprecedented extraordinary thing to happen during a presidential transition where the sitting president goes up to Capitol Hill to try to prevent his signature legislative achievement by being repealed by his successor.


ACOSTA: It would be a big headline if there wasn't all this Russian news, I would think. WARREN: Absolutely. You have to wonder if the Democrats left on the

Hill are going to be crumpling up their notes and throwing them in the garbage can, because if they continue to know the political path that President Obama did, he passed Obamacare. He got it through. He got it implemented.

But look what it's in its wake. 2010, 2014, Democrats lose the House then the Senate. The party is in tatters. There are red state Democrats up for re-election in 2018 trying to figure this out. What do we do on health care policy in general? Saving the parts of Obamacare that are popular and could put us back in control of the Senate in 2018 and maybe the House?

I think those red state Democrats are sort of incorporating the lessons from the 2016 presidential election are going to be a lot more, you know, listenable than President Obama, who's just, you know, basically seen his legacy thrown into tatter.

ACOSTA: And, Jackie, is it a good idea for the president to go up to the Hill? I mean, he will have just come back from Hawaii, he's got a couple weeks left in office, you know, he's gotten so involved in the issue of Israel and the settlements and now, this very bold move on Russia and he's going to go up next week and kick up a dust storm over Obamacare.

Does he need to chill a little bit, do you think?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I wonder what kind of reception he'll get, honestly, because he was never someone who really fostered a lot of goodwill with Democrats, other than the fact he was the president and he is a Democrat. There's not a lot of love there for him right now. He hadn't -- he's never been able to transfer his popularity and his coalition to anyone else but himself.

So, I wonder how many Democrats are going to be like, oh, hey, welcome, and really not be too thrilled with --

ACOSTA: Now what?

KUCINICH: Oh, please, tell us what to do, you know?

ACOSTA: Right. The strategy on getting Obamacare passed didn't pan out that well for congressional Democrats. So, you know, repealing it, he might not be the best source to go to for that kind of advice.

But, Jackie, Susan, Michael, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

More on our world lead now. It's a waterfront mansion sitting on 45 acres outfitted with a pool and tennis courts, a longtime retreat for Russian diplomats and their families. Now, the Obama administration says this Maryland beachside compound, there it is right there, very nice, a luxury estate in New York as well, they're both spy nests according to the U.S. government.

Both compounds were shuttered this afternoon as part of the U.S. sanctions against Russia. CNN's Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon. Barbara, in 1992, the Associated Press ran a story about this retreat

in Maryland in which one of the neighbors remarked that the Russians there made their steamed crabs differently than the locals. I hope they were using Old Bay -- but otherwise seemed fairly normal.

I guess that's the point, right?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the best spy nest maybe looks perfectly normal from the outside. This cat-and- mouse game between Moscow and Washington, of course, has been going on for decades. It's been immortalized in TVs and movies.

But what we know is the reality can be vicious and violent.


STARR (voice-over): FBI cameras captured Russian operative Anna Chapman and a federal undercover agent meeting in a New York coffee shop in June 2010. Seventeen days later, Chapman and nine other Russian sleeper agents were arrested in New York, New Jersey, and Virginia, charged with conspiracy to act as unlawful agents of Russia, spies who had burrowed deep into American society for years, tried to steal secrets and recruit agents.

[16:35:02] The FBI had watched Chapman and the others for months, recording drop-offs of packages, meetings on staircases, even one meeting just yards from CNN's offices in New York. The U.S. believes the group never got its hands on classified information, but the information infiltration into the U.S. a classic Moscow move.

STEVE HALL, FORMER CIA OFFICER: What they doo is more than just collect. They try to influence events to the benefit of Russia all over the world. And this is something that they have done for decades.

STARR: Within days at the airport in Vienna, an elaborately choreographed transfer. The ten Russians traded back for four other Russians charged with being in touch with western intelligence services.

Now, the State Department is expelling 35 Russian officials it says violated their diplomatic status. This after the U.S. claim of interference in the presidential election and harassment of U.S. diplomats overseas. Vladimir Putin, of course, a former Russian intelligence officer, well acquainted with the so-called illegals program, putting agents into U.S. society.

HALL: The fact they would continue to do that to establish these American, you know, legends and covers for these people trying to pose as Americans in the United States shows how serious they are.

STARR: But the U.S. has also been caught in the act. In 2013, Ryan Fogle, a political secretary of the U.S. embassy in Moscow, was arrested. The Russians claim they caught him with wigs, dark glasses and cash trying to recruit a Russian agent. Fogle was expelled. It was never clear if he was set up by the Russians. Earlier this year, a U.S. diplomat was tackled and beaten by a

uniformed Russian police officer as he tried to enter the American embassy in Moscow.

JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: The action was unprovoked and it endangered the safety of our employee.


STARR: And in that latest incident, the U.S. wound up expelling two Russian diplomats -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Barbara Starr, thank you.

After Republicans stripped him of key powers, an incoming governor takes his own legislature to court to get them back. The judge's ruling just came down. That's next.


[16:40:22] ACOSTA: More on our lead politics now. The fight to determine North Carolina's next governor extended will past election night after the state's current governor, Republican Pat McCrory, challenged the vote results. He eventually conceded to his Democratic opponent. But while he is still in office before he passed bills limiting the powers of his successor. It's move Democratic Governor- elect Roy Cooper is trying to get overturned before he takes office Saturday.

CNN's Polo Sandoval has more on the story.

Polo, a court weighed in on this day. What did it decide?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, North Carolina's Governor-elect Roy Cooper, he took his fight to court to get full power when he's sworn into office. As part of the lawsuit, Cooper requested a restraining order, asking a set of Republican-backed laws be blocked from taking effect. They say they were passed by lawmakers and they were signed by outgoing Republican Governor Pat McCrory just two weeks ago. The laws also happen to limit the powers of soon-to-be Governor Cooper.

Well, today, as you mentioned, a North Carolina superior judge granted the request and set the matter for a hearing next week. We understand that at least one of those two controversial laws now on hold.

Here's a breakdown. The first one, Senate Bill 4. That would essentially end complete control by the governor over state and county election boards, something that was very controversial during its introduction and eventual passage and signage.

The second, House Bill 17, that one significantly curved the governor's appointment powers. We're speaking to several legal experts, Jim, to try to see how this new temporary restraining order would potentially affect that one, the HB17. But in the meantime, what we do know is that Governor-elect Roy Cooper is still expected to take the oath of office at 12:01, just one minute into the New Year, Jim.

ACOSTA: And, Polo, I understand Cooper is also cleaning house a bit with his new staff. Tell us about that.

SANDOVAL: Absolutely. A source within his administration, Jim, they did tell me that they have begun sending out dismissal letters to a few of the political appointees under the outgoing administration. This is, of course, as we've seen before, at the local, state and federal level, typically standard procedure every time we have a changing of guard, obviously being seen in Washington right now. However, given the significance of what's played out there in Raleigh, this could be bruising for the outgoing governor, Pat McCrory -- Jim.

ACOSTA: It's certainly putting Roy Cooper on the map.


ACOSTA: Polo Sandoval, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

The whole world will be watching, so what is being done to keep Times Square and other places across the country safe for New Year's Eve? That is next.


[16:45:00] JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We're back with our "NATIONAL LEAD" now. It's the countdown to the count down. New York City, the epicenter for New Year's Eve in the U.S., on high alert in the wake of terror attacks across the globe. Nearly 2 million people are expected in Times Square and authorities are preparing unprecedented security measures. CNN's Brynn Gingras is in Times Square. Brynn, what is the NYPD doing to prepare for the big night? They're always preparing for this night.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, that's right, Jim. I mean, they start preparing for this night a year ago, once that ball drops. And it's a security plan that is many layers and it's constantly evolving as more terror threats sort of pop up around the world. In particular for this year, something new that we've learned from the NYPD, is that they're going to station 65 sand trucks and 100, what they call "barrier trucks", which are basically department vehicles. They're going to be placed all around the perimeter of Times Square. That's very new for this particular year because typically we see a few of those trucks spotted around, but not building somewhat of a fence around this area to secure all those people who will be in here celebrating the New Year.

Another thing that we're hearing from authorities is that, NYPD detectives have been visiting truck rental centers. They've been actually going to hotels and talking to managers and owners, and also just securing down manhole covers and also parking garages in this area. All taking these measures, sort of keeping their eyes and ears open for anything suspicious. But it is important to note at this point, Jim, that there has been no credible threat tied to the actual ball drop event but certainly the NYPD says, "No complacency." Everybody will be on their toes ready to react to anything that should happen, Jim.

ACOSTA: And all those measures that you mentioned, I suppose many of them could be tied to concerns about a repeat of what we saw in Berlin. How is the NYPD preparing for all sorts of threats? I suppose the Berlin threat is obviously top of mind right now.

GINGRAS: Yeah, and that's exactly right. And that's why it's such an evolving plan with multilayers because once that did happen in Berlin, the sort of truck attack, the same attack that they saw in Nice, that's why they decided to build sort of, again, this fence with all these vehicles around the perimeter of Times Square. So, it's a plan that anytime new threats come up, it evolves. Then we've sort of seen the same security happening all across the country, right? We saw more security in Berlin at the Christmas fairs and we also saw the same thing, more soldiers along with police added to the streets of Paris and in the whole country of France, also the changing of the guards in the U.K. in London. That was -- security was boosted there as well. So, everyone sort of reacting, but of course, the eyes are going to be on Times Square. Such a huge event, especially for New York City, and NYPD is ready to react.

ACOSTA: OK. And we hope everybody has a very happy and safe New Year. Brynn Gingras in Times Square, thank you very much. And you could watch the celebrations right here on CNN. New Year Eve coverage with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on Saturday.

Turning into our "WORLD LEAD" now. It's been almost 24 hours since a nationwide ceasefire in Syria went into effect. As of now, it appears to be holding despite reports of minor skirmishes. Less than two hours after the ceasefire kicked in, there were reports of regime forces and rebel fighters crashing in Northern Aleppo. An activist told CNN more than 20 airstrikes occurred near Damascus. Since then, most areas in Syria generally remained quiet, both Russian and Syrian regime. Officials have yet to report any ceasefire violations. Meanwhile, a Syrian media activist group posted this video of people taking to the streets in Damascus provinces calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

[16:50:09] Together, longer than any other American rock band -- a look at the remarkable history of Chicago.


ACOSTA: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our "POP CULTURE LEAD" now, they died just a day apart. Now, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, mother and daughter, likely will have a joint funeral. That's according to relatives. The two Hollywood icons had a strained relationship at times but ultimately became very close as adults, emotionally and geographically, even sharing a common driveway for a time. No word yet where or when the services will be.

That's "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" by American rock group Chicago. Pretty sure I had that on a mix tape at one time. I'm brave enough to admit that. More importantly, it hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart back in September 1982. Chicago started as a six-person rock band with horns in 1967. Since then, legendary band has grown into a nine-member group, selling more than 100 million records with five consecutive number one albums and countless awards.

Now, CNN looks at the band's 50-year history in the new film "Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago". Here's a clip when the band talks about working with another music legend Janis Joplin.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She came in with this big entourage and she dropped her brush right at my feet and she went, "Hey, MF-er, pick up the effin' brush." I said, "Pick up your own brush. When you get done with that, after you've picked it up, apologize to me that you talked to me that way." Well, she picked up the brush and she said, "I'm sorry."


ACOSTA: I want to bring in the band's newest member Lou Pardini, he is Chicago's keyboardist and vocalist. Thank you for joining me, Lou. We appreciate it. Lou, you had a long celebrated career before joining Chicago, working with musicians like Stevie Wonder, Elton John and more. What was it like to get that call from the band Chicago in 2009, inviting you to join when Bill Champlin died? That must have been quite a call.

LOU PARDINI, CHICAGO KEYBOARDIST AND VOCALIST: Well, it was -- it was a great experience for me. Lee Loughnane called me in 2009 and asked me if I wanted to be in the band permanently. And I had already subbed with the band a few times in the past and we were already friends.

And I said, "Well, let me think about it," and I said, "Yes, I'd love to do it." And it's just been a great experience ever since.

ACOSTA: And there are so many hits, the music is just so memorable. I remember it from my childhood. It reminds me of the soundtrack of my childhood, but from the moment the band got together, Chicago's music has been about musical diversity. Here's a clip from the CNN film. Let's take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a four-sided album, almost an hour and a half of new music that we performed very well and with enthusiasm and with a lot of joy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the material that they themselves created and wrote, they did it with their material, they did it combining jazz, pop, and rock and clearly a very, very special way.


ACOSTA: And do you think that collaborative style that Chicago is known for, is that why the band has been so successful over the years? What is -- what's the secret sauce, do you think? PARDINI: I really do. I think this is a unique situation. The band for all these years has always been a collaborative effort. Everybody gets a say, everybody gets an opinion, and you have eight or nine guys that are all on the same - all on the same, you know, plane as far as, you know, just how they want to do things, and everybody, you know, has disagreements but we all work it out in the end.

ACOSTA: And what do you think is the secret to the band's longevity, still touring and performing for decades now? One of our staff members I should point out who's in her 20s says she's a fan. Why does this music resonate across generations do you think?

PARDINI: It's, you know, it's really no secret. It's the music and the songs and songs that are really part of people's lives and people got married to them, people, you know, had relationships and -


ACOSTA: It reminds you of a breakup that you might have had or, you know, your first love.

PARDINI: Exactly.

ACOSTA: That sort of thing.

PARDINI: Yeah. Exactly.

ACOSTA: And this has been a tough year for music fans. George Michael passed away, David Bowie, Prince. What do you think about when you look back on all of these legendary artists who were lost this past year?

PARDINI: Yeah. Well, you know, they're all getting to that time where, you know, something could happen and unfortunately a lot of - a lot of these artists are -- have passed away way too young. And this has been a very, very tough year. And I've worked with a lot of great musicians over the years but fortunately most of them are still around and doing well.

ACOSTA: And the band is still on tour. What's it like being out there still banging out these hits? What are the crowds like? We talked about this earlier, the different generations who are responding to your music -- what's that been like?

PARDINI: Well, it's been just awesome. We did a summer tour with Earth, Wind, and Fire, and we played Madison Square Garden, we played all over the country, and just had amazing crowds. And we had people of all ages that just love all the music that we play. And we're surprised that we get a lot of young people because their parents listen to the music and now they're discovering it. So, it's been a great, great year.

ACOSTA: All right. Well, now I know what to put in the DC, the iPod on the way home.

Lou Pardini, thank you very much. We appreciate it. "Now More Than Ever: The History of the band Chicago" airs New Year's Day at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN. Don't miss it.

And be sure to follow me on Twitter @ACOSTA or tweet the show @THELEADCNN and be sure to tune in to a special edition of "STATE OF THE UNION". This Sunday, you can see it here on CNN at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jim Acosta in for Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Jim Sciutto who is in for Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM". Happy New Year!

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Happening now, breaking news -- Great move. Donald Trump praises Vladimir Putin for putting off any payback for newly imposed U.S. sanctions, punishing Russia for meddling in the -