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Russia, Turkey Brokered Syrian Ceasefire Still Holds; Trump: Israel Treated Unfairly; Top-10 Trending Stories of 2016; Major Security Preparations Across the U.S. for New Year's Eve; Trump Weighs in on Putin's Response to Obama Retaliation. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired December 30, 2016 - 14:30   ET

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


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[14:30:47] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

The nationwide ceasefire in Syria is approaching its first 24 hours. Russia and Turkey helped broker the truce that Vladimir Putin is calling extremely fragile.

Muhammad Lila joins live from Istanbul.

Muhammad, one day into the ceasefire, how are things going?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, we're almost at that crucial 24-hour mark. Wherever there's a ceasefire, usually the first few hours are the most important because it determines how this ceasefire is going to take hold. Well, the good news is that it seems to be holding very loosely, mind you, but it is holding. There have been some reports of sporadic clashes around the country. That's not unsurprising. Some terror groups have been excluded from the ceasefire, so we're expecting fighting against those groups to continue.

But overall, Russia, Syria, Iran and Turkey say despite those small clashes, that the ceasefire is holding. And this is the biggest promise or the most optimistic people have been in years, simply because it's the first time any kind of ceasefire has tried to take hold across the entire country. So, a good first day but there are still a couple hours left.

WHITFIELD: The U.S. was left out of the ceasefire negotiations. What does that mean for Russia's Vladimir Putin and his role in the Middle East?

LILA: Well, it means as far as the conflict goes that he's one of the main partners on the ground. He's been backing up the Assad government since this crisis began. He's been backing them up with air strikes and military logistics. But what's interesting is, while he's been backing up the Syrian government, Russia played a key role in establishing the ceasefire.

We talk about Russia, Russia's role in this was so important that it was Russia that approached Turkey, which is another country in the region that has an interest in Syria, and together Russia and Turkey were able to establish a ceasefire and set up some kind of framework for a peace moving forward. And we know there will be peace talks in a month or so. Russia, Turkey, Iran and Syria will be at the table.

And the Kremlin offering specifically President-elect Donald Trump a seat at the table if Donald Trump wants it, completely bypassing President Obama. And that gives you an indication of Obama's legacy in Syria, which, unfortunately, hasn't been all that positive.

WHITFIELD: Muhammad Lila, thank you so much, in Istanbul.

Next, two Russian compounds on U.S. soil have been effectively shut down in the wake of the Obama administration's sanctions against Russia. Are these buildings essentially spy headquarters in the U.S.? Plus, 35 Russians being expelled. We will discuss next.

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[14:36:48] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Now to tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians. Many have tried but all have failed to bring peace between those two factions. In spite of those failures, businessman-turned President-elect Trump says he will solve the problem by making what he calls "the ultimate deal." But what are his chances of success.

CNN's Oren Liebermann reports the incoming Trump administration is being watched closely from Jerusalem.

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OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRSEPONDENT (voice-over): A new political day dawns in the Middle East on January 20th.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm very, very strong on Israel. I think Israel has been treated unfairly by a lot of different people.

(SHOUTING)

LIEBERMANN: President-elect Donald Trump says he can do what no president has done in half a century, solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, calling it the ultimate deal, and suggesting his Jewish son- in-law, Jared Kushner, may be a part of the plan.

Trump tweeting the recent U.N. resolution on Israeli settlements was a big loss for Israel and will make it harder to negotiate peace, but he'll do it anyway. The president-elect promised to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize it as the capital of Israel. The move, welcomes by Israel, condemned by the Palestinian as the death of a two-state solution.

The intervention from the president-elect coming as relations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama are as bad as ever.

The Obama administration led talks between Israelis and Palestinians in 2010 and again in 2013. The last round of negotiations, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, broke down with both sides blaming each other. Two months later, Israel and Gaza were at war.

Tensions have worsened since then as the region descended into violence last year. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last shook hands at the funeral of Shimon Perez, who shared a Nobel Prize for forging a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. It was the closest Abbas and Netanyahu had come to talk publicly in years.

In time, we'll find out if President-elect Trump can change that.

(on camera): President-elect Donald Trump brings an outsider's perspective to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, that of a businessman, not a politician. And maybe, just maybe, that's exactly what the conflict needs. But presidents who have handled or worked on the conflict have done so generally with more sensitivity than Trump has shown. Either way, Trump will have his chance in just under three weeks.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[14:39:24] WHITFIELD: Next, two Russian compounds on U.S. soil have been effectively shut down in the wake of the Obama administration's sanctions against Russia. Are these buildings essentially spy headquarters in the U.S.? Plus, 35 Russians being expelled. We'll discuss next.

Plus, Vladimir Putin is responding to President Obama's sanctions with a holiday card and an invitation to the Kremlin. What's going on here? You're watching CNN.

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WHITFIELD: Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

From the laughing Chewbacca mom to the election, Brooke Baldwin looks back on the top-10 trending stories of 2016.

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(MUSIC)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 2016 saw social media's role in the news grow in ways never seen before, life videos, social outrage, viral protests and elections all dominated the social conversation.

Here are the top-10 trending stories of 2016.

(voice-over): Number 10, Pokemon Go.

(SINGING)

BALDWIN: The '90s cartoon and Nintendo game made a massive return in 2016. The new smartphone version became a worldwide phenomenon, being downloaded an estimated 500 million times. The game builds a community of users blending the real world and game world.

Number nine, #ripHarambe. In May, the internet broke out in outrage after the killing of a 17-year-old silverback gorilla at the Cincinnati zoo. The gorilla was killed after a three-year-old child slipped into its own closure. An online petition seeking justice for Harambe received more than 100,000 signatures in less than 48 hours. The hashtag was used more than 270,000 times. And 9.1 million people tweeted overall about the silverback gorilla's death. Tributes, online memes, and a couple off-color jokes continue to flood social media in Harambe's memory.

Number eight, #noDAPL. The fight to block the Dakota Access Pipeline from passing near Standing Rock, a Native American reservation in North Dakota. While the country was fixated on the election, protesters turned to social media, uploading videos, live streaming, and using the hashtag "noDAPL."

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There were upwards of 10,000 people braving these frigid and difficult conditions to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux.

CANDAICE PAYNE, YOUTUBE SENSATION AT CHEWBACCA MOM: You want to see what I got? So great. Can't wait to show you.

BALDWIN: Number seven, Candice Payne, although you probably know her as "Chewbacca mom."

(GROWL)

[14:45:13] PAYNE: That's not me making that noise. It's the mask! Hear, listen.

(GROWL))

BALDWIN: When Payne took to the newly launched Facebook Live, trying on a Chewbacca mask she just bought, her video went viral and was viewed a whopping 164 million times. To date, it's the most-watched Facebook Live video ever.

Number six, Brexit. It was the biggest political upset of the year -- at the time. Leading up to the vote, people took sides on social media, " #strongerin" for those voting to remain in the European Union, and #voteleave" for those voting to leave, Brexit.

CHRISTIANNE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In an unprecedented move, as we know, Britain has voted to leave the European Union, and the reaction has been, well, chaos.

BALDWIN: Leave prevailed, 52 percent to 48 percent, sending shock waves there in the United Kingdom and Europe and beyond.

Number five, Omran and Bala, the children of Aleppo, showing the world the horror of war on social media. The heartbreaking video of the five-year-old, bloodied and covered in dust, pulled from the rubble after surviving an air strike that destroyed his family's home in Aleppo.

BANA AL-ABED, SYRIA RESIDENT: Bana says hello, my friends. How are you? Stand with Aleppo.

BALDWIN: And Bana al-abed, she and her mother tweeting from Aleppo. She tweets, "My name is Bana. I am seven years old. I am talking to the world now live from east Aleppo. This is my last moment to either live or die."

Number four, Facebook live-stream by Diamond Reynolds.

DIAMOND REYNOLDS, FIANCE SHOT: The officer just shot him in his arm.

BALDWIN: after her fiance, Philando Castile, was shot during a Minnesota traffic stop, Diamond Reynolds took out her smartphone and live-streamed his dying moments. The Facebook Live was viewed 5.7 million times before it was ultimately taken down.

Number three, rest in peace. 2016 was a shocking year of loss, and the social media world mourned those who passed. The music world lost several legends, including --

(SINGING)

BALDWIN: -- David Bowie --

(SINGING)

BALDWIN: -- and Prince.

Boxing icon, Muhammad Ali, also passed away in 2016.

Number two, @realDonald Trump. That was the most-talked about handle on Twitter in all of 2016. Trump used Twitter to attack opponents, prop up those who support him, and negotiate deals. With more than 17 million followers and counting, Donald Trump's use of Twitter changed politics and brought us an election like we've never seen before.

Which brings us to number one, #election2016. It was the most-talked about story on all of social media. The hashtag used 7.8 million times. Clinton and Trump had their own hashtags. #i'mwithher was tweeted 15 million times. And the combination of #makeamericagreatagain and its abbreviated form #MAGA, were tweeted out 37 million times. This post by Hillary Clinton after her loss was retweeted more than 638,000 times: "To all the little girls watching, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world." But Donald Trump's shocking win was the big show. Twitter says, by the time Trump declared victory, some 75 million people were tweeting about the results.

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[14:49:01] WHITFIELD: And now coming up, a new response from Donald Trump on Vladimir Putin's lack of retaliation to those U.S. sanctions. Here's a hint, Trump's words, quote, "very smart." Straight ahead.

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WHITFIELD: Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

2016 almost over. Bringing in the New Year now. It's the one occasion that every religion, race and culture celebrates. And many nations are sharing the worries that such big gatherings can attract.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says more than a million people are expected to fill Times Square Saturday, and the NYPD will deploy extraordinary assets to keep everyone safe.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is live in time square.

Brynn, what new security measures are being publicly revealed?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's extraordinary assets, like you just said, extraordinary protocols and procedures that they started putting in place when the ball dropped in 2016. It's just layers upon layers of security that really the NYPD has to continually evolve, as they see more terror threats all around the world.

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CROWD: Ten, nine --

GINGRAS (voice-over): New York City is on high alert in anticipation of one of the biggest New Year's Eve celebrations in the world.

(FIREWORKS)

GINGRAS: It takes an army. 7,000 police officers are just one part of the enhanced measures being taken to protect the city.

JAMES O'NEILL, COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT: This is where everybody's got to be on their toes. I know it's complacency can set in at times, but certainly not at an event like this.

GINGRAS: In the wake of the ISIS-inspired attacks in Berlin and Nice, 65 sand trucks and 100 blockers will be stationed around the city. Most being used as a protective barrier around the perimeter of Times Square to ward off a truck-style attack.

O'NEILL: We live in a changing world now. As I said before, it just can't be about what happens in New York.

GINGRAS: The NYPD is in constant communication with foreign departments gaining intelligence and sharing police strategy with cities abroad.

In London, there's added security at the changing of the guards. Heavily armed police were unavoidable in Berlin as they stood post behind concrete barriers at a Christmas concert. Czech holiday markets were heavily patrolled. In France, the government announced a boost of 10,000 soldiers on the streets over the holiday period, adding to the officers working around the clock. UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER (through translation): We are

really giving of ourselves, of our time and at a cost to us and our families.

GINGRAS: Nearly two million people are expected in Times Square t extra police presence a noticeable addition to keep New York City safe.

O'NEILL: If you are coming down to Times Square, rest assured it will be a safe venue.

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[14:55:03] GINGRAS: And, Fred, we know within the last few weeks, NYPD detectives have been visiting truck rental centers and have been securing parking garages, going to area hotels, talking to managers and owners, keeping their eyes open for anything suspicious. I can tell you, next to me, there are manhole covers that are now welded shut. So, a lot of measures continually happening to keep this area safe.

But we should mention, Fred, that no credible threat has been made against the Times Square celebration -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: And, Brynn, what if anything are people saying to you there? Because already Times Square has been teeming with people. There are a lot of out-of-town visitors here in this city. Has there been a response from people about the visible presence of security even now?

GINGRAS: You know, around here, people are noticing a difference. It's hard to see with the camera facing me here, but towards my left, there are still those NYPD detectives that are heavily armed, and they're stationed all around the city. But we're seeing more and more of that as we get closer to the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Countdown already on.

Thank you so much, Brynn Gingras, in Times Square.

And this now breaking news, President-elect Donald Trump weighing in, just moments ago, on Putin's response to the Russian sanctions being imposed by the Obama administration.

Let's go now to Palm Beach. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is there.

And, Sunlen, already in the form of a tweet.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. We heard from President-elect Donald Trump just briefly over Twitter, just a few minutes ago, out with some praise of Russian have the Vladimir Putin for withholding a response move to those sanctions imposed by the Obama administration yesterday.

I want to read you this short tweet just posted by Donald Trump he says, quote, "Great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart."

Now Putin, overnight, said he will not expel U.S. diplomats in Russia in response to these sanctions, saying in a statement that he will look forward to working with the administration when they take over in January.

Of course, this echoes similar things Donald Trump said throughout the campaign. He wants to work to improve relations with Russia. That was a campaign promise he made. But certainly, Fred, being put on the spot now with this conclusion from the U.S. intelligence agency that they engaged in the hacking during the election, which is why there's so much pressure on Donald Trump right now to say more about what he thinks exactly about these sanctions. Besides this tweet, we have only heard a short two-line sentence statement from Donald Trump. That came in the form of a statement last night where he said it's time to move on. That said, he says he will sit down with the intelligence community next week to hear what evidence that they have -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: What more do we know about that intel briefing next week? How it may differ from the other intel briefings that have been offered some of which he has taken -- engaged in. Others his advisers have engaged in. What might be different next week?

SERFATY: It's a great question. It's one that we have for the Trump team as well and hopefully we will find out more details ahead. We know that will happen at some point next week. Trump will sit down with members of the intelligence community. We know that likely will happen in New York. And we anticipate getting more details today from the Trump transition, including who is participating, when that will happen.

But as you note, Trump has been getting intel briefings. The most recent one was two days ago, here in Palm Beach. And we know he's been having intel briefings about three times a week as the new president-elect. So, certainly, it does sound like they hope to gain new information. We heard from Reince Priebus yesterday saying that they want basically more solid proof coming from the intel community on why they reached these conclusions and why they reached them with confidence pointing the finger at Russia.

WHITFIELD: Sunlen Serfaty, in Palm Beach, thank you so much.

Right now, top of the hour. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We are back with America's retaliation for Russia's election hacks during the 2016 race. Just hours after the U.S. hit Russia with some of the toughest sanctions ever imposed, Russia did what few anticipated -- nothing. America forcing Russian diplomats, suspected spies, out of this country, shuttering two Russian compounds, then hitting Russia's chief intelligence agencies with tough sanctions. Russia deciding not to engage. President Putin issuing a statement, which included an invite to the children of American diplomats in Russia to Christmas and New Year's shows at the Kremlin.

And then came this tweet from the Kremlin's Twitter account, reiterating that festive sentiment that has left a lot of people scratching their heads. It's apparently from Putin, who, quote, "Offers his New Year greeting to President Obama and his family, also to President-elect Donald Trump."

Let's go live now to Moscow --