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Chicago Violence; Putin Responds to Russian Sanctions. Aired 3- 3:30p ET

Aired December 30, 2016 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:04]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: It's apparently from Putin, who -- quote -- "offers his new year greetings to President Obama and his family, also to president-elect Donald Trump."

All right, let's go live now to Moscow and CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance.

So, Matthew, how unexpected was this lack of retaliation from Russia when the conventional wisdom was that there would be tit for tat?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was completely unexpected.

And we were all anticipating that there was going to be a tit for tat response. We thought there was going to be 35 American diplomats expelled, just like the Russian diplomats expelled from the United States. The Russian foreign minister appeared looking very solemn on Russian state television saying, I am recommending to the Kremlin these 35 American diplomats are expelled in a tit for tat response.

And then Putin just stood up and made a statement saying, I'm not going to do that. Basically, it's the holiday season. And I'm not going to make -- I'm not going to create more problems for American diplomats. No one is going to be expelled.

And, of course, he went on to offer that, extend that invitation to the children of U.S. diplomats here in Moscow to come to -- to be entertained at the Kremlin, effectively, by the celebrations for the new year here.

He also used this as an opportunity to reach across the Obama administration, which is now in the last few weeks of its term, of course, and talk directly to the Trump administration and say, look, we're going to build a better relationship. And if we're going to build a better relationship, it will be on the basis of the policies of Donald Trump when he becomes president.

And so that was a very significant, I think, move by Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader.

WHITFIELD: All right, Matthew Chance, thank you so much.

All right, joining me right now, a man who has been inside one of the now shuttered suspected spy compounds on Long Island, New York, Thomas Pickering, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and distinguished fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Trump just tweeted, as you have probably heard me earlier, saying, Putin is -- quote -- "very smart."

In your view, this kind of response, "Great move on delay by V. Putin, I always knew he was very smart," those are the words from Donald Trump via Twitter. What's your thought about his reaction?

THOMAS PICKERING, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I think his reaction was a predictable reaction to what was the unpredictable reaction of President Putin to the sanctions and to the expulsions.

But I think it's important for us to look ahead. U.S.-Russian relations are important. We have serious differences and we're going to have them both with President Putin and with Russia. But the opportunity to see whether, in fact, we can move from a declining spiral of serious differences to some improvement, even small improvement, I think would be a useful course of action now.

There are big problems out there. Ukraine is certainly a problem. Syria is a problem, despite the cease-fire. And we all wonder whether that is going to hold or not. It should and we hope it will. And the U.S. needs to play a role in that particular area.

And President Putin has invited that to happen when President Trump is inaugurated. So, let's all look ahead and see where this process might go. It's unpredictable, but both sides are doing something that I think is important.

They're both shutting up about attacking each other, which I think is a helpful move. And, secondly, they're looking ahead perhaps in a useful way to first avoid doing any harm to each other in this process, and that can set the stage. It's not a stage for collapse of opposition or for compliance of one side with the demands of the other.

But it is an opening door for perhaps some thoughtful positive moves that can bring us out of a downward spiral.

WHITFIELD: So you see real promise potentially between a President Trump and a Vladimir Putin and U.S.-Russian relations despite the sanctions, the shutting down of Russian compounds on U.S. soil, despite the Obama administration's latest actions, retaliation for the cyber-attacks by Russia?

PICKERING: I think it was important give Russia the message that we were not going to sit back and have other countries interfere with our electoral processes and that we were prepared to take serious steps. And these are.

This is the largest expulsion since one back in 2001 after the Hanssen affair, in which 50 Russians were expelled, or during the Reagan administration, when several hundred were expelled. [15:05:00]

And this is a measure indeed of a concern of what it is the Russians have been doing. President Putin, on the other hand, is looking ahead at seeing where the process will go and his refusal to go for a tit for tat was a surprise to all of us, but it's something that maybe can be built on. One can only hope, because at this stage the unpredictable is certainly what Mr. Putin seems to be learning from Mr. Trump.

Can they get together and do something? We won't know until Mr. Trump has an opportunity, obviously, to develop his policy. But it's better in my view than a downward spiral of tit for tat getting worse and worse and adding to the difficulties between the two countries.

WHITFIELD: So, at the same time, do you, Mr. Ambassador, trust the public display of a Vladimir Putin to refrain from retaliation or do you believe there is something else behind that, that his actions behind the scenes are far different from the public demeanor that we are now seeing illustrated?

PICKERING: It's difficult to know, but his economy is not doing very well, despite what people are saying in Russia.

But I think they're saying that because obviously the costs of saying negative thing have gone up recently. Ukraine is not a model success in terms of where things are going. Mr. Putin is not widely successful in building a new relationship in Europe, despite the fact that several individuals running for office seem to be tilted a little more in his direction. And if they win, that may change.

So, is this an opportunity? I think for President Putin it looks like a potential opportunity. He's acting as if it is an opportunity. We ought to give that a chance to work out. President-elect Trump has said on numerous occasions, I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to do because keeping that quiet is something that's in his interest, presumably, in his vision about deal-making.

Well, there may be an opportunity to see whether things can be pushed forward a little bit.

WHITFIELD: So you're underscoring there are some similarities in the two in that respect.

Next week, Donald Trump will be meeting with intel officials in these intel briefings as it pertains to the evidence, as it pertains to Russia and its cyber-hacking. Do you believe that in these meetings, that will bring him closer to an acceptance of intelligence that he's been casting doubt on for weeks now?

PICKERING: Well, let's hope so.

We have seen a move from a total rejection of all intelligence briefings and a disparaging of them to a situation now where it's reported he's been meeting three times a week with members of the intelligence community and where he has now suggested that rather than, if I could put it this way, shoot from the lip on this particular question, he wants to know and understand a little more clearly what is going on and give the intelligence community a chance to lay out their sense of the case, their analysis and the reason why they feel quite confident that Russia was involved in the hacking.

And I think that that's OK, a useful method. Someone once said not too long ago, I think it was Dr. Kissinger, we ought not to spend our time trying to in one way or another tear Mr. Trump apart if he's doing the right thing. And let's hope that this is a move in that direction.

I have my doubts, but everybody, I think, one way or another listening to Mr. Trump may have their doubts. But at this stage, let's see where it takes us and the fact he's moved in that direction is one more small move, I think, in the direction of moving from what I would call the dominance of television to hopefully a preoccupation with real governance.

WHITFIELD: All right, Former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.

PICKERING: Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: Let's go live now to Athena Jones, who is with President Obama in Honolulu. Also joining me, David Rohde, CNN global affairs analyst and national security investigations editor at Reuters.

First, talk to us about the reaction, then, David, reaction from Donald Trump via tweet calling Vladimir Putin or at least his lack of retaliation as very smart, and, of course, Vladimir Putin who says he's not going to retaliate, at least not right now.

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Look, I think Donald Trump has got this window now of several weeks until he's the president to make a decision.

The easiest thing for him politically would be to keep the sanctions in place. The danger here -- and I agree largely with what Ambassador Pickering was saying -- is that if Trump comes into office and he reduces these sanctions, in a sense, Putin will have gotten away with what there's a unanimous agreement of intelligence agencies with an unprecedented hacking, an unprecedented effort to at least undermine the credibility of an American election.

[15:10:08]

so, again, if Putin -- I'm sorry -- if Trump waits, he can sit tight, but there might be pressure on him. He might want to reduce these sanctions. So the tweet is a sort of simple statement. The real test will come on January 20.

WHITFIELD: And, so, Athena, Russia took the unpredictable route. The predictable route would have been putting sanctions or at least removing American diplomats, as many thought he might do, as a result of the foreign minister who said that was the recommendation. But, preemptively, would the White House have still requested American intelligence or American personnel to leave Russia, anticipating that that country might be expelling them?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't have any information about that, Fredricka.

I can tell you that we're not hearing anymore on this topic from the White House today, no response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's non-response. They pointed us to the State Department and the State Department official told CNN we have seen President Putin's remarks, we have nothing further to add.

I would note, though, that you will remember, when they put out all of these moves, all these actions yesterday, the White House also said some of the actions the U.S. will take will be covert, they won't be announced.

And so while we're not seeing President Putin responding in a public way, that doesn't necessarily mean he's not going to respond in a non- public way. We know the White House expects these cyber-attacks or at least attempted cyber-attacks will continue.

We know that White House officials expect some sort of reaction from Russia. It is unusual to see President Putin responding in this way, but I doubt that's the end of the story.

One more point we should make here is that you have people who have been backing Trump, people like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has been one of Trump's most vocal defenders, who are continuing to raise questions about the conclusions reached by multiple U.S. intelligence agencies about Russia being behind this hacking.

Here's what he had to say about that on FOX.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: You get your own people to review it. There's no question that the intelligence that President Obama has been getting has either been incompetent or politicized.

I would urge that President Trump, when he becomes President Trump, have his own intelligence people do their own report, let's find out who did it and then let's bang them back really hard. Not some moving a couple of this ones around and that ones around. They're not hacking from those places. It's totally absurd.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: And so you hear those statements from Mayor Giuliani, but I have to tell you, Fred, that a lot of members of Trump's own party, Republicans on Capitol Hill, don't appear to agree with him. They don't appear to be questioning the validity of the conclusions reached by these many U.S. intelligence agencies.

We heard from House Speaker Paul Ryan. We heard from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell not questioning those conclusions, instead saying the sanctions the White House has announced are appropriate, if even they criticize the White House for acting too late or these sanctions being overdue.

And I should mention Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain has called for hearings next week on this whole cyber-hacking issue. And, of course, there's the full review that President Obama has called for of hacks going back many years. Those results are expected before president-elect Trump becomes President Trump.

And the hope here I think is that with more information, more briefings, perhaps Trump will reach a different conclusion than he has so far -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: So, David, how concerning is it that doubt of U.S. intelligence from Giuliani just expressed, as well as Donald Trump? He's said it time and time again over a matter of months now. How concerning is that message, especially 21 days before swearing-in?

ROHDE: It's very concerning.

You know, there have been debacles in American foreign policy when intelligence is politicized, so there's a decades-long tradition now where the director of the CIA just presents intelligence to the president. He does not or she does not recommend a specific policy and that's a critical thing.

We had the invasion of Iraq based on faulty intelligence, the Bay of Pigs disaster. So this is a long tradition. These are 17 agencies. Many of them are career people. And to have -- and it's, again, Mr. Trump isn't saying this. Mr. Giuliani said this, but to have a comment that this intelligence is either politicized or that they're incompetent, I wrote a long story about the CIA this summer.

And there was confidence in the summer that the Russians were behind it. There was frustration from intelligence officials then that the Obama White House was moving too slowly.

[15:15:03]

So, again, he should get the briefing. I was told earlier today by a U.S. official he could have had the briefing already. He's only had limited briefings. He has requested a briefing on North Korea, but he's not requested a briefing on Russia.

So let's see what happens next week. But it's a dangerous thing when intelligence is politicized or perceived as politicized.

WHITFIELD: All right, David Rohde, Athena Jones, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

ROHDE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, next, the number of shooting deaths in the city of Chicago is the worst it has been in 20 years. Coming up, I will speak to the parents of Hadiya Pendleton. Remember her, a young girl who became the face of the effort to combat violence there? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

As 2016 comes to a close, the violence plaguing America's third- largest city is at a nearly 20-year high. As of today, 771 people have fallen victim to homicides in Chicago. That's more than New York and L.A. combined. Another 4,000 were wounded in shootings, according to "The Chicago Tribune."

Just take a look at this. This is one American city in just one year.

My next guests know all too well about the violence there in Chicago. Their daughter, Hadiya Pendleton, became one of the most recognizable faces of the effort to combat gun violence in Chicago.

Almost four years ago, the 15-year-old honor student was mistakenly targeted and killed by a gang member near President Obama's Chicago home. Days earlier, she had performed at his second inauguration.

[15:20:03]

Hadiya's parents were at the White House in January when the president announced executive actions on gun control.

Nathaniel Pendleton and Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton joining me from Chicago.

So good to see you and still under such very sad circumstances.

How does hearing these extraordinary numbers make you feel? Does it heighten the trauma that your family is still feeling?

Cleopatra, you first.

CLEOPATRA COWLEY-PENDLETON, MOTHER OF HADIYA PENDLETON: Absolutely.

I have a very difficult time with watching the news, because my heart goes out to the families that have to endure the same pain that we have had to endure. I mean, it's -- it is absolutely heartbreaking. It just is.

WHITFIELD: And, Nathaniel, how do you place blame on this? What are the sources of blame? What should be tackled? Why this spate of violence, in your view?

NATHANIEL PENDLETON, FATHER OF HADIYA PENDLETON: Well, I do believe that this state of violence is -- there's a lot of kids out here that have no direction.

They're living on the streets. They're practically raising themselves. And if you commit a crime, the crime should -- the punishment should be just for the crime. And the thing is, a lot of these people that are committing these crimes, they are not being held accountable.

And it just becomes, like my wife said, heartbreaking after a while that, after these three years, that -- three, almost four years that my daughter has been gone, there still hasn't been any movement, positive movement in trying to get guns out of people's hands.

WHITFIELD: And that's frustrating, isn't it?

COWLEY-PENDLETON: That shouldn't happen. Absolutely.

PENDLETON: Yes. It's real frustrating.

WHITFIELD: So, when I talk to a lot of Chicagoans, I hear them placing blame on gang violence running rampant, territorial battles, lack of police city involvement, lack of jobs, resources, and hope, particularly on the South Side of Chicago. And are these things that you wish the city government or the White House could do or should be addressing more?

COWLEY-PENDLETON: Well, I will say this. Everything you listed is not new and it's definitely part of the issue, but it's not just part of the issue for the South Side.

I think the South Side alone gets a bad rap. I think it's a citywide issue.

PENDLETON: Country-wide.

COWLEY-PENDLETON: Well, yes, that, too.

And it's not just in the cities anymore. It's in the suburbs. This is an epidemic. And something needs to be done, but it doesn't -- no one person has the answer. It's a matter of everybody coming together and really farming out what needs to be done in specific communities, because not every community requires the same effort towards resolving this issue.

WHITFIELD: You have had contact with the president, the first lady attending Hadiya's funeral. When the president makes reference to Chicago many times, when it's visible, that the pain your family is experiencing is a pain that he and the first lady can relate to and are expressing their pain. Do you feel like more can be done from the White House, from that level?

PENDLETON: I think personally that the White House is doing what they can do. I think this becomes a grassroot problem.

This is embedded in our own neighborhood, policing our own kids, watching our own neighborhoods. We cannot keep putting blame on politicians in the White House or the mayor. We can't keep putting blame on them. This has a lot to do with us.

WHITFIELD: So, as you mentioned, Nathaniel, it's been almost four years now. What do you tell people, whether it be in your community, there in Chicago or across the country, other families who are -- who have been touched, who have been pained by this same level of violence that your family has experienced?

PENDLETON: There's nothing really that I can tell them. The only thing that I can do is sit with them, and I know the pain

that they're feeling. We're both very familiar with the pain. And this pain does not go away. It's here. It stays. You just learn -- you have to learn how to live with an open wound.

COWLEY-PENDLETON: Right. We're not a product of what happens to us. We're a product of how we respond to what happened.

And, you know, it's a very sick feeling, and there's no one way to navigate through this. We're not over anything. It doesn't feel like four years. We can tell you because the calendar states so, but -- because times keeps moving forward.

[15:25:08]

But it's going to always feel like it just happened yesterday. And it's just a matter of figuring out how to navigate through the rest of your life that way.

And that's why when Nate says that we need punishments that fit the crime, I believe and I support him in that perspective, because we have life sentences to serve. As long as our eyes are open, we're going to hurt. And every other family that has experienced the unexpected, the illogical happening is experiencing the same things.

We need these people out here who are taking lives for granted to suffer the consequences of their actions. It's not fair to just families and the extension of our families and friend for us to hurt and ache the way that we do on a daily basis, and have that feeling of hopelessness.

PENDLETON: And this other person gets to live -- move forward and live their life happily. It hurts. It hurts bad for both of us.

COWLEY-PENDLETON: And our son. So let's not forget that we have our son, Nathaniel, who is now a freshman in high school who has to navigate through the rest of his life like this.

So it's just really sad that every year this is continuing to grow. And I think people don't realize that it's not just the victim's family. It's the perpetrator's family that has become victims too. Everybody loses in this situation.

WHITFIELD: Our hearts go out to you and our prayers continue for you and your entire family.

Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, Nathaniel Pendleton, thank you so much.

COWLEY-PENDLETON: Thank you.

PENDLETON: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, emergency legal steps being taken