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Trump Praises A "Very Smart" Putin For "Great Move"; Russia's Response To U.S. Sanctions Will Depend On Trump; Trump, GOP At Odds On Russian Hacking Response; Trump Camp: Obama Playing Politics With Russia Sanctions; Some of the World's Most Feared Leaders Praising Trump. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 30, 2016 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:04] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for watching tonight. Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" start right now.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Kate Baldwin in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight breaking news, Donald Trump praising Vladimir Putin. The president-elect tweeting this, "Great move on delay by V. Putin, I always knew he was very smart."

This comes after the Russian president shocked many today saying he's going to do nothing in response to President Obama's decision to expel 35 Russian spies and impose sanctions over meddling in the 2016 election.

And throughout the day, we have seen vans leaving at least one of the two Russian compounds that Obama shut down here in the United States. This Russian plane is said to be on its way to the U.S. to pick up the diplomats the president has now accused of spying.

Just moments ago, Republican Senator John McCain making it clear Russia will pay a price for its cyber-attacks.


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: When you attack a country, it is an act of war.


BOLDUAN: This comes amid escalating tensions between the two nations but for now Putin says he will not retaliate. He's even inviting the kids of U.S. diplomats in Russia to a party at in kremlin. Yes, he is.

Sunlen Serfaty is OUTFRONT, live in Palm Beach, Florida for us. Sunlen, this tweet by the president-elect already being picked up by the Russians. SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONENT: That's right. It was only a matter of minutes, Kate, really before the Russian Embassy and the U.S. retweeted that tweet of Donald Trump. Of course, that praise of Vladimir Putin where he said, quote, "Great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart."

You know, it is notable that is the only thing that Donald Trump has said today about all of this one day after the U.S. slapped those sanctions on Russia.

And it's notable that he has yet nor anyone on his transition team has not indicated whether he will either reverse the sanctions or leave them in place once he takes office after being sworn on January 20th.

But certainly we can sense a lot already about what direction he's moving with a tone of the tweet today and the statement last night when he said in essence let's move on from all of this.

Going into next week Donald Trump will get an intel briefing from members of the intelligence community where they likely will put forward their evidence that they have to reach those conclusions that Donald Trump and his team, Kate, have been very skeptical.

BOLDUAN: Yes, we'll see if that intelligence briefing changes any of that. Sunlen, thank you so much.

And tonight a senior Obama administration official acknowledges that the president-elect could, of course, reverse President Obama's sanctions if he wants once he takes office. Athena Jones is OUTFRONT with more.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A caravan of vehicles spotted leaving this Maryland compound used by Russian diplomats, headed for the Russian Embassy in Washington. The evacuation comes after the Obama administration ordered the shuttering of the site along with a similar compound in New York and told 35 alleged Russian spies to leave the country within 72 hours.

In a surprise move, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to shrug off the administration's actions. After Russian officials promised a series of, quote, "counter measures would be announced today," Putin changed course saying in a statement, "We will not create problems for American diplomats. We will not send anyone away."

Even extending this unusual invitation to the children of U.S. diplomats there. Saying in a tweet, "I invite all children of U.S. diplomats to the New Year and Christmas children show at the Kremlin, signed yours sincerely, Vladimir Putin."

The Russian president's decision not to retaliate contradicting his foreign minister who proposed expelling U.S. diplomats in response.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): The U.S. administration without any facts, without any proof declared a new wave of sanctions against the Russian federation. We cannot let such escapades happen without response.

JONES: Putin appears to be waiting for President-elect Trump to take office signaling once again that he expects to have warmer relations with President Obama's successor. Meanwhile, the White House is defending and explaining its moves.

LISA MONACO, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: We're putting forward a set of actions that are designed to respond to and impose consequences for Russia's aggressive activity. So included in that is this expulsion of these intelligence officers.

[19:05:07]JONES: As for the operatives being kicked out of the U.S., the Russian Embassy said Russia was sending a plane to bring them back home.


JONES: Now among those being expelled, some based on the west coast. The Russian Consulate in San Francisco tweeting a statement condemning what they call an unfriendly and completely unjustified step being taken by the outgoing administration.

And speaking of the outgoing administration, President Obama's critics on Capitol Hill have been slamming him for what they call years of failed policy towards Russia starting with his attempt to reset relations between the two countries.

Meanwhile President Putin appears to pushing for another reset with the incoming Trump administration. All of this presenting a foreign challenge to Obama's successor even before day one -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: That is clear. Athena, thanks so much. I want to bring in now Bob Baer, a former CIA operative. So Bob, we've talked through the day and as hours change, things change with regard to what's going on here. Vladimir Putin today announcing he's not going hit back against the U.S. with regard to the sanctions that they put in place.

And he went even this extra step that is boggling my mind of inviting all of the children of these American diplomats in Russia to the New Year's Eve party. Do you believe him?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Putin, no. I don't believe him. I think he hacked the elections. He hacked Hillary's e- mails, the DNC's e-mails. The FBI has come out and they put out a report today, very detailed. This is forensic information.

He is manipulating. He manipulated our election and now he's manipulating our politics. I mean, the fact that they didn't expel any American diplomats from Moscow and he turns around and says Trump is just the man we can deal with, this is just extraordinary.

And in my many, many years working in national security I've never seen anything like this and the fact that Trump has not reacted is incredible. This FBI information is forensic. It is the same sort of evidence they send people to jail on. It is computer DNA. It is indisputable at this point. BOLDUAN: It is interesting you lay it out that way because former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was speaking today and he said this about the intelligence that President Obama is working off of here.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Here's what you do. 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.


BOLDUAN: Rudy Giuliani wants Donald Trump to get his own people to gather a new intelligence report on this alleged Russian hack. You have been one of the guys in the field gathering this information. Is the intelligence that Donald Trump will be working off of different from what President Obama is looking at?

BAER: It is going to be the same stuff, but what Giuliani misses, this isn't intelligence. This isn't assessments. This isn't people trying to get into Putin's mind. This is forensics. It is DNA and this is what they are all missing.

And it is every single intelligence agency in the United States government that this is just a fact. And the FBI director wasn't exactly friendly to Hillary Clinton in the elections. He said he was opening the investigation in her e-mails.

So this is not completely politicized. The answer Trump should give is let me see the evidence. Let me decide but what he can't say is I'm going to bring my own people in and who's that? Private contractors, friends? It is difficult to see where this is going, but I find it highly disturbing.

BOLDUAN: We'll see. I mean, he's meeting with intelligence leaders next week. We'll see if his assessment and posture changes on this. Bob, thanks so much.

OUTFRONT with me now, Republican congressman from New York, Lee Zeldin, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman, thanks so much. Good to see you.


BOLDUAN: So today, you've seen everything going back and forth. Today, Putin said that he's not going to hit back after the sanctions. After that Trump sent out his message on Twitter.

I'll read it for you just one more time. He writes, "Great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart." Congressman, do you agree with Donald Trump that Vladimir Putin is very smart here?

ZELDIN: I personally I'm no fan of Vladimir Putin. I think he looks in the mirror and he aspires to be Vladimir "The Great." He loved to put the USSR back together again. This situation that we face the reality with Russia happens to be very complex.

Right now we're talking cyber-security, cyber-attacks, but I just got back from Afghanistan yesterday. In that region Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, it's a challenging graph/map the entire world right now with those challenges.

[19:10:08]So isolated to what's going on over the course of the last couple days, I do believe Putin is outsmarting President Obama with his response. He has been allowed to take the high road, be magnanimous --

BOLDUAN: Congressman, is it really taking the high road if you are the one who's first accused of starting this whole thing by hacking into our election system?

ZELDIN: This is just a very -- it is like a complicated inside baseball game that Putin with his messaging, using Twitter and communicating with the rest of the world. If you look at the realignment right now in the Middle East, where Syria is -- there is a truce being negotiated with Russia and Turkey.

And the United States isn't even involved. So I think it is more of a messaging, outsmarting over the course of the last couple of days. But, you know, it is impossible to defend the guy though.

BOLDUAN: When it is so complex as you say, do you like that the president elect that is his only message that we are hearing. One that Vladimir Putin -- he complements saying he's very smart and also what he heard yesterday that we all need to move on to bigger and better things with regard to the hacks to Russia. Do you like that?

ZELDIN: Well, what I would like is knowing that the United States plan is thinking six, ten, fifteen steps ahead, and right now as I'm observing this all from my vantage point, you know, with President Obama announcing the sanctions, with a president-elect coming in just a few weeks, I want more of a confidence that -- a year ago we could have been negotiating a truce within Syria that didn't need to bring Russians to the table.

Now it is impossible to negotiate a truce without having Russia at the table. As I was leaving the airport yesterday to come back to the United States, the former Syrian prime minister who defected who now leads the opposition movement was there with us in the airport.

And to think that you can't sit down with him and Assad and those players without bringing in the Russians, we need to start thinking literally on so many fronts all across the map six, ten, fifteen steps ahead. That is the way Putin is thinking towards us and he's gaining an edge and he's doing that while we're just taking it one step at a time.

BOLDUAN: If you think Putin's gaining an edge, let me ask you this, do you think Vladimir Putin, the Russians were behind the hack in the first place?

ZELDIN: You know, listen, the report that came out between the FBI and DHS, I read the report. There are certain things that are missing in it. I'm a little concerned. I'd like to get the answers to certain questions that I have.

It doesn't mention Wikileaks. It references a couple of actors but doesn't describe the connections between those actors and the Russian governments. It was a very brief report. They used large font and big pictures with a lot of holes in it.

With that being said, President Obama said that next week he's going to be providing a lot of important intelligence to Congress and I really hope that all the questions that I have, my colleagues, on both of the aisle have, we could fill in those dots because we need to move forward united in order to tackle this threat. Cyber-security, cyber- attacks, I mean, this is a huge --

BOLDUAN: But Congressman, you have got many Republican members of Congress who are not balking to say they believe that Vladimir Putin in Russia is behind this attack. Do you believe Russia is behind the hack?

ZELDIN: Yes. I -- that makes by far the most amount of sense. However, I have questions that as a member of Congress, I have asked entitled to get answers that unfortunately the report is still leaving open. So, you know, we have a huge threat that goes way beyond hacking, the DCCC, the DNC, John Podesta.

We want answers as it relates to the political process, the election and those hackings, but we also have cyber-attacks, cyber-security issues as it relates to Russia. That's a lot bigger than the political party.

BOLDUAN: Can we just get one more answer? Do you think Donald Trump should let these sanctions stand that Obama put in place or do you want to see him reverse it?

ZELDIN: If he can use these sanctions, leverage it as part of a bigger plan that we're moving in the right direction and we are realigning things around the map back to the way they are supposed to be then, yes, he should and make it work. But you know, again, this needs to be part of a larger plan and not just one step at a time.

BOLDUAN: All right, always good to hear the president-elect's ideas on that larger plan as well. Lee Zeldin, always great to see you, Congressman. Thank you.

ZELDIN: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT next, Team Trump accuses President Obama of undermining the transition. Is the president intentionally throwing roadblocks in the way?

[19:15:04]Plus another top performer quits rather than perform at Trump's inauguration. We'll tell you why she refuses to take the stage.

And some of the world's most feared leaders, why do you think they will get along with Trump?


BOLDUAN: Tonight, is President Obama playing politics with Russia? President-elect Donald Trump's team slamming the president over the timing of punishments against Moscow for U.S. election hacks. It is just the latest chapter though under the very rocky relationship between Obama and Trump. Suzanne Malveaux is OUTFRONT.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's just the latest roadblock to a smooth transition. Donald Trump praising Vladimir Putin tweeting, "Great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart."

Trump applauding Putin's remarkable move to wait for Trump to take office before responding to President Obama's decision to expel Russian diplomats and new sanctions.

This comes on the heels of a back and forth week in which Trump has blasted President Obama tweeting, "He thought it was going to be a smooth transition, not."

To Trump saying it was going smoothly. Now the president-elect and his team characterizing the current White House's showdown with Russia as politically motivated.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP TRANSITION SENIOR ADVISER: Even those who are sympathetic to President Obama on most issues are saying part of the reason he did this today was to, quote, "Box in President-elect Trump." That would be very unfortunate if that were the motivating factor here, politics.

MALVEAUX: Trump's team continuing to dismiss the U.S. intelligence assessment on Russian cyber-attacks.

CONWAY: We've been talking about this for a while. I think that all we heard all through the election was Russia, Russia, Russia whenever it came to anything Donald Trump said or did it seemed most days and now since the election it's just this fever pitch of accusations and insinuations.

MALVEAUX: Trump says he'll meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week for a briefing on the hacking matter. But Trump supporter, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, suggesting the president-elect not bother.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I would urge 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.

MALVEAUX: Trump is now set for a direct confrontation with his own party. [19:20:02]As top Senate Republicans John McCain and Lindsay Graham prepare to hold hearings and consider harsher sanctions against Russia when the new Congress returns. But Trump's incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, warns the American people may not have appetite for another conflict.

REINCE PRIEBUS, INCOMING CHIEF OF STAFF: They may be privy to information that we don't know, but I also know that we're not interested in going to war all over the world either.


MALVEAUX: Meanwhile, the political theater continues to play out over Twitter, Trump immediately sending his tweet praising Putin to the top of his profile so it is the first thing people see visiting his page. And the official account of the Russian Embassy has now retweeted Trump's tweet -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Suzanne, thank you so much. All playing out on Twitter, of course.

OUTFRONT now, former Republican senator and presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, and the former Democratic mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter. Gentlemen, it is wonderful to see you. I can't think of a better way to set my Friday.

So Senator, first to you. With that now the attack begins, the Trump transition says it seems anyway that the president took these steps to box in the president elect. Some even think it goes a step further. Let me play for you right now, Senator, Republican Congress Trent Franks and what he said today.


REPRESENTATIVE TRENT FRANKS (R), ARIZONA: I am completely convinced that Barack Obama's primary motivation is to try to delegitimize the election.


BOLDUAN: Senator, do you agree with Trent Franks?

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I think that that is certainly one of the motives that the president is using. Look, the idea that you wait until a few weeks before your presidency ends to handle a problem that's been ongoing and serious one for the security of our country, where the president has not responded at all.

I mean, he has been completely feckless in dealing with Russia on a variety of fronts and not the least of which on the cyberside to wait till after the election and use -- everyone talks about the hack. Some of this wasn't even a hack.

It was a basic -- a phishing expedition where one of the DNC officials gave a password. I mean, that is not a hack. That is just criminal activity that Russia or maybe somebody else took advantage of. But the idea that this -- that particular event or these series of events -- Trump's -- everything that occurred for eight years where Russia has been constantly going after us, attacking us, using cyber warfare and for us not to respond to that and to respond to this is clearly political and not one that I think is going to go down as a bright spot for the Obama presidency.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, what do you say to that?

MICHAEL NUTTER (D), FORMER MAYOR OF PHILADELPHIA: Senator, nice being on with you. You are absolutely wrong. You know that President Obama is taking these actions, A, because he's actually the president of the United States of the America. Mr. Trump is not yet. There is only one president at a time.

Secondly, the administration has taken numerous actions over the course of President Obama's tenure. You may not be necessarily privy or myself or the general public but certainly our intelligence community has been dealing with these issues for some time.

SANTORUM: Name on, Michael. Michael, name one.

NUTTER: Hey, Senator, Senator, let me finish. Third, the fact of the matter is that President Obama has been very diligent in dealing with this particular issue even though the intelligence community announced before the election that this activity was taking place.

And if he had taken these actions before the election I'm sure we'd be having a different debate about the timing of that. So he took his time and got a report from the intelligence community which apparently will be released next week.

I think it is fairly conclusive and he's doing what he's doing. He's still the president until January 20th and he'll continue to act that way.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, let me ask you this, we did learn today that President Obama is planning to head to Capitol Hill next week to huddle with Democrats to try to plan how to fight Republican plans to repeal Obamacare. So essentially block Donald Trump from making good on a campaign promise.

I bring that up because when you take that in mind, can you understand though why Trump's team are at least worried or not even worried, they are suggesting and saying that Obama is trying to box them in with regard to Russia?

NUTTER: Well, you know, unfortunately, this is some of the whining that goes on in the transition of power. But when you brag that you are going to remove one of the most important piece of the legislation in modern times, putting 20 plus million people who did have health care into a health care system, you could imagine --

You know, anyone could see that the president is going to try to keep the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, if you will, in place. So that cannot be a surprise. This time last year I was on my way out of office and, you know, there are still things to be done.

[19:25:04]There is still work to be done and sometimes people get upset about that, but you took an oath. You serve until the last day and you do things that you think are right.

And then when Mr. Trump has his opportunity after being sworn in he can then try do whatever he wants to do, but until that time President Obama is still the president.

BOLDUAN: So let me ask you then, Senator. This is one thing that keeps nagging on me. Trump's top adviser told me yesterday that Donald Trump stands by his past statements with regard to the hack and all of those past statements have cast doubt on the intelligence that points to Russia being behind the hack during the election.

If the president elect is receiving the same kind of intelligence briefings if not more than top members of Congress, and those top members of Congress are confident as Russia, why is the president- elect so reluctant to admit it?

SANTORUM: Well, first off, who did the actual hacking or the case I mentioned before, it wasn't a hack. It was voluntarily a password was given.

BOLDUAN: But it is still a hack. They use the password to then hack into your system. It is still criminal as you pointed out.

SANTORUM: No, no, it is clearly criminal activity. But as most people who are skilled in cyber security know that this state actors are not the ones doing the hacking. There are lots of individuals out there doing that and then say sell this information, out on the dark web and other places, and could the Russians have purchased this or --

BOLDUAN: According to top Republicans and Barack Obama, this was directed from the very top levels of the Russian government. That is not just from President Obama. You can talk to John McCain about that too.

SANTORUM: I'm unconvinced at this point. I'm willing to be convinced, but I'm unconvinced at this point that that's actually what happened here. But the bottom line is that the information that was gathered was eventually coopted potentially by the Russians.

I have no doubt that they would want that information and could have purchased that information and used it. So that doesn't surprise me at all. But the more important part is why did Barack Obama wait until a few weeks before his presidency, as Michael couldn't answer the question --

BOLDUAN: Mayor, on this point because we have no more time because I know the senator believed this, did he wait too long? Do you wish he had done it earlier, Mayor, done this?

NUTTER: You know, it's one of those situations. A little bit of damned if you do and damned if you don't situation. The president waited until he had clear, solid evidence. That's what the FBI, and Homeland Security and the National Intelligence director have all said.

And then as news reports have accounted, he spent some time with his team. There are a lot of debates going on back and forth, what to do, how to do it, when to do it.

You know, it is interesting that all folks want to hang their hat on is the timing. The timing is the timing you take your action when you take your action --


BOLDUAN: And this bromance gets to take us into the New Year. Great to see you guys. Thank you very, very much. I sincerely appreciate it always.

OUTFRONT for us next, the performer invited to sing at Trump's inauguration could have simply opted out instead she's protesting in a very public way. Why?

Plus a top Republican on a collision course with Donald Trump as he calls for a hearing on the Russian hacks.


[19:31:41] BOLDUAN: Tonight, we're learning A-lister Sylvester Stallone will be ringing in the New Year with the president-elect, at Trump's big bash at Mar-a-Lago tomorrow night.

But what about Trump's real party? His inauguration. Big name so far are absent from the VIP list. And one member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which is booked for the event, said she's quitting the group altogether instead of performing.

Jean Casarez is OUTFRONT.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Marching bands from around the country are going to Washington for Donald Trump's inaugural festivities. Forty organizations will be in the parade, 8,000 participants.

But tonight, a new controversy surrounding those performers. Jan Chamberlin, a four year member of Utah's Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a state Trump won handily, has written a lengthy public Facebook posting that she is quitting the choir because it agreed to sing for the president-elect.

"It is with a sad and heavy heart that I submit my resignation to you and to choir. I simply cannot continue with the recent turn of events. I could never look at myself in the mirror again with self respect. I also know looking from the outside in, it will appear that choir is endorsing tyranny and fascism by singing for this man."

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir says the performance is voluntary and the choir's participation continues its long tradition of performing for U.S. presidents of both parties at inaugurations and other settings.

Late Friday, Chamberlin responded to criticism.

JAN CHAMBERLIN, QUIT CHOIR OVER INAUGURATION PERFORMANCE: I value the country we have the freedom of speech under the First Amendment. For me, this is not a political issue. For me, this is a moral issue, where I'm concerned about our freedoms being in danger.

CASAREZ: This coming just days after it was announced the legendary New York City Rockettes would be performing at the inauguration. In an interview with, one Rockette spoke out about the decision. "The majority of us said no immediately. Then, there's the percentage that said yes, for whatever reason."

The dancers union ultimately deciding that participation in the inauguration will be voluntary. Madison Square Garden which employs the dancers adding, "We have more Rockettes request to participate than we have slots available."

BORIS EPSHTEYN, DIR. OF COMMS., PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURAL COMMITTEE: It is not able the -- it is about the American people. And that will be represented all over this inaugural. And we've got such an outpouring of support of positivity from all over this country. It's been truly humbling.


CASAREZ: There is no limit to the number of inaugural balls that can be held, but there is a limit to official balls in. In 2005, there were nine. In 2009, there are actually 10. But in 2013, only two official balls.

Now, this January 20th, there will be three, two official balls and the commander in chief ball. That was originally started by George W. Bush to be for select members of the U.S. military. But Donald Trump is going to expand that to first responders, police, fire, as well as veterans of this country -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Jean Casarez, thanks so much, Jean.

OUTFRONT with me now, Ben Ferguson, conservative radio host, of course, of "The Ben Ferguson Show", and Symone Sanders, former press secretary for Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.

Round two, it seems, friends. Let's do it.


BOLDUAN: Ben, this woman, Jan Chamberlin, she could have just opted out of performing at the inauguration.

[19:35:01] But she quit altogether because in her words the choir is endorsing tyranny and fascism by singing for Donald Trump. Those are strong words.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, and let me ask this question -- was the choir endorsing abortion when they sang when Barack Obama was inaugurated because he's in favor of abortion? I think that would be something that obviously she just stepped out from if she's going to claim this holy high ground.

Now, this is nothing but a grandstanding individual that doesn't get her way. And so, she says, I'm going walk away. There's 360 people in the choir. Not all are going to be traveling. Se didn't have to travel.

More importantly than that, when it comes to religion, you would think she may actually want to have influence over people that are about to run the government and have peace and harmony which is what the Tabernacle Choir claims to be about. So, this is nothing but self- righteous grandstanding from a cry baby who never grew up and didn't learn that guess what, not everyone agrees with what you believe in.

And I think it's hypocrisy, the fact that she had no problem singing when they went for Obama and he was in favor of abortion. I think that's a moral issue she should be standing up about.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Obama was in favor of a woman's right to choose. Hands off my uterus, Ben. Oh my goodness, a woman's right to choose. Hand's off my uterus.

Kate, look, the fact is I'm proud of Jan. And we had hashtag, I stand with Mary, hashtag stand for something. Look, I think some of the language I don't necessarily agree with. I think we have to be careful of throwing Hitler out there because we I just said a couple of weeks ago, and you normalize it when you use "Hitler", when you use what happened to the Jewish community just to callously make your point. So, that I don't agree with.

But I do agree with you have to stand for something. And that, yes, these are not normal circumstances. So, when you stand up and everybody that's --

FERGUSON: What's not normal about this?


FERGUSON: A free and fair election happened. What's not normal?

SANDERS: It is not normal for the next president of the United States to have waged a racist birther campaign against the first African American of the United States.

FERGUSON: You guys lost on these talking points.


BOLDUAN: Hold on.

SANDERS: This is the truth, Ben. What's not normal is for someone to come to power by fear mongering. By disparaging everyone from African-Americans to Latinos to Hispanics and disabled community and I'm not going let anybody make this normal. (CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: Kate, only half of America voted and that half of America voted vote for Donald Trump. So, these B.S. talking points about America voted for Donald Trump are not true.

FERGUSON: They did. He won the election. This is what's astounding to me is that you sit there.

BOLDUAN: Hold on a second. Symone, let me ask you this, let me ask you this.

She has absolutely the right to speak out publicly. And she clearly has. But kind of what Ben is asking, what do you think -- and I want to get your take. You say stand for something. Why do you think she wanted to speak out so publicly? Why write -- you know, she could write -- she didn't need to write the post, she didn't need to use that language. She could have just opted to no got on the trip.

Why do you think that she and now, you know, even Rockettes, we've now seen gone so far and put themselves so out there on this?

SANDERS: You know, I think that it's because folks are still reeling from the election. And I think what we're going to see over the next four years are people who really felt strongly negatively about Donald Trump as the next president of the United States and they feel the need to speak out about that for fear they are in fact endorsing him.

BOLDUAN: All right. Ben Ferguson, here's my question, because you guys have not been letting me in on those conversation, it's been really fun to watch. Since she quit, she said she's been harassed, called a bigot, selfish, close minded.

Give me one word. Do you think she deserves being called those things?

FERGUSON: I don't think she's deserves being called those things. But when you stick yourself out there like this you are going to have some criticism that is going do come your way. Get used to it. I get it every night when I come to the show.

Welcome to the big leagues, honey. Enjoy your moment in the fame, that you wanted here. You got your 15 minutes and if you can't handle the heat, then maybe you shouldn't step up there and be self righteous in this way.

BOLDUAN: Now, one clarification, according to the Mormon Tabernacle website they did not sing for President Obama. I'm just pointing that out.

FERGUSON: Well, there you go.

BOLDUAN: There you go.

OUTFRONT next, a top Republican calls the Russian hacks an act of war. But Trump still has his doubts. Why the senator could be the thorn in Trump's side the next four years.

Plus, a world leader known for bragging about killing people says he expects to get along with Donald Trump. Why? Coming up next.


[19:43:13] BOLDUAN: New tonight: an act of war. That's what Republican Senator John McCain is calling the Russian hacks of the U.S. election, putting him in direct opposition with President-elect Donald Trump.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: When you attack a country, it's an act of war. And so, we have to make sure that there is a price to pay, so that we can perhaps persuade the Russians to stop this kind of attacks on our very fundamentals of democracy.


BOLDUAN: And this could become a reoccurring problem. Get ready for Trump versus McCain over and over again.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER (voice-over): Now that the election is over, Donald Trump is getting a taste of what it's like to go up against Senator John McCain. The Arizona Republican, one of the lone GOP voices, speaking out against Trump, immediately criticizing Trump's choice of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

MCCAIN: Anybody who's a friend of Vladimir Putin must disregard the fact that Vladimir Putin is a murder, a thug, a KGB agent.

RAJU: And on allegations of Russia's meddling in the elections, McCain bucking Trump by joining the new Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and Trump critic Lindsey Graham in calling for a broader investigation.

MCCAIN: We need a select committee. We need to get to the bottom of this.

RAJU: McCain has long tangled with both parties, including the last Republican President George W. Bush over campaign finance, climate change and torture.

MCCAIN: First of all, torture doesn't work as we proved.

RAJU: Now with Trump, McCain's differences may be even more profound, over issues like immigration and especially national security.

MCCAIN: I am in disagreement with many of the national security positions that Donald Trump has taken.

RAJU: Last year, Trump ridiculed McCain for being captured by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK? I hate too tell you --

RAJU: McCain responding that Trump should take back those comments.

MCCAIN: There is a body of American heroes that I'd like to see him retract that statement. Not about me but about the others.

RAJU: But Trump not backing down.

TRUMP: I don't like the job that John McCain is doing in the Senate because he's not taking care of the veterans.

RAJU: Aides say McCain and Trump has spoken since election night, with McCain pledging his support for Trump's nominee for secretary of defense, General James Mattis, and backing Trump's call to reverse defense spending cuts.

McCain now says he will pick his battles with the new president.

MCCAIN: We have all kinds of challenges and my time is devoted to trying to make sure this nation is secured, not to comment on every comment of Mr. Trump's.

RAJU (on camera): And one person who McCain has been working closely with is Senator Schumer, the incoming Democratic leader. Now, McCain and Schumer never really had a close relationship until the last few years they worked very closely together. And now they are very close allies despite being in opt political parties. And on Russia in particular, McCain and Schumer's political interests are aligning and that could be the case on any number of issues next year.

So, as Trump tries to move his agenda, he'll have to win over not just Republicans like McCain but a fellow New Yorker in Chuck Schumer.

Manu Raju, CNN, Washington.


BOLDUAN: Manu, thanks so much.

OUTFRONT now, senior video reporter for "The Wall Street Journal", Shelby Holliday.

Shelby, it's great to see you.


BOLDUAN: It's not very often, it's quite rare I would argue that you see a president clashing so publicly with a top member of his own party. If this is the case, if this is what this looks like, what is it going to look like over the next four years? HOLLIDAY: I do think a lot of it depends on what Donald Trump's

priorities are. If he wants to kick off his presidency by addressing issues on which GOP agrees, lower taxes, rolling back Obamacare, repealing regulations, they could really make some progress, pick this low hanging fruit and get things done. There's a laundry list of things the GOP wants do. Trump could start with those things.

Or if he wants to kick off his presidency by addressing contentious issues, for example, undoing sanctions against Russia or building a wall on the southern border, John McCain and other GOP members on the Hill will not with be his allies. They will make life very difficult for him.

BOLDUAN: And it might even just go the opposite direction. I mean, John McCain is already planning hearings next week on Russia. I mean, this is going to start. This could be motivated from the Capitol Hill and land on his desk.

HOLLIDAY: Exactly. And also, if you look at John McCain's travel schedule, he's in the Baltic nations, Ukraine, he's visiting Georgia, he's already been to Mexico. He seems to be out there reassuring our allies that American is committed to you, even if our president-elect hasn't really given you that feeling. We are here for you.

So, John McCain with the hearing next week too, I think he's really stressing the importance of the cybersecurity for example. And I think he wants to fill the gaps that Trump has left --

BOLDUAN: If they are clashing, Shelby, if this McCain versus Trump, who wins? It doesn't seem like the Republican Party does.

HOLLIDAY: The Republican Party does not win and as you said it is pretty rare. But in a year where the Republicans dominate the White House, the House, the Senate, there could be tremendous things they could get done. You know, there as very slim majority in the Senate and if John McCain and a couple of his allies decide they're not going to get behind some of these policies, Republicans may not get as much done.

BOLDUAN: That's a called leverage on the part --

HOLLIDAY: Lots of leverage. Lots of media coverage, too.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for coming in.

HOLLIDAY: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT next: Trump praised by world leaders who govern with an iron fist. Why are these strong men so smitten with Trump?


[19:52:04] BOLDUAN: Breaking news: tonight, President-elect Donald Trump praising Russian President Putin, calling him smart. Putin, just one of many so-called strong me, political leaders who rule by force who's praising Trump right back. So, what's the draw? Ivan Watson is OUTFRONT.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the aftermath of the election, messages of support come from presidents with tough guy personas who have had tense relations with the U.S.

The Russian president calls Trump a successful entrepreneur, a man who's, quote, "probably clever." Turkey's president jumped to the president-elect's support, calling anti-Trump street protests, quote, "a disrespect to democracy."

And then there is the president of the Philippines who not long ago told President Obama he could go to hell.

PRES. RODRIGO DUTERTE, PHILIPPINES: I would like to congratulate President Trump. Long live.

We both curse. Even with trivial matters, we curse. We are very similar.

WATSON: Why do these strong men seem to like Donald Trump?

QUENTIN PEEL, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, CHATHAM HOUSE: I would call it their capacity to provide simple answers to very complicated questions. That what we're seeing at the moment in the world today is a lot of threat and crisis and uncertainty. And what these leaders are providing is simplistic answers, black and white, close the borders, no more foreigners.

WATSON: Vladimir Putin first came to power in 1999, delighting many Russians with his promise to hunt down and kill Chechen rebels in their toilets.

Turkey's fiery Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspires fervent pride among pious, working class voters while often demonizing and persecuting his critics.

And in Europe, several far right politicians embrace Trump's tough talk on immigration, and Islamist extremism, hoping for their own Trump bump as they compete for the top job in Dutch and French elections scheduled next year.

But not everyone welcome this is new hunger for nationalist politicians.

(on camera): Here in the tiny eastern European country of Latvia, U.S. soldiers are training alongside the Latvian military. It's part of an effort to better protect this NATO ally from its much bigger neighbor to the east, Latvia's former soviet ruler, Russia.

(voice-over): With Trump so focused on making America great, people here fear the U.S. will no longer protect them.

[19:55:01] The rise of nationalist strong men leaves some of the little guys clearly worried.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Riga.


BOLDUAN: Ivan, thanks so much.

Coming up next, a behind the scenes look at one of the best-selling bands ever -- Chicago.


BOLDUAN: This New Year's Day, a new film explores the legendary music of Chicago. The band has sold more than a 150 albums over fifty years. They got their start in college and eventually opened for the likes of Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin, before hitting it big themselves.

Take a look.


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

And that was a start of a thing where she hung with us. And she showed us what she did with the command on the stage.


BOLDUAN: "Now More Than Ever" airs New Year's Day at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Thanks so much for joining us tonight.

Now, the big moments of the year, "All the Best, All the Worst of 2016" stars now.