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Trump Withholds Blame, Promises New Info on Russian Hacking; New Video Shows Gunman Storming Istanbul Nightclub; Manhunt Intensifies For Istanbul Nightclub Attacker; ISIS Claims Responsibility For Istanbul Club Attack; Death Penalty Phase Begins Tomorrow. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired January 2, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And to you. You're right. This was a great show, John.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I told you. It's going to be the best show ever.
CAMEROTA: You predicted it. Thank you. Time for NEWSROOM with Carol Costello. Happy New Year, Carol.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And it was a great show. You guys did a terrific job. Happy New Year!
BERMAN: I told you.
COSTELLO: NEWSROOM starts now.
And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me. President-elect Donald Trump says he knows things other people don't about the hacking of our election, and he says within the next day or two, he will share new information about why he doubts Russia's role in that. This morning, Trump's communications director, Sean Spicer, backed the President-elect and slammed the Obama White House for questioning Trump's reluctance to blame Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, CHIEF STRATEGIST AND COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: So the idea that you're asking anybody what their reaction should be to a non-final report is unbelievable. I don't get it.
CAMEROTA: Well, hold on, Sean.
SPICER: No, no. No, not hold on.
CAMEROTA: Sean --
SPICER: The idea that we are asking people and making assumptions on a report that's not final is unbelievable.
CAMEROTA: OK. So, in other words, Lindsey Graham and Senator John McCain are also unbelievable and irresponsible since they're --
SPICER: They're not the ones that instituted the sanctions. It's the President of the United States that did it.
CAMEROTA: They're planning hearings about it. They believe this sentencing and intelligence that they've been briefed.
SPICER: Exactly. Hold on. Oh, wait, wait, wait. Stop. Hold on. Listen to what you just said. They're planning hearings. They are actually trying to get it right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: OK then. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty live in Washington with more on this. Good morning.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Carol. The President-elect is headed into this intelligence briefing this week really skeptical of the conclusions that Russia was behind the hacks and insisting that he knows some secret information about this that many other people don't.
SERFATY (voice-over): Donald Trump back in New York City this morning and gearing up for a busy week ahead. The President-elect is meeting with intelligence officials for a briefing about Russian hacking, just days after again expressing doubt about the intelligence community's conclusions about the Kremlin's interference in the U.S. election.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I just want them to be sure because it's a pretty serious charge, and I want them to be sure. And if you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster and they were wrong.
SERFATY (voice-over): Trump referencing intelligence failures in the lead-up to the Iraq war to bolster his points and claiming to have inside information about the hacking that he says he will reveal this week.
TRUMP: I also know things that other people don't know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.
SERFATY (voice-over): Trump's defiance pitting him against the Obama administration and many of his fellow Republicans.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: When you attack a country, it's an act of war.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: If he's going to have any credibility as President, he needs to stop talking this way. He needs to stop denigrating the intelligence community.
SERFATY (voice-over): Both speaking to reporters outside of his New Year's Eve party at Mar-a-Lago. Trump, a long-time skeptic of e-mail, offered this advice. TRUMP: You know, if you have something really important, write it out
and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way because I'll tell you what, no computer is safe.
SERFATY (voice-over): Also on the President-elect's to-do list this week, filling several open Cabinet spots, including the secretaries of Veterans' Affairs and Agriculture, and giving a deposition related to his legal battle with Chef Jose Andres.
JOSE ANDRES, CELEBRITY CHEF: Apologize to every Latino, to every Mexican.
SERFATY (voice-over): Trump is suing Andres after he pulled a plug on a restaurant at Trump's new hotel in Washington after the President- elect repeatedly insulted Mexicans during the campaign.
SERFATY: And as the President-elect works to fill out his Cabinet, Democrats on Capitol Hill are threatening to drag out votes on Trump's nominees, claiming that they've been slow in providing information to the committees ahead of their upcoming confirmation hearings. And already, three liberal groups are calling for delay in Jeff Sessions' confirmation hearing for Attorney General. That hearing, Carol, was supposed to start next week.
COSTELLO: All right. Sunlen Serfaty, reporting live from Washington, thank you.
President Obama lands in Washington, D.C. in just a few hours, and it will be quite the week for the President. He'll meet with top Democrats to try to save Obamacare and prepare a final goodbye to the nation. CNN's Senior Washington Correspondent Joe Johns has more for you.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. The President is planning a speech next week in Chicago, an opportunity to give a final farewell and thank you to supporters for the journey of the last eight years. The President also tweeting out over the weekend about his accomplishments over that period, including the Affordable Care Act, facing down the financial crisis, clean energy.
And he also tweeted this, "It's been the privilege of my life to serve as your President. I look forward to standing with you as a citizen. Happy New Year." And this, "After decades of rising health care costs, today nearly every American now has access to the financial security of affordable health care."
The latest in a series of legacy building moves for the President, also expected to meet with congressional Democrats this week to talk about how to save the Affordable Care Act.
[09:05:07] All of these sort of has some urgency to it, especially because incoming President Donald Trump is expected to make some huge changes. His incoming Press Secretary talked about that earlier this morning on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER; Withdrawing from TPP, renegotiating NAFTA and giving notice, instituting a lobbying ban that is very forward thinking, that's saying that if you want to serve in a Trump administration, you need to serve this government not yourself and is going to have a five-year ban going forward.
And it also has a lifetime ban on people who want to serve in this administration then potentially lobby for a foreign government. There will be a lifetime ban on that.
There will be a slew of other things that come forward. But I think part of this is that we'll have a rollout where we talk about the agenda and how each of those regulations, both ones that we're going to repeal and put in place, help grow jobs and economic growth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: So a lot of changes coming down the road, but not before the outgoing President gets the opportunity to give his farewell. This is a tradition that dates all the way back to George Washington in 1796, Carol.
COSTELLO: All right. Joe Johns reporting live from the White House this morning. So let's talk about that and more. Joining me now, Larry Sabato, director for the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. And Lynn Sweet is here. She's the Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times."
Welcome to both of you.
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Good morning. Thank you.
LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: Thank you, I'm happy to.
COSTELLO: Good morning. So, Larry, can President Obama and top Democrats save Obamacare?
SABATO: Very doubtful. They can certainly save pieces of it because pieces of it are popular, like carrying your kids on your insurance until they're aged 26. I don't think that's really in danger. But Obamacare as a whole is practically dead and gone, along with lots of other pieces of President Obama's legacy. He was the second biggest loser on November 8th after Hillary Clinton.
COSTELLO: Back to Obamacare for just a second though, because it will likely, Lynn, die a very slow death, right? Because, as Larry said, the congressional Republicans will dismantle it, right, take out the parts they don't like. But still, what about those 20 million people who have insurance through Obamacare? Don't they need to figure that out before they start chipping away? SWEET: Well, let me take a slightly longer arch of history here. You
have a principle, I believe, that Obama has accomplished that will be a legacy achievement if you take away the name Obamacare from this.
Look at the advance that the Republicans will have a hard time taking away and that is that if you have a pre-existing condition, you have to be able to buy health insurance. That is a big, big change that affects millions of people no matter their politics, race, gender, sexual identity. That's a big deal. If you take that as a bedrock principle of Obamacare that will not be changed, I think you have an advance.
And if you look at the bigger view, yes, the way you do insurance exchanges, all that will be changed. The Democrats, the White House, all said they knew that they needed improvements, but I'm not as pessimistic as Larry is. Don't say dismissively, oh, they'll make little pieces. Some of them are bedrock principles of an American right to health care for people who have pre-existing conditions
And for the people out there, you know what I'm talking about if you or loved ones have a pre-existing condition.
COSTELLO: OK. So, Larry, is it possible that Congress will come up with "Trumpcare"?
SABATO: Yes. Well, playing off what Lynn said, probably the best strategy that the Democrats would have is to put on the table changing the name to either "Trumpcare" or "GOP-care" and minimizing the changes. If you give the Republicans and the new President full credit for it, they might be able to salvage more of it.
And I don't disagree with Lynn's basic point, that if you look at the whole history of health care, the biggest modern advance, other than the establishment of Medicare, was made during the Obama administration. But still, I think Democrats are whistling past the graveyard.
I've heard this, not just with Obamacare, but so many other things, the executive orders, why they'll be able to get this preserved and that preserved, and I think they're dreaming.
The Republicans have control of both houses of Congress, and even though they don't have 60 votes in the Senate, there are ways of constructing the 60 votes or even getting 51 votes for many of these items, and that's all you need in certain circumstances. And they have a President who's going to sign virtually all of it.
SABATO: This was a disaster for Obama and the Democrats on November 8th.
SWEET: OK. I'm not saying it's not, but I'm saying some achievements that Obama has, such as this bedrock principle that we, as American people now will be entitled to insurance no matter our pre-existing condition, is something that we shouldn't take lightly as we're trying to look ahead to the Trump administration and look at the achievements of the Obama presidency.
[09:10:11] COSTELLO: OK. I want to talk a little bit about Russia before I let you guys go because Mr. Trump is still unwilling to blame Russia for the Democratic hacking, right? Larry, he claims that he knows things that others have told him. Who exactly is he listening to?
SABATO: God only knows. Look, I don't think the President-elect knows more than the incumbent President who's been receiving the intelligence briefings now for over eight years. That excuse that Trump used probably will be used frequently when he is President because then he will actually have access to information that very few other people will have seen. But that just doesn't hold water.
President Obama and indeed certain members of the intelligence committees in both houses of Congress know at least as much about this as President-elect Trump does. So I think he's playing a very dangerous game here because there is a veto-proof majority in both houses on any Russia sanctions that he would attempt to lift or to bypass.
COSTELLO: Interesting. So just going back to something that Sean Spicer said, Lynn. Sean Spicer said the Democrats and President Obama are jumping to conclusions because the report the intelligence services put out wasn't complete. Is that a fair thing to say?
SWEET: Yes for today, maybe for tomorrow. The day will come very soon though where the Trump administration will have whatever is the available information, and they will have to make a decision in what to do. We live in an imperfect world where you're not always going to know everything conclusively.
You know, one of the things that Rahm Emanuel said when he was a Chief of Staff is that, by the time anything gets to the Oval Office, it's a decision that couldn't be made. You're there because there's no solution that could have been made at a lower level.
And when these real tough issues dealing with war, peace, people's lives, going to war, major attacks, financial sanctions, these are decisions that can be made, have to be made sometimes, where you don't have 100 percent of the information.
You know, we know, when we've read the history of the raid that President Obama ordered that ended up in the death of Bin Laden, they didn't have 100 percent guarantee he was there, that the commandos would come in and they would have success. But at some point, you use the available information.
So, of course, what Sean said today is reasonable. If they think they want more information, soon they'll have it.
COSTELLO: All right. We'll see what happens later this week because Mr. Trump is supposed to sit down with intelligence officials later on this week to be briefed about all things surrounding Russia. We'll see what he says later in the week about what he knows and what the intelligence briefings told him. Larry Sabato, Lynn Sweet, thanks so much.
Still to come in the NEWSROOM, an urgent manhunt for the gunman who killed dozens on New Year's Eve. This morning, ISIS takes responsibility saying Christians were targeted.
[09:16:12] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Eight people now detained, reportedly being interrogated in connection with the brutal nightclub massacre in Turkey, but the attacker is still on run. The manhunt for him is intensifying.
Earlier today, ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack. Thirty nine people were killed, more than 60, including one American were injured. Chilling new surveillance video shows the terrifying moment the attacker stormed the club.
Watch carefully, you can see people ducking down, trying to get out of the way as gunshots fly around them. Then one by one, the attacker tries to shoot down anyone in his path. Sara Sidner live in Istanbul this morning. Hi, Sara.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Yes, I mean, it really shows the attacker's determination as he's walking up with a military-style gun and gunning people down very close to him, a couple feet away. Those who did not get out of the way died.
Thirty nine people, once he got inside of this nightclub, were killed, including a security guard. We went to the security guard's funeral today. His mother was wailing. It was a horrible sound coming from right outside a mosque in a neighborhood here in Istanbul.
The father also showed up saying, you know, he was always smiling and also had been able to survive another bombing attack that happened here just a month ago. He considered himself lucky, and then ended up dying while he was trying to do his job of protecting others inside of the Reina Nightclub here in Istanbul.
We also know that an American is among those injured. There are 69 people injured. The American talking to us about how he felt and what he saw when all this began just about 75 minutes into 2017.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM RAAK, AMERICAN WOUNDED IN CLUB ATTACK: He was walking above a bench above my head. When he shot me, I didn't move. I just let him shoot me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: So you heard there, it was a terrifying moment for anyone who was inside that club or even outside the club. We also saw a picture today, very disturbing picture of bodies lying on top of each other, one in particular where one of the men inside that club who died had his hand on someone's leg clenching it tight, really, really disturbing to see what happened inside that club. Of course, the manhunt is under way here as they try to find the person responsible for this terrible and deadly act -- Carol.
COSTELLO: All right, Sara Sidner reporting live from Istanbul, Turkey this morning. Let's talk about this now with Peter Bergen, CNN national security analyst, and Phil Mudd, CNN's counterterrorism analyst and a former CIA counterterrorism official. Welcome to both of you.
Phil, there is video of this killer. How long will it take Turkish authorities to find him?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think we have a contrast to what he saw a week or two ago coming out of the Christmas market killing in Germany, just because of the geography. That individual, you'll recall, was killed at an Italian train station as he tried to flee.
If you look at the geography in this situation, if this individual who did this killing, assuming it's one person, did any planning beforehand, he should be across the border into Syria already.
I'm not sure we'll ever see this person again. If we don't have some sort of positive confirmation, let's say, in three or four days, I'd start to worry.
[09:20:04]COSTELLO: Interesting. So Peter, ISIS has claimed responsibility for this attack. It says a soldier of the brave caliphate struck where Christians were celebrating their holiday. Most of the club's victims were Muslims. So what do you make of that?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: ISIS doesn't want to claim attacks that kill quite a number of people from the Arab world. In fact, from what we know, the victims, some of them come from Arab countries. So ISIS wants to portray everybody in the club as being a Christian.
In their view, of course, any Muslim attending a New Year's celebration, drinking happening and these kinds of things would automatically be sort of assumed to be in some way un-Islamic. I take the claim of responsibility at face value.
The Kurdish terrorists who attacked in Turkey don't attack nightclubs where there are many civilians including Turks. They tend to, you know, pick government targets. So the choice of target and ISIS claiming responsibility I think mean that it is slightly, if not ISIS directed, at least ISIS inspired.
COSTELLO: There have been so many terrorist attacks within Turkey in the past several months, Phil. ISIS has claimed responsibility. Other terror groups have claimed responsibility. Other rebel groups have claimed responsibility. What is happening inside Turkey?
MUDD: I think there's a couple things happening. On the ground what you're seeing ISIS do over the course of time is to accept that Turkey is not only a quiet adversary. In other words that ISIS would conduct attacks without claiming them, but that Turkey is now an open adversary.
There's a war between the two because of Turkey's air operations, ground operations against ISIS, its affiliation with Russia. Moving forward, I think what this does for ISIS is create another enemy.
They have the Iranians, Americans and their coalition, Syrians, the Turks have joined on board and I think it tightens the Turkish cooperation with Russia in a way in the short terms. ISIS is causing a lot of tragedy in Turkey.
I think in the long term, they've created so many enemies that this will be the beginning of the end for them. There are too many enemies for them to defeat.
COSTELLO: Because some people think, Peter, that Turkey's government appears unable to deal with these terror attacks. It doesn't know what it's doing. It's going to eventually destabilize the country which is important for American interests since Turkey is part of NATO and an American ally.
BERGEN: Well, certainly Turkey neighbors Syria which is in the middle of a very violent civil war. A lot of blowback from the war. Just to amplify what Phil was saying, you know, in 2014 the Turks had a laissez-faire attitude to ISIS foreign fighters transiting their territory.
That has changed very dramatically in the last year, year and a half. We saw this with the attack at the Istanbul airport in June that killed 44 people that Turkey is very much on the ISIS hit list now. That's really I think because Turkey went from essentially allowing ISIS fighters to transit its territory to really clamping down.
In fact, ISIS' own propaganda starting in early 2015 started talking about how the Turks are really no longer friendly to us and we need to be careful. So unfortunately, we're going to continue to see these kinds of attacks.
I mean, I don't think the Turks have a particularly -- it is an authoritarian state. There is a very large military. They've had an attempted coup. Erdogan has arrested tens of thousands of potential opponents since the coup.
But they live in a very violent world and they face not only ISIS, but also various kinds of Kurdish terrorist groups and you know, I think this is just kind of the situation that we'll continue to see in Turkey.
I don't see it getting worse or getting better. We'll see consistent terrorist attacks by groups affiliated with the Kurdish resistance and also with ISIS.
COSTELLO: My final question for you, Phil, Turkey is aligning itself with Russia right now. So will it ultimately be Russia that helps solve the crisis in Turkey and not the United States?
MUDD: I think it will be. This table was set when the Americans decided to leave something of a vacuum in Syria. Obviously, we support some of the opposition groups in Syria. I believe they have no prospect of ever succeeding.
The Russians clearly saw an opportunity, not only to assist an old ally, Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, but to reassert themselves in the Middle East. I think the Russians have the cards here to play, we don't and that's why the Turks and the Iranians have allied so closely with them.
The new incoming president is going to have a choice to make. Does he want to align with Russia on Syria? And I think his answer will be simple, yes.
COSTELLO: Peter Bergen, Phil Mudd, have to leave it there. Thanks so much.
Still to come in the NEWSROOM, the Charleston church killer ready to tell jurors in his own words why he should not be put to death.
COSTELLO: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thanks so much for joining me.
Convicted church shooter, Dylann Roof, back in court right now facing yet another mental competency test. A judge expected to decide today if Roof, who gunned down nine African-American churchgoers in 2015 will be able to represent himself as a jury decides whether or not to sentence him to death.
CNN's Martin Savidge live outside the courtroom. Good morning.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. Most of us were celebrating and ringing in the New Year over the weekend, we understand that 22-year-old Dylann Roof was undergoing another psychiatric evaluation, this one ordered again by the federal judge in this case after the public defender, I guess, you can call him the stand-by attorney for Dylann Roof since he says he'll represent himself as we move into the death penalty phase.
The public defender essentially said that he still believes that Dylann Roof is not competent especially now. The judge and the defense say that in their words this is an incredibly sensitive moment of this proceeding.
The trial before that found him guilty of over 30 counts was one thing. Now we move into what is literally life or death here, and the decision by this jury will determine whether Dylann Roof goes to prison for the rest of his life or whether he is executed.
This is a federal case. So his attorneys are trying to say this young man is both professionally and mentally not capable to argue on his behalf at this particular moment. These proceedings -- again, it was asked by the media it be made public, so we can understand whether the arguing points. The judge once again ruled and said, no, that the public is not allowed in. So that hearing is going on right now.