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Obama Briefed on Hacking, Kremlin 'Sick and Tired' of Blame; Trump Backtracks on Praise for WikiLeaks Founder. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 5, 2017 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. No doubt. Intelligence chiefs testify that the cyberattack on the U.S. election was ordered at the highest levels in Russia. And they say Donald Trump's disparagement of those findings is a cause for concern. For its part, the Kremlin says it's sick and tired of being blamed.

[17:00:24] Obama's report. The president is briefed on the cyberattack investigation, and President-elect Trump will be briefed tomorrow. Will he finally accept the findings of the U.S. intelligence community?

Hate crime. Four African-Americans are charged with a hate crime and kidnapping in the torture of a white special needs teen that was streamed on Facebook live.

And un-der close scrutiny. The U.S. military is watching Kim Jong- un's regime more closely than ever as North Korea's leader vows to test a missile that could reach the United States, a missile he wants to arm with a nuclear warhead.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Top U.S. intelligence officials today lined up against their future commander in chief, defending their conclusion that the election cyberattacks were ordered at the highest levels of the Kremlin and were accompanied by a campaign of propaganda and fake news, all aimed at swaying the U.S. election results.

Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain, who called today's hearing, says Russia's meddling amounts to an act of war.

And President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly voiced doubts about Russia's role, and U.S. spy chief James Clapper warned that such disparagement, his word, disparagement of the U.S. intelligence community is very worrisome. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump critic, weighed in on that.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Putin is up to no good, and he better be stopped. And Mr. President-elect, when you listen to these people, you can be skeptical, but understand they're the best among us, and they're trying to protect us. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Obama was briefed today on the intelligence report. President-elect Trump will be briefed tomorrow, and a declassified version is expected to be released next week.

Russia is reacting angrily. The state-run news agency says no evidence of Russian hacking was presented, and a Kremlin spokesman says Moscow is, quote, "sick and tired of being blamed."

Also in Chicago, four African-American suspects have been charged with a hate crime and kidnapping in the torture of a white special needs teen that was streamed live over Facebook.

I'll speak with Congressman Chris Collins of the Trump transition team. He's standing by live. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they are all standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.

Let's begin with America's top intelligence officials strongly defending their assessment of Russian attacks on the U.S. election. Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is joining us.

Pamela, what did we learn from today's Senate hearing?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we learned that intelligence leaders are more resolute than ever in their assessment about the Russian hack. And they said today Russians continue to hack and push out fake news just as they did during the election.


JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Trade craft that the Russians have long, long used.

BROWN (voice-over): Today the nation's top spy not mincing words in his defense of the U.S. intelligence assessment that Russia is to blame for the unprecedented hacks during the 2016 election.

CLAPPER: I don't think that we've ever encountered a more aggressive or direct campaign to interfere in our election process than we've seen in this case.

BROWN: And insisting their confidence has only increased.

CLAPPER: We stand actually more resolutely on the strength of that statement that we made on the seventh of October.

BROWN: James Clapper, along with both Democrat and Republican lawmakers, sending a strong message in the wake of Donald Trump's repeated public statements doubting the intelligence.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Who actually is the benefactor of someone who is about to become commander in chief trashing the intelligence community?

CLAPPER: I think there's a difference between skepticism and disparagement.

GRAHAM: Putin is up to no good, and he better be stopped. And Mr. President-elect, when you listen to these people, you can be skeptical, but understand they're the best among us, and they're trying to protect us.


BROWN: Clapper revealing today that a comprehensive report into the Democratic Party hacks will lay out not just what the Russians did, but why they did it. Among the motivations expected in the report set to be released Monday: an effort to tip the election in Trump's favor.

CLAPPER: There are actually more than one motive. That will be described in the report.

I assure you that we intend -- I intend to be -- to push the envelope as much as I can on, particularly on the unclassified version, because I think the public should know as much about this as possible.

BROWN: Clapper told the committee the hacks were only one part of a broader effort by Russia.

CLAPPER: This was a multifaceted campaign. The hacking was only one part of it. And it also entailed classical propaganda, disinformation, fake news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that continue?


BROWN: Intelligence officials say it's clear the man behind it all is Vladimir Putin.

GRAHAM: You say you think this was approved at the highest level of government in Russia, generally speaking? Is that right?

CLAPPER: That's what we said.

GRAHAM: OK. Who's the highest level of government?

CLAPPER: Well, the highest is president Putin.

GRAHAM: Do you think a lot happens in Russia big that he doesn't know about?

CLAPPER: Not very many.

GRAHAM: Yes, I don't think so.

CLAPPER: Certainly none that are politically sensitive in another country.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: President Obama received his briefing on the comprehensive review today, and then tomorrow in New York, President-elect Trump will receive his, led by DNI chief James Clapper -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Pamela. Thank you. Pamela Brown reporting.

Let's go live to our CNN political reporter, Sara Murray. She's outside Trump Tower in New York City. Sara, how has Donald Trump responded to what we heard from the intelligence community today?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Donald Trump of course is known for reacting in real time usually on twitter. But today he is uncharacteristically silent in the wake of those hearings.

And I want to draw your attention to his tweets from earlier this morning before the hearings began. And it appears he was trying to do a little bit of clean up, a little bit of backtracking.

Trump tweeted, "The dishonest media likes saying that I am in agreement with Julian Assange. Wrong. I simply state what he states. It is for the people to make up their own minds as to the truth. The media lies to make it look like I'm against, quote, 'intelligence," when in fact I am a big fan."

But of course, Wolf, Donald Trump has been tweeting Julian Assange. He has not been tweeting the assessments from U.S. intelligence officials. Sean Spicer, who's the incoming White House press secretary, simply pointed to Donald Trump's upcoming briefing tomorrow with heads of the CIA, the FBI as well as DNI. So, maybe we will hear more from Donald Trump about what he thinks of their assessments after that meeting, Wolf.

BLITZER: Is the sense, Sara, that Trump is attacking the intelligence community because he takes issue with their work or because he doesn't like their conclusions?

MURRAY: Well, he certainly takes issue with their conclusions, Wolf. I've spoken to people who talked to Donald Trump about this, who are close to Donald Trump, who say that he really does see this as an effort to undermine the legitimacy of his presidency.

And when you look at it in total, he lost the popular vote. There are questions about FBI director James Comey's influence on the election, as well as questions about the Russian hacking. And taken together, that does leave a sour taste in Donald Trump's mouth. He wants to come into the White House feeling like he is the legitimate president, feeling like people are not questioning his victory. And right now he feels like questions about Russian cyber hacking could potentially undermine that, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Sara Murray reporting from Trump Tower in New York. Thank you.

Joining us now Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York. He's a member of the Trump transition team. Congressman, thanks for joining us. REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: Yes, good to be with you, Wolf, as


BLITZER: Were you satisfied with the level of detail you heard from the intelligence leaders during their hearing up on Capitol Hill today?

COLLINS: Well, certainly I'm looking forward to Mr. Trump's response after he gets the intelligence briefing.

But I really think what America needs to also focus on is cyber hacking has been a problem not only with Russia, but Iran, North Korea, and China. And it's just -- it's interesting that over the last eight years, even when China hacked into over a million personnel records of the U.S. government, what was President Obama's response? It was much to do about nothing.

And now I have to think, you know, what we're seeing, some of the response we're seeing including expelling the 35 Russians is trying to poison the well for Donald Trump coming in as president. And we have to ask the question, where has Barack Obama been the last eight years with Iran, North Korea and China? And so, I think that's another issue we should be talking about.

BLITZER: Well, when the Chinese did hack the Office of Personnel Management, as you point out, back in 2015, and taking information, sensitive information from millions of American government workers, Social Security numbers and other sensitive information, he did issue a public statement. And he said steps were being taken. And there were some sanctions imposed against China at the same time with a strong warning to the Chinese to stop it.

COLLINS: Yes, but that's nothing like they didn't expel 35 Chinese, and they've been stealing our intellectual property for decades and they continue to try to do it. You know, we've got the other rogue nation states doing likewise.

There is a political piece of this. I don't think there is any question about what Barack Obama is doing. It was pointed out before the election. He told Vladimir Putin to, quote, "knock it off." That was a pretty lame response right there. And then there was no actions until Donald Trump was elected. Hillary Clinton did lose.

And now what you're seeing, not only here, but with the actions that Secretary Kerry has taken with Israel and the U.N., the deplorable U.N. vote that we abstained from, this is political. It's a sore loser in Barack Obama. It is something that is beneath the president of the United States.

But we're seeing this, and I think this is all political, on the case of Barack Obama trying to de-legitimatize the election of Donald Trump, who is our president-elect, who won fair and square, 306 Electoral College votes. This wasn't even close. It has to be factored in.

BLITZER: But Congressman -- Congressman, let me just point out, a month before the election -- a month before the election, the administration, the director of national intelligence, the secretary homeland security, did issue a strong statement saying -- and I'll read you a couple sentences: "The U.S. intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions including from U.S. political organizations."

And then it went on to say, "We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities."

That was a month before the election, and they did begin to take some steps. They went further after the election by expelling 35 Russian diplomats and their families. By the way, do you support that decision to expel those Russian diplomats?

COLLINS: Well, I'm certainly not in a position to do it. I'm going to say I believe that was a political act, and why weren't we expelling others from Iran, from North Korea and from China...

BLITZER: Well, the U.S. -- let me just point out the U.S. and Iran do not have formal diplomatic relations. So there are no Iranian diplomats in Washington, serving in Washington right now. Chinese diplomats, there are plenty of Chinese diplomats here in Washington.

But I'm a little confused, Congressman. Do you want stronger U.S. retaliation against Russia, China, and others who might be engaged in these kinds of hacking activities?

COLLINS: Absolutely. I think we need to be stronger in our defense of our -- of all of our cyber activities. And we should be sending out and should have been sending out over the last eight years a much stronger response. But across the board, not just Russia but also...

BLITZER: Why won't you say you support the...

COLLINS: ... sanctions in Iran.

BLITZER: Why won't you say you support the expulsion of the Russian diplomats because of the Russian cyberattacks on the U.S. elections?

COLLINS: Well, because I believe, clearly, that was a political step taken by Barack Obama after Hillary Clinton lost the election.

I would have left it up to Donald Trump as president on January 20, after he is fully briefed on the intelligence, to move forward with his team on how we're going to deal with cyber security moving forward.

This is a president who's got a couple of weeks left. And I think, again, like what happened in Israel, this was a political step, and it was taken by a president who's only got a couple weeks left.

BLITZER: Donald Trump hasn't always been so critical of the CIA, the U.S. intelligence community. Back in 2014 he tweeted this, and I'll put it up opt screen. You see it right there. "The CIA deserves our praise for taking the fight to the enemy in the dark corners of the world. The CIA perseveres, the politicians whine."

Doesn't that suggest that this is personal for Trump? Not based on some innate skepticism of the U.S. intelligence community. He's simply very sensitive to the suggestion, as you keep making, that all of this is being done to undermine the legitimacy of his election.

COLLINS: I think there's no question that's a big piece of this, that the Democrats cannot get over the fact that Hillary lost, that Obama's legacy is in tatters, and that there is a political piece of this...

BLITZER: But fundamentally, Congressman, do you believe the Russians engaged in cyberattacks against the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, the Hillary Clinton campaign chairman's Gmail account?

COLLINS: Well, I will stipulate from what I've heard, I can accept that the Chinese were involved...

BLITZER: The Chinese?

COLLINS: ... in cyber hacking. I don't...

BLITZER: The Chinese or the Russians?

COLLINS: The Russians.


COLLINS: The Russians. I just don't accept that it had any impact whatsoever on this election. And that's what I am absolutely in agreement with President-elect Trump, that this is the attempt of the Democrats and, certainly, Barack Obama to de-legitimatize his election, and that's what's coloring this entire discussion today.

[17:15:12] BLITZER: Because general Clapper would not say if, in fact -- it's not the responsibility of the U.S. intelligence community to say whether it didn't, in fact, have an impact on the election results. The only thing he was saying -- and I assume you agree with him, correct me if I'm wrong -- that the Russians were responsible for those cyberattacks, whatever the impact.

COLLINS: I would certainly accept, based on their -- what I've heard that, yes, they were behind it, you know, with a 95 percent, but not 100 percent assurance. I think Mr. Trump will know more when he has his briefing.

But again, we have to keep also putting this in the framework of the political insinuations that are totally inappropriate at this point in time. We will never know what we don't know on anything that impacted the election. And I don't believe it had any impact myself.

BLITZER: Congressman, we have more to discuss. I want you to stick around.


BLITZER: We'll continue all of this right after a quick break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:20:30] BLITZER: We're back with Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York. He's a key member of the Trump transition team.

Congressman, I want to ask you about Republican plans to repeal and replace Obamacare. Everyone in your party seems to agree that the law should be repealed, but at least so far they don't agree on a way to replace it or even a time line for replacing it. The critics, they pointed out the GOP has had seven years to get on the same page. Now the Republicans are in charge of the House, the Senate and the White House.

Why is there still so much confusion?

COLLINS: Well, first of all, we will repeal Obamacare here in short order, but that doesn't mean Americans will see any changes in the next two years, because those plans for '17 and '18 are locked in.

The other thing we should also remember is less than 10 percent of Americans are getting their health insurance through Obamacare. So I think that's an important point to make.

The replacement, we have crafted six or seven slightly different replacement plans. Now we have to come together with one plan, 218 out of 241 Republicans agreeing on this replacement plan. That's going to take us at least six months, if not 12 months to get through.

In the meanwhile, we're going to have a status quo relative to people getting their insurance. But it's not going to be easy to get 218 out of 241 Republicans, because we can't count on any Democrat help in getting a replacement plan put in. We have to make sure we take care of all Americans, all the nuances.

We're going to be having numerous hearings on this. And we're going to be very careful to make sure that our replacement plan is a plan for the future, whereas we've seen Obamacare implode onto itself. We have to fix the mess that Obama has put us in with runaway costs, very limited options, and so it's going to take us six to 12 months to get that replacement plan done.

We're going to get input from governors. We're going to get input from insurance companies, hospitals, physicians. We're going to do it right. In the meanwhile, things stay status quo.

BLITZER: So basically...

COLLINS: People don't have to worry about losing their coverage.

BLITZER: So, congressman, at least for the next two years, Obamacare is the law of the land. Is that what you're saying?

COLLINS: Well, Obamacare is. We're going to be repealing some of the mandates, if you will -- the employer mandate, the employee mandate, things like... BLITZER: But if you repeal that, those are critically important

parts. They fund a lot of the people who have insurance -- health insurance under Obamacare. If you start repealing those mandates, where's the money going to come from?

COLLINS: Well, that's a big issue that we're going to be dealing with. Ways and Means, our committee on taxes is going to be dealing with that piece. Those of us on energy and commerce are going to be dealing with the expansion of Medicaid. But for the time being, all the folks that have insurance, those plans are set. They can't be changed this year. They effectively cannot be changed next year.

You are correct: there are financial impacts that we're going to have to deal with because of the mess that Obamacare has caused us, the runaway costs in many cases because of the minimum benefit package, or in some cases, other changes that have driven up the cost to private insurance, corporate insurance, the 30 versus 40-hour workweek.

These have all got to be dealt with. They're very complicated. But we are going to repeal Obamacare. The details of that will be out, you know, I expect we'll be doing this by the end of February relative to the repeal.

The replacement is going to come, I think, sometime late this year. That gives us time to do it right, and I think America understands that.

BLITZER: Congressman, the vice-president, Joe Biden, just granted an interview to PBS. And he had a specific, very pointed message for the president-elect. Listen to this.




BLITZER: "Grow up, Donald. Grow up." He goes on to say, "Time to be an adult. You're president. You've got to do something. Show us what you have. You're going to propose it on legislation. We're going to get to debate it. Let the public decide. Let them vote in Congress. It's going to be much clearer what he's for and against and what we're for and against. Now that it's going to get down to actually discussing in details issues that affect people's lives.

So, he's telling the president-elect, "Grow up, Donald. Grow up. Time to be an adult. You're president." Your reaction?

COLLINS: You know, that's a pathetic response. I think it's beneath the office of the vice-president. It shows just the angst of the loss of this election by Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.

[17:25:11] Donald Trump is the adult in the room. You've already seen his -- the reactions in the economic front. Companies saying they're bringing jobs back to America. They're creating new jobs in America. They understand where Donald Trump stands on trade. Donald Trump as president-elect is getting more accomplished, frankly, on the economic front than Barack Obama did in his eight years. I think that's the sign of very good things to come.

We don't -- America has a true leader, someone that's going to stand up to our enemies, going to stand tough, but also make sure that he takes care of all Americans, whether it's health care, whether it's jobs and so forth.

So, I'm very disappointed that someone like Vice President Biden, who I do respect, would make a comment like that. I really -- it's beneath his office and beneath the vice-president that I know.

BLITZER: Very quickly, I just want to ask you a local question involving our hometown of Buffalo.


BLITZER: And a fellow Buffalonian, Carl Paladino, you had a fundraiser for the Trump transition today. Was he there?

COLLINS: No, no. Carl was not there. Carl was not there. Carl was not involved in the Kellyanne fund-raiser we did successful fund- raiser that Donald Trump asked us to put together to help fund the transition team. These folks that are right now on landing teams and the agencies, a way to get them paid.

So, at his request, we put together a very successful fund-raiser today in Buffalo with Kellyanne Conway. She was great. Everything went off smoothly.

But the direct answer, no, carl Paladino was not involved in the event.

BLITZER: Because, as you know, he caused a huge stir when he recently told a local Buffalo magazine that he wants Michelle Obama to be, quote, "let loose in the outbacks of Zimbabwe, where she can live with gorillas and for President Obama to catch Mad Cow Disease and die."

Have you spoken with him about that? I know he apologized, but that is so outrageous.

COLLINS: Yes, those comments cannot be defended, so, I would certainly not be one to ever attempt that. They were something beyond the pale. I know that Carl -- unfortunately, he did say what he said, and he has apologized for that. They can't be defended and, again, he was not part of today's fund-raiser.

BLITZER: All right. Congressman Chris Collins, of our fellow hometown, Buffalo, New York, thanks very much for joining us.

COLLINS: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Coming up, the Democrats raise new questions about Donald Trump's pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services. And stock deals, are they more than a bump in the road?


[17:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM HOST: We're following the breaking news. The Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, just now doing an interview on PBS, in the NewsHour, telling Donald Trump, "it's time to grow up." Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Grow up, Donald. Grow up. Time to be an adult. You're president. You got to do something. Show us what you have. You're going to propose in a legislation. We're going to get to debate it. Let the public decide. Let them vote in congress. Let's see what happens. It's going to be much clearer what he's for and against and what we're for and against, now, that it's going to get down to actually discussing in detail, these issues that affect people's lives.


BLITZER: Pretty amazing words from the Vice President of the United States. Let's bring in our political panel. And Dana Bash, have you ever heard a sitting vice president in the final few days of an administration telling the President-elect of the United States, quote, "Grow up, Donald. Grow up. Time to be an adult. You're president?"

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No. Heck, no. No, absolutely not. But look, you can see the frustration. You can hear the frustration in the current administration, the almost former administration, from the president and the vice president on down because it is about the transfer of power and making sure that -- never mind legacy issues, never mind the partisan differences, but about the fundamentals of the presidency and the executive branch. Having said that, saying "grow up" to Donald Trump, I don't think is really the best tactic to make that work. I'm guessing there's going to be a rhetoric that will be something along the lines of an illustration that growing up is not -- is not part of the response.

BLITZER: It was the context, was he was asked, the Vice President Joe Biden, about a tweet earlier today from Donald Trump in which he called the new democratic leader, the minority leader in the senate, Chuck Schumer, "a clown".

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right, so, now, Joe Biden calls Donald Trump, "a child", and plays directly into Donald Trump's game, right. I mean, this is how - this is what Donald Trump did throughout the entire campaign. Whether it was "little Marco" or "low-energy Jeb", and what we saw when his opponents tried to play this game, they weren't as good at it as Donald Trump is, and Joe Biden is trying to play this game.

Now, I will also say, this is why Joe Biden is so much fun to cover as a reporter because he delivers these kinds of quotes and sound bites with regularity. To your point, Wolf, it is unprecedented. You just don't hear people talk this way, and obviously, that's the kind of the signature Joe Biden language.

[17:34:56] BLITZER: Yeah, this is what Trump tweeted 10 hours ago, just checked it on Twitter. "The democrats led by head clown, Chuck Schumer, know how bad Obamacare is and what a mess they are in. Instead of working to fix it, they do the typical political thing and blame. The fact is Obamacare was a lie from the beginning. 'Keep your doctor, keep your plan.'" And then he goes on.

BASH: And if I - if I can just quickly add, Joe Biden certainly gave a great sound bite there. But Chuck Schumer, who is going to be the one who is going to lead the Trump opposition, declined to respond to that. He learned the lesson from the "little Marco" and everything else that happened during the campaign.


BLITZER: He tweeted that Schumer is the head clown, not just a clown, but the head clown.


BLITZER: But based on history, I assume that the President-elect will respond to the vice president.

BERG: Well, you would think so. President has shown that when Donald Trump is attacked as -- to use his words, he likes to punch back. But, you know, I wouldn't expect that Donald Trump would necessarily change his rhetoric as president, because it has worked so well for him. Part of his appeal for so many of his supporters was that he didn't talk like a normal politician. But I do wonder, to Joe Biden's other point in this statement, that suddenly Donald Trump as president is going to need to actually show what he stands for and fight for the things that he believes in. I think that's a very important point, because Donald Trump has been ideologically sort of fluid throughout the campaign process, throughout his political career. Now, he will be held a little bit more to what he has said, and that will be really interesting to see how he evolves in that respect.

BLITZER: You know, Phil Mudd, it comes in the context of today's very important Senate Armed Services Committee hearings from the Intelligence Community, and you heard the leaders of the U.S. Intelligence Community, all agree, they're all on the same page, the Russians did it. They're going to be briefing behind closed doors, the classified report that the president received today, the President-elect will receive it tomorrow. This is a very, very sensitive moment right now because we don't know how Trump will react after he gets that briefing.

PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: I think we have two things to think about. What happens in private, Wolf, and what happens in public? I think we've seen a sense of what happens in private. He'll be respective of the people in front of him. He'll listen to the briefing. I think they'll talk about a couple of issues. One is the facts of what they learned during the Russian hacking. What did we see in terms of the diagnostics on the ground? The second is the tougher issue, and this is where I think the

President-elect should be asking tough questions, and I think has a legitimate reason to attack the Intelligence Community. Are you certain, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Vladimir Putin knew about what was going on in the ground? I think the bigger question, Wolf, though, is not what happens in private. It what's -- it's what happens when he walks out in front of the cameras. Does he denigrate the Intelligence Community? Does he denigrate people who have given 30 years of service to government, as he did yesterday? Or does he flip-flop, as he did today, and say, "No, not really true. I respect intelligence." Who comes out in front of the cameras? Behind the cameras, I suspect he'll be perfectly respectable.

BLITZER: Well, we'll have to wait till tomorrow afternoon, that briefing taking place in New York City over Trump Tower. Everyone stand by. We're getting some new information on some of his cabinet selections that may be facing some serious problems. We'll be right back


[17:40:00] BLITZER: We're learning new details about potential problems for some of Donald Trump's cabinet nominees. Our Senior Washington Correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, has been working the sources up on Capitol Hill. Jeff, democrats are zeroing in on Trump's pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price. Why?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they are indeed. Senate democrats, in fact, are calling for an ethics investigation into Georgia Congressman Tom Price. He, of course, is the nominee to be the Health and Human Services Secretary. They are raising questions about some $300,000 in stocks that he traded over the years in health and pharmaceutical companies, while he was here in congress. Now, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer led that charge today on Capitol Hill.


CHUCK SCHUMER, SENATOR AND DEMOCRATIC MINORITY LEADER: Bottom line, Congressman Price had the influence and was actively involved in pushing health care policies, while simultaneously making dozens of trades in companies that would be impacted by those policies. He did this repeatedly and in such large numbers, he's likely to have made tens of thousands of dollars on one of these trades alone. Every American should be shocked by this.


ZELENY: Now, Congressman Price told CNN today, he looks forward to answering all these questions at his hearing, which is scheduled for next week. And a Trump transition official also said today that senate democrats, he pointed out three in particular, also have traded health stocks here in congress. So, Wolf, that will be one of the central things, but we should point out here, Congressman Price has led the charge against Obamacare. So, democrats have a big policy difference with him as well. BLITZER: They do. And also democrats are concerned about the timing of these upcoming hearings. Explain that.

ZELENY: Wolf, if you look at the schedule next week here on Capitol Hill, on Wednesday alone, there are six confirmation hearings scheduled, all in the same day. It happens to be the same day that Donald Trump has said he'll hold his first news conference as well. So, senate democrats are concerned about the scheduling, packing this all into one moment here. So, they're trying to work with republicans to space these out a bit. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking democrat on the judiciary committee, told me earlier this afternoon, Wolf, that she said there simply isn't time to go through all this information.

[17:45:06] And one other thing that several senate democrats are raising questions about are the FBI background checks. They say they simply have not been submitted from several cabinet nominees. So, Wolf, between now and next week, so much paperwork still needs to be done and they are also concerned about this packing them in. But the reality here is republicans say democrats are simply trying to hold this all up. They hope to confirm at least some nominees by the first day Donald Trump takes office.

BLITZER: That will be January 20th. All right, thanks very much, Jeff Zeleny, reporting from Capitol Hill. A quick note, tune in, Monday for a CNN Town Hall event. Senator and former Presidential Candidate, Bernie Sanders, takes questions from a live studio audience. Chris Cuomo host a Bernie Sanders Town Hall, live Monday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Coming up, breaking news. Chicago prosecutors file hate crime charges against four African-Americans who allegedly kidnapped a white special needs teenager and live stream video as they tortured him.

Also ahead, U.S. military and Intelligence Community, taking an even closer look at North Korea. What is Kim Jong-un up to right now?


[17:50:00] BLITZER: We're following breaking news and a shocking crime story in Chicago. A short time ago, prosecutors announced they filed hate crime charges against four African-American suspects. They allegedly kidnapped a white teen who has special needs and then live streamed video as they tortured him. CNN's Sara Ganim is with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We want to warn our viewers some of this video is so, so very disturbing. What are you learning, Sara?

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, police are calling this a hate crime because of references by these four alleged attackers, who are all black, to the victim being white and to his mental disability. What's bizarre here is that the four suspects, three of them teenagers, apparently knew the victim, two of them were classmates of this young man. And police say they have spent a day with him, but things took a violent turn, police say. It's unclear why, but the victim was bound and gagged with plastic and the women began screaming -- streaming the assault live on Facebook. Again, this is very disturbing video, Wolf, and we blurred portions of it. But what you can see, is the attackers carving a part of the victim's scalp. They repeatedly kicked and punched him. At one point on the video, the attackers talk about the victim's appearance and they say expletive Donald Trump and expletive white people. One of the women even turned the camera on herself at times. She appears dismayed that she isn't getting as much attention as she expected from commentators on Facebook. Wolf, late this afternoon, police said the combination of racial slurs and the references to the disability are what led to this -- these enhanced charges.

BLITZER: It's show shocking, Sara. How long was it being live streamed on Facebook? Sara, how long was this being facestream, live on Facebook?

GANIM: So, this went on for about 25 minutes. The victim was able to escape when a neighbor called the police complaining of noise. And Chicago police say they eventually found the victim bloodied walking down the street with one of the alleged attackers. Moments ago, President Obama actually commented on this calling the act despicable.

BLITZER: So it was being streamed on Facebook for almost half an hour.

GANIM: Almost half an hour, which has raised questions about the platform, but you know, Facebook has a policy related to this day - they made a statement today, and as you said, 25 minutes this went on with some people at least commenting and that was referenced by the alleged attackers. BLITZER: Four individuals have now been charged, among other things,

with a hate crime. We'll see what happens. Sara, thanks very much - a very disturbing story.

We're also getting new information here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the threat from North Korea where the dictator Kim Jong-un is vowing to test a missile that could reach the United States even as his regime works to develop a nuclear warhead. Let's go to our Pentagon Correspondent, Barbara Starr. What have you learned, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, tonight, Wolf, CNN has exclusively learned that the U.S. intelligence and military community is keeping a much closer eye on North Korea. All of this evolving since New Year's when Kim Jong-un made that statement you just referred to about wanting to test an intercontinental ballistic missile. Now, more manpower, more analyst, more intelligence professionals eyeballing every piece of North Korean intelligence they get, whether it's a satellite passing overhead, an aircraft, a submarine or radar. They are looking at everything about North Korea. They don't want to be surprised. The reality is that at any point, Kim could have another underground nuclear test. He could launch a missile. There would be very little warning of that. They don't think he has the intercontinental capability just yet, but they want to make sure of these other capabilities, so they're watching around the clock, Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story that is as well. All right, Barbara, thank you. Coming up, intelligence chiefs testify that the cyber-attack of the

U.S. Election was ordered at the highest levels in Russia and they, along with key senators say, Donald Trump's disparagement of those findings is a cause for concern.


[17:54:53] LINDSEY GRAHAM, UNITED STATES SENATOR: Putin's up to no good and he better be stopped and Mr. President-elect, when you listen to these people, you can be skeptical, but understand they're the best among us and they're trying to protect us.



BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, up to no good. Top U.S. intelligence officials testify before congress about Russian election hacking, placing the blame on the highest levels in the Kremlin and warning of an ongoing cyber threat. Will President-elect Donald Trump believe them when they brief him tomorrow?

Backing off. Trump reverses course after disparaging U.S. intelligence on Twitter, now saying he's, "A big fan." And a spokesman denies reports Trump wants to limit the power of the U.S. spy chief. What are Trump's plans for national intelligence?

"Grow up, Donald!" Vice President Joe Biden calls out Trump, saying, quote, "It's time to be an adult" and urging him to do something. How will the President-elect react.