Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Delaware Senator Chris Coons; Trump Lawsuit; Intelligence Chiefs Point to Russian Hacking; Trump Deposed in Lawsuit with Celebrity Chief; Washington Post: Intercepts Catch Russian Officials Celebrating Trump Win. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 5, 2017 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: 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?

And no reservations. Trump gives a deposition in one of two lawsuits against celebrity chefs who canceled plans to open restaurants inside Trump's new hotel in Washington. One of them wants to settle and give the money to charity. Will Trump accept the offer?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news tonight.

The director of national intelligence, America's spy chief, has refuted Donald Trump on Russian election hacking. James Clapper telling a Senate hearing that U.S. intelligence is more certain than ever that cyber-attacks designed to interfere with the U.S. presidential race were authorized by the highest levels in the Russian government.

Russia has just responded, saying no evidence was presented supporting the allegations. A state-run news agency in Moscow calls the hearing -- quote -- "two hours of unsubstantiated statements, calls for aggression towards Russia and hyperbole."

Also breaking tonight, pointed remarks by the vice president, Joe Biden, aimed at Donald Trump. In an interview with PBS, Biden said, and I'm quoting him now -- "Grow up, Donald. Time to be an adult. You're president. You got to do something. Show us what you have" -- close quote.

And new tonight, a deposition by Trump in one of the legal battles he's fighting with two celebrity chefs. A Trump attorney says it lasted just over an hour and describes it as fairly straightforward.

We're covering that and much more this hour with our guests, including Senator Chris Coons of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and our correspondents and expert analysts are also standing by. Let's begin with the Senate hearing on Russia's cyber-meddling with

the U.S. election.

Our senior political reporter, Manu Raju, is up on Capitol Hill.

Manu, President Obama was just briefed on this and president-elect Trump will be briefed tomorrow. Update our viewers on the very latest.


And actually next week the Intelligence Committee will release that report publicly. And in that report, they will ascribe one or more motivations about why Russia in their view was meddling in the United States' elections.


RAJU (voice-over): The nation's top intelligence officials have no doubt that Russia interfered with the elections.

JAMES CLAPPER, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: I don't think that we have ever encountered a more aggressive or direct campaign to interfere with our election process than we have seen in this case.

RAJU: In a nearly-three-hour Senate hearing, the officials saying they're even more confident in their October assessment that Russia's senior-most officials authorized the cyber-attack against the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign, an assessment president-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly dismissed.

CLAPPER: We stand actually more resolutely on the strength of that statement that we made on the 7th of October.

RAJU: And they made it clear who is to blame.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: 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 is 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 either.

CLAPPER: Certainly, none that are politically sensitive in another country. RAJU: His testimony amounted to an implicit rebuke of Trump, who has

repeatedly slammed the intelligence community, praised Putin, and downplayed Russia's role in the elections.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Who benefits from a president- elect trashing the intelligence community? Who benefits from that, Director Clapper, the American people, them losing confidence in the intelligence community and the work of the intelligence community?

CLAPPER: I think there is an important distinction here between healthy skepticism, which policy-makers, to include policy-maker number one, should always have for intelligence, but I think there is a difference between skepticism and disparagement.

RAJU: And Senator John McCain pushing back on Trump for relying on the word of WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange, who said Russia had no role in his group's public release of thousands of internal Democratic e-mails.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The name Mr. Assange has popped up. And I believe that he is one who is responsible for publishing names of individuals that worked for us that put their lives in direct danger. Is that correct?


CLAPPER: Yes, he has.

MCCAIN: And do you think that there is any credibility we should attach to this individual, given his record of...

CLAPPER: Not in my view.

MCCAIN: Not in your view.

Admiral Rogers?


RAJU: After the hearing, McCain saying he hopes Trump takes away this lesson.

MCCAIN: I hope he understands the importance of the role of the intelligence community. And it's clear that their conclusions, at least so far, have been correct.


RAJU: Now, Wolf, I also asked McCain whether or not he believed that the hacks actually helped Donald Trump win the elections. And McCain says he has no evidence of that. And actually the intelligence officials would not go that far, saying whether or not the hacking was meant to sway the elections for Donald Trump.

We will see next week if they decide to go any further in that assessment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Our senior political reporter, Manu Raju, thank you very much.

Trump is changing his tone towards the intelligence community following a series of tweets disparaging it.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He is working this part of the story. He's outside of Trump Tower in New York City.

Jim, Trump's positions have put him at odds with so many others in his own party.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We should point out Donald Trump has not responded yet to that hearing on intelligence and Russian hacking in the U.S. election that occurred earlier today that Manu was just talking about.

But Trump is insisting he's not on the same page as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange when it comes to Russian hacking.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Donald Trump is doing some hacking backtracking. One day after the president-elect cited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's denial that he colluded with Russia to interfere in the U.S. election, a tweet retreat.

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

That's a departure from the affection Trump showed for WikiLeaks during the campaign when Assange was dumping damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: This just came out. WikiLeaks. I love WikiLeaks.

ACOSTA: Contrast Trump's shifting on Assange with top Republicans from Arizona Senator John McCain.

MCCAIN: This is really a person who has put the lives of Americans in danger. He cannot be trusted for anything.

ACOSTA: To his old campaign rival, Ted Cruz.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I think Assange has done enormous damage to our national security. I would not be praising him under any circumstances.

ACOSTA: Trump is also battling against a growing bipartisan consensus around the U.S. intelligence community's view that Kremlin-backed hackers were meddling in the election, though GOP leaders support Trump's complaint that Democrats are exploiting the cyber-scandal to damage the president-elect.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Russia clearly tried to meddle in our political system, no two ways about it. First of all, and I think this is what the president-elect is legitimately upset about, there are attempts to try and delegitimatize this election. That's just bogus. He won fair and square. He won clearly and convincingly.

ACOSTA: Democrats argue it is more about Trump's grasp of reality.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: This is not healthy skepticism, as they would like to portray it. This is very unhealthy, essentially avoidance of the facts, because they don't suit the president-elect's interests.

ACOSTA: Trump's critics say he harmed his own credibility this week by claiming he would reveal by now new information about election hacking, then failing to deliver.

TRUMP: I also know things that other people don't know. And, so, they cannot be sure of the situation.

QUESTION: What do you know that other people don't know?

TRUMP: You will find out on Tuesday or Wednesday.

ACOSTA: Transition officials insist the president supports the intelligence community and they are pushing back on reports that Trump wants to pare back the office of director of intelligence in the new administration.

SEAN SPICER, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is no truth to the idea of restructuring the intelligence community infrastructure. It is 100 percent false.


ACOSTA: Now, we did learn that Donald Trump has tapped newly retired Indiana Senator Dan Coats to be the director of national intelligence. That is an institutional pick, Wolf, as you know, that could go a long way in soothing some of these tensions between Trump and the intelligence community -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim, we have also just heard from the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, with a new message for the president-elect. Listen to this.


JOSEPH 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 the 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: Jim, any reaction -- I was going to say any reaction yet from the Trump team to those very sharp words from the vice president, grow up, Donald, grow up, time to be an adult, you're president?

ACOSTA: Right, no response yet from Trump Tower, Wolf, but you could just look at the context of that question. Judy Woodruff at PBS was asking the vice president about these Trump tweets, one of those tweets calling New York senator and incoming minority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, a clown.

And that is the response that Vice President Biden gave in that interview. Another sharp comment from the vice president aimed at Donald Trump, he at one point said that the president-elect's lack of confidence in the CIA and the intelligence community is -- quote -- "absolutely mindless."

So it's going to be interesting to find out, Wolf, who Donald Trump responds to first, the senators up on Capitol Hill who had some pretty strong words for him or the vice president. I think it's a pretty safe bet who he will respond to first, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. We will be hearing I'm sure fairly soon one way or another from the president-elect of the United States. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Let's get some more on all of this.

The leading Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, is joining us.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Great to be with you.

BLITZER: Let me get your quick reaction to your fellow Delawarean -- people from Delaware are called Delawareans.


BLITZER: The vice president, Joe Biden: "Grow up, Donald, grow up, time to be an adult. You're president."

COONS: I frankly think on this very show I previously said, Mr. President-Elect, put the phone down, stop tweeting. I think many of us on both parties are concerned that conducting

foreign policy by tweet, that conducting domestic affairs by throwing insults back and forth -- he called Senator Chuck Schumer a clown. That's what prompted this response.

BLITZER: He said he was the head clown.

COONS: The head clown.

Well, I, frankly, as one of the clowns in the Democratic Caucus, according to that tweet, didn't think it was very funny. And I don't think it's constructive for us to have a president-elect who is carrying on this way. I, frankly, hope that he's going to begin communicating in a slightly more measured and balanced way, because we have got some very big national security challenges facing us.

And the point of the hearing today in front of the Armed Services Committee in a bipartisan way was to get to the bottom of these allegations about Russian hacking of our elections. It's a very serious matter. It calls for serious bipartisan action.

BLITZER: He's going to be briefed tomorrow by the leaders of the U.S. intelligence community on this report that was made available to President Obama today, all classified. It will be made available to him tomorrow. Let's say he emerges from that session and still is raising questions about Russia's involvement in these cyber-attacks in the U.S. election. What do you do about that?

COONS: Well, I think he's finding that there's strong bipartisan support for us to take decisive action against Russia.

I think Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said today that he's looking forward to throwing not pebbles, but stones at Russia for having directly attacked our electoral system. It's understandable that he's expressing some skepticism about intelligence that he hasn't seen yet, but once he's been fully briefed, I think it would be hard to believe, if he continued to be disparaging of the American intelligence community, it strikes me as a very unwise move if he continues on this path.

BLITZER: When he was saying nice things on Twitter about Julian Assange, quoting him, if you will, and citing statements that he's made denying that Russia provided that information to WikiLeaks, what was your reaction to that?

COONS: It's just, sadly, a continuation of a previous theme.

He cited Julian Assange and WikiLeaks regularly in the campaign and said this is a great source of truth and used it to attack his opponent regularly.

Now that he's president-elect, my hope is that he will take seriously what Senator McCain raised in today's hearing, which is that Julian Assange is someone who has put Americans' lives at risk, someone who obviously has directly attacked the American intelligence community, and he shouldn't be casually citing him as someone as a reliable source of credible information.

BLITZER: You regard Julian Assange as an enemy of the United States?


BLITZER: And if the U.S. got its hands on him, what should the U.S. do?

COONS: Well, we certainly shouldn't dismiss or pardon his very strong actions against the United States.

He sought refuge in a foreign country's embassy. And it's my view that people who disclose national secrets of the United States ought to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

BLITZER: There are some Democrats, a whole bunch of Republicans, but even Democrats like Adam Schiff, for example, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who believe the Obama administration has not done enough over the past year or two in responding to these cyber-attacks by foreign governments, the Chinese attack, for example, on the Office of Personnel Management back in 2015, and wasn't immediately responding to the Russian cyber-attack on the U.S. election.


Are you with Schiff on that? Do you criticize the administration for not doing enough?

COONS: I think this is a challenge both in Congress and the administration.

Frankly, we're stovepiped in how we deep with cyber-matters in the Senate?

BLITZER: What does that mean, you're stovepiped?

COONS: We have as many as six different committees of the Senate that have some responsibility for cyber-matters, because cyber-issues have come up in a bunch of different areas.

So, whether it's the Commerce Committee, or it's the Armed Services Committee or the Intelligence Committee, Foreign Relations Committee, we have a lot of different committees. And so we have acted as different stovepipes and failed to come up with a common, cohesive national strategy.

I do share Congressman Schiff's concerns that the administration could have responded, should have responded more adeptly, more brusquely to Russia's attack on our election.

But I frankly think we need to look forward in a bipartisan way at the next election and make sure that we have done what we need to do to secure America's electoral system.

BLITZER: Because it was a month before the election, on October 7, the director of national intelligence, the secretary of homeland security said Russia did it and it was at the highest levels. But it took until a few days ago for the U.S. to take steps at the end of the year and expel 35 Russian diplomats, close some Russian buildings, if you will, here in the United States and impose some new sanctions.

Why did it take so long?

COONS: I'm not sure what the deliberations were within the executive branch, within the administration.

I think there was concerns about retaliation, and I think there was concerns about taking action before the election, that that might be seen as trying to skew the election. But I don't know. I haven't been briefed on that in detail.

My concern is that we will see more attacks on America's electoral system and we need to take responsible steps to secure our future elections.

BLITZER: The responsible steps and, very quickly, when a country like Russia, let's say, attacks the United States, cyber-attacks, should the U.S. retaliate with its own cyber-attacks? Because the U.S., as you know, is a lot better at cyber-attacks than the Russians or the Chinese or the North Koreans or the Iranians.

COONS: We have a significant arsenal of resources in terms of cyber- combat

And I do think we need to strike back strongly in ways that are both overt and covert. Expelling a number of Russian diplomats who we know to be intelligence agents was the covert -- excuse me -- the overt action. There's other things we can and should do covertly.

I think it's important that our adversaries know that we're going to take notice and we're going to fight back when others attack our electoral system, which is at the very heart of our democracy.

BLITZER: At least so far, a lot of these countries think they can get away with it, because they haven't felt the pain from the United States either overtly or covertly, for that matter.

COONS: That's right. That's right.

BLITZER: All right, Senator, we have more to discuss.

We will continue our analysis right after this.



BLITZER: Breaking news this hour, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, refuting Donald Trump on Russian election hacking.

The spy chief told lawmakers U.S. intelligence is more certain than ever that cyber-attacks against Democratic targets were authorized by the highest levels of the Russian government, meaning President Putin himself.

We're back with Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.

You had a chance to meet with Rex Tillerson, who has been nominated to become the next secretary of state, former chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, who had good relations, as ExxonMobil chief, with the Russians, got an award from Putin himself.

How did your meeting with him go? Did you emerge as someone ready to vote for his confirmation?

COONS: Well, I emerged as someone who is looking forward to his confirmation hearing, because I asked him a series of tough questions, and I think the American people deserve to hear his answers to those same questions.

I centrally focused on whether he understands the differences between being the CEO of the world's largest oil and gas company and doing business with Putin to try and extract shareholder value, and being secretary of state and fighting for American values. That means a free press, human rights, democracy.

There's a real tension between those two roles. And he argued with me, suggested to me that he had a very good experience in Russia, he has a good business relationship with Putin, but that he sees the difference between these two roles and that he is going to be able to stand up to Putin and he's going to push back on the annexation of Crimea, on the human rights crimes in Aleppo caused by Russia's intervention in Syria, and by his pressing on our NATO allies.

I was encouraged by many of the things he said, but it also raised some real tensions with the positions taken by president-elect Donald Trump. And I look forward to asking him in a public confirmation hearing to reconcile what I heard from him with what Donald Trump has said in his campaign and in recent days.

BLITZER: There's an amazing story that has just moved on The Washington Post Web site. The headline is "U.S. intercepts capture senior Russian officials celebrating Trump win."

Apparently, according to this "Washington Post" report, in the classified document report presented to the president today which will be presented to the president-elect tomorrow, U.S. intelligence found -- they had evidence that Russian officials were celebrating Trump's victory in the aftermath of the election. Russian officials congratulated themselves in the outcome. They have intercepts apparently of this kind of celebration.

I will read a sentence: "The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials, including some that U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country's cyber-campaign to interfere in the U.S. election, contributed to the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Moscow's efforts were aimed at least in part in helping Trump win the White House." Were you aware of this?

COONS: I wasn't aware of that particular intercept, but it fits with a very troubling pattern of activity that the intelligence community relied on to reach the conclusion that this was an intentional act at the highest levels of the Russian government, and it was intended not just to sow concern or a lack of confidence in our election, but to actually skew the results.

BLITZER: Let me read another line from this "Washington Post" story. Once again, we haven't confirmed it, but I will share it with you.


"Other key pieces of information gathered by U.S. spy agencies include the identification of actors involved in delivering stolen Democratic e-mails to the WikiLeaks Web site and disparities in the level of effort Russian intelligence entities devoted to penetrating and exploiting sensitive information stored on Democratic and Republican campaign networks."

So they say there were actors, people posing as others who delivered this information to WikiLeaks. Have you heard about that?

COONS: I can't confirm anything I have heard in a classified setting, but I can say that I have real confidence that once president-elect Trump is briefed in detail on what's going to be presented to him, that it would be hard for him to reach any other conclusion than that the Russians intentionally interfered with our election. And that's a direct attack on the United States.

BLITZER: Because this is apparently why General Clapper and other leaders of the U.S. intelligence community are so confident that Russia did engage in this cyber-attack against the Democratic National Committee, against the Hillary Clinton campaign, John Podesta's Gmail account, and it's at the heart, according to "The Washington Post," of this unprecedented intelligence report that's now being circulated in Washington on a classified basis presented to the president today, presumably to the president-elect tomorrow.

After he hears this directly from the intelligence community, if in fact they have this kind of evidence, evidence of intercepted conversations, Russians celebrating the election of Donald Trump, evidence of so-called actors presenting the intercepted communications, e-mails, to WikiLeaks, I don't know how Donald Trump is going to react, but your reaction?

COONS: Well, it's been very troubling, Wolf, going back months, this pattern of behavior by president-elect Trump celebrating Putin, congratulating Putin, talking about wanting a much closer relationship with Russia.

And many of us, Republicans and Democrats, have raised real concerns about our lack of understanding of his potential conflicts of interest with Russia. We never got to see president-elect Trump's taxes. We don't know the full reach of his business interests around the world, whether he's got investors in his properties who are Russian, whether he's got ties to the Russians.

And in meeting with Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, whom president-elect Trump has chosen to be secretary of state and who has a close relationship with Putin, I asked him about his conflicts of interest and his relationships in Russia. I commended him that he's already taken decisive action to sever his ties with ExxonMobil and to release a lot of financial information.

And it's my hope that president-elect Trump will see the importance of doing to dispel any sort of questions about why Russia might have been trying to interfere in our election to favor one candidate over another.

BLITZER: Because if this "Washington Post" report is accurate -- and, as I say, we have not independently confirmed it, but if in fact this report -- and they say it's a 50-page report that was presented to the president today, will be presented to president-elect Trump tomorrow -- if in fact the U.S. did intercept communications of Russians celebrating the Donald Trump win and also intercept communications in which they talked about these cyber-attacks, that would be pretty convincing evidence presumably to Donald Trump.

COONS: That would hopefully be very compelling evidence.

And it's my expectation that the president-elect would put America's interests first, and especially after today's hearing in front of the Armed Services Committee, the very strong voices he's heard in the House and the Senate from Republicans and Democrats, work with us in a bipartisan way to stand up to Putin's attack on Russia and to take stronger steps to make sure that we defend our country from other future cyber-attacks.

BLITZER: All right, Senator Coons, thanks so much for joining us.

COONS: Thank you.

BLITZER: We're going to have much more on the breaking news. We will take a quick break.

We will be right back.


BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. We just spoke with Senator Chris Coons about a new "Washington Post" report that U.S. intercepts caught senior Russian officials celebrating Donald Trump's election win.

[18:33:32] This comes on the same day that top U.S. intelligence officials, including the director of national intelligence, told Congress they're more certain than ever that Russia was behind election cyberattacks refuting President-elect Donald Trump, who will be briefed on the intelligence tomorrow.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now. He's got a closer look. Brian, the cyber threat posed by Russia is significant. What are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is significant, Wolf, and it is ongoing. And tonight we're told by U.S. officials that the Russians are being, quote, relentless in their cyberattacks.

The Kremlin a short time ago said no evidence was presented in the Senate today that Russia hacked the U.S. election. But America's top spy James Clapper said Vladimir Putin was behind it, and tonight we have new details on what Putin's hackers are up to.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight a stark warning from U.S. intelligence officials. Vladimir Putin's hackers remain very aggressive and will continue to target America. They'll probe for intelligence in cyberspace to give Russia's military the advantage.

U.S. officials telling CNN Russian hackers are working relentlessly around the clock, trying to breach America's cyber defenses. America's top intelligence official asked a dire question in the Senate today about Putin's cyber warriors targeting U.S. allies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These activities are ongoing now in Europe as Europe prepares for elections. Is that a fair assumption?

JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: It is. They would very much like to drive wedges between us and western Europe.

[18:35:05] TODD: British officials recently said the Kremlin's to blame for a series of cyberattacks, fake news blasts and other attempts to destabilize the British government. Putin's aides dismissed the claim.

U.S. officials tell us Putin's hackers have been aggressively targeting Ukraine, including one crippling attack on the civilian power grid there.

SEAN KANUCK, FORMER NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE OFFICER FOR CYBER: It interrupted energy grid activities at several companies for a matter of hours.

TODD: Putin's army of hackers working in teams nicknamed by American investigators Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear are considered among the most proficient in the world. The cyber security firm Crowd Strike says they're the ones who targeted the U.S. elections, and they're tied to Russia's military and intelligence services. Analysts say they've emboldened Putin.

MASHA GESSEN, AUTHOR, "THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE": Vladimir Putin at this point is acting like he won the American presidential election. He feels like the most powerful man in the world.

TODD: Still Putin and his inner circle tonight are said to be bracing for America's response, issuing new plans to guard against cyberattacks. U.S. officials have told CNN they're looking at that as a possible option. How could America retaliate?

JASON HEALEY, CYBER SECURITY EXPERT, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: The U.S. cyber command at Ft. Meade has a team looking in -- looking at what the Russians are doing, not to collect intelligence on it, but to be ready to disrupt it in case the president ever gave the order.

TODD: Sean Kanuck, a former top U.S. intelligence official who analyzed Russia's hacking operations, says America's cyber warriors could hit back hard.

KANUCK: Reveal details of the perpetrators on the other side, ranging from their tools and techniques to the computers and the I.P. addresses that they're using to their malware signatures, even to their physical identities in certain cases.


TODD: Or, Kanuck he says U.S. cyber warriors could hack personal information that would embarrass Vladimir Putin and his cronies, but Kanuck warns tonight that the Russians may then escalate and target American energy, banking and telecommunications networks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thanks very much. Brian Todd reporting.

Let's dig deeper into all of this. We've got a panel of our experts. Evan Perez, let me start with you. You're getting some new information. What are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one of the things we know that the intelligence community has been able to develop in the past few weeks is information identifying the people that would have been able to provide the information from the Russians, the Russian hackers to WikiLeaks.

That's been the key part of the puzzle that, until now, we haven't really talked a lot about, which is the Russians stole this information, how does it get to WikiLeaks, which then disseminates it on the Internet?

And we're told that a lot of the work that the intelligence community has been focused on and the FBI has been on focusing on who it was, who were the go-betweens, who were the intermediaries. We're told that they have been successful in determining who those people are.

We expect that Donald Trump is going to learn a little bit more about this in the report that's going to be presented to him tomorrow. That was part of what the president was briefed on today.

BLITZER: That's very interesting. Jim, they're usually called cutouts. Third-party individuals really -- really working for one country but pretending not to.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. To be clear from the beginning, intelligence agencies never said that the Russians handed it directly... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Directly.

SCIUTTO: ... to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. They always said that it followed a pattern that they'd seen before when Russia has shared leaked or stolen documents with other organizations, and that includes using intermediaries like this. From the beginning, they've talked about having that kind of, you know, that kind of middleman, in effect, with the hackers.

PEREZ: And here's the issue with this, because this is classified. And we know, obviously, that on Monday we're going to have an unclassified version of the report. It's very likely that that information will not be included in the public -- in the publicly released report, and that's where the weakness in all of this is going to be.

Because people like Donald Trump and people who don't want to believe any of this will be able to point to that and say, "See, they have not proven the links between Russian intelligence and WikiLeaks." And I think that's where the public weakness in the report is going to be.

BLITZER: All of this information, the most sensitive information, was presented to the president today and will be presented tomorrow to the president-elect of the United States. I understand you've learned they do have a secure room that they've created at Trump Tower to provide this kind of information?

PEREZ: There is. They've -- they've set up a temporary skiff, a secure room where you can get briefings like this, which is protected from electronic surveillance. They've also set up temporary glass, bulletproof glass so that nobody can take a shot from one of the surrounding buildings, obviously.

Trump Tower presents some very unique security challenges for the Secret Service and this is one of the paramount concerns, obviously. You're going to have one of the four top intelligence officials of the country with the president-elect in one room. And that's always a big concern.

BLITZER: Bianna Golodryga of Yahoo! News, an anchor-correspondent there, is joining us, as well. There are some who suggest, Bianna, that all of this discussion, these hearings today about Russia, cyberattacks, really emboldened the Putin regime over there. What is your analysis?

[18:40:04] BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO! NEWS: Yes, you can't overstate what a coup this really is for Vladimir Putin on two fronts: one, that we've been talking about that's nonstop for the past few weeks; and it's also, by the way, blaring throughout Russian television and their news media, as well.

But on the second front, what a gift this is for him to have the president-elect of the United States to so publicly challenge the intelligence agencies that are going to be reporting to him.

Remember, Vladimir Putin was an intelligence agent himself, a spy himself. In fact, he headed up the agency, which of course, exceeded the KGB. He does receive his intelligence briefings every day.

So on two fronts now, this is all wonderful news to Vladimir Putin, obviously, who does want to grow his public image and persona on stage. He was very offended just a few years ago when President Obama referred to Russia as a regional leader. He wants to be a world leader alongside the U.S.

BLITZER: Gloria, all of this is so explosive right now, and in the coming 24, 48 hours, we're probably going to learn so much more.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, we will. And I think Donald Trump is going to learn a whole lot more.

I think the question that I have is, is it within the realm of possibility that Donald Trump will come out and say, "I was mistaken"? And I don't think that's very likely, Wolf.

I mean, we covered this entire campaign, and we did not hear that once from Donald Trump. And I think what they're going to have to do is find a way to make it clear that Donald Trump is the legitimate president of the United States, because I think that's of great concern to him, that nobody is trying to delegitimize his election.

But also try and find a way to say to him directly, "It was their intent to influence this election and put their thumb on the scale for you," and to see if there's a way that they can decouple those two things for the president-elect so he might find a way to say this is persuasive on that front.

PEREZ: To be -- to be the person, to be a fly on the wall in that room when that moment comes in the briefing, I mean, that's where I think things go south in that briefing tomorrow.

SCIUTTO: To be clear, we should make the point that Donald Trump has already seen a fair amount of the intelligence.

PEREZ: He has.

SCIUTTO: That led to this assessment about Russia. He's had a number of presidential daily briefings. This is not the first time he's -- he's going to see it. So the idea that there will be some, you know, massive revelation, I think we -- I think we should tone that down a little bit.

The question is really does Donald Trump make a decision to accept the intelligence community's assessment?

PEREZ: I think it's an important fact, though, that he's going to be -- this is the first time he's going to have the four top intelligence officials in the nation sitting in front of him, telling him to his face. So it's not -- it's no longer coming from a briefer. It's not coming from the media, which is getting it through leaks. This is coming directly from their mouths. And that's going to be an interesting thing.

BORGER: And I think the way that... BLITZER; Hold on, one at a time. Bianna, go ahead.

GOLODRYGA: Well, to go back to what Gloria had mentioned in her point, I'm not sure how convincing it will be if you want to follow up on that "Washington Post" report that just came out a few moments ago...

BORGER: Right.

GOLODRYGA: ... if in fact, they were celebrating in Russia. Donald Trump could very well say, "Well, they were celebrating, because they wanted better relations with the U.S..."

BORGER: Exactly.

GOLODRYGA: "... as I want with Russia. If, in fact, you do have confirmation that there were high-level officials who acknowledged that they leaked the information, that they were involved in the spying, that's a different story. But just celebrating Donald Trump's win is not necessarily evidence enough...

BORGER: I totally agree.

GOLODRYGA: ... especially given how Donald Trump is so, you know, reluctant to accept the intelligence received so far.

BORGER: I totally -- I totally agree. You know, Donald Trump will take a look at the celebration as saying, "They heard me," as saying that "I want to establish a better relationship, and I want to cut deals with Russia; and I want to talk to Russia about Syria."

And I think he will look at that as saying, of course they were celebrating. They knew that they could potentially deal with me for a safer world, and they didn't want to deal with -- with Hillary Clinton.

I do think, though, that if I were going into that room with Donald Trump and I were an intelligence official, I would put on my political hat a little bit. And my political hat would be to say to him, as Clapper did today, in the hearing, that "It is not our job, nor can we say that they had a huge influence on the election. But what we can say is that it was their intent." Because I think if you -- if you separate those issues for the president-elect, you'll potentially have a lot more impact with him.

BLITZER: Bianna, are the Russians worried about more U.S. retaliation, a U.S., for example, cyberattack of its own?

GOLODRYGA: Well, the Russians obviously responded that they were above responding to the sanctions that President Obama announced last week.

[18:45:00] Of course, that was followed by that tweet from Donald Trump saying, "I always knew Vladimir Putin was a very smart man."

So, we shall see if in fact Donald Trump when he's presented with whatever evidence he's presented with tomorrow decides to follow up on sanctions. It's something that Rex Tillerson, as you know, when he was a CEO, was against. So, we'll see what, if anything, will change tomorrow.

I will say, though, that if we in fact continue to see this divide between the intelligence agencies and the president-elect, the president-elect can expect to see a lot more of these leaks that we apparently have seen now as "The Washington Post" has reported in the coming months and weeks and perhaps years.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I can only imagine the leaks are going to be fulsome, shall we say, in the coming days, right, Jim?


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: You have lawmakers here with an agenda, right? You know, imagine that in Washington. And particularly if they hear further doubts expressed from the president-elect, then they're going to have a reason to make their case in public if it didn't work in private.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And that's the case. You do have these agencies that will speak to lawmakers on the Hill because that's part of their job. They have oversight over these intelligence agencies. And so, there's not just one avenue for this information to come out. So, if the president-elect or when the sitting president becomes president doesn't believe them, then it's going to filter out through members of Congress.

BLITZER: But very quickly, Jim, the whole notion of what happens next right now, what the U.S. is going to do, what the Russians are going to do, this is a very sensitive moment right now because this relationship could explode.

SCIUTTO: No question. And you have -- listen to the -- forget the Democrats, listen to the Republican senators in that hearing today, Lindsey Graham who says he doesn't want to throw a pebble. He wants to throw a rock.

We have James Lankford, "THE LEAD" earlier today, another Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, they want harsher sanctions. They're not talking about friendlier relationship. They want to actually dial it up.

And they have a president at least to this point is talking about a friendlier relationship. That's a pretty --

BLITZER: And Lindsey Graham said, don't throw pebbles, throw rocks.

SCIUTTO: Those are diametrically opposed positions within the party.

BORGER: Wolf, you have a president-elect who has already had a relationship that is deteriorating at an amazing pace with his own intelligence agencies. He has senior Republicans saying that they want to slap sanctions is on Russia for a hack that the president- elect is not convinced occurred.

So, even before he puts his hand on that Bible on January 20th, he has created problems for himself in Washington. And you know what happens in Washington. When people are mad at you, they can drop a dime on you, particularly when you work for an intelligence agency. I don't have to tell my friend sitting at the table with you, Wolf, about that.

And they are going to try and make -- get their points across about the validity of their information. I mean, these are people who risk their lives to get this information. And they're taking this very seriously.

BLITZER: You know, Bianna, you know, that Clapper, General Clapper, the director of national intelligence, he said, it's OK for someone to have a healthy skepticism but it's another thing to get involved in disparagement of the entire U.S. intelligence community.

You know a lot about Russia, Bianna. What is Putin's endgame here?

GOLODRYGA: Well, you know, there is the argument that Putin doesn't have much to gain by so-called resetting his relationship with the United States. Remember, he's a master deflector. So, the fact that he's sort of meddling in countries and democracies around the world to take away from what is going on in his own country, you've got a contracting economy there. You're seeing his popularity actually continue to rise now that Russia has become the subject around the world that people are talking about.

So, what happens once Russia does become aligned or closer with the United States?

It's a one commodity economy that depended almost solely on oil and natural gas prices. They have gone up recently. But it's not a diversified economy. Their population is shrinking as well.

So, you could make the argument that Vladimir Putin actually is more powerful when he has enemies around the world as opposed to being best friends with the United States.

BLITZER: Yes, Jim Sciutto, the American public is going to learn a lot more about this with the release of the declassified report presumably on Monday. And this is going to continue at least for some time, this whole explosive story.

SCIUTTO: No question. You have that release. You're going to have hearings on the Hill, including hearings about sanctions. It's going to stay out there for some time.

And this is where, in effect, Donald Trump is alone against the world almost. You can say, at least here in Washington, against his own party, Democrats, the intelligence agencies on who is responsible.

So, the big question is, does he change tack on this? And we're going to -- BLITZER: Very quickly, I mean, Clapper also disclosed today, the

Russians not only -- according to Clapper, the U.S. intelligence community -- were engaged in cyber attacks, also engaged in planting what he called fake news.

PEREZ: Right.

BLITZER: Tell us about that, presumably I assume in the report that will be released on Monday, the declassified report, there will be examples of that.

PEREZ: Right, and that's exactly what makes this so different from what the Chinese did in 2008, when they also similarly hacked into political party accounts, President Obama and John McCain's campaigns. They did not release the information and this is what Clapper was pointing to, that these e-mails and the information that was stolen, became the source of these fake news stories that were propagated not only by Russia Today and other websites, but, you know, that's part of the disinformation campaign.

And I've got to tell you one last thing about the warnings that people are giving to Donald Trump right now about alienating the intelligence agencies. One of the last pieces of wisdom that President Bush gave to President Obama before he left office was, whatever you do, don't P off the CIA.

We'll see what happens here.

BLITZER: You don't want them to be reacting, and they can very easily.

All right. Everybody, stand by.

More on the breaking news right after this.


[18:55:39] BLITZER: President-elect Trump was deposed today, one of the legal battles he's fighting with two celebrity chefs.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is over at Trump Tower in New York with details of the lawsuits.

Jessica, Trump attorney described the deposition as straightforward, says it lasted, what, just over an hour?


And Trump's lawyer is remaining steadfast that the president-elect is in the right by not dropping this lawsuit. In fact, releasing a straightforward statement saying that, "In short, the parties entered into a valid and enforceable lease which the tenant clearly breached by walking out and failing to perform its obligations." This lawsuit is just one of the many legal battles looming 15 days out from inauguration.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): They're the two food stars who dared to take on the future president. Chefs Jose Andres and Geoffrey Zakarian backing out of opening eateries inside the new Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

JOSE ANDRES, RESTAURATEUR: We are not supposed to mention him until he doesn't apologize to every Latino, to every Mexican, to every woman, to every veteran, and to any person that he has insulted.

SCHNEIDER: The Spanish-born chef campaigned for Hillary Clinton after he scrapped his flagship restaurant inside the hotel.

ANDRES: Today, I could be in a certain hotel in Washington, D.C.

SCHNEIDER: Following suit, Food Network fixture Zakarian. Both pulled the plug after Trump's comments about Mexicans.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.

SCHNEIDER: Geoffrey Zakarian telling the "Village Voice" in an article published the day before the election, "I'm going to D.C. to look at two spaces because my buddy Donald, he f'd up, opened his f'ing mouth."

Trump sued the men for $10 million each, they served up countersuits and now, the president-elect and his legal team are dealing with depositions.

In the days leading to inauguration, lawyers in both cases saying right now, there's no chance of a settlement. And in the Zakarian suit, a pretrial conference is set for May 17th, just beyond Trump's first 100 days.

NORMAN EISEN, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: The litigants, his opponents in those cases and others will try to use those cases not only to attack on the merits but as a political tool, particularly here, where Donald Trump has refused to provide his taxes, refused to provide a lot of information the American people are used to having.

SCHNEIDER: Ambassador Norm Eisen served as the chief ethics lawyer in the Obama White House. He and his counterpart, Richard Painter from the George W. Bush administration, agreed that these lawsuits aren't only unprecedented but a dangerous distraction.

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: The president needs to focus on protecting the security of the United States, on reviving our economy, and doing a good job as president. He should not be distracted by litigation.

SCHNEIDER: The commander in chief can be sued for actions predating the presidency as the Supreme Court ruled in the wake of a 1997 civil suit by Paula Jones against Bill Clinton for sexual harassment. Among the many other cases Trump still faces, a suit from a Republican consultant who says Trump's tweets calling her a real dummy ruined her reputation. Five protesters allege Trump's security team roughed them up in 2015 and Melania Trump is suing the "Daily Mail" for reporting she was an escort in the 1990s, a claim she denies.

As for Jose Andres, he's taking to Twitter, repeatedly imploring Trump to drop their suits in favor of philanthropy. "Again, Mr. President- elect of the United States @RealDonaldTrump, if you are awake, let's resolve this in a friendly way. We donate money to a charity. It's a great deal."

A deal Trump could favor since he's voiced to opposition to settling.

TRUMP: When you start settling cases, you know what happens? Everybody sues you.


SCHNEIDER: And Donald Trump did set it will Trump University cases, though, where he agreed to shell out, Wolf, $25 million.

BLITZER: Interesting stuff. Jessica, thanks very much. Jessica Schneider, she's in New York, joining us.

And stay with CNN for two important upcoming town halls. Vermont senator, former Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, takes questions from a live audience Monday with Chris Cuomo. And House Speaker Paul Ryan joins Jake Tapper next Thursday for a separate town hall.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.