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Sources: U.S. Identifies Go-Betweens In Russia Hack; Soon: Trump Gets Russian Hack Intel Briefing; Taxpayers Could Be On The Hook For Trump's Wall; Intel Chief: Criticism From Leaders Hurts Morale; Seventy Five Straight Months Of Job Growth, Best Since 1939; Trump To NYT: Russia Hacks Probe A "Witch Hunt" Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 6, 2017 - 11:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: That's awesome, Samuel, thanks so much.

Thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello. "AT THIS HOUR," with Berman and Bolduan starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan. John Berman is off today.

A tale of two meetings for the President-elect Donald Trump this morning in New York. Right now, it's magazine moguls but shortly it's the nation's top intelligence leaders. A meeting that could has become possibly the most highly anticipated and talked get together of the president-elect's transition.

After months of casting doubt on the intelligence community's conclusion that it was Russia behind the election hacks, the president is set to get it straight from the source in a classified briefing.

Here is what we know. In the room will be Donald Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and the director of the NSA, Admiral Mike Rogers, a whole slew of heavyweights meeting behind closed doors.

We also know this, intel leaders are going to present a final report on the evidence that they've gathered pointing the finger at Russia for the hacks during the election. They'll give the evidence that Russia did it and why they did it, in their view, at least in part to help Donald Trump.

CNN's justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is joining me right now with much more on this. So Evan, after all of this back and forth and on Twitter and on TV, what's this meeting going to be like?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, I mean, to be a fly on the wall at that meeting would be incredible, right? But you know, one of the things that we expect that they will finally tell him is some of what the intelligence has shown.

We're told that part of that includes the identification of intermediaries who the intelligence community believes provided the Wikileaks website the Democratic Party e-mails that were stolen by the hackers working for Russian intelligence.

Now again, this is part of the information that we expect is going to be presented to the president-elect. The top intelligence officials will be briefing him within the next hour and a half or so in New York.

And this is the first time that Trump will really see an extensive report that looks at not only the Russian hacks of the Democratic Party group during the election that just passed, but also the cyber hacks going all the way back to 2008, in that election year.

We're told by officials that U.S. intelligence agencies have also collected intercepts of Russian officials expressing happiness at Donald Trump's victory on November 8th.

But you know, the problem is that that information is not necessarily considered a smoking gun evidence against the Russians. It's rather part of a broader piece of the picture that they've put together.

We know that the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, told senators at a hearing yesterday, Kate, that the intelligence agencies believe the evidence points at Russia more resolutely than they did back in October when they first made the charge. The question now is whether Donald Trump changes his tune and accepts the message from the intelligence community.

BOLDUAN: Evan, that is highly anticipated. A lot more to come on that, thank you so much. I want to make a note for all of you, live pictures of President Obama walking near and around the White House grounds. He could be walking right now to head over to -- say again?

Walking over to the Blair house where he's going to be sitting down for a live interview with reporters from Fox (ph). We'll be bringing you parts of that interview when he sits down and when it begins. Much more on that to come.

But also this, this morning, remember Donald Trump's number one campaign promise, to build a wall on the southern border and make Mexico pay for it? If you need a refresher, I'm happy to provide.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: We will build a great wall along the southern border and Mexico will pay for the wall. We are going to build the wall. It will be a real wall. Who is going to pay for the wall? The top person, the president of Mexico, said we will never, ever pay for that wall. You know what I said? I said, the wall just got ten feet higher.


BOLDUAN: The president-elect, the transition, they're still promising to build a wall. But the bill for the wall may now be sent to the American people, at least first, at least initially.

CNN's senior political reporter, Manu Raju, joining me right now live from Capitol Hill. Manu, what exactly are you picking up right now about this? Are Republicans considering what they're hearing right now, are they considering this, the president-elect, going back on a campaign promise?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: They are. In fact what I've heard from Republican sources who have been in meetings with Trump transition officials. That the message has been very clear to them that this should be funded in the Trump transition team's view through the appropriations process on Capitol Hill.

[11:05:09]That means this April, they need to actually pass a bill to keep the government open. There is a push behind the scenes in order to get some money in there to pay for this wall.

Now, Trump is saying that that is actually the first step. They say that they're going to get reimbursed later down the line by imposing some punitive measures on Mexico.

And this is what Trump tweeted this morning, saying, "The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the great wall for the sake of speed will be paid back by Mexico later."

Now there is a lot of skepticism, I can tell you, on Capitol Hill. I talked to a lot of House Republicans this morning about whether they think Donald Trump can get Mexico to reimburse the United States for potentially up to $10 billion to build such a wall.

Here is one House conservative, Mo Brooks, who talked tough about the consequences that Donald Trump could receive from the American voters if he does backtrack from that promise.


RAJU: How would voters react if Donald Trump doesn't keep that promise about Mexico?

REPRESENTATIVE MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: I can't speak as to how voters generally will react, if American taxpayers are forced to pay for that wall. But I can tell you how I would react. I would be disappointed.


RAJU: So the question is where do they go from here? If they insist on including it in that spending package at the beginning of this year and how do Democrats respond, because the challenge is going to be not just getting it through the House but more importantly, the Senate, where Democrats could certainly filibuster a spending bill, potentially threaten a government shutdown over this.

If they do insists on spending billions of dollars and if they do -- if they can't get a deal with Democrats, that means having to take it out, so what happens with the wall? A lot of questions about whether or not Donald Trump can maintain his central campaign promise -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Manu, a lot more to come on that, it appears, thank you so much. Let's discuss this and much more right now with Republican congressman from Florida, Dennis Ross. He is also a member of Donald Trump's transition team. Congressman, thanks so much for the time.


BOLDUAN: So as you just heard from Manu, sources are telling Manu that it's the president-elect's preference now that the money come from Congress, not Mexico up front. Kellyanne Conway, you know her very well, counselor to the president-elect, just this morning said it was Congress who wants to do it this way because they want it to happen faster. Whose idea was this, Congressman?

ROSS: Well, let's go back a little bit. Back in 2006, Congress appropriated and mandated that the fence or the wall be finished in the southwestern border, 700 miles. They appropriated $11 billion. Directed Homeland Security to do that.

Homeland security never did. Never finished the fence. Even though the money was appropriated. It is a function of Congress to do the appropriations. We have to do this. We can't just have Mexico send us a check and say, now use that check to pay for it. We have to do it. But most importantly --

BOLDUAN: Wait. On that point, Congressman, you just said we can't tell Mexico to send us a check, right?

ROSS: We can tell them, but they -- they will have negotiations to pay for the fence. There is no question about that. I know Donald Trump's going to do that. He has many tools that he can use to do that. But most importantly, we have to finish the fence.

I've even filed a bill, I did last session, I'm doing this session, to direct Homeland Security to do what we've already appropriated them to do, that's finish the 700 miles of fence.

The number one issue in this election was national security. We've got to finish the fence. We can argue over how they're going to pay for it over time, but it has to come through Congress. That's the appropriations process.

We control that process and so yes, it will come through Congress. But most importantly, it must be done. That's the top priority.

BOLDUAN: So -- but as you well know, the president of Mexico has said very clearly they are not going to pay for it. How are you going to force Mexico -- and this is the crux of it. This was the crux of the question during the campaign, it did not -- it went unanswered.

How do you force Mexico to eventually foot the bill for the wall, for the fence? Can you 100 percent guarantee today to taxpayers, to your constituents, that they're not going to be on the hook for this, Congressman?

ROSS: Right now, we have to finish the fence. Second of all, we have to go through the process of getting Mexico to pay for it. That can be done through trade agreements. It can be done through negotiations. There are ways that that can be done. But just --

BOLDUAN: Negotiations does not guarantee that you're going to get everything that you want.

ROSS: Nobody has seen a president-elect like this man. Nobody expected him to be there. And now you see where GM, Ford, and Carrier have turned back -- and the man isn't even sworn in yet. I wouldn't underestimate what Donald Trump can do as a negotiator just based on his success in what he's been able to do not even being sworn in yet.

[11:10:04]BOLDUAN: I definitely do not underestimate Donald Trump, that's absolutely true. I do say, though, but today, Congressman, because this was the promise on the trail, Mexico's going to pay for it, and this is what people loved about Donald Trump, that he was standing strong and that Mexico was going to pay for it and it was not going to be on the lap of voters. How much time is going to pass? The voters are going to foot the bill for this wall or fence, before Mexico is going to pay for it?

ROSS: What would be worse is if we never build the wall and we continue to have illegal activity go across our border to infiltrate our homes, our towns and make us less, less secured --

BOLDUAN: But it is a different question, though, if you would have asked them, Congressman, will you pay billions of dollars for a wall. That was never really the question during the campaign because Donald Trump promised that it was going to be Mexico.

ROSS: And in my estimation, and seeing what has happened with this president-elect, it will most likely be Mexico. In one way or another it will be Mexico. But in the meantime, we can't stand idly by and bicker over how we're going to get them to pay for it. We can be to build a fence. National security is a number one issue. We have to make sure we take that very seriously and finish the fence.

BOLDUAN: Most likely, but can't guarantee, right?

ROSS: I don't know if there's any guarantees here other than April 15th, come tax day.

BOLDUAN: That is true or that there's going to be some kind of partisan plot on Capitol Hill. I can probably guarantee --

ROSS: That could possibly happen. Yes, Ma'am.

BOLDUAN: I'm going to be a betting woman on that one. Let's talk about one other topic, Congressman. The president-elect is about to be briefed by intel leaders about the evidence that they have pointing to Russia that they were behind the hacks during the election.

You've been with Trump on this, not convinced, you haven't seen the proof pointing to Russia yet. You wanted to see it. If he leaves the briefing and is now convinced that it is Russia, is that enough for you? ROSS: It will be enough for me. I have not seen the evidence. I have not been privy to the intelligence reports. It's time to have this meeting. It's time to have the conversation between the president-elect and the intelligence community.

Look, this intelligence community, we want to be the best in the world, period. No question about it. We don't want politics involved in it. That's not where we are today. There needs to be a relationship there. He has put together I think a very good team.

Just yesterday, with Senator Dan Coats being appointed, as the director of National Intelligence, is a tremendous move in the right direction from a bipartisan point of view. So yes, I'm hopeful that this meeting today will resolve those issues, and we can go forward.

BOLDUAN: You said that the relationship with the intelligence community is necessary, having a good relationship is necessary. During yesterday's hearing, the head of the NSA, Admiral Rogers, he made clear that he was concerned that the impact of this drawn-out and very public back and forth.

Casting doubt on what the intelligence community has concluded already, coming from the president-elect, he's concerned about the impact on the people in the field. Listen to this.


ADMIRAL MIKE ROGERS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: What we do I think is relevant, and we realize that what we do is in no small part driven in part by the confidence of our leaders in what we do. And without that confidence, I just don't want a situation where our workforce decides to walk because I think that really is not a good place for us to be.


BOLDUAN: No matter what comes out of this briefing, do you think this public back and forth between the president-elect and the intel community, do you think this has hurt those in the field?

ROSS: Well, I think the past history over the last several years, when this intelligence community gave a report to the president -- I mean, President Obama at the time that ISIS was a JV team, that we've seen Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy try to convince the CIA to wipe the server clean of the secretary of state after the Benghazi affair, we see the attorney general meeting on the tarmac, there has been a history that's taken away the credibility of the intelligence community.

BOLDUAN: I'm asking you about the actions of the president-elect so far and what he said towards the community. Do you like that?

ROSS: Look, these are government agencies. And I think when the American people spoke, they spoke about every government agency being under review, including the intelligence community. And it is important. But you know, he's putting his people, General Kelly, he's putting him in there. My good friend, Mike Pompeo as CIA director, these are good people that he will have a strong relationship with that will control the intelligence community.

Again, Kate, I just have to tell you, we need to have the best, most capable, most competent people in the intelligence community and give them the resources necessary so that they don't be questioned anymore. So that they are correct in what they're doing.

BOLDUAN: I think everyone would agree on that. But there's still going to be a lot of people providing the raw data today that are going to be working under the president-elect, essentially, tomorrow. That's the kind of the question is. But Congressman, we'll leave it there today. Thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

ROSS: Thank you very much. Yes, Ma'am.

[11:15:08]BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, irresponsible. That's what President Obama says about the repeal and delay strategy of Obamacare. Coming up next, a live interview with President Obama as he prepares to leave the White House.

And just in, the last jobs report of the Obama's presidency, more than 11 million new jobs added during his time in office. What does that mean? How does that stack up and how does Donald Trump respond and take that on?

Plus harsh words, Vice President Joe Biden tells President-elect Donald Trump to grow up, and it's time to be an adult.


BOLDUAN: This morning, the last jobs report of the Obama presidency is out. We have a better idea now what kind of economy President Obama is handing over to President Donald Trump.

CNN's chief business correspondent and star of "EARLY START," Christine Romans, is here. What are the numbers? Give us the bigger picture.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Strong. He's handing over basically a strong job market to President-elect Donald Trump. This is what it looks like for the year now. We can see had a this whole year looks like, 156,000 net new jobs in December, and November was stronger than economists have thought, 200,000 jobs there.

[11:20:02]You look at the unemployment rate. This has been declining now for years, Kate. These are those battle days above 10 percent at the beginning after the first year really of the Obama presidency, and since then it's been going down.

That 4.7 percent you see right here, that actually ticked up just a little bit, for a good reason, because people are coming off of the sidelines and starting to look for jobs again, almost 200,000 people more encouraged about what they're hearing about the labor market.

What they're hearing from their friends and family about getting jobs, and they're coming off the sidelines to try to get jobs, so 4.7 percent, economists will tell you, Kate, that's nearing full employment.

CEOs tell me they're having trouble matching workers with the jobs available. They're having trouble finding enough workers with the right skills for some of their jobs. So that's a big question, I think, and a challenge for the new administration going forward.

So here is the job growth under President Obama. Remember those first months, how terrible it was, every single month, reporting 700,000, 800,000 jobs lost? Five million jobs lost in 2009.

Really a stunning collapse in the American economy in the labor market and then slowly crawling out of there, year after year. New jobs created under President Barack Obama after this terrible 2009, more than 15 million jobs -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: When you're looking at new jobs, when you're looking at job growth, how does job growth compare for President Obama to past presidents? That's a legacy item.

ROMANS: It is a legacy item. Let's look at the numbers. Just jobs created minus jobs lost. So net new jobs, George W. Bush, only 1.3 million. That was a very weak recovery from a couple of financial setbacks during that administration.

Barack Obama comes in with 11.3 million. Ronald Reagan, of course, had strong job growth of 16 million in his eight years in office. But nothing really compares to Bill Clinton. Think about what was happening in those Clinton years.

He had almost 23 million new jobs created. Why? Because a guy named Bill Gates invented something that all of us put on our desks now. It really transformed how we work, an explosion of innovation and productivity at that time and job growth exploded along with it.

That's sort of how it ranks overall here. Let me show you where jobs are being created right, health care, huge job creation there, all the past five years quite frankly. But also this month, 43,000 net new jobs there.

Food services, these are lower paid jobs. States have been raising their minimum wages. So these are jobs that are paying more, a dollar more in some cases, an hour.

Manufacturing was interesting, 17,000 net new jobs created there. That has been a weaker spot more recently. That's of course why you had manufacturing jobs and factory jobs, such a very big important component of this election.

BOLDUAN: That will continue to be a huge focus going forward.

ROMANS: Absolutely. BOLDUAN: Tail winds for Donald Trump. Great to see you, Christine. Thank you so much.

Right now, President Obama is defending his legacy, calling Republicans' repeal and delay strategy on Obamacare irresponsible. You're taking a look at the live interview happening with the president, with President Obama. We'll bring you those big moments just ahead.

Plus just in, Donald Trump giving an interview to "The New York Times" just before being briefed by the nation's top intelligence leaders on the Russian hack. He's calling the criticism against him a witch hunt. Details on that, next.



BOLDUAN: Very shortly Donald Trump will be sitting down with the top leaders of the U.S. intelligence apparatus, our spy apparatus, to get a classified briefing on the final report that the intelligence community says helped it reach the conclusion that Russia was behind the hacks during the election.

That's about to happen. What has already happened, though, before this is Donald Trump speaking to "The New York Times" in a new interview and talking specifically about this, one of the big headlines here is that Donald Trump is talking about the investigation into the Russian hacks calling it a political witch hunt.

Let me bring in right now to discuss this moment CNN political commentator, Republican strategist, Alice Stewart is here, CNN political commentator, Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, and CNN's chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Gloria, the full quote coming from "The New York Times" says this, "China relativity recently hacked 20 million government names," referring to the breach of computers at the Office of Personnel Management.

Here is the quote. "How come nobody even talks about that? This is a political witch hunt." This all right before he's about to sit down and get it straight from the source.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's very clear the president-elect looks at this. He looks at this whole Russian hacking controversy as a way to delegitimize his presidency, period. And he doesn't see it as a separate issue, which was the Russians just intend in one way or another to put their thumb on the scale.

And I think that you have to kind of figure out a way, if you're talking to Donald Trump, to decouple those two things, and to say, look, nobody is trying to delegitimize your presidency, you won, you know, you won in the electoral college, you are going to become president of the United States. But this notion of Russia hacking and trying to interfere with the Democratic process is a separate issue that the intelligence community is concerned about, because guess what, the next time Russia may be hacking you as president of the United States, and this is an issue that we all need to be concerned about.

So separate those two things and Donald Trump may decide to take it more seriously rather than feel threatened by it.

BOLDUAN: But to this point --