Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Gunman Kills 5 in Ft. Lauderdale Airport; Intel Report: Putin Ordered Campaign to Influence Election; Vladimir Putin Ordered The Efforts To Influence The U.S. Presidential Election; Trump To Aggressively Combat Cyber-Attacks; Leon Panetta Reacted To The Information Contained In The Declassified Version Of The Russian Hacking Review. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired January 6, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:09] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Airport attack. A gunman opens fire at Florida's Ft. Lauderdale Airport, killing five people. Sources say his weapon was in a checked bag that he had retrieved after flying into the airport.
Fear and chaos. The gunfire sends hundreds of passengers and airport workers fleeing, taking shelter on the tarmac. Amid unconfirmed reports of more shots, there's a full airport shutdown and a massive security sweep by SWAT teams.
Ordered by Putin, also breaking. U.S. intelligence agencies release a declassified version of their report on Russia's election cyberattacks. It says the campaign was ordered by President Vladimir Putin and was aimed at undermining the democratic process, harming Hillary Clinton, and helping Donald Trump.
And full briefing. Intelligence chief -- chiefs brief Donald Trump on the Russian cyberattacks just hours after he called the focus on Russia's role a political witch hunt. Does the president-elect now accept the investigation's findings? And what does he plan to do about it?
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; Breaking news. A gunman opens fire at Florida's Ft. Lauderdale Airport, killing five people and wounding eight more. Sources say he retrieved a checked weapon after arriving on a flight. Witnesses say he fired randomly and had time to reload. The gunfire sent people running and screaming. Hundreds raced onto the tarmac, many taking shelter behind cargo vehicles.
Officials say the gunman is in custody and was a lone shooter. Investigators are looking into his motive. Authorities are sweeping the entire complex, and the airport is now closed.
Also breaking, U.S. intelligence agencies release a declassified version of their investigation into Russia's election cyberattacks. The review says the campaign was ordered by Russia's President Vladimir Putin with the aim of undermining faith in the democratic process of the United States, hurting Hillary Clinton's election chances, and boosting Donald Trump.
Intelligence chiefs have now briefed President-elect Trump on the cyberattack investigation. Trump has repeatedly voiced doubts about evidence linking Russia to the election attacks. And before his briefing, he called the uproar over Russian hacking a political witch hunt. But the president-elect calls today's meeting, quote, "constructive" and says he'll appoint a team to come up with a plan to combat cyberattacks.
I'll speak with the Florida senator Bill Nelson and former CIA director Leon Panetta. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of the day's top stories.
Let's begin with CNN's Brian Todd, who has the very latest on the attack at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport.
Brian, what you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the latest word on casualties tonight, 13 people shot inside this area, the baggage claim area, Terminal 2, lower level. Thirteen people shot. Five dead. Eight people wounded.
Now, at this hour, Wolf, law enforcement officials have the suspect in custody; and they are interrogating him.
TODD (voice-over): Witnesses say the gunman entered the baggage claim area of Terminal 2 and began shooting randomly. One law enforcement source tells CNN, moments earlier, he'd gone into a bathroom to get the gun out of his luggage and emerged firing.
Amateur video captures people cowering, chaos inside the terminal.
Air traffic control got word early of the shooting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want us to hold for the tango line. I guess there's a firearm going off in the terminal.
TODD: One witness told MSNBC after firing multiple rounds, the shooter dropped his gun, and law enforcement officers quickly converged on him.
SHERIFF SCOTT ISRAEL, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: We have the shooter in custody. He's unharmed. No law enforcement fired any shots. The subject is being interviewed by a team of FBI agents and Broward Sheriff's Office homicide detectives.
TODD: As the scene unfolded, witnesses told of absolute panic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can see the hundreds of people lined up on the tarmac. Just a few minutes ago, flashing lights with an ambulance leaving. TODD: Multiple law enforcement sources tell CNN the shooter is
identified as Esteban Santiago. Senator Bill Nelson from Florida said Santiago had a military I.D. on him, but it's not clear if it's a current I.D.
Law enforcement sources tell CNN, the suspect flew to Florida from Alaska, had a gun in his baggage, and had declared the firearm. When he arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, he retrieved his bag at baggage claim, our sources say, then went into the bathroom and got his gun out of his luggage.
Senator Nelson said the shooter had easy access to his targets.
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Any time you get a bunch of people, bunching up, like at baggage claim or like outside of TSA, where you're going through security, or like lines at the ticket counter, it's a soft target.
TODD: One passenger, who'd just gotten off a flight told CNN he might have been saved when a bullet hit his laptop.
More than an hour after the shooting, people were still scrambling for cover. Panic and confusion on the tarmac and on the airport roads by the terminals.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My family is in Terminal 2. I was taking the rental car back and kind of waiting between Terminal 1 and the rental car place. Everybody started running out of Terminal 1, out of the rental car place. Some lady was yelling for help.
TODD: Now at this hour, law enforcement officials are not saying specifically what they believe the shooter's motive was, but law enforcement officials telling CNN tonight investigators are looking into claims that this suspect got into an altercation on board his plane as he was flying from Alaska to Florida -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Brian, thank you. Brian Todd reporting.
Our CNN correspondent, Boris Sanchez, is at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport right now. Boris, what are people there telling you?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there are hundreds of people here that are stranded, because as you can see behind me, the airport is completely shut down. It forms a loop around the terminals, this driveway here. And there are many people that were either getting off of flights or waiting to get on flights that cannot go anywhere as officials start screening the entirety of this airport.
I should note officials just told us a few moments ago that there was a planned controlled explosion that was set to go off at any moment of a suspicious device, but they haven't given us any specifics as to where that device was found or if it's pertinent, even, to the shooting earlier here today. To paint a picture of where we are specifically, this is Terminal 2.
This is the second level of Terminal 2, the departures. The shooting happened downstairs on the first level in baggage claim.
When we first arrived here it was total chaos, Wolf. There were people running in all directions, people screaming. I saw families trying to console their children, who were crying. And then at one point, we saw several armed officers with large weapons start running into this parking garage here. We heard several people yelling, shouting, running away from it. And that's where we started hearing the rumors that there was perhaps a second shooter.
We heard from the Broward County sheriff earlier who told us that those rumors were unsubstantiated. There's no evidence at all that there was a second shooter or anyone involved with the gunman.
Though people that I've spoken to here were clearly shaken. You saw the hundreds of people that were on the runway. Not exactly sure what's going to happen to all of them, when they'll finally be able to go home.
But one more thing I wanted to point out, Wolf, getting back to that suspicious device that's about to be detonated at any moment off-site of the Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood Airport. I did ask the Broward County sheriff if perhaps they were able to identify a vehicle belonging to the shooter here at the airport. And he told me that they hadn't at that time.
Of course, that was about an hour ago and just a few moments ago -- I'm not sure if you can make it out -- but there are still several investigators and officials going through this parking garage. There are several of them here in the center of the airport. As I said, it forms a loop around these parking garages. So it's still a very fluid situation. We're awaiting a press conference from Florida Governor Rick Scott at any moment where we can get more details -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Boris Sanchez on the scene for us. We'll get back to you. We'll, of course, await that news conference by the governor.
Our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, has been working his sources. He has new information about the suspect. What are you learning, Evan?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just a couple months ago, we're told that the suspect showed up at the FBI office in Anchorage, Alaska, which is apparently the last place that authorities have for him, the last place that he lived. He was exhibiting, what we're told, signs of mental illness; and he apparently was committed to a mental institution for treatment. And this, again, happens just a couple months ago before -- this is the most recent significant interaction that law enforcement has had with him.
There you see a picture of him that we've obtained. This shows the suspect, Esteban Santiago.
According to the authorities that we've been talking to, that is the most significant interaction that they have on record with this suspect. There's no major arrest in his record. He did not show up on any radar as perhaps somebody who has any kind of extremist or radicalization.
We're told also, Wolf, that some witnesses have been -- who have been interviewed by the investigators have indicated that there might have been some kind of altercation on board this flight. As we reported earlier and as Brian Todd's piece just mentioned, he arrived at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport, apparently at that same terminal on a flight from Alaska earlier today.
Once he arrived, he was able to take -- retrieve his luggage, which is where he had the firearm, and then he began shooting. Again, no indication that he was shooting at anyone in particular when he opened fire, according to the authorities.
[17:10:10] And at this point, we know -- we've reached out to an employer, a security company in Alaska, to ask about these mental health issues that he may or may not have been exhibiting when he showed up at the FBI office. We're told by the manager of that company, the owner of that company, that they're working with law enforcement at this hour, Wolf, and they could not talk to us and give us any more information at this point.
BLITZER: And Evan, you've been reporting, flying with a checked bag that has a gun with ammunition, that's legal, right?
PEREZ: Right. Absolutely. He declared the gun. He did everything that is required to fly with this firearm. There's a procedure that they work with, with TSA. They have specific types of bags they can use that are -- that are locked, and they place a special type of -- a special kind of tape around it to signify that it has been checked by TSA.
Again, the purpose of this regulation is to keep the -- keep the firearm outside of the main part of the aircraft so that you can't hijack the plane. Obviously, he checked this -- checked this firearm inside his luggage, and then once he's arrived at his destination in Ft. Lauderdale, is where he opened fire and killed these people.
BLITZER: Killed five people and injured eight others.
All right, Evan. We'll get back to you. Thank you.
With us now Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. Senator, thanks so much for joining us. I wish it were under different circumstances. But tell us the latest that you're hearing, because you're well-plugged-in down in Ft. Lauderdale.
NELSON: Wolf, I talked to the head of the airport and the head of TSA, Admiral Neffenger, several hours ago, so the initial information about the military I.D.: his name. Admiral Neffenger had given me that. But we still don't know a motive.
But he's in custody, so we'll find out what the motive is. And your latest reporting, it sounds like that he is a mental case. Thank goodness it's not a terrorist-inspired case, but we won't know until they interrogate him.
BLITZER: Esteban Santiago. Do we know he was -- I know he had military I.D. Was he active duty?
NELSON: I don't have that information. It was not, at the time I talked to the admiral, whether it was an active identification, whether it was someone else's, we didn't know at that time.
BLITZER: Do we know if he was trained here in the United States? Did he serve overseas? Was he trained in shooting, for example, by the U.S. military? What do we know about this guy?
NELSON: Those are all the questions that the authorities are answering right now as they have him in custody.
BLITZER: This is a very, very serious development. He -- are you comfortable with the fact that he had a checked weapon with ammunition, that he could simply get out of his checked bag at baggage claim at Ft. Lauderdale Airport and then take it out and start killing people?
NELSON: If he's a mental case, of course, I'm not comfortable with that, that he should even have a firearm. But we do have people regularly checking guns, such as hunters that go to Alaska to hunt. They check their hunting rifle, and there are procedures, as was outlined by your reporter.
BLITZER: When you say a mental case, apparently, according to our reporting from Evan Perez and Brian Todd, he did show up at an FBI office in Alaska; and they concluded he had serious mental problems. And they -- and they at least took some steps to deal with that. But he obviously was released, and he decided to get on this, what, Air Canada flight from Alaska to Ft. Lauderdale.
NELSON: If that was an identified problem and that didn't -- that did not get transmitted to the fact that he was allowed to take a gun, then that is a chink in the armor right there.
BLITZER: Because when he checked that weapon, there's supposedly -- and you can correct me if I'm wrong -- there must -- should have been some record that this is a guy who shouldn't be traveling with a loaded weapon.
NELSON: Indeed. When you have somebody that's adjudicated with a mental case, that's a red flag right there to keep them away from firearms.
BLITZER: What's the -- who's in charge now: the FBI or local authorities, state authorities?
NELSON: It's my understanding the FBI is leading the investigation, but as you can see from all the excellent coverage that you've had, all this afternoon, it's every law enforcement agency at the local and state and federal level.
BLITZER: There's a lot of confusion still now about a possible second shooter at the airport. We heard from the Broward County sheriff that they don't think there is, but what can you tell us about that?
NELSON: and of course that's something that we always have to be concerned about. And you saw the panic envelope with the -- with the shots, the film that you were showing.
[17:15:07] But you know, we're getting super-sensitive to this, because especially in Florida, we had The Pulse nightclub slaughter, and needless to say, these are times that, unfortunately, at airports, you have crowds. It's a soft target. They're all bunched up, either outside the ticket counter or in this case, outside of baggage claim. It's an easy, soft target.
That's why, by the way, on the basis of the Belgium shooting last year, we have, in the FAA bill, double the dog teams, the VIPER teams. But you can never have enough dogs with all of the crowds that we're going to have in airports.
BLITZER: Senator Nelson, I want you to stand by. Phil Mudd is joining us, one of our counterterrorism analysts, formerly with the CIA and the FBI.
Does the U.S. need to beef up security at these baggage claim departments at various airports? Because anybody can just drive up in front of the baggage claim, go inside with a gun and kill people, too.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I'm not sure that's the right answer, Wolf. In any circumstance like this, federal officials have to stand back and do an after action and say, "What could we have done"?
On this issue, for example, of whether someone who's been checked in potentially, if that's actually true, should have -- checked into a mental institution, should have access to a weapon.
On the question you're raising about access to baggage claim. My concern in the 16 years now after 9/11, is that you're looking at targets including nightclubs, cafes, airports, train stations, bus stations, schools. At some point you've got to defeat this problem in other areas in public spaces. You cannot police the amount of public spaces where we're seeing shootings, I don't think.
BLITZER: You -- Senator Nelson is still with us. Senator Nelson, are you concerned about security at baggage claim? It's outside the security perimeter. Should it be inside the security perimeter?
NELSON: Just what your reporter said. Look, seaports, train stations, not only airports outside of security lines, but now, we know, baggage claim, as well. You simply can't have enough security to cover every crowd.
BLITZER: Governor Rick Scott of Florida is coming to the microphones right now with others from law enforcement. He's going to be making a statement, Senator Nelson. I want to listen to what Governor Scott, he's there in Ft. Lauderdale right now. He's got others with him, presumably from the state and the FBI.
Let's listen in to Governor Scott.
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: All right. The first thing I want to tell you is the citizens of Florida will not tolerate senseless acts of evil. You just can't imagine how this could -- how this ever happened in a state like ours.
Think of the innocent lives that are lost. We still have -- according to the sheriff's department, we have five -- as you know, we have five individuals that lost their life. We still have people fighting for their life in our hospitals. Whoever is responsible will be held accountable to the full extent of the law.
So let me repeat this. The state of Florida, citizens of Florida, law enforcement in this state will not tolerate evil acts. Whoever is responsible will be held accountable to the full extent of the law.
I -- I heard about this when I was in Fort Myers. I immediately came over here, got here about 1:45. I stayed in contact with the sheriff's office. Sheriff Israel has done an outstanding job. The FBI, everybody involved has done an outstanding job. There's been complete coordination between FDLE, the sheriff's department, the airport security, all federal agencies, everybody has worked together.
I reached out across the state, not only to our National Guard to make sure they were ready, if there's any need for the National Guard, but also airports and sheriffs across the state where our major airports were to make sure whatever resources they need, the state was available to provide those resources.
My heart goes out to every family impacted. The families that lost their loved ones, and the families and the individuals that have loved ones still in the hospital, fighting for their life. You can't imagine how this could happen to any family, anywhere in the world, but clearly we don't ever want this to happen in our great state.
I have reached out to President-elect Trump and spoken with -- to him and Vice-President-elect Pence multiple times to keep them informed, and they told me whatever resources that we need from the federal government, they would do everything in their power to make that happen.
My No. 1 priority right now in Florida is to keep everybody safe. Everybody that lives in our state, everybody that travels to our state, do everything we can to keep them safe.
[17:20:11] As you know, we have -- this is an ongoing investigation. There's a lot of information that law enforcement will put out at the time they can put that out, and they'll do that as quickly as they can.
But I can tell you everybody is working hard to find out exactly what happened and to hold whoever did this accountable. I don't ever want this to happen again. To any family, anywhere in the world, but clearly never again in our great state.
I'll be glad to answer any questions anybody has. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How did you get here?
SCOTT: How did I get here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
SCOTT: I flew into executive airport.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the need to provide security from the need to provide security in the situation here?
SCOTT: I don't believe so. I came in -- I came here as quickly as I could. Stay informed, make sure that whatever resources the state need to provide, I made sure that the sheriff knew that; the airport knew that. But on top of that, I did that for airports and sheriff's departments across the state. On top of that, talking to our National Guard to make sure they were ready.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What information do you have on the gunman?
SCOTT: We have -- this is an ongoing investigation. All that information will be released through the sheriff's department at the appropriate time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know if he's military...
SCOTT: Say it again, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The status of those injured? Can you tell us about (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
SCOTT: We don't have details right now, but that will be released at the appropriate time. Right now, the biggest thing to do is pray for them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know...
SCOTT: We went through Pulse. The biggest thing is, you know, pray for those, you know, the individuals that ended up in the hospital. Pray that every one of them survives.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) talked to President Obama?
SCOTT: I've not talked to President Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has he reached out to you?
SCOTT: No, President Obama has not reached out to me. But I've talked to -- I've talked to Vice President Pence and President-elect -- President-elect Trump and Vice-President-elect Pence quite a few times just to keep them informed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you reach out to Obama?
SCOTT: I have not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know if the gunman flew through Minneapolis or Anchorage?
SCOTT: Look, this is an ongoing investigation. The sheriff's department will release information as quickly as they can.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did President-elect Trump contact you or did you reach out to him?
SCOTT: I reached out to President-elect Trump and Vice-President- elect Pence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you didn't call the president? You called the president-elect?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wouldn't it be appropriate to call the president for resources?
SCOTT: I have -- I have a personal relationship with Vice President Pence and President-elect Trump, and I reached out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any other questions?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should there be a ban on weapons in the airport?
SCOTT: This is -- it's horrible what happened here. It's not time to be political. It's a time to mourn those that lost their life, finish the investigation, and pray for everybody that is still fighting for their lives.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll take one more. Right here, sir. Right here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to do something as far as firearms are concerned eventually, this is now another incident that we have a shooting on a large scale. Does something need (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to have a mission, do you think that something (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
SCOTT: Just remember, this is a senseless act of evil. We are going to hold whoever did this accountable. It's not time to do politics. It's a time to -- remember, we have an active investigation. Finish the investigation, mourn those that lost their life, and pray for those who are still fighting for their lives.
Thanks, everybody. Thanks, everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, everyone.
BLITZER: The Florida governor, Rick Scott, briefing reporters at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport on the mass shooting. Five people killed. Eight others fighting for their life, at least some of them fighting for their life right now. Eight others injured. The Florida senator, Bill Nelson, with us. What did you think of the
NELSON: Well, he said there's an active investigation. He didn't give any details. I'm glad that he reached out to the president-elect and the vice president-elect.
Interestingly, I happened to be in the room with the Vice President Biden, but he was presiding over the receiving of the electoral votes in a joint session in the House of Representatives. I excused myself, because that's when I got the word.
BLITZER: It's an awful word, indeed. So where do we go from here? I assume they're learning as much as they possibly can about Esteban Santiago, who was the alleged shooter if you will, the suspect.
NELSON: If it turns out that he is a mental case, then there's a lot of chain of custody of the weapon and so forth and so on. I think there's going to be a lot of hand-wringing on that.
At this point, we see no motive on the material that has been released, that he was ISIS-inspired, like The Pulse nightclub shooter was.
BLITZER: In Orlando.
NELSON: Fifty-nine people lost their lives. Again, a crowded room, lots of people in a small space, replicated in these bunched-up crowds at baggage claim or at a ticket counter.
[17:25:06] BLITZER: Because these are very vulnerable sites like baggage claim at an airport or The Pulse nightclub in June of last year. Somebody can go in there with a weapon and just start shooting?
NELSON: Seaports, train stations. Think, have you seen security at train stations? That would be almost a nightmare to put security in every train station in America.
But you have the same kind of thing that -- but you know what the message is to our fellow Americans? It is: these kind of things are going to happen. Don't let it deter you being a productive American. Don't let these guys get us off our step. We're going to be pushing ahead what America does best.
BLITZER: You saw Governor Scott, obviously very, very angry right now about what happened today at the Ft. Lauderdale International Airport.
Senator Nelson, I want you to stay with us. There's more to assess.
Phil Mudd is with us right now, our counterterrorism analyst. We have no indication, Phil, this was terrorism, per se, that it was anything related to ISIS or some other terror group. The indications, at least the early indications, this is an individual who had severe mental problems?
MUDD: That's true, but I think there's a difference between what we assess publicly -- I would judge now as a private citizen, that the case is going to turn out to be someone who has mental illness, and there are no further connections.
But as -- in my former position I would have a different judgment. That is, I need to know whether he talked to anybody before he got on the plane, whether there are family members or friends, where he talked about acts of violence. I need to know his history on social media.
So the initial question I would have is not what my private judgment is. I think we're going to have a tragedy that we can't explain. But whether we are certain that nobody knew anything before he got on that plane or when he was on that plane. And that will take a little while, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, we do know he showed up at the FBI offices in Alaska at one point, not that long ago, and they determined he had severe mental problems. They did something. But it still was not enough to prevent them from checking a bag with a weapon and ammunition on this flight to Ft. Lauderdale.
MUDD: Sure. And let me be clear on that. When I worked at the agency, I used to talk to the head of security there about the people who showed up at the front gate of the agency all the time. People who claimed that the CIA implanted stuff in their brains; people who were lost because they're in northern Virginia and took a wrong right turn. You can't, at a federal facility, do something about everybody who shows up with a mental question.
I think there's a broader question that Senator Nelson talked about. That is, is there a conversation about what you do when someone has a weapon, and they clearly have signs of mental disease. I think that will be a question going forward.
BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Phil. There's other breaking news we're following. We're going to continue to follow the breaking news out of Florida's Ft. Lauderdale Airport, where a gunman opened fire, killing five people and sending hundreds of others fleeing. Eight people are -- have been injured. Some of them now fighting for their lives, according to the Florida governor, Rick Scott.
The suspect is in custody, and the airport is closed as authorities sweep the area. We're going to bring you more details as we get them. Stand by for that.
But there's more breaking news we're following tonight. A declassified version of the intelligence review on Russia's cyberattacks has now been made public, saying the campaign was ordered directly by President Vladimir Putin.
The nation's intelligence chiefs have now briefed Donald Trump, the president-elect, on the election attacks.
Let's go to our political reporter Sara Murray, who's outside Trump Tower in New York.
What are you learning, Sara?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, even after meeting with the heads of the nation's top spy agencies, Donald Trump cannot bring himself to blame Russia for these election-related cyberattacks.
But as for the intelligence community, they say they have high confidence, not only did Russia try to interfere in the U.S. election, but that interference was ordered from the highest levels, from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
MURRAY (voice-over): Tonight, after huddling with the nation's top intelligence officials, Donald Trump still isn't ready to point the finger at Russia for election-related cyber hacking.
Hours after calling the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the election "a political witch hunt," Trump was briefed by the heads of the NSA, CIA, FBI and the director of national intelligence.
Trump complimented intelligence officials after the meeting, calling it constructive, but he still refused to acknowledge their determination that Russia directed the election-related cyberattacks against political institutions, including the Democratic National Committee.
Trump insisting in a statement: "There was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election, including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines."
[17:30:00] This morning, Trump told the New York Times, the only reason the democrats care about the hacking, is because, "They got beaten very badly in the election, they are very embarrassed about it." It's true that there's no evidence of issues with voting machine, but the declassified intelligence report on Russia concludes with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin, ordered the efforts to influence the U.S. Election. And it finds, that those efforts were in part designed to benefit Trump.
The report states, we also assess Putin, and the Russian government, aspired to help President-elect Trump's election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. It also says, when it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign began to focus more on undermining her future presidency. In the run-up to the briefing, Trump and his advisors bristled at the idea that the focus on Russia was anything more than a political attack.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN MANANGER: There are those out there who are trying to delegitimize his Presidency, review the election results, and you know it.
MURRAY: But, Trump insists that he will vigorously battle cyberhacking once in office. After his intelligence briefing, Trump saying, "We need to aggressively combat and stop cyber-attacks. I will appoint a team to give me a plan within 90 days of taking office." It's not just Trump's opponents in the Democratic Party that are raising the alarm about Russia's cyberhacking efforts. U.S. Intelligence Officials are openly expressing dismay.
JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: 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 - in this case.
MURRAY: And republican leaders in Congress say, there's little doubt about Russia's role in the cyber hacking.
PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Russia clearly tried to meddle in our political system. No two ways about it.
MURRAY: Still, Trump was apparently more concerned, Friday with NBC's cyberhacking coverage than with Russia's efforts to interfere in the U.S. election. Trump tweeting, "I am asking the chairs of the House and Senate committees to investigate top secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing it."
The President-elect hinting, he may be more willing to trust his own officials once he takes office. Members of Trump's incoming team; including his pick for National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn and his choice to lead the CIA; Congressman Mike Pompeo, accompanied him for today's briefing. Trump telling the New York Times, we have great people going into those slots. I expect to have a very, very good relationship with them.
MURRAY: Now, in speaking to Donald Trump's advisers, people familiar with his thinking; they say privately he doesn't dispute the notion that cyberhacking occurred, but he does dispute and he is offended by any suggestion that it impacted the outcome of this election or that it is the reason for his victory. One person I spoke to said, there's really nothing that intelligence officials could have said to him today that would change his mind and make him believe that Russia was in any way responsible for his victory. Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN LEAD POLITICAL ANCHOR AND THE ANCHOR OF THE SITUATION ROOM: Sara Murray reporting from outside Trump Tower in New York. Sara, thanks very much.
The sources and methods, remain secret but the conclusions in the declassified version of the intelligence review are stunning. Among other things it says this, "We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. Presidential Election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency." Let's bring in our Justice Correspondent, Pamela Brown. Now, Pamela,
this report describes Russia's motivations, actually shifting a bit over the course of the election campaign in 2016.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It says that when it became clear to Moscow that the election favored Hillary Clinton, that the Russians ramped up their efforts to undermine her campaign through the disclosure of those hacked e-mails and as well as the fake news campaign that apparently, Russia was behind according to the U.S. Intelligence Community. Here's what the report says - it says when it became clear to Moscow the election favored Hillary Clinton, the report says, "We further assessed Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency." Wolf?
BLITZER: So there were multiple - there were multiple objectives; at least two objectives, or three objectives. One objective, to undermine the faith in the U.S. democratic process; a second, to undermine credibility of Hillary Clinton, and if she was going to be elected, make it more difficult for her, if she were to become President; a third, though, they specifically state, was to try to help Donald Trump get elected?
[17:34:53] BROWN: That's right. And it seems like from reading the report in the view of the U.S. Intelligence Community, it had to do with - more to do with Putin's grudge against the U.S. for what he perceived as efforts to undermine Russia and a grudge against Hillary Clinton. It talked about that and here's what it says, "Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him."
It also talks about how Moscow saw President-elect Trump, now President-elect Trump, at the time candidate Trump, as a way to achieve an international counter-terrorism coalition against ISIS and that after Trump's victory, "Russian media hail President-elect Trump's victory as a vindication of Putin's advocacy of global populist movements, the theme of Putin's annual conference for Western academics in October 2016, and the latest example of Western liberalism's collapse." We reported as you recall, Wolf, last night there were also intercepted communications that's not in this declassified report, where the Russian government officials were apparently celebrating and congratulating one another after Trump won according to intelligence officials.
BLITZER: They also explain in this declassified report why Putin and other high ranking Russian officials preferred Trump.
BROWN: That's right. So, it talks about the fact that they believe that Trump would be a better partner against ISIS, more favorable to Moscow. And the report says, that there was a coordinated effort through these fake news operations, through R.T., formerly Russia Today, it talks about how R.T. was in a propaganda arm of the Russian government to push out negative news about Hillary Clinton and more favorable news about Donald Trump.
BLITZER: The report also warns that Russia, can be fully expected to do more of this down the road.
BROWN: That's right. Well, it talked about sort of this gradual increase in Russian efforts during elections, that talks about how in past years it would steal e-mails and just gather intelligence and then it escalated those efforts during the past election. And it says, expect more of the same by this information warfare, if you want to call it at that we saw during the election. It says, Russia will be doing the same through spear fishing campaigns, with fake news operations. That says, "We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its campaign aimed at the U.S. Presidential Election to future influence efforts in the United States and worldwide including against U.S. Allies and their election processes. We assess the Russian intelligence services would have seen their election influence campaign as at least a qualified success because of their perceived ability to impact public discussion."
But important to point out here again, reiterate, there's no indication that the Russians were able to tamper with any vote tallies. But it's clear they felt like they had a victory with influencing public perception, perhaps.
BLITZER: That's what their conclusion. There was no indication that voting machines were actually tampered with, but they do have all these other conclusions. Pamela Brown, thanks very much.
Joining us now, is Leon Panetta he served as the CIA Director and Defense Secretary in the Obama administration. He was also the White House Chief of Staff for President Clinton. Spent nearly two decades in Congress as well. Secretary Panetta, thanks very much for joining us.
LEON PANETTA, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Nice to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: What is your initial reaction to the information contained in this declassified version of the Russian hacking review?
PANETTA: Well, it pretty much confirms what Jim Clapper testified to before the Armed Services Committee yesterday, that they have a clear, ironclad evidence that the Russians were involved in trying to interfere with our election system and that they were taking an unprecedented and aggressive stance to try to influence our election. That's the bottom line and that's what all of us ought to be concerned about.
BLITZER: I want to read to you part of the statement from President- elect Trump released today about his meeting with the key intelligence chiefs. "While Russia, China, other countries outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations, including the Democratic National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines. There were attempts to hack the Republican National Committee, but the RNC had strong hacking defenses and the hackers were unsuccessful." From that statement, Secretary Panetta, does it seem to you that Trump is still primarily concerned about the elect - about his election being perceived potentially as not all that legitimate, given Russian involvement?
[17:39:45] PANETTA: You know, Donald Trump is going to be the next President of the United States. He's going to be sworn in as our 45th President. There's no question that that's going to happen. But as a President-elect and as the future President of the United States, he's got to be very concerned about a country like Russia taking this kind of aggressive effort to interfere in our election. And I think that's the one thing in a statement that he should have acknowledged, that whether you're a republican or a democrat, we are not going to tolerate a country like Russia trying to interfere in our election process. That is unacceptable and we have to do everything possible to stop it happening in the future.
BLITZER: Earlier in the day before his briefing from the intelligence community's leadership, he suggested that the intelligence agencies were actually involved in what he called a political witch hunt against him in that brief interview - he granted, a phone interview to the New York Times. Do you believe the relationship between the President-elect and the Intelligence Community, and you're a former Director of the CIA, can be mended?
PANETTA: I pray that we get beyond this bickering and tweeting with regards to the Intelligence Community and his statement today, at least was a step in the right direction. He talked about having a constructive meeting. He indicated he had tremendous respect for the men and women in our Intelligence Community. And he also indicated that he would appoint a team to make sure that we protect ourselves from cyber-attacks. So, I hope that he's moving in the right direction.
The President of the United States, his first duty is to protect this country, and there is no way that a President can protect this country without having a trusting relationship with the Intelligence Community. He needs to have good intelligence in order to be able to defend this country.
BLITZER: In a separate tweet, Mr. Secretary, the President-elect said he wants NBC News investigated because they reported on some of the classified briefings that President Obama received yesterday, which is raising questions about his priorities right now. What was your reaction to that?
PANETTA: You know, as a former Chief of Staff, I just - I can't imagine how you deal with a President who feels free to tweet every day about his own emotions and personal feelings. It is very disruptive and it creates tremendous problems in terms of the ability for a President to be able to guide policy in this country. A President ought to be thoughtfully considering what steps should be taken, talk with his advisors, consider the steps and the words he's going to use as President, because if you just have someone who's going to tweet his, you know, his most recent emotions to the American people, I think we're going to be in for a very rough ride with this new President.
BLITZER: Do you worry that a weak response from the President-elect after he takes office or even a reversal of some of the sanctions imposed against the Russians by President Obama in recent weeks, do you fear that that could encourage other foreign actors to conduct more cyber-attacks on the U.S., including more serious ones on the electoral system? In other words, actually going in and trying to tamper the vote tallies?
PANETTA: I think the bickering that we've seen going on with regards to the intelligence dealing with Russia and the questioning of the intelligence on that issue, has in some ways damaged our National Security. Because It sent a message to our enemies that somehow, they can conduct these kinds of attacks on the United States and not pay a price for it. And that has - that has to be very clear that we are not going to tolerate that.
Secondly, it's impacted on the credibility and impacted on the morale of the men and women who serve in our Intelligence Community. These are - these are good patriots who are trying to do the right thing, trying to do their job, in presenting the best intelligence to the President.
When that - the quality of that intelligence is questioned, it begins to undermine the relationship between the President and the Intelligence Community. So, I hope that this President will take steps to try to mend those problems because it relates to our National Security.
[17:44:54] BLITZER: Was the Obama administration, Mr. Secretary, too slow in responding to the Russian cyber-attacks? I raise the question with you because Adam Schiff, the ranking democrat on the house Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, the senator from your home state of California, she was until recently the ranking democrat on the senate Intelligence Committee, they both complained that the Obama administration should have reacted much more forcefully even during the election campaign. Your reaction?
PANETTA: Well, I agree with that, Wolf. I agree with Adam Schiff and Dianne Feinstein, and others, who believe that the president should have acted earlier, because once there was clear evidence that the Russians were engaged in this kind of deliberate effort to try to interfere with our election process in our country, this is unacceptable and it is very important for the president of the United States, not only to make clear that it's unacceptable, but to take action, to make very clear to them that it is unacceptable. So, I would have preferred that he would have acted earlier. I'm glad that he did act. I'm glad he took action with regards to our diplomats and hopefully he's taken additional steps to try to make clear to the Russians that we will not tolerate this kind of behavior.
Look, we're dealing with a country that's going to continue to try to destabilize the United States. President Trump needs to understand that Russia is no friend. They're going to continue to try to destabilize our country. We know that from the intelligence we've seen. He's going to have to take action to make sure that they do not do that. And that's what's important, if we're going to be able to deal with them in the future.
BLITZER: Leon Panetta, thanks very much for joining us.
PANETTA: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're standing by to hear from Sean Spicer, he's the incoming White House Press Secretary for President-elect Donald Trump. We'll have that live interview, that's coming up. We're also following the breaking news out of Florida's Fort Lauderdale Airport, where a gunman opened fire today, killing five people, injuring at least eight others. Some of them now, according to the Florida governor, fighting for their lives, sending hundreds of people fleeing. The suspect is in custody. The airport is closed as authorities sweep the area.
But we're also following the other breaking story, Donald Trump has now been briefed by the Intelligence Community leadership, as a declassified report has been released today on Russia's attempt to try to sway the U.S. Election. Let's discuss, let's bring in our experts and Evan Perez, our CNN Justice Correspondent. The highlights of this newly released reports, this is declassified, this report, it's lengthy, I've gone through the whole thing. It is pretty amazing when you see what they're saying in the declassified version. You can only imagine what's in the classified version.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. We know that the classified version, which members of congress have now been able to see this afternoon, the President-elect Donald Trump was able to get briefed on, personally, by the four top intelligence officials of the United States, earlier today, Wolf. We know that it contains significant information, not only including, you know, how they were able to put together a picture of the Russian intelligence agencies, taking the information that they had hacked from these democratic party organizations and then provide it to WikiLeaks and other organizations that were - that were publishing it over the next -- over the last few months. We know that they go into greater detail, providing that kind of proof to the lawmakers, and you might have noticed that some of the statements that have come out today, have essentially backed off of all of the doubts about giving us more proof - give us more proof. I think now some of those officials have now seen some of the proof.
And one of the things that I found remarkable about the report, is it goes into some of the reasoning behind why Vladimir Putin preferred Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton and his beefs essentially with the United States, including his view that the Panama papers, these documents that showed where Russian oligarchs were hiding their money all over the world, Wolf, that he viewed that as something that the United States had done to embarrass Russia, that the report that showed Russian athletes were doping during recent Olympics, that that was done by the United States to embarrass Russia. He was - he seemed to be trying to hit back at the United States because of that.
BLITZER: David Axelrod, in this report, what jumped out at you?
DAVID AXELROD, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISOR AND CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, in a -- it was stark, in the sense that all the details were put together. He did confirm what we've been hearing for some time and it underscored the fact that this was a kind of audacious assault on our sovereignty and our democracy.
[17:49:57] It's bewildering as to why Mr. Trump can't set aside his own -- his own concerns here and recognize that this is serious business. He's president of the United States. I think, you know, he's had some scores during this transition period in terms of dealing with corporations and some other issues. This is a big blemish and he needs to move out of this. He needs to get out of this fight with the Intel Community and this peculiar affinity for Russia or he is -- I think going to run into big political problems with his own party as well as the Democratic Party.
BLITZER: We're going to be getting his view from his incoming White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer. We're going to be speaking with him fairly soon. We'll get that perspective as well. Phil Mudd, you used to work at the CIA. What jumped out at you?
PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL AND CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Two words in there. The level of confidence, when they talk about high confidence, it's remarkable for an intelligence professional. Let me tell you why. In the post WMD environment, after the WMD debacle in Iraq, the Intelligence Community went through a process, to be sure when they spoke on issues like this, they distinguished between what they thought and what they were highly confident of. After that searing experience, when I see something of this magnitude on domestic politics, in the presidential election of the United States, and high the Intel guys I worked with, use those words "high confidence", I walk away saying, "We're not seeing all the Intel here.", but it's got to be pretty damn good for them to come up with this level of confidence, Wolf.
BLITZER: Because in the report, it says, all three agencies, the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, the National Security Agency, it says, "All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment about Russian involvement. NSA has moderate confidence." Why do you think the NSA, The National Security Administration, which is in charge of electronic intercepts and other information, they have moderate confidence as opposed to the CIA and FBI, which have high confidence?
MUDD: Well, let's step through this, Wolf. One of the critical elements of any intelligence assessment, and I'm going to judge this conversation took place in Trump Tower today as distinguishing between what you think and what you know. We have two pieces of intelligence here. Number one, what happened? High confidence. I think among all agencies that Russian entities, sometimes working through intermediaries, stole information to affect the election. There is a second piece that sometimes we're mixing in inappropriately. How confident are we that this was approved, authorized by the highest levels of the Russian -
BLITZER: Hold on a second. Hold on Phil. The Vice President-elect is outside of Trump tower.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- transition office. We received an important intelligence briefing from the leaders of our Intelligence Community, but before I speak to that, let me say our -- the hearts of every American are in Fort Lauderdale tonight. The President-elect and I, send our prayers and our thoughts to the victims of this attack, to their families, to the courageous first responders and to all the citizens of the Fort Lauderdale area. It's a very challenging time and we just hung up from our latest conversation with Governor Rick Scott. He has briefed the President- elect and myself several times this afternoon and we're grateful for his leadership. And again, that of all the first responders in the Fort Lauderdale area and in Florida. It's a heartbreaking, heartbreaking loss of life. And, as I said, the hearts of - the hearts of every American are in Fort Lauderdale tonight.
We did this afternoon, complete an extensive briefing from the leaders of our Intelligence Community. It was, as President-elect said, it was a constructive and respectful dialogue. And the President-elect has made it very clear that we're going to take aggressive action in the early days of our new administration to combat cyber-attacks and protect the security of the American people from this type of intrusion in the future. But I know the President-elect appreciated the presentation made by the leaders of our Intelligence Community and I know the President-elect and I both appreciate the sacrifices that the men and women who serve in our intelligence services around the country and around the world, provide in contributing to the safety and security of the American people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry to interrupt you, Governor.
PENCE: So, thank you, all, very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, do you and the president -- do you support the intelligence Community -
BLITZER: All right, Mike Pence, the Vice President-elect, making his statement on the Florida airport, the Fort Lauderdale Airport attack. Five people killed, eight others injured, some of them now fighting for their lives, as well as this new report that concludes that Russian President Vladimir Putin, ordered and influenced campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. Presidential Election. We're following a lot of breaking news. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
[17:55:00] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Mass shooting. The deadly rampage inside Fort Lauderdale International Airport, is at least five people are killed, more injured. Tonight, the gunman is in custody and we're learning new details about him. What was his motive? Running for cover. The gunfire sense people fleeing for their lives, passengers, streaming out to the tarmac and the chaos -