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Kremlin: Plans in the Works for Trump-Putin Meeting; Battle Lines Drawn Over Trump Cabinet Picks; Trump: Cabinet Nominees are 'Going to Do Very Well'; Trump Lashes Out after Criticism by Meryl Streep; Hillary Clinton Gets Standing Ovation at Broadway Play; North Korea: Can Launch ICBM "Anytime, Anywhere". Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 9, 2017 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Russia summit. As Donald Trump downplays Russian cyberattacks and calls for a good relationship with Moscow, the Kremlin makes plans for a meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin. Is the president-elect ignoring intelligence warnings?

[17:00:19] Hearing noise. Amid complaints about the lack of vetting, the Trump team hopes to push nine cabinet nominees through the confirmation process this week. But on the eve of the hearings, there's another ethics concern, as Trump's son-in-law is named a senior White House adviser.

Taking it to the Streep. Actress Meryl Streep gets under Donald Trump's thin skin with some thinly-veiled criticism. And he tweets back that the 19-time Oscar nominee and three-time winner is overrated.

And un-seen threat. North Korea says it could launch an intercontinental missile whenever and wherever it chooses. Is Kim Jong-un's regime sending a bold message to President-elect Trump?

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

Eleven days before his inauguration, President-elect Donald Trump is moving full speed ahead. Despite a blunt warning from U.S. intelligence agencies, Trump is down-playing Russian cyberattacks and touting better ties with Moscow.

The Kremlin calls the U.S. intelligence assessment a witch hunt, the same term recently used by Trump, and says a summit between Trump and President Putin is being planned.

Trump has tweeted that only fools would object to a good relationship with Moscow, but Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell today said Trump's hopes will be dashed pretty quickly.

That comes as Democrats dig in for a fight over Trump's cabinet picks. Hearings start tomorrow when nine nominees will go before the Senate this week. An ethics watchdog says several haven't made financial disclosures or completed ethics reviews.

In a move that requires no confirmation but may raise some ethics concerns, Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will be a senior adviser to the new president in the White House. A source says Ivanka Trump will be called "first daughter."

In what may be a message to the president-elect, North Korea's increasingly aggressive regime says it can launch an intercontinental ballistic missile anytime and anywhere Kim Jong-un chooses to do so. Defense Secretary Ash Carter warns the U.S. could shoot down any missile aimed at this country or any ally.

I'll speak with senator Tom Cotton of the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees; and our correspondents, analysts and guests, they are standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.

Let's begin with our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. Jim, President-elect Trump is talking about better ties with Russia. Is he shrugging off the intelligence report on Russia's cyberattacks?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. On better relations with Russia, it's him virtually against his entire party. And tonight, while the president-elect is no longer publicly casting doubt on the assessment of the intelligence community, he has not explicitly called out the Russians for those cyberattacks and appears eager, in fact, to turn the page now to other issues, including a better relationship with Russia.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight President-elect Donald Trump ignoring reporters' questions about the briefing he received from the intelligence community on Russian hacking of U.S. political groups.

DONALD TRUMP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We'll talk to you about that at another time.

SCIUTTO: This as a spokesman for the Kremlin says plans are already in the works for a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the man who intelligence leaders say ordered the hacks.

Over the weekend, Trump reiterated his intention to seek warmer relations with Moscow tweeting, quote, "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only stupid people or fools would think that is bad."

Congressional Democrats today calling for an independent commission to investigate the hacking, which U.S. intelligence says it believes was designed to help Trump and weaken his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Our intelligence agencies are warning us, and they are screaming, trying to tell us that, if we do not respond now, the Russians will attack us again.

SCIUTTO: The Trump team, meanwhile, trying to turn the page on the issue, pointing to a series of other high-profile hacks by China and North Korea and arguing that the Democratic National Committee's lax cyber protections made them an easy target for the Russians.

REINCE PRIEBUS, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Granted, we have bad actors around the world, and cyberattacks have been happening for years, but we also have an entity that's allowed, through a wide-open door, a foreign government into their system.

SCIUTTO: Other Trump advisers claiming that congressional outrage is politically motivated.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISOR: I just think there has been selective outrage about Russia, only because some people want to conflate that with the election result.

[17:05:05] SCIUTTO: Outgoing CIA Director John Brennan says any unwillingness by Trump to stand with the intelligence community puts the nation at, quote, "great risk and peril."

JOHN BRENNAN, OUTGOING CIA DIRECTOR: I expect that the president of the United States will recognize that the CIA and intelligence community were established by statute for a very important reason.


SCIUTTO: You'll remember that Mr. Trump praised the work of WikiLeaks during the campaign and since the election, as well. Today WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called his own press conference to dismiss the U.S. intelligence agencies' report as embarrassing. You'll remember the U.S. intel community has assessed that it was Russia that shared those hacked materials with WikiLeaks through intermediaries -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto reporting for us. Thanks very much.

The battle lines are drawn up on Capitol Hill, where Donald Trump's cabinet picks will begin their confirmation hearings tomorrow morning. Critics say some nominees have not been properly screened on ethics questions.

Let's go to our senior political reporter, Manu Raju. Manu, do Democrats have a chance of scuttling any of these nominations?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at this point Republicans have the votes to confirm virtually all of Donald Trump's nominees, assuming they can stay united.

Now, Democrats can delay a number of those nominees from actually getting their jobs by January 20, the day that Donald Trump is sworn into office.

But tonight, Wolf, a top Republican tells me that, behind the scenes as Donald Trump's secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, is telling Republicans that he will take a harder line on Russia than Donald Trump.


RAJU (voice-over): President-elect Donald Trump says he is confident that his cabinet picks will be confirmed by the Senate as they are set for a public grilling in a round of contentious hearings this week.

TRUMP: They are at the absolute highest level. I think they're going to do very well.

RAJU: This week alone, senators will question nine nominees, including Senator Jeff Sessions to be attorney general; General James Mattis to lead the Defense Department; and former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

Tillerson's ties to President Vladimir Putin have become a flash point for Republicans who want to take a tough line on Russia, but the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee tells CNN that Tillerson is privately reassuring the GOP hardliners that his views on Russia are mainstream.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: One of the reasons Tillerson is going to have so many questions on Russia, no doubt, is going to be because the president-elect has expressed some views that have been somewhat out of the mainstream here.

RAJU (on camera): Should Trump take a harder line on Putin?

CORKER: My guess is that Tillerson is going to express a much harder line on Russia than we've seen coming from the president-elect. My guess is over time -- I hope so anyway -- that the president-elect will evolve some in that regard, too.

RAJU (voice-over): Trump officials say the nominees have spent more than 70 hours in mock hearings, answering more than 2,600 questions, all to help Republican leaders accomplish their goal to confirm at least a half dozen nominees by the time Trump is sworn into office on January 20.

Republicans say they gave President Obama's nominees a similar courtesy in 2009.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Everybody will be properly vetted, as they have been in the past. And I'm hopeful that we'll get up to six or seven, particularly the national security team, in place on day one.

RAJU: But Democrats say Trump's cabinet is filled with multi- millionaires and billionaires. In an extraordinary letter released over the weekend, the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics told top Democrats that several Trump nominees have not completed their reviews, which he said "was a great concern to me and a cause for alarm."

Four nominees have yet to complete their ethics reviews, including two billionaires: Betsy Davos to lead the Education Department and Wilbur Ross as commerce secretary. On the Senate floor Monday Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Republicans held Obama's nominees to a similar standard.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: There's a big difference between 2009 and today. President Obama's nominees made -- met all the standards laid out in then-Minority Leader McConnell's letter. President-elect Trump's nominees have not.


RAJU: Now Wolf, tonight Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer are still having discussions about whether or not they can potentially delay some of the hearings, give Democrats some more time to review these nominees but also confirm six or seven nominees by the time Trump is sworn into office. If not, though, it could potentially delay other aspects of Donald Trump's agenda, including repealing Obamacare -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thanks, Manu, very much.

[17:10:02] Joining us now, Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas. He serves on the intelligence and Armed Services Committee. He served combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Good afternoon. Happy new year.

BLITZER: So happy new year to you, too. Trump is suggesting he'll meet with Putin. Is that a good idea so early in all of this?

COTTON: Well, I think it's important to keep in mind that Vladimir Putin is not a friend of the United States.

And while it's appropriate at times for the president to meet with our adversaries later, oftentimes, it's done on the sideline of events like United Nations General Assemblies, or G-20 meetings, I would not reward Vladimir Putin with a one-on-one bilateral summit early in Donald Trump's presidency. Rather, I would probably reach out to our allies, countries like the United Kingdom, and France, and Great Britain and some of the Gulf states in the Middle East who have been rattled over the last eight years by Barack Obama's foreign policy.

BLITZER: Because Trump has said very nice things about Putin. He rarely, if any time, says anything negative about Putin.

COTTON: Well, he's also proposed some policies, though, that would be very hurtful to Russia. For instance, rebuilding our defense budget; accelerating the modernization of our nuclear forces; expanding oil and gas production.

So while Donald Trump may have said things that might be friendly towards Vladimir Putin, he's pursuing some policies that could fundamentally shift the strategic balance from the United States and Russia.

BLITZER: Do you think the president-elect trusts Putin?

COTTON: I can't speak for what the president-elect thinks. I don't trust Vladimir Putin, and I would counsel him that he should not trust him. You know, Ronald Reagan used to talk about trust but verify in the context of the Soviet Union. I would recommend distrust but verify in the case of Vladimir Putin. BLITZER: Let me read to you from the conclusions of the intelligence

community's report on Russian hacking in the U.S. election: "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments."

When you read that, what was your reaction? Because you're also privy to the sensitive, classified information, the sources and methods, that were used to come to those bottom-line conclusions.

COTTON: I have no reason to doubt the conclusions in the published report. But as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, we'll obviously be reviewing the classified version and the sources very carefully.

BLITZER: Have you done that already? Have you reviewed the sources and methods, the classified information?

COTTON: I have reviewed the classified version of this report.

BLITZER: Do you have high confidence, like the intelligence community leadership, that what they -- what they concluded is true?

COTTON: We haven't completed a complete deep dive, which is going to take several weeks, if not months to ensure that the sources and the methods support these conclusions. That's our responsibility, as a member of the Intelligence Committee, to conduct oversight of the Secret Security services of this country.

I have not seen anything that gives me reasons to doubt the conclusion that it was Russian security services or their affiliates who hacked the DNC and John Podesta. I can't say that's surprising either, because that's simply what Russia does. And this is one small instance of Russian aggression and provocation against the United States and our interests over the last eight years.

The report also says that the intelligence services haven't seen anything like this in its scale, its scope and the rapid escalation of it. I think it's a real question why Vladimir Putin thought he could get away with something like that right now. And I would suggest it's because of eight years of appeasement towards Vladimir Putin by Barack Obama.

BLITZER: Because it looks like, based on this report, he had three objectives. The first objective, as it points out, to simply undermine the credibility of the U.S. democracy.

The second, assuming Hillary Clinton was going to win, to make her look as bad as possible, to weaken her if, in fact, she were to become president. The third is they would prefer Trump, because they think they could get along better with Trump. COTTON: Vladimir Putin has tried to undermine the credibility of

democratic processes in countries around the world, but especially the United States and our NATO allies. So again, this is not surprising that he's doing this.

I strongly doubt, though, that Vladimir Putin had any idea that Donald Trump was going to win, any more so than an American election expert. I can tell you, he probably gets his American election news exactly where we get them. He watches Wolf Blitzer, and he reads 538. And he goes to the Real Clear Politics polling app.

BLITZER: Senator...

COTTON: He was focused on sowing discord and undermining our democratic system here. We shouldn't allow him to do that. We should focus on the specific transgressions of hacking into the DNC and John Podesta's e-mail, and we should hold him accountable and pose a stiff price.

BLITZER: You would like a stronger reaction from Trump?

COTTON: Not just for this -- these hacks but for what he's done consistently over eight years to undermine U.S. interests around the world.

BLITZER: We have more to discuss. I'm going to take a quick break. Much more with Senator Cotton right after this.


BLITZER: We're back with Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas. He's a member of the Intelligence and Armed Services Committee. Once again, he served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senator, I had a chance to sit down with outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry, and we had some important conversations on some sensitive issues. But I want to play this exchange I had with him on a subject close to your heart.


BLITZER: Do you regard the western wall in Jerusalem, the holiest site of Judaism, as occupied Palestinian territory?

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: No. I don't think we've ever referred to it as such, nor do the resolutions that have passed the U.N. or prior references indicated something to that effect.

[17:20:00] BLITZER: Is the western wall part of Israel?

KERRY: I am -- that has -- has to be resolved in the context of final status negotiations. It is the position of the United States that that is a religious site of particular criticality and importance to Israel and that the current status quo, with respect to those religious sites, must be respected. So we respect Israel's position without, in effect, speaking yet to the issue of sovereignty, because that has to be resolved between the parties.


BLITZER: All right, Senator, I want you to react to what we just heard. You've spent a lot of time in Jerusalem. You know the subject well. You agree with him?

COTTON: Well, the western wall is the holiest site, and it is part of Jerusalem; it is part of Israel. The resolution that passed the U.N., which should have been vetoed, in keeping with our long-standing policy of protecting Israel from anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations may not have specifically said that, but the inference is clear. It calls anything over the so-called 1967 lines as occupied territory and the western wall is on the other side of that line. It was controlled by the government of Jordan until 1967.

This is why I think it's time for a dose of realism about the Israeli- Palestinian dispute and recognizing the facts on the ground is the most fundamental way to get to some kind of agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

BLITZER: I also asked him also whether or not, if Donald Trump as president were to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, what the reaction would be because, as you know, successive administrations, Republican and Democratic, have refused to do so. And Donald Trump says he will move that embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

And your position is that's a good idea. You agree with Trump.

COTTON: I believe we should move the embassy. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. No matter what the final contours of an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians may be, Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel. That's where their parliament is. That's where their prime minister keeps his offices. We already have a consulate there. It's time to recognize those facts as the best way to move forward to have an agreement tween the Israelis and the Palestinians.

We would be offended if a foreign country had its embassy in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles. Our capital is here in Washington. We should have our capital -- we should have our embassy in Israel.

BLITZER: No president has agreed to do so, including Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George Bush, President Clinton. They may have said stuff during the campaign, but none of them has been willing to actually move the embassy.

COTTON: Well, I would encourage Donald Trump to keep his promise on this one, just like I would have those past presidents. But here we also face also some substantially changed circumstances in the Middle East. I think it's time to move our embassy.

BLITZER: Because Kerry also says there would be a really negative reaction from even friendly countries like Egypt and Jordan and it really isn't worth it. COTTON: Well, the fact of the matter is, Israel is now closer to our

Sunni-Arab allies, countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates than it ever has been before. That is a byproduct of Barack Obama's failed policy in the Middle East. But it is fact. And I think those countries will recognize why the United States has done that. And I think the reaction now would be very different than what it might have been, say, 20 or 30 years ago.

BLITZER: Senator Cotton, thanks very much.

COTTON: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, what's behind the latest threats and bluster from North Korea? Kim Jong-un getting ready to provoke a showdown with the new president.

Also ahead, Donald Trump lashes out after the actress Meryl Streep's scathing criticism of him during the Golden Globes awards ceremony.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: In an unusual live appearance in front of TV cameras today over at Trump Tower in New York City, the president-elect predicted all of his cabinet nominees will win Senate confirmation. However, Democrats are complaining they're being jammed through without enough information of potential conflicts of interest or ethics concerns.

Let's get the insights of our reporters and our experts. And Sara Murray, let me start with you. The news that Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law, is going to be a senior adviser to the president in the White House. What role do we anticipate he will play?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a senior adviser sort of gives him the ability to advise Donald Trump on anything. And what I think is interesting is the Trump team clearly believes that they are on solid legal ground. Now, Jared Kushner is not expected to take a salary for this role, but that's not why they feel that way. They feel like the White House is exempt. It is not a government agency, and therefore, it does not violate any anti-nepotism rules.

That puts him sort of right next to Donald Trump to continue to advise him on anything that might crop up, just as he did throughout the campaign and throughout the transition.

Now one other thing that was interesting from a transition official today is that Ivanka Trump still has not decided what she wants her role in the White House to be. Of course, she's going to be going to Washington. You know, she's married to Jared Kushner, but she wants to get their house settled, get their kids settled in, and then she's going to sort of decide.

And we almost have a better purview of what kind of issues she's interested in. She's made it clear she wants to work on child care. She's weighed in on some climate change issues before. Jared Kushner has sort of had his hand in all different pots.

BLITZER: He certainly has. But he's critically -- you can't overstate how important he has been.

MURRAY: Right. Donald Trump will take his advice on essentially anything and hold it in very high regard, because he does feel like he can fully trust members of his family. And that includes his son-in- law, Jared Kushner, and that they come to the table, they bring their advice to him with no alternative agenda.

BLITZER: The whole confirmation process begins tomorrow. And Mark, it's going to be complicated, but the Republicans basically have the votes, assuming there are some major bolts.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Yes, no doubt. I mean, they have the votes to get just about everybody through. We don't see any specific problems.

In fact, you have someone like Susan Collins, who's a centrist Republican who our own Dana Bash talked to, who is going to introduce Jeff Sessions, who is arguably one of the most controversial people that Donald Trump has put up for his cabinet.

[17:30:10] In many ways, what we're going to see over the next couple days and perhaps over the next couple weeks are proxy fights through these cabinet officials from Democrats, asking them what they think about the Trump doctrine. And quite frankly, what is the Trump doctrine, specifically when it comes to foreign policy. And we'll see that with Rex Tillerson on Wednesday.

BLITZER: Phil Mudd, the whole Rex Tillerson nomination as secretary of state, he's had a close relationship with the Russians because of his business ties, ExxonMobil. He was the CEO. Is that going to be a serious problem, you think, down the road as far as his confirmation is concerned? Because he did receive an award at one point from Putin himself.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think it's a challenging confirmation, but I believe that's a mistake. I think he's an inspired choice. Look, let's look at a couple of issues.

No. 1, we have eight years of Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry resets with the Russians that have failed miserably. Our relationship with Russia is poor. Now we have a man who, in the corporate world, succeeded with a difficult partner. That is Russian oil industries and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

We have a man who's sponsored by unimpeachable in terms of personality, in terms of history, unimpeachable people in the Republican Party -- that is Condoleezza Rice, Roberts Gates, Jim Baker -- people who have a terrific record across lines, Democrats and Republicans, in Washington.

And finally, if you want to tell me that a man who was president of the Boy Scouts can't figure out how to leave behind corporate America and represent the higher cause -- that is, the American people -- if he becomes the secretary of state, my answer is give me some evidence. I have not seen that yet. BLITZER: Rebecca Berg, Trump says he wants to have a good

relationship with Putin. He says it would be stupid if the U.S. had a bad relationship with Russia. But is this going to cause some sort of potential rift among Republicans, his desire to open up a new, more positive relationship with Russia right now?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it already is creating some division among Republicans, Wolf. I mean, for the most part, Republicans in the past have been really staunchly, if not anti- Russia, at least wary of Russia and Vladimir Putin, in particular.

And so you're seeing some very prominent Republicans, especially Republicans who are more hawkish on defense, raising some alarm bells very vocally. Lindsey Graham, John McCain, on the Hill last week raising some major concerns about the way that Donald Trump has responded to Russia's hacking during the election and also just Russia more generally. And they're really just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg.

But at the same time, you do have Republicans who, if not are wholly supporting Trump's stance toward Russia, they're at least being quiet, relatively quiet, giving him a chance, giving Rex Tillerson a chance. And I think that will be the more interesting dynamic to watch.

So do most Republicans go along with whatever Donald Trump wants to do in regards to Russia and let him try this reset and give him some room to run? Or do they push back in the Lindsey Graham and John McCain vein? So far, even though the party has been pretty -- pretty hawkish with Russia in the past, we're seeing more of the former; we're seeing more people sort of going along with Donald Trump.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. There's more to assess. New information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


[17:38:04] BLITZER: We're back with our analysts and political experts. And I want to get their opinions about the latest confrontation between Donald Trump and Hollywood.

The president-elect was not amused by a speech from the actress Meryl Streep during last night's Golden Globes awards.

Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is with us with details. Streep never mentioned Trump by name, Jeff.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, she did not mention him by name. But of course, there was no confusion who Meryl Streep was talking about.

Donald Trump wasted no time responding sharply to the award-winning actress, defending himself against a culture of celebrity he's long been part of.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ZELENY (voice-over): Donald Trump is no stranger to the red carpet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Trump, can you turn this way?

ZELENY: His name emblazoned on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

But as he prepares for his biggest role yet, as the 45th president of the United States, he's under fire from celebrities and, as usual, he's firing back.

At the Golden Globe Awards, Meryl Streep tore into Trump without saying his name.

MERYL STREEP, ACTRESS: It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It -- it kind of broke my heart when I saw it. And I still can't get it out of my head, because it wasn't in a movie. It was real life.

ZELENY: Before sunrise Trump responded on Twitter, calling Streep "one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood. A Hillary flunky who lost big."

For Trump, it may be good politics to spar with Hollywood liberals. Streep did support Clinton, as seen last summer at the Democratic convention.

STREEP: Hillary Clinton will be our first woman president!

ZELENY: It's the latest front in America's culture wars, playing out in elections and spilling over into the theater.

On Sunday, Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton receiving several standing ovations as they attended the final Broadway performance of "The Color Purple."

[17:40:08] A stark contrast from the reception Vice-President-elect Mike Pence received at "Hamilton," where he was lectured by cast members from stage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we truly hope that this show has inspired you.

ZELENY: A deeply divided country awaits Trump, as he prepares to succeed President Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any message for the Obamas?

ZELENY: Streep was among the celebrities invited to the White House on Friday night to say farewell. Back in Los Angeles, she used her Golden Globe platform to make a political plea.

STREEP: This instinct to humiliate, when it's modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody's life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

ZELENY: What's different about this chapter of the country's long- running culture wars is that Trump would not have won the White House without his celebrity, from reality television...

TRUMP: You're fired!

ZELENY: ... to his own cameos.

MACAULAY CULKIN, ACTOR: Excuse me. Where's the lobby?

TRUMP: Down the hall and to the left.

CULKIN: Thanks.

ZELENY: Trump's fame preceded him in politics. Yet he drew few celebrities to his side, while Clinton surrounded herself with A-list stars like Sally Field. She bristled at the mere mention of Trump when we caught up with her on the campaign trail.

(on camera): She's running against a celebrity, in Donald Trump. Do you think that...

SALLY FIELD, ACTRESS: You're giving celebrities a bad name by saying that.

ZELENY: But he was a TV star. I mean, do you think that...

FIELD: He was not a TV star. Come on. No.

ZELENY (voice-over): Trump wore the disdain as a badge of honor.

TRUMP: And by the way, I didn't have to bring J. Lo or Jay-Z. I'm here all by myself.

ZELENY: In just 11 days, Trump will have the last word. A script Hollywood cannot rewrite.


ZELENY: Some Hollywood liberals and many Democrats have been slow to accept the reality that Donald Trump is going to be sworn into office next week.

How you view these Streep comments is likely shaped by whether you're in red state or blue state America. And that divide, Wolf, seems as wide as ever.

And one more note. In 2015, Donald Trump told "The Hollywood Reporter" that he admired Meryl Streep. He called her excellent.

BLITZER: Interesting.

All right, Jeff. Stay with us. I want to bring back our other experts. Sara Murray, he tweeted after her statement last night at the Golden

Globes. He said, "She's one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood."

Did this sort of come down to Trump always wanting the last word? Somebody goes after him, he's going to go right back?

MURRAY: Wolf, no insult can be taken silently if you are Donald Trump and you have the power of Twitter at your fingertips.

Look, I think two things are at play here. One, there's no downside, in Donald Trump's view, of picking a fight with a liberal Hollywood actor, even though you could say that he was also sort of a liberal Hollywood actor just a few years ago. But he does like to be respected by these people, too. And we've seen it in the way he's trotted celebrities through the lobby at Trump Tower, trotted billionaires just today through the lobby of Trump Tower. He likes when people with big platforms like him.

And so when someone uses a huge platform like that to dis Donald Trump, you can bet that he's going to fire back on Twitter.

BLITZER: Phil Mudd, there are some suggesting, you know, he likes to do this to distract from other news, like Russia, and the hacking, the problems involving the confirmation hearings. Do you buy the notion that he's got a strategic incentive here to go ahead and go right back at Meryl Streep?

MUDD: Wolf, that is comical! This is not about policy or politics. This is about personality.

As Jeff Zeleny said a month or so ago, the vice-president-elect goes to a play, instead of, as any high school debate coach would tell you, instead of attacking the idea -- please don't interrupt the vice president's opportunity to see a play on a weekend -- he attacks the play.

In this case, we take a step forward. All he had to say -- I'm not a politician, but all he had to say was, "Ms. Streep represents the West Coast elitism that allowed me to win." Instead, what does he do? Attack the person. A third-rate chump change debater is told by a high-school debate coach, don't do that.

We have a president who has a notoriously thin skin who can't resist that. This is not complicated. It's not politics or policy. It's personality.

BLITZER: Mark Preston, what's your take?

PRESTON: You know, I talked to someone who is very close to Donald Trump recently. And he said his greatness weakness is the fact that he is thin-skinned, as Phil said. The fact of the matter is that he can never let anything go, and he always has to be right.

So when we see a situation like this, where he has to get the final word, that's OK with the Hollywood actress in this case. But what happens when we're dealing with major foreign policy issues, when there is an issue with North Korea that is put forth on the table, when we're dealing with Iran; we're dealing with Syria. Is he always have to try to get in the last word?

[17:45:09] Diplomatically, it might not always be the smartest thing.

BLITZER: You know, Rebecca Berg, Hillary Clinton has been noted earlier. She was at a Broadway play, "The Color Purple." She got standing ovations from the crowd when she was there, marked contrast to when Vice President-elect Mike Pence went to see "Hamilton." You know, the cast basically lectured him there from the stage. It was a bit awkward. What's your analysis of the different reactions that they received on Broadway?

REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS.COM: Well, it was certainly a bit awkward for Mike Pence but it wasn't totally surprising, Wolf, because this is New York, Manhattan, where Hillary Clinton won with more than 500,000 votes compared to around 50,000 or 60,000 for Donald Trump. This is not Donald Trump territory in Manhattan. And this really does illustrate what won Donald Trump this election, this divide between not only urban centers but culturally liberal centers in this country.

Hillary Clinton had no shortage of celebrities on the campaign trail for her in this election -- musical artists, celebrities like Meryl Streep, Broadway actors supporting her -- but it didn't win her the election ultimately because this election was won in states where those influences don't necessarily matter as much.

And I think, for Donald Trump and Mike Pence moving forward, having the cast of "Hamilton" call them out, having Meryl Streep call them out, it's not really a net negative. It really reinforces all of these cultural influences that drove their campaign in the first place.

BLITZER: That's a good point. All right, guys. Stand by. We have more coming up, including North Korea. It now claims it could launch an intercontinental ballistic missile anytime and anywhere. Will it provoke a showdown with the U.S. as soon as Donald Trump takes office?


[17:51:37] BLITZER: After repeatedly challenging President Obama, North Korea's regime may now be sending a message to President-elect Trump saying it can launch an intercontinental ballistic missile whenever and wherever it chooses. Our Brian Todd has been looking into all of these for us.

Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, a U.S. intelligence official tells us this threat is more evidence that Kim Jong-un's regime is interested in creating an international crisis. North Korea's young dictator could be on the verge of a provocation that would test Donald Trump's resolve possibly even before Mr. Trump takes office. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is wrapping up his rhetoric using state media to threaten to test fire a long-range missile at any moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The intercontinental missile will be launched anytime and anywhere, determined by the supreme headquarters.

TODD (voice-over): A U.S. intelligence official tells CNN, to grab world attention, Kim Jong-un could time a provocation like a missile test to coincide with Donald Trump taking office, a missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to the U.S.

KIM JONG-UN, SUPREME LEADER OF THE DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KOREA (through translator): An intercontinental ballistic missile test launch preparation is in its last stage.

TODD (voice-over): How close is Kim to having a deployable long-range missile? Analysts say gathering intelligence inside the secretive regime is difficult, and that Kim could have that ability now or he could be maybe three years away. But U.S. officials and outside experts say there's a crucial part of that capability they believe the North Koreans haven't perfected yet.

THOMAS KARAKO, DIRECTOR OF THE MISSILE DEFENSE PROJECT, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: What they haven't done is, you know, all up to test, not only launch the missile but then have it re- enter for an intercontinental range. Now, having said that, they have done some other things that cause us worry. This, for instance, is an example of a ground test that kind of simulates the heat attached to reentry using, really, another missile engine to burn up the reentry vehicle and approximate the stresses of reentry.

TODD (voice-over): But as North Korea's technology advances, experts warn a dependable long-range missile in the hands of this violent, brash young leader would be a game-changer.

If and when he gets that capability, how aggressive would he then be?

DR. PATRICK CRONIN, SENIOR ADVISOR AND SENIOR DIRECTOR OF THE ASIA- PACIFIC SECURITY PROGRAM, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: Kim Jong-un is likely to be more aggressive with an ICBM than without it. The fear is not that Kim will use a nuclear weapon against us. The fear is that he will use conventional force, cyber force, and other provocations against us because he thinks we can do nothing about it.

TODD (voice-over): What will President Trump's options be for countering that threat? Former Defense Secretary William Perry says, if North Korea launches a test, the U.S. should consider shooting it down.

WILLIAM PERRY, FORMER UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Certainly, one of those actions could be disrupting the ICBM test and flight. That would have to be on the list. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now, if North Korea actually fired a missile toward America or its allies, current Defense Secretary Ash Carter has just promised the U.S. forces would shoot it down. Experts say one reason the U.S. and its allies should maybe hesitate to hit North Korean missiles on the launch pads would be the threat of Kim's retaliation. He could possibly launch a massive conventional attack on South Korea's capital, Seoul, which one analyst describes as a sitting duck, Wolf.

BLITZER: Where are America's missile defenses which might be able to shoot down North Korean missiles, and how good are these defenses?

TODD: Those batteries, Wolf, we are told are in Alaska and California. But, Wolf, experts say many of those batteries are outdated. They don't have a good success rate in the testing that they've been through, and they're in the process of being updated. So if that threat from the North Koreans really comes to fruition, that could be a real test for those missile defenses.

[17:55:17] BLITZER: It certainly could be. Brian Todd reporting, thank you.

Coming up, as Donald Trump downplays Russian cyber attacks and calls for a good relationship with Moscow, the Kremlin makes plans for a meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin. Is the President-elect ignoring intelligence warnings?