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U.S./Russia Relationship May Get More Complicated; John Kerry Talks Aleppo, Russian Hack of Election; Trump Worries About Russian Election Hack. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired December 15, 2016 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: The source adds, "Mr. Trump and his team are also concerned the issue is being used to delegitimize his win."

This is coming out as we were also learning not one but two Trump loyalists have appeared in Moscow. One, a former Georgia Congressman Jack Kingston. He's talking with American business people there about the possibility of Donald Trump taking another look at those sanctions. The financial penalties were a punishment for Russia's invasion of Crimea in 2014.

The other Trump loyalist, Carter Page, was asked by our Moscow team what the president-elect plans to do about Russia.


CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP ADVISOR: He has huge interests in tackling the biggest challenges that the United States has, dealing with radical Islamic terror and, you know, another diverse range of security threats, and also building up the economy. To waste so much time, effort, and resources towards an old battle that was from the -- before the 1990s makes no sense whatsoever.


BALDWIN: During the campaign, Trump initially called Page one of his foreign policy advisers. Mr. Trump's campaign manager later said Page was no longer on the team.

On the phone with me now, I have Lucian Kim.

And, Lucian, we wanted to talk to you.

You talked to Congressman Kingston. What did he say to you specifically on sanctions?

LUCIAN KIM, INTERNATIONAL JOURNALIST (voice-over): Well, on sanctions he wasn't extremely specific but what he did say is they've been in effect for two years and he asked rhetorical questions on whether we bought the desired results.

BALDWIN: Do we know, lucian, who sent him to Russia? Was it on his own accord or did someone direct him? KIM: Well, it was not clear whether he was working on behalf of the

Trump campaign and transition team. It seemed that it was more in his capacity as an individual working for the law firms and he came to the American Chamber of Commerce and he came to tell business people what they could expect from the next administration.

BALDWIN: And what did he say?

KIM: Well, the conversation was not public. I did ask and he said the main message that he had for business people was the Trump administration means there could be a new start in relations and it's probably time to have new relations.


BALDWIN: All, Lucian Kim, in Moscow. I've got to cut you off.

We have to go to the State Department and listen into Secretary of State John Kerry on Aleppo.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRTARY OF STATE: -- continued relentless and inexcusable attacks that have been directed at the civilian population in Aleppo, including women, children, humanitarian workers and medical personnel. There is no justification for the indiscriminate and brutality against civilians shown by the regime and its Russian and Iranian allies over the past few weeks or indeed for the past five years.

The position of the United States remains clear. I have personally reiterated that positon in conversations over the past weeks, and especially over the past 24 hours with the U.N. special envoy, I talked with earlier today, who was in Paris meaning now and with senior officials from Russia, Qatar, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other countries in the region.

What the United States is working towards and has been towards for some period of time, under difficult circumstances where some parties do not want to move in the direction, it remains difficult to secure a ceasefire. But what they want in Aleppo right now which is the precursor to move to other things is an immediate and verifiable durable cessation of hostilities, and that includes all attacks by the regime, its allies and other combatants in Aleppo, all combatants in Aleppo and we've been working hard on that. We worked on that in Hamburg in my meetings with Foreign Minister Lavrov where we reached some measure of agreement. In fact, considerable measure of agreement, but weren't able to secure every component of what was needed in order to move forward. We want safe passage, corridors of evacuation, which we're beginning today to see perhaps take shape. We want full access for the delivery of humanitarian supplies for the people in need throughout Syria. And with these steps we are convinced that the killing could stop very, very quickly if Russia and the regime made the decision to do so.

This morning, I was encouraged by reports that after a number of fits and starts what we worked on in Paris and what we got picked up on in continued conversations, which, by the way, we were informed of by Russia and Turkey, were going to take place to build out on what we talked about using the same template that we created, there are individual ceasefires being worked out, individual arrangements with armed opposition group commanders. And it appears, for some period of time, at least, we don't know yet, if it will hold or where it is, that air strikes and shelling have stopped and that the ceasefire may -- I emphasize may -- be taking hold. Buses, some of them, and convoys and my understanding is that the first group of 21 buses and 19 ambulances reached its checkpoint. This convoy includes more than a thousand people on their way to the Turkish border.

[14:36:36] However -- and this is a big however -- we have also heard reports that a convoy of injured people was fired on by forces from the regime or its allies. And we remain deeply concerned as well that we are hearing reports of Syrian men between the ages of 18 and 40 who have apparently been detained or conscripted into military service when trying to pass through government checkpoints and that some who -- of these went missing days or even weeks ago, and we still don't have families, don't have their loved one, don't have accountability for what has happened to them. These acts are despicable and contrary to the laws of human decency.

More positively, we have finally received pledges from Russia that it will assist in the monitoring of evacuations, that the International Red Cross and the Syrian Red Arab Crescent will also be allowed access, in order help with the monitoring. The U.N. is prepared to receive evacuees in numerous sites, and emergency relief kits have been pre-positioned to try to help people. Medical assistance is also going to be available. The government of Turkey is prepared to accept more evacuees for aid and treatment. So, it appears that the necessary preparations have been made for the evacuation process that will eventually save lives. But the implementation of that process continues to be dependent on the actions of the regime and its allies on the ground.

Let me emphasize, we're going to do our part. The United States of America is going to continue to try to push the parties towards a resolution. As President Obama said the other day, in giving us all both his impressions as well as instructions about these next days, we're going to be trying every way we can to try to save lives and push this to where it needs to get to. To date, we've provided by more than $6 billion in food, water, medicine, and other supplies to people who have been affected by the violence in the region.

And let me be clear, I've said it once and I'll say it again, what has happened already in Aleppo is unconscionable. But there remains tens of thousands of lives that are now concentrated into a very small area of Aleppo. And the last thing anybody wants to see -- and the world will be watching -- is that that small area turns into another Srebrenica. It is imperative that key actors step up and do their part. And I call on the entire international community to exert pressure with all parties for the process that has been laid out for some period of time now to abide by the cessation of hostilities and to bring the killing and the cruelty, particularly starting with Aleppo, which lays the ground work to be able to take the next steps, particularly in Aleppo. [14:40:10] Now all of you know we've been engaged in a lot of talks

over an extended period of time and they have been geared in trying to end the civil war in Syria. In September, after several months of tough negotiation, Foreign Minister Lavrov and I were able to stand up at night and make an announcement in Geneva that we arrived on agreement, September 9. And that agreement required a number of days, since everybody know knows of calm in order to indicate the seriousness of purpose and then we were going to have joint cooperation to move forward. Regrettably, Syrian troops that were accidentally bombed and humanitarian convoy that was not accidentally but purposefully and others who joined in, it fell apart. And everybody feels the pain of the lost moment, the lost opportunity for externalities that we did not apparently have control over.

The process has not succeeded, mostly, in my judgment because of the continued constant unwillingness of the Assad regime to live by those agreements. To always press it, to always brake out, to always try to gain more territory, and to go out publicly not reaffirming its willingness to go to Geneva and negotiate, but always reaffirming publicly in one brash statement after another its readiness to take back the whole country to crush the opposition and to do everything without regard to the real underlying concerns of many people who want to be part of a legitimate, part of a legitimate process, but fear that Assad is not going to be their leader and that he would never be able to unite the country. That's what's fueled us and kept it going.

So, we have arrived at another critical juncture. If Aleppo falls completely, and people are slaughtered in that small area, it will be even harder to be able to bring people around. It won't end the war. The fall of Aleppo, should it happen, does not end the war. There's still the challenge of governing and reuniting the country and rebuilding the country. And how many countries will step up and rebuild it for the policies that are being executed today?

So, provided we are able to stabilize the situation in Aleppo, it is essential that we move forward at the earliest possible moment with a Syrian-led political process aimed at ending the war and transitioning to a new and more representative government. And without that meaningful transition of power in which the voices of the Syrian people are heard, the opposition will continue to fight. Terrorists will continue to be drawn to the country. And millions of Syrians will continue to be forced to flee their homes.

So here I want to emphasize that every single party I've spoken to in recent days, in Paris last week and from here in Washington this week, as recently as this morning, every stakeholder tells me they are ready and willing to get back on the path to Geneva, and that includes the legitimate Syrian opposition, it includes Turkey, Qatar, and the Arab states. It doesn't matter whether or not Syria is willing to stop this slaughter of their own people. So, let's be crystal clear about who bears responsibility for what we have seen and what we are seeing and continue to see in Syria. We're seeing the unleashing of a sectarian passion allowing the Assad regime -- not allowing -- the Assad regime is allowing and the Assad regime is aiding and abetting and the Assad regime is carrying out nothing short of a massacre. And we have witnessed indiscriminate slaughter, not accidents of war, not radical damage but, frankly, purposeful, a cynical policy of terrorizing civilians.

14:45:11] So we believe this is a moment where the Syrian regime and the Russian military have an opportunity to make the decision to -- a strategic decision, I might add, for peace, one that will make it possible for a cessation of hostilities all across Syria, which could flow right out of this. Every minister I've talked to said we're for a ceasefire country wide. But you have to be able to deal with Aleppo to legitimize getting to a country wide effort. And in addition to that, everyone has reconfirmed to me their readiness to go to Geneva for discussions aimed at putting an end to this horrific war.

So, that's the only way that anybody I've talked to with any common sense and any strategic vision says you can end this war. It will take negotiations. And they haven't taken place in all of these years, any real negotiations. But all of the parties have now told me, with the exception of what we haven't heard from Assad himself and his willingness to go out and actually negotiate in good faith and try to bring Syria back together, that's the only way towards a united and peaceful Syria that is reflected in Resolution 2254 as well as in the ISSG statements, which includes Russia and Iran. So hopefully, people will put actions where the words have been.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.

KERRY: Thank you very much.

Appreciate it. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, do you have any response to reports that Putin himself was directly involved in election-related attacks? Do you think the administration should have come out before the election more boldly with hard intelligence about these attacks?

KERRY: Well, let me -- look I am not going to start making comments at this point publicly because of the job I do but let me say today that I'm not going to comment on anonymous reports from intelligence officials that are not identified that have quotes around the concept of intelligence officials. I'm just not going to comment on that.

But let me comment specifically on your question about earlier. Folks, we sat in The Situation Room, I remember in the White House from the president of the United States and the president made the decision. The intelligence was presented to everybody and he did have an obligation to go out to the country and give a warning and he did so, back in October the president authorized the director of National Intelligence to -- and the Department of Homeland Security together to make a very clear statement to this nation. To our nation and they said un unequivocally with high confidence that the Russian government directed compromises of e-mails from U.S. institutions including political organizations and that these thefts and disclosures were intended to interfere with our election process I won't comment on it further except to say that people need to remember that the president issued a warning but he had to be obviously sensitive to not being viewed as interfering on behalf of the a candidate or in a way that promoted unrealistic assessments about what was happening. I think the president did that and now we have to get at the facts and I'm confident we will in the months ahead.

Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: So let's start there. You talked about a lot, specifically Syria, but I want to pick up his points on Russia and involvement in presidential election.

I have justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, standing by. A.B. Stoddard is here, associate editor and columnist for RealClearPolitics.

Pamela, you heard the secretary of state not commenting as he did on anonymous sourcing as he did on that report out today. You're getting new reporting about Putin's possible involvement in the hack. Tell me what you've learned.

[14:50:12] PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORESPONDENT: So we've learned from our intelligence/law enforcement sources that Putin was aware of these hacks even before the statement outing Russia and saying that people in the senior most positions in Russia were aware and authorized those hacks during the election and, of course, the Clinton chairman, John Podesta, as well as the DNC. But at this point, there is no hard evidence or hard intelligence, Brooke, indicating Putin's involvement from several officials that we've spoken to across the board. So, it's unclear how involved he is. But there's no doubt that he was aware of the hacks during the election, that there was authorization at the highest levels. Of course, Moscow continues to deny this. In fact, a spokesman for the Kremlin called this "funny heresy." But despite the repeated denials from Moscow, the belief is that Putin was aware of the hacks -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: A.B., we' now heard from the president-elect saying he is concerned about Russia's involvement and feels this would delegitimize his victory. Is it not possible for Trump to acknowledge the hacking and still hold on to a valid win?

A.B STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS: That's exactly right. None of these intelligence agencies are suggesting that some kind of Russian interference in ballot boxes in Michigan turned this election for Donald Trump. This goes back to the intelligence agencies' finding to 2018 that Russian state actor actors. He believes Russian actors were getting into the DNC and hacking materials as far back as over a year ago. And then we have this revelation in June about the DNC e-mails that were problematic for the Democrats because it shows they were looking for Hillary to win and they were basically favoring Hillary over Bernie Sanders and then, of course, you had the John Podesta e-mails leaking out which Trump repeatedly referenced on the trail. This is not about him not winning the election fair and square. It's about the interest Russia trying to make Hillary Clinton look bad through the release of these e-mails, both the DNC ones and John Podesta's account and it did and polls show in addition to the James Comey letter. These revelations to WikiLeaks which Donald Trump thought was campaign fodder for his rallies throughout late October and early November were damaging. And so, that's the argument here, it's not that it's the tinkering with the numbers on November 8 the months preceding and the campaign that led up to election day.

BALDWIN: Back to Vladimir Putin, we know he's denied, denied any of these reports that Russia was involved in any sort of interference.

But we did talk to outgoing Democratic Senator Harry Reid, who said this.


SEN. HARRY REID, (D-NV), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: I understand the answer is clearly yes. His being former head of the KGB, does that surprise you? Does it surprise anybody today when he denied it?


BALDWIN: So that was the Senate minority leader, Pamela, and you're reporting on no hard evidence of direct involvement. But how -- once an investigation is complete, once the dots are connected, how might that change the equation moving forward.

BROWN: Well, you know, they don't use e-mail at the Kremlin and go to great lengths to cover their tracks talking about cyber espionage operations like what you saw during the election but when you put the pieces of the puzzle together that was enough for the CIA to go to Congress and say look, we believe with high confidence that not only do we believe Putin was aware but that Russians were working to help Donald Trump win this election. We'll never know their influence in the outcome but that's not stopping President-elect Trump from tweeting today just as early as today saying, "If Russia or some other entity was hacking, why did the White House wait so throng act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?" You're hearing that from the Trump side, that the White House are trying to undermine the election results -- Brooke?

[14:55:12] BALDWIN: But you heard Secretary Kerry saying it was back in October and they were saying they had high confidence Russia was involved but they couldn't do more to play politics in this election.

Pamela and A.B., thank you so much.

So much more to explore on all of that. And to the secretary was talking about Syria, putting the blame on Assad's shoulders and the Russian military.

Let's move to Charleston, South Carolina. We have news here. The jury is now debating the fate of the confessed killer. We're getting word the jury has a question. Hear why they want to watch this confession video again. That's next.


BALDWIN: Breaking news here on CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

The death penalty trial in the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting massacre, now in the hands of the jury. Hour two, and already they have a question. The panel of 10 women and two men has apparently just asked to re-watch this defendant's videotaped confession to the FBI.