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Russia's Meddling In The Presidential Election Raises An Important Question; Donald Trump Says His Business Ties Are Not All That Complex; Charleston Jury This Afternoon Found White Supremacist Dylann Roof Guilty On All Counts In The Mother Emanuel Church Massacre; Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 15, 2016 - 17:00   ET


RENE MARSH, CNN: __ Trump transition team. We have not received a comment on this just as yet.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Rene Marsh, thank you so much. That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over now to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.

[17:00:14] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, on Putin's orders? CNN has learned that U.S. intelligence now believes Russian President Vladimir Putin personally approved cyberattacks designed to influence the U.S. election. How will Washington and the new Trump administration respond?

Growing rift. The White House is stepping up criticism of Trump for denying Russian election meddling designed to help him and hurt Hillary Clinton. A transition source says Trump is concerned about Russian hacking, but why is he refusing to say it publicly?

Russia's end game. With Donald Trump in the White House, Moscow will see the first pro-Russian U.S. president in decades. So why is Vladimir Putin -- what is he hoping to gain?

And not complex. Trump says the news media is making too much of his personal business conflicts of interest. But his team says separating Trump from his empire is a legal labyrinth that forced him to postpone a news conference planned for today. Why are Trump and his top aides sending mixed messages?

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

We're learning new information about the series of Russian cyberattacks, the United States how believes were designed to influence the U.S. presidential election. Sources telling CNN that the intelligence community has concluded Russian president Vladimir Putin personally approved the hacking of Democratic targets, including the DNC and Hillary Clinton's campaign manager.

The White House is sharply calling out President-elect Donald Trump on the issue for the second day in a row. The White House press secretary Josh Earnest criticizing Trump for questioning U.S. intelligence on Russian hacking. And a transition source tells CNN Trump is concerned but also thinks critics might be using the issue to delegitimize his victory.

And while some lawmakers are talking about imposing economic sanctions on Russia in retaliation, a top Trump surrogate says Trump may reconsider existing sanctions imposed after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Traveling in Moscow, former Congressman Jack Kingston says Trump does not have to abide by President Obama's foreign policy.

We're covering that and much more this hour with our guests, including the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein. And our correspondents and expert analysts are also standing by.

Let's begin with Russia's cyberattacks on the U.S. election. CNN's Barbara Starr is working the story for us over at the Pentagon. But first we want to go to CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.

Jim, you're learning new information from your sources.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's right. Tonight the U.S. intelligence community has growing confidence, based on new intelligence, that Russian President Vladimir Putin would have had to personally approve of the hacks targeting the U.S. election.

The advances, the intelligence community earlier confident assessment, publicly announced one month before the election that Russia was behind the hacking, and yet President-elect Donald Trump continues to question the judgment that Russia was involved at all.


SCIUTTO (voice-over); Tonight the White House demanding that President-elect Trump accept rather than deny the intelligence community's assessment that Russia was responsible for hacking intended to impact the U.S. presidential race.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Mr. Trump obviously knew that Russia was engaged in malicious cyber-activity that was helping him and hurting Secretary Clinton's campaign. It might be time to not attack the intelligence community but actually be supportive.

SCIUTTO: However, Trump himself, who sources tell CNN is seeing the intelligence behind that assessment in his classified briefings, continues to express doubts that Russia is responsible, tweeting this morning, quote, "If Russia or some other entity was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?" His transition team is now accusing the White House of trying to undermine his presidency.

JASON MILLER, TRUMP TRANSITION COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR (via phone): I'd say the continued efforts to try to delegitimize the election at a certain point have to realize that the election from last month is going to stand, whether it's the recount or continued questions along this line. SCIUTTO: Analysis of the digital footprint and intelligence,

including from human sources, has led the intelligence community conclude that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally approved of the hacking, this according to intelligence, congressional and other administration sources.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: There is only one decision-maker, and that is Putin. To me, just on the basis of that very circumstantial evidence, it's pretty clear that something of this magnitude had to go to the very top.

SCIUTTO: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tells CNN he now plans to introduce crippling new economic sanctions aimed at Putin himself.

[17:05:07] SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We're going to hit you and hit you hard. I'm going to introduce sanctions that will be bipartisan that names Putin as an individual, his inner circle, for not only hacking into our political systems but trying to destabilize democracy throughout the world.

SCIUTTO: And yet Trump supporter and former Congressman Jack Kingston was in Moscow this week, where he told businesses that Trump could reconsider existing sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

JACK KINGSTON (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Sanctions, not something that the administration is going to lead with at all. The sanctions have been in place a while now. The administration should take a look and say, are the results what we were looking for?


SCIUTTO: Today the U.S. secretary of defense, Ash Carter, described the hacking of the election as, quote, "hybrid warfare," comparing it to Russia's operations inside Ukraine and Crimea. You'll remember John McCain has called the attack an act of war, as well.

Today the White House reiterated that the president will respond proportionately, but it is not clear that the president has yet ordered any such response -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jim, thank you. Jim Sciutto reporting.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. Barbara, you're picking up new information over there. What are you learning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tonight a U.S. official tells me that there are several signs of what leads them to think Putin had his fingerprints all over this affair.

And one of them is the technical capability of the hacking. These were highly sophisticated hacking tools, if you will. The kind that are the equivalent of what the U.S. National Security Agency uses in its covert hacking operations, in its cyber-warfare, if you will. The Russians have that kind of capability at hand. And really, there's only two entities in Russia that can do that. One is part of the Russian intelligence community. The other is a Russian contractor that works for the Russian intelligence community.

And because this was so high-level, this capability, it would have required higher authority, perhaps Putin himself, to authorize this operation to take place.

And remember, it wasn't just the hacking. It wasn't just the getting into the system. It was the exploitation of that data. It eventually got distributed by WikiLeaks, and the U.S. feels it would be very unlikely anyone other than Vladimir Putin would have authorized that part of the operation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Another significant part of the debate, Barbara. Thanks very much for that report. Another very significant part of the debate is Russia's hacking. It's a deeply personal issue. There's been a back and forth today between the president-elect and the president's White House spokesman, Josh Earnest.

I want to bring in our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski. Michelle, the White House press secretary said not only was Russia responsible for hacking, to impact the election, if you will, but that Trump himself encouraged it. Update our viewers.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, on the hack itself today we heard the press secretary say that, in his view, it is obvious that Vladimir Putin played a role. Based on that statement the intelligence community put out in October naming Russia, even though they didn't specifically name Putin.

And on Donald Trump. I mean, what we've been hearing from the White House has been the surprising, steady buildup of now direct criticism of Donald Trump and his team, precipitated, they say, by his repeated denials and questions over Russia's role. Listen.


EARNEST: Well, first of all, it's just a fact -- you all have it on tape -- that the Republican nominee for president was encouraging Russia to hack his opponent, because he believed that that would help his campaign. That's not a controversial statement. I'm not trying to be argumentative. But I am trying to acknowledge a basic fact. And all of you saw it. This is not in dispute.

Now, I recognize that the defense from the Trump campaign is that he was joking. I don't think anybody at the White House thinks it's funny that an adversary of the United States engaged in malicious cyber-activity to destabilize our democracy. That's not a joke. Nobody at the White House thought it was a joke. Nobody in the intelligence community thought it was a joke. I'm not aware that any members of Congress in either party that was briefed on this matter multiple times dating back to the summer thought it was a joke.


BLITZER: Michelle, this is an extraordinary briefing that we saw today at the White House. Josh Earnest also arguing forcefully that the whole point of the Russian hacking was to try to hurt Hillary Clinton's chances of winning the election and actually to go ahead and elect Donald Trump. Is that a fair assessment of what you heard?

KOSINSKI: Yes. I mean, the White House still wants to be extremely careful with words here. So they don't want to speak specifically to the motivation, because that itself is in question, even within the intelligence community. But what he's speaking to is the impact of the hacks, saying that it was clear -- and you can kind of draw your own conclusions from that. Here is how he put it.


[17:10:18] EARNEST: Coverage of the hack and leak operation that Russia carried out was focused on e-mails from the Democratic Party and Clinton campaign staffers, and not the Republican Party and Trump campaign staffers. It wasn't a secret. It's obvious what the impact was. It benefited the Trump campaign. And it hurt the Clinton campaign.

That's why the Republican nominee was hoping they would do more of it. That's why his staffers were hoping that they would do more of it. That is why, in the days leading up to election day, the Republican nominee himself was encouraging people to check out WikiLeaks.


KOSINSKI: OK. The Trump team and others have questioned, is this the White House being defensive, because there have been questions over their timing of naming Russia? Is this the White House trying to delegitimize Donald Trump's victory? Of course, the White House denies that.

But what we hear from senior White House officials is that, in the days after the election, they wanted to project calm, continuity, that they're committed to a smooth transition, but they say the game- changer has been those Trump denials of Russia's role.

And they put that, they say, in an entirely different category of things Donald Trump has said. They say that that hits directly at basic national security, that it attacks the intelligence community, that it questions whether President Obama kept the American people safe from this kind of thing. And on that, they say they're not going to be quiet, obviously, Wolf.

BLITZER: Michelle Kosinski reporting from the White House. Thank you.

Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California is joining us. She's the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: Do you believe, Senator, that President Vladimir Putin personally directed the U.S. election hacks? FEINSTEIN: Well, let me put it this way. We've had a number of

briefings. They go back to the midsummer. They involve the leadership of the intelligence committees. I've been on the committee for 15 years. I've been chair for six, rank vice-chair for two. I've never seen a more specific top-level briefing with statements of high confidence when questions were asked.

It's clear to me that this is a very serious situation. And I don't want to see the relationship with Russia get worse. Let me predicate it with this. I deeply believe that the president, soonest time possible, must get out the report that can go before the American people, and the American people can read the unvarnished facts.

Those of us in -- on the Intelligence Committee are limited in what we can say. What I can say is what my belief is as a product of those briefings. And my belief is that this was a major covert influence campaign. It was foreign espionage on critical infrastructure, which is that which concerns American presidential elections, let alone all other elections. It's this kind of behavior, is not new to Russia.

What is new and is how this was done, who was involved, what the cutouts were and how the whole thing was put together. And what was released by the Russians and what wasn't.

Now, having said that, the question is, could this much have been done without Mr. Putin's knowledge or assent? And that's the question. Is there an objective, and, you know, strong and positive answer? Not necessarily. But it's hard to believe that a country's intelligence services could go ahead with this without the knowledge and assent of the leader, because this is the man that leads all things in Russia.

BLITZER: So what I hear you say...

FEINSTEIN: Now, having said this -- yes.

BLITZER: What you hear you saying, Senator. Excuse me for interrupting. What I hear you saying is that there's circumstantial evidence that Putin was directly involved but no hard evidence, actual intelligence that you've discovered? Is that what I am hearing?

[17:15:04] FEINSTEIN: Well, I can't say what I've discovered or have been told or not. All I can tell you is what my belief is. And that's my belief, based on what I know, that there's a high likelihood that he would have had to have known or given his assent or even a direct order. I don't know which of the three that is.

But this is really serious, because not only did it impact the presidential race, but, you know, the "New York Times" has done a really good series. Now, the second day was this morning. And they pointed out House races that may have been affected by this in four states.

So, as all of this comes out, what -- you see tempers rise, and statements are made. And that's why I think what the president is assembling is so important, that it be released as soon as possible, that it not be classified, and that the American people have an opportunity to see what this analysis is.

It's really hard to speak, because there are things I would say, but I have to be very careful, because it's the old sources and methods. I mean, I happen to think that our government overclassifies things. But be that as it may, it is what it is. But this is really serious, because this strikes at the basis of a free democratic system and its ability to conduct a fair election.

BLITZER: So you believe Putin was responsible. Was he involved, do you think, before the hacks occurred or after? Do you know?

FEINSTEIN: I'm not -- I'm specifically not answering that question. I do not know whether he was involved before or after. All I am saying is that, based on what I've been told and based on the kind of operation it was, without going into it, I would be hard pressed to think that a country would go ahead with this, without their leader's approval.

BLITZER: Because James Clapper, the head of -- the director of national intelligence, and Jeh Johnson, the secretary of homeland security, on October 7 said only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities. Is that a reference, do you believe, to Putin?

FEINSTEIN: Well, what I'm telling you, that is my belief based on what I've seen, as well. And it's said by the head of the national intelligence community as well as the head of the homeland security community. It's the same thing.

So what we need is that to be able to be fleshed out and put before the American people. And this is what I very much hope, the president of the United States is doing root at this time.

BLITZER: Was the hacking directed at Hillary Clinton and her campaign? And if the answer is yes, why?

FEINSTEIN: Well, it's my belief, based on what I know, that that's highly likely. And it's a very -- here's why. Much of what was collected on the other side of the aisle was never released. But the releases were made on the Democratic side and the Democratic campaigns. And to use a kind of vernacular, what I believe is the intent was to dirty up Clinton and make it more difficult. I think most people believed that Hillary Clinton would win the election. And to throw as much of a monkey wrench into it as was possible by the release of this kind of information in places where it would do her harm.

BLITZER: How do you convince the American people that Russia was directly involved, if, for example, you can't show them the hard intelligence or the evidence that you say suggests Putin was involved and definitively doing this?

FEINSTEIN: You're correct. And that's why I am saying, what the president -- the president is preparing a report. I hope he gets it out before he leaves office. And I hope he makes it public. And I hope he puts these things forward that we have been told in a classified way. I hope he puts them forward to the best of his professional staff's ability to sort this out and get a correct picture before the American people.

I think this is really important because if -- you know, Russia has done this in other places. You now have Germany saying they're afraid their elections might be muddled by efforts by Russians. So I think it's necessary that we come to grips with this. I think it's necessary that there be a real investigation, and the beginning of that should be the president's report.

Then we can take what's declassified. Then, you know, either the intelligence committees or what I would prefer is a 9/11-type commission. Because there are some members that partisanship enters into, and they're just not going to believe that anything was wrong. And in fact, there were wrongdoings. And those ought to hang out there and be dealt with.

[17:20:25] BLITZER: Senator, the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said today that the president thinks what Russia did, in his words, "merits a proportional response." What do you think that is?

FEINSTEIN: Well, I have no idea, to be candid with you. I -- you know, I mean, I think there are different kinds of alternatives. I wouldn't want to suggest one on television.

I do believe the most important thing, getting the facts out. Because what you have are certain people saying things. You have some very good reporting, actually, some of the best reporting I've seen in my 15 years on the committee. And I think it's responsible reporting. This isn't -- there aren't any cheap shots taken that I have seen.

But, what we can address is limited. And it's really a limited, to what I believe, having heard what I've heard and seen what I've seen.

BLITZER: Do you support launching new sanctions against Russia and Putin as an individual? Will you work with Senator Lindsey Graham on this? He told me yesterday exactly at this time he wants such sanctions to go forward.

FEINSTEIN: Well, of course. I enjoy working with Lindsey. There's no problem with that.

I think we should wait. I think it's most important that the facts get out. Right now, different people are talking. Different intelligence officials are quoted. But the American people don't really believe what happened. And I think those who have done polls have seen that.

And that's why a consequential exposition of fact with what can be put on the table and should be put on the table, and so Americans can look at this. Because our system of government is at stake. We cannot countenance elections that are manipulated.

BLITZER: Was this an act of war?

FEINSTEIN: Oh, I don't believe it's an act of war, no. And look, I'm half-Russian. My mother was born in St. Petersburg. Russia is a powerful country, and particularly militarily. And we have a deteriorating situation with Russia now.

And so I think that you do really need -- and I don't like the word "reset," but we really do need to find a way to work with Russia once again and stop all this. Russia is not going to disappear. We're not going to disappear. We're two of the most potent powers on earth, and we must find a way to get along.

BLITZER: Senator, we're getting some more information. I need to take a quick break. We'll resume the interview right after this.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.


[17:26:34] BLITZER: The line between Russian election hacking and President Vladimir Putin is growing clearer. Sources now telling CNN the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Putin personally approved cyberattacks on the Democratic political targets with the intent of boosting Donald Trump's candidacy.

We're back with Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.

Senator, President-elect Trump hasn't accepted this U.S. intelligence assessment as you have, linking Russia directly to the hacks into the DNC. What does that tell you?

FEINSTEIN: Well, it tells me that maybe he hasn't seen the evidence, and that's a later time. But -- and whether that will be able to be presented to him or not, I don't know.

But, if you think about it and you really look at the depth and breadth of this and the amount of hacking and the places where they hacked, not only the committees, but the campaigns, not only the presidential campaign but House campaigns, and what material they leaked -- they released through WikiLeaks and what material they didn't release, you can draw certain assumptions.

So, all of that has to be looked at and analyzed. And it's my belief, because this is going to affect the world. It's going to affect the body politic of this country. And it's going to affect the kind and type of democratic elections we can have, because if these elections can be skewed by malicious actors, then our democratic system is violated in a major way. And that's my -- I have a very big concern about this.

And I think that there was intent to disrupt. There was intent to release just to one side. There was intent from both fancy bear and cozy bear, enough to say, well, this traces right back to Russian intelligence agencies. And once you do that, then who gave the order or who knew about this being done?

Now, Russia's interfered in other instances. In 2014, in the Ukrainian election, for example. So this has happened before. So that's why you have to get all of the facts of this out. And we are all handcuffed to speak about it, because we have to be very careful what we say. And that's a big problem when you talk about this.

I can only say I think the "New York Times" has done a very good job. I think the media is trying to do a responsible job. They are trying to source, as best they can, the material they get. And I think they realize the seriousness of this.

BLITZER: Do you think that Donald Trump, the president-elect, once he becomes president and has all those briefings, the same briefings you're getting, would go forward, punish Putin, impose new sanctions, for example, release information the U.S. has collected that would be personally embarrassing to the Russian leader?

[17:30:00] FEINSTEIN: Let me say this. At the very least he would have an opportunity to ask hard questions of the heads of our major intelligence agencies about it. And his people would have that opportunity. From there, he could frame his own judgment.

I think this is a tricky world we live in. Things aren't often as you see them in a handshake or a smile or a dinner or a toast. They can get really disingenuous, to use a nice word. So I think intelligence is a very important thing. And it's important particularly for a president.

Now, my own view is that Mr. Trump would take -- would look at this anew, if he were able to see the direct evidence as presented by the head of homeland security, the head of the CIA, the head of the national -- the entire national insurance -- national intelligence agency, general Clapper. And I would hope he would do this soon, because he may be able, if he has good contacts with Mr. Putin, he might be able to be helpful. I don't know. But in the abyss of none of this happening, it leads us to the talk of sanctions, which one side says one thing and the other side says another thing, and it's an escalation, not only of rhetoric but an escalation of action. And I think we need to have all the facts out on the table for the American people.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, SITUATION ROOM: I suspect, by the way, senator, since the election he has been receiving the presidential daily brief, the most sensitive information the U.S. intelligence community has, the most highly classified information. He has been receiving those briefings. I suspect he has been told probably more than you have been told. That's why it's curious his response at least so far. But that's my suspicion.

Let me ask you one final question before I let you go, senator. You will be the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the next Congress. Are you concerned about any of the documents that Senate Jeff Sessions has submitted to the committee as part of the confirmation process he will undergo to become the next attorney general?

FEINSTEIN: Well, let me just say this. The discovery process is very important. And there is a form put out, and it asks for certain materials. And those materials come in. And then it's up to staff to go over those materials and really ascertain whether the questioning has been fully complied with. And we will do this. The chairman, senator Grassley, with whom I have worked and

appreciate, has set the date for the 10th and 11th of January. We would like to have a bit more time to look at the documents and to see that they -- the questions have been fully complied with. We will do our level best. But more time would be helpful. But look, we'll go when we go.

Now, this is a man who sat with us on the committee for 20 years. We know him fairly well. It's not like he is a stranger. The problem is there's some 150,000 pages of documents to go through. And that takes time.

BLITZER: Senator Feinstein, thanks so much for joining us.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, Donald Trump says his business ties are not all that complex, but his team says they are. So which one is it? A closer look at potential conflicts of interest. That's next.


[17:36:58] BLITZER: We are standing by for Donald Trump's latest thank you rally tonight in Hershey, Pennsylvania. We were supposed to hear from him earlier today but he postponed a news conference about his plans to talk about conflict of interest.

Sunlen Serfaty is over at the Trump rally for us.

Sunlen, this issue still is looming over the transition right now.

SUNLEN SERFATY, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Wolf. These questions over conflicts of interest with his businesses, with his family ties continue to dog both Donald Trump and his transition efforts right now.

Today was supposed to be the day that he put all of these questions to rest. But tonight he has really opened himself up to even more.


SERFATY (voice-over): Tonight, Donald Trump is brushing off suggestions that his effort to separate himself from his business is a difficult one. The president-elect tweeting, the media tries so hard to make my move to the White House as it pertains to my business so complex when actually it isn't. But even Trump's own advisers are saying the opposite.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR/GOP POLLSTER: What it does is make more clear how convoluted and complex many of these business holdings are.

SERFATY: Offering up Trump's vast business empire as a reason he postponed a press conference scheduled for today to detail how he would cut ties with his company. JASON MILLER, TRUMP TRANSITION SPOKESMAN: There are obviously

internal considerations as far as what e structure will look like for family members that will be taking the reins of the business. And I think the priority here is to make sure that we get it right.

SERFATY: Adding to the concerns of potential conflicts of interest, the prominent involvement of Trump's children in the transition. His sons, Don Jr. and Eric, who Trump says will manage the family business, attended a transition meeting Wednesday with titans of the tech industry. While daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner are poised to assume big roles in the White House.

CONWAY: I think we would benefit tremendously by having them inside the administration.

SERFATY: Sources tell CNN Kushner is expected to have a job in an office in the west wing, with Trump's lawyers seeing a way to avoid anti-nepotism law.

CONWAY: Anti-nepotism law apparently has an exception if you want to work in the west wing because the president is able to appoint his own staff. So of course this came about to stop maybe family members serving on the cabinet.


CONWAY: But the president does have discretion to choose a staff of his liking.

SERFATY: While Ivanka is readying to work from the east wing, turning the first lady's office into an office of the first family.

The potential for conflicts generating concern among the public, with a new poll showing 52 percent say they are worried Trump will place his business interests ahead of the interests of the American people.

A group of Senate Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren, announcing today they will introduce legislation to require Trump to fully divest personal financial conflicts of interest. The Massachusetts senator saying in a statement quote "the American people deserve to know that the president of the United States is working to do what's best for the country, not using his office to do what's best for himself and his businesses."

This as Trump faces a deposition in January tied to a legal dispute over his D.C. hotel. A federal judge has ordered Trump to sit for questioning in an ongoing contractual dispute with celebrity chef Jose Andres who Trump sued after cancelling his plans to open a new restaurant at the property following rump's comment about Mexican immigrants during the campaign.


[17:40:29] SERFATY: An underscoring the world that Ivanka Trump will likely have the upcoming Trump White House, the transitioning official confirms to CNN that Ivanka has already been working the phones on Capitol Hill, reaching out and calling members of Congress directly, trying to get things moving, Wolf, on her child care proposals.

BLITZER: All right. Sunlen, thanks very much. Sunlen Serfaty in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Let's get some insight from our experts on the politics and on Russia and more.

Gloria Borger, I'll start with you. He says it's not all that complex, the connection with his business ties. He tweeted this morning, the media tries so hard to make my move to the White House as it pertains to my business so complex when actually it isn't. What does this tweet tell you?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it tells me that he wants to make it seem -- when the deal is done, when it's announced, that it's going to be crystal-clear to everybody and it's not going to be complicated.

The truth of the matter, as spoken by his own staffers, is that it is complicated. It's complicated regarding his businesses. It's complicated regarding the conflicts with his own children. It's complicated regarding nepotism laws. And so, they have to make sure letter of the law, because they understand that they are going to be challenged on everything. And so, while he may say it's not complicated, the truth of the matter is that's why they had to postpone this announcement until after the New Year.

BLITZER: I'm sure the lawyers are working overtime.

BORGER: That's right.

BLITZER: To try to figure this out. His adult children were involved, all three of them, in the meeting with tech leaders yesterday, Rebecca Berg. What do you make of their continued involvement at this stage? Because earlier the two sons, the adult sons, they were the ones who were supposed to take over the business but they are still very much involved.

REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Right. Well, obviously it's not a huge surprise, because we knew that the children played a very prominent role during the campaign and even before that in their father's company. They are his most trusted advisers. Donald Trump holds them at a higher level than anyone else in his inner circle. So it's not very much a surprise. And now that we're learning that Ivanka and Jared are potentially moving into the White House as well, it's even less of a surprise. But it does raise this issue of conflicts of interest. And so now it's not only a question of how will Donald Trump separate himself from his business interests, but also how will Jared, because he owns a company of his own, runs a company of his own. So does Ivanka. Her clothing company which of course, manufactures in Asia and has interests overseas.

So there are just loads of questions about conflicts of interest. And then, of course, his adult sons, Eric and Don Jr., are still set to run his company. I mean, it's not much of a blind trust if they are involved in these decisions early on. BLITZER: You know, Evelyn Farkas here with us, a former deputy

assistant secretary of defense specialized in Russia. Do you believe Putin was directly involved in authorizing the hacking of the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign?

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think it's highly likely, Wolf, because something as serious as that, not just -- not the spying on us, and taking the information. That's something that the Russian intelligence agencies would do anyway. But the actual turning around and conducting an information operation against the United States, against our elections, against our democracy. That is something that is unprecedented and, frankly, would have to go, I would imagine, up to the level of the kremlin and the president.

BLITZER: You know, Mark Preston, Trump also, he was busy tweeting this morning. He also tweeted this about Russia. If Russia or some other entity was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost? First of all, the White House was complaining before the election. The president authorized the director of national intelligence and the secretary of homeland security to issue a statement in early October warning of Russia -- Russia's involvement. What did you make of this tweet on Russia by the president-elect this morning?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, clearly he is looking at this issue and he is taking it as a personal affront that he thinks that we have the White House and the intelligence organizations out there saying that basically he won the presidency because Russia helped him and he can't stop himself from criticizing or at least questioning that. And I think in many ways that is why you are seeing pushback from the White House on this.

You know, the White House, which has been working very well with the Trump - the incoming Trump administration on making this transition very, very smooth really just got their backs up against the wall. When you have Donald Trump out there questioning time and time again that our intelligence agencies are absolutely wrong about Russia and that they had nothing to do with this at all. And in fact, it seems to me that, to him, he is internalizing it. He is personalizing it. He is not looking at the bigger picture and, quite frankly, filling into that role as being really the leader of the free world.

BORGER: And I think the tweet today from Donald Trump really energized the White House in the voice of Josh Earnest to come out and say, directly to the president-elect of the United States, you are wrong. This is obvious.

And so what we -- I mean, I think we need a time-out here, because what we are seeing is really a fight between an outgoing administration and an incoming administration. And a president-elect and his own intelligence services. And to me, it's quite remarkable. It's stunning. I haven't ever seen anything like this. So the bromance between Barack Obama and Donald Trump might now be over because it's clear that Earnest would not have gone out there today unless the president of the United States had authorized him to take this issue on frontally. And I think it was Donald Trump's tweet, which said, if -- the first word was if this actually occurred, and then took on the White House --

BLITZER: You served on the department of defense. Have you ever seen anything like this before?

FARKAS: No. And the thing that's really disturbing is it gets to, again, the issue of, you know, who -- where does Donald Trump's allegiance of lie? You know, who does he respect more? He has said repeatedly about how much he respects Putin.

We are talking about U.S. national security interests. Donald Trump should be out there saying, I want to find out what happened here because I don't want it to happen again. Presumably he wants to run again in four years. Does he want Russian meddling or Chinese meddling? Other countries are watching. So I think it's very disturbing that he is not taking a more professional measured approach to this and as of the other commentators said taking it personally.

BLITZER: All right. I want everybody to standby. There is more coming up.

And to our viewers, please be sure, by the way, to check out the first-ever book from CNN politics entitled "Unprecedented: the election that changed everything." You can pick up your copy today in stores or you can get it online at

Coming up, there is breaking news. A jury makes a quick decision in the murder trial of the white supremacist who confessed to the Charleston church massacre. But will he get the death penalty?


[17:51:24] BLITZER: Breaking news in South Carolina. Charleston jury this afternoon found white supremacist Dylann Roof guilty on all counts in the mother Emanuel church massacre. The jury needed only two hours to convict Roof of 33 federal charges including murder and hate crimes. He confessed to shooting 11 people at the historically African-American church in June of last year. Nine of the victims died. The death penalty phase of the trial begins next month.

Returning to our other top story, the dispute over Russia's meddling in the presidential election raises an important question, what is Vladimir Putin's ultimate goal?

CNN's Brian Todd is with us.

So what are the experts, your sources, Brian, telling you?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, they are telling us that Vladimir Putin is likely ecstatic over Donald Trump's election, that he will probably start working on Trump very early on to lift sanctions on Russia and then Putin is going to keep working his angles on the new president. This comes, of course, as we get new intelligence tonight on Putin's substantial role on cyber-attacks on the Democratic Party. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): CNN's intelligence sources say Vladimir Putin was aware his cyber warriors were hacking into the Democratic Party during the election cycle. One U.S. official saying the sophistication of the hacking tools used in the attack means higher level Russian authority had to have been behind it. The intelligence raises new questions tonight, with the CIA assessment that Putin wanted Donald Trump to win, what was his motivation?

KEITH DARDEN, PROFESSOR, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: This is the first genuinely unconditionally pro-Russian president and not just pro- Russian, but pro-Putin president in recent memory, in modern American history.

TODD: What does Putin stand to gain from Trump's presidency? Experts say Putin's first priority, dealing with the tough economic sanctions on Russia.

FIONA HILL, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Russia has been trying to get these lifted without doing anything in return. And they are very much hoping that Trump will do that.

TODD: Lifting sanctions on Russia is something Trump has already said he will consider.


TODD: Those sanctions were leveled to punish Putin's regime for illegally taking over Crimea by force. Analysts say Putin is hoping Trump will back off America's opposition to his land grabbed in Ukraine. And hoping Trump won't oppose his efforts to prop up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. And they say the Russian president is encouraged by Trump's criticism of NATO. That plays into what Putin wants to do in Eastern Europe.

HILL: To really preempt the possibility of NATO building up its (INAUDIBLE) and engaging in further deployments in the Baltic, sewages in particular. And also to just sway the Europeans for taking more steps from their own security.

TODD: Some of Putin's motivations for favoring Trump are likely, purely personal. He has believed to have a vendetta against Hillary Clinton for questioning the legitimacy of Russian parliamentary elections five years ago.

DARDEN: In particular, he felt she encouraged the street protests.

TODD: And Putin, analysts say, hopes Trump won't get in the way of his (INAUDIBLE) ambition for Russia to become the dominant world player it once was.

DARDEN: I think he wants a seat at the table. He wants to be consulted every time. He wants Russia to be a great power in the way that 19th century great powers had to be consulted on every significant international episode. He wants respect. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: And to accomplish those goals, experts say Putin, who prides himself on keeping other leaders guessing on what he will do next, will have to become good at figuring out what Donald Trump will do next. And Trump's lack of predictability will make that a huge challenge even for that former KGB officer - Wolf.

[17:55:02] BLITZER: Interesting, Brian.

You are also picking up some new guidance tonight on how Putin might try to work some intelligence on Donald Trump.

TODD: Very interesting perspective, Wolf. One respected analyst telling us tonight, look towards Trump's business circles in New York, but especially Trump's business circles in Florida. This analyst says a lot of Russian oligarchs, they are top business people, they do business in Florida. They put their money there and they're very familiar with Donald Trump. Putin is likely going to work those Russian businessmen for intelligence about Donald Trump.

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

Coming up, Russia's meddling in the U.S. election. How involved was President Vladimir Putin? We're learning new information.


[17:54:33] BLITZER: Happening now, Russian warfare. U.S. officials ramp up the rhetoric about Moscow's hacking and Vladimir Putin's role in efforts to influence the election. Tonight, new details about why the Obama administration believes the Kremlin leader was involved.

Proportional response. The White House renews its promise to punish Russia for cyber-attacks and that new signs that the Trump administration might seek lift existing sanctions on Moscow. I will ask journalist and author Thomas Friedman about Trump, Putin, and America's security.

Inexcusable attacks. Secretary of state John Kerry condemns the Syrian regime from massacre in Aleppo. Thousands of civilians finally are being allowed to flee the city --