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EARLY START

Donald Trump Calling The Report About Russia Meddling In The U.S. Election Ridiculous; A Kurdish Militant Group Claiming Responsibility For Two Bombings In Istanbul That Killed At Least 38 People, 30 Of The Dead Are Police Officer. At Least 155 Others Were Wounded; Syrian Government Forces Waging Battles On Two Fronts This Morning; Aired 4:00-4:30p ET

Aired December 12, 2016 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[04:00:01] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Donald Trump calling the report about Russia meddling in the U.S. election ridiculous. He dismisses daily intelligence briefing. The growing contention relationship between the president-elect and the intelligence community.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: Two deadly bombings in Istanbul killing 150 people. We have a report live from the ground. Welcome to early start. Good morning and welcome to Early Start. I'm Alison Kosik.

BERMAN: Nice to see you this morning. I'm John Berman. It is Monday, December 12th, 4 a.m. in this morning. And this morning, Donald Trump is rejecting the CIA's new assessment that Russia did not just meddle in the U.S. election, but did try to steer the election toward him. U.S. intelligence agencies say they are increasingly confident that Russian hacking was intended to help Trump win. But in an interview with Fox News, Donald Trump scoffed at that assessment and called in politically motivated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT ELECT OF UNITED STATES: I think it's ridiculous. I think it's just another excuse. I don't believe it and they have no idea if it's Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place. I mean, they have no idea.

WALLACE: So why would the CIA put out this story the Russians wanted you to win?

TRUMP: Well, I'm in the sure they put it out. I think the Democrats are putting it out because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now, the FBI may have a different assessment of this, which we will get to in a moment.

The president-elect discounted the briefings by intelligence office. He said these daily briefings are just repetitive. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If something should change from this point, immediately call me. I'm available on one minute's notice. I don't have to be told. You know, I'm like a smart person. I don't have to be told the same thing and the same words every single day for the next eight years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: Mr. Trump has taken briefing sporadically, as president-elect, which could cause risk between Trump and intelligence agencies. And already is putting him at odds with senior lawmakers. A bipartisan group of senators are demanding an investigation into the Kremlin activity. For the latest, let's bring in CNN's Ryan Nobles at Trump Tower.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Alison, this has the potential to be a major showdown in the early days of the Trump administration. A bipartisan group of senators is calling for a full investigation into Russia's role in interfering with the United States' election. Among them, powerful senators like Republican John McCain and Democrat Chuck Schumer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: They did hack into this campaign. Were they hacking the Republicans the same way? The Republican National Committee, and if so, why didn't they -- there are a lot of issues out there. It requires investigation.

CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The fact that the CIA and FBI disagree shows the need for a bipartisan investigation that gets to the bottom of this. The investigation should be tough, strong and bipartisan and should have access to all materials classified and not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: Both Schumer and McCain making the argument that this shouldn't be a partisan issue. McCain in fact saying that even though it was Democrats this time around, it could easily be Republicans that are the victims of a hack the next time around.

One person who doesn't think that this is something that should be investigated that thoroughly, the current president-elect, Donald Trump, who said outright that he doesn't believe the assessment that the Russians are behind the hack and he strongly believes that it had nothing to do with the outcome of the election. John and Alison.

KOSIK: All right. Ryan Nobles, thank you. The calls for an investigation of possible Russian interference in the election, they rest partly on a disagreement between the CIA and the FBI. Now, the CIA's conclusion that Russian meddling was intended to help Donald Trump win is reportedly based in part on the agency's belief the Russians hacked both Democratic and Republican groups but only leaked documents from Democrats.

The FBI on the other hand concluded the Republican National Committee itself was not hacked, only third party, conservative groups, and pundits. And a law enforcement source tells CNN the FBI did not find clear evidence the hacking was done to help Trump. But while there's disagreement about Russia's motives, all of the agencies are on the same page on one point, that Russia was trying to undermine the election.

BERMAN: Now, there's an added element to this whole controversy. President-elect Trump is expected to announce this choice for secretary of state as soon as tomorrow. The candidate who tops his list is thought to be Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, an executive with long ties to Vladimir Putin. Now, three key members of Trump's own party are expressing reservations about Tillerson -- Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Marco Rubio. Rubio tweeted that being a friend of Vladimir is not an attribute I am hoping for from a secretary of state. President-elect Trump, he staunchly defended the likely pick this Fox News interview.

[04:05:09] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He's much more than a business executive. I mean he's a world class player. He's in charge of I guess the largest company in the world. And to me, a great advantage is he knows many of the players and he knows them well. He does massive deals in Russia. He does massive deals for the company, not for himself, for the company.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: He has ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin. So does Michael Flynn who will be Donald Trump's national security advisor. So two key top advisors with a long relationship with Russia. Now, Mitt Romney said to still be in the running and former CIA director David Petraeus, allegedly also still in the running, and Senate foreign relations chair Bob Corker and former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. John Bolton is said may end up undersecretary of state or deputy secretary of state. The number two job in the state department, if the job goes to Tillerson.

KOSIK: OK. Let's go ahead and dive a little deeper in the background of Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson. Tillerson joined the company in 1975 as an engineer. He has been chairman and CEO since 2006. He made more than $27 million last year, which was down from the year before, as oil prices plummeted. So all that is pretty standard for a top CEO. But Tillerson's tie to the Middle East and Russia, that all is getting the most attention. Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded him the order of friendship, a top designation given to foreign nationals. That came as a multibillion deal that Tillerson signed with Russian oil giant. Exxon helped the company drill oil in difficult spots like the arctic. Then in 2014, Exxon lost up to $1 billion because of sanctions that the U.S. and the European Union flagged on Russia for its intervention in Ukraine. Exxon would likely stand to gain, if sanctions are lifted.

BERMAN: New developments and complications in Donald Trump's relationship with China. The Chinese were upset with Trump for becoming the first U.S. leader in decades to speak directly to Taiwan's president. Now, the president-elect is publicly questioning the need for the United States to stick with the long standing one China policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I fully understand the one China policy, but I don't know why we have to be bound by one China policy, unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things including trade.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: China's state Newspaper calls the president-elect an ignorant child and insists that one China policy cannot be bought and sold.

KOSIK: Did you catch Bryan Cranston resurrecting his Breaking Bad character Walter White on Saturday Night Live? Well, the actor appeared as the drug dealing chemistry teacher in the show's opening sketch. The presenter, Walter White, has just been tapped by president-elect Trump to head up the DEA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have some breaking news tonight. President- elect Trump has just made his choice for head of the DEA, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. It's a high school science teacher from New Mexico, named Walter White.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Walter is amazing. He came highly recommended by Steve Bannon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yeah. Steve's the best. We've had some times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did Mr. Bannon find you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Under the comment section at Breitbart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you get considered for the job? Do you know Donald Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nope. Nope, but I am a big fan. I like his style. He acts first and asks questions later. I also like the wall he wants to build. Nothing comes in from Mexico. Meaning, a lot less competition for the rest of us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mean jobs?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: They're really having a good time with this. BERMAN: They're going to have a good four years.

All right. Two big explosions killed dozens and wounded more than 150 people. We're live at the scene.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:13:14] BERMAN: This morning, a Kurdish militant group claiming responsibility for two bombings in Istanbul that killed at least 38 people, 30 of the dead are police officer. At least 155 others were wounded. A group calls itself the Kurdish Freedom Hawks has now put a message on its web site insisting the Turkish people were not the target of the attacks, which came on Saturday night. I want to bring in CNN's Becky Anderson live in from Istanbul this morning. Becky, what are you learning?

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, yesterday was a day of mourning. Today is the day the retribution. Earlier, Turkish war planes targeting what the army suggests were Kurdish militant positions in neighboring Northern Iraq. And, John, in the last couple of hours, reports of more than 100 pro-Kurdish political activists rounded up in country wide raids. Now, all of this comes less than 24 hours after the offshoot of the Kurdish militant group. They claimed responsibility for twin bombings at a soccer stadium that killed 38 as if you say, at least, and wounding over 150. Now, the first explosion, a couple of hours after the end of the soccer match on Saturday night between two of Turkey's top teams followed by a suicide bomb attack less than a minute later. Now, that soccer sad upper soccer stadium I s next to the building that I'm coming to live from right in the heart of Istanbul, the engine of Turkey's economy and its main attraction. Imagine a sporting complex like Flushing Meadows or the Yankee Stadium being attacked. So it is easy to see why Turkish leaders from the president here on down have come on out so strongly promising the attackers effectively cold revenge for their actions. The blade of the state stretches far and wide is how the interior minister responded to the attacks. And that is seemingly no idle threat.

Here is the issue, John. Saturday's attack here in Istanbul was the 17th major terrorist attack by either ISIS or Kurdish militants in Turkey this past year. On top of all of that, you have this political instability and polarization brought about by the failed coup in the summer, in July, just this summer past. The most tumultuous year in the modern Turkish history would be a fitting description of what is being this bloody year. The mood here as you round up 2016 very much the same as what you see which is the gloomy weather, we are having here today. John.

[04:15:58] BERMAN: Yeah, tumultuous is the word to describe everything that has happened there. Becky Anderson, thank you so much.

KOSIK: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is excited about the prospect of working with Donald Trump. Netanyahu tells 60 Minutes he plans to meet with the president-elect soon, specifically to discuss other options to the nuclear deal with Iran. Trump is vowing to tear up the pact which Netanyahu calls a threat to Israel's existence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER: I think his attitude is support for Israel is clear. He feels very warmly about the Jewish people and about Jewish people. There's no question about that.

I had differences of opinion with President Obama and most well-known of course is Iran.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: And Netanyahu says despite those differences his feelings toward president Obama were never personal.

BERMAN: And Boeing has announced an agreement on the $16.6 billion deal to sell 80 airplanes to Iran. Iran Air will receive 50 737 and 30 triple sevens. Many U.S. law makers oppose this sale. President-elect Trump opposes the nuclear deal to allow it to happen. The deal lifted many economic sanctions against Iran in September. Boeing needed special approval to ensure Iran does not use the planes for military purposes.

KOSIK: Huge numbers of residents fleeing Aleppo and thousands more trapped within the city. The latest on the fight for Syria next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Syrian government forces waging battles on two fronts this morning. They are up against ISIS fighters in fierce clashes for the ancient city of Palmyra where the militant group blew up temples and monuments last year. This as the regime reclaimed another neighborhood in Aleppo today forcing thousands of civilians trapped in the middle of the country's five-year-old civil war to flee. CNN's senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen has more as families battle fatigue and malnutrition to escape the violence.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John and Alison, the battle for Aleppo continues to be fierce and it continues to be brutal. The latest information that we've gotten literally just a couple of hours ago is that the Syrian army has taken another key district in Aleppo and now controls about 90 percent of Syria's second city. Now this is a district in the southern part of Aleppo and I was actually on the frontline there just on Saturday. And we could see literally tens of thousands of people trying to flee that area.

All this was happening while fierce fighting was going on. There were children who were too weak to even walk. There were some that were almost falling asleep while they were walking because they were so tired. There were people that we saw who are malnourished. There were others who we saw who were walking while they were wounded, all of them trying to just escape that fighting that was going on.

The Syrian military now says that it controls 90 percent of Aleppo city pushing the rebels further back. But the Syrian army is losing on other fronts here in Syria and ISIS is back on the scene. ISIS militants over the weekend managing to take back the ancient city of Palmyra with the ancient Roman ruins that of course is a grave concern because of course ISIS is known to destroy archaeological sites.

They attack while there was cloud and fog cover with a huge surprise offensive. The Syrian military was pushed back. Now, the Syrian government now says that it's trying to muster a force to launch a counter attack. John and Alison.

KOSIK: All right. Frederik Pleitgen, thank you. Two days of mourning are now observed in Nigeria after the collapse of a church killed at least 50 parishioners in the southern city over of Uyo over the weekend. This happened over during the dedication ceremony for the church which was still under construction, when the building fell apart without warning. The steel girders gave way before the roof pancaked on the pews. The governor was among the dignitaries inside the church at the time and has ordered the immediate arrest of the contractor.

BERMAN: In Cairo, at least 25 people are dead and dozens more injured at a bomb blast at a Coptic church. There is no immediate claim of responsibility to this blast which tore through the small church attached to the larger, St. Mark's Coptic Cathedral, which is a historic structure. The Sunday's explosion came just two days after two bombs killed six police officers and a civilian on the road leading to the Egypt's pyramids.

KOSIK: Donald Trump and the CIA at odds, the president-elect saying he doesn't believe the report on the Russian hackers helped him win the presidency. The bipartisan response coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KOSIK: Did Russian hackers help Donald Trump win the election? The CIA says yes. The FBI says maybe. And Trump says he does not believe it.

BERMAN: Dozens dead in Istanbul. Two large explosions leaving more than 150 people injured. We are live in that city. Welcome back to Early Start. I'm John Berman.

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik. It is 30 minutes past the hour. And this morning, Donald Trump is rejecting the CIA's conclusion that Russia threw the election to him. U.S. Intelligence agencies say they have high confidence that Russian hacking was intended to help Trump win. In an interview with Fox News, Trump scoffed at that assessment and called in politically motivated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think it is ridiculous. I think it is just another excuse. I don't believe it. They have no idea if it is Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in...