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China 'Seriously Concerned' by Trump's Comments on Taiwan; CIA & FBI Differ on Russian Interference; Syrian Forces Reclaim Another Neighborhood in Aleppo. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired December 12, 2016 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's ridiculous. I think it's just another excuse. I don't believe it.
[05:58:25] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we do know is that Russia hacked us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot see a single effect (ph).
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm going after Russia every way you can go after Russia.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A disagreement between the CIA and FBI.
TRUMP: Take a look. They're not sure. They're fighting among themselves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't make this issue partisan. It's too important.
TRUMP: I fully understand the one-China policy. But I don't want China dictating to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get ready for potentially a very disruptive year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to make sure that the secretary of state will represent U.S. Interests.
TRUMP: Bob Corker and Mitt Romney. These are all very different types people. But when you ask me about Rex, I mean, he's a world- class player.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, December 12, 6 a.m. in the East.
Up first, President-elect Donald Trump rejecting the CIA's claim that Russia influenced the U.S. election in his favor. Mr. Trump calls that assessment, quote, "ridiculous." A group of key lawmakers now planning a bipartisan investigation. CUOMO: Also, there's a big editorial in a Chinese mouthpiece media outlet saying that Donald Trump operates with the ignorance -- ignorance of a child when talking about foreign policy. No matter, the president-elect says he will question whether or not the U.S. has to stick to the one-China policy that has officials in Beijing outraged. Their official word is that they are serious concerned.
Thirty-nine days to go before Donald Trump is inaugurated, but he is already very much in the mix. CNN has every angle covered, started with Jason Carroll, live from the White House annex, Trump Tower in Manhattan -- Jason.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to you, Chris.
You know, the Chinese government has made it very clear that China one is what they call the bedrock of U.S.-Chinese relations. The president-elect, in the meantime, also challenging U.S. intelligence assessment that Russia is behind the hacking during the U.S. election.
TRUMP: I think it's ridiculous. I think it's just another excuse. I don't believe it.
CARROLL (voice-over): Fiercely attacking the credibility of the Central Intelligence Agency, the president-elect dismissing the intelligence community's assessment that Russia meddled in the election to help him win.
TRUMP: They have no idea if it's Russia or China. Could be somebody sitting in a bed someplace.
CARROLL: And claiming, without offering specifics, the analysis is politically motivated.
TRUMP: I think the Democrats are putting it out, because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country.
CARROLL: But it's not just Democrats. A group of bipartisan senators are joining forces, calling for Congress to launch an in-depth probe into Russia's tampering, saying the reports "should alarm every American" and urging cyberattacks "cannot become a partisan issue."
GRAHAM: I think they did interfere with our elections, and I want Putin personally to pay a price.
CARROLL: This as speculation continues over Trump's nomination for secretary of state. Multiple sources familiar with the transition telling CNN ExxonMobil chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson has emerged as the frontrunner.
TRUMP: He's much more than a business executive. I mean, he's a world-class player.
CARROLL: The possible nomination already sparking sharp criticism from some in the GOP establishment, concerned about Tillerson's own ties to Russia. In 2013 Tillerson was awarded Russia's top honor for foreigners, the Order of Friendship, from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's a matter of concern to me that he has such a close, personal relationship with Vladimir Putin.
CARROLL: Florida Senator Marco Rubio blasting Trump's pick, tweeting, "Being a friend of Vladimir is not an attribute I am hoping for from a secretary of state."
And the president-elect, again, showing his willingness to challenge China, questioning whether the U.S. should keep its long-standing position that Taiwan is part of one China.
TRUMP: I fully understand the one-China policy, but I don't know why we have to be bound by a one-China policy, unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.
CARROLL: And, Chris, the Chinese foreign ministry releasing a statement that says in part, adhering to One China principle is the political bedrock for the development of U.S./Chinese relations. If it is compromised or disrupted, the sound and steady growth of the bilateral relationship, as well as bilateral cooperation in major fields would be out of question."
Also, Chris, there are concerns that the president-elect is not receiving as many intelligent briefing as past president elects, to which Donald Trump says he doesn't necessarily need to receive them on a daily basis, because he is a, quote, "smart guy" -- Chris.
All right, Jason, thank you very much. We have Russia and China in the crosshairs. We'll impact both this weekend. Remember, with Russian interference, the question is motive. And what's fueling a little bit of these questions about motive is the gap between the CIA and FBI and their findings, because right now they don't line up completely.
Let's bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr to break down conflicting information. Is that the right way to characterize it?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Chris, good morning. These are assessments by the CIA and the FBI, and if they don't have exactly the same assessment, you would think that would be something the president would want to know about. So it's not such a bad thing, really. It's about the evidence and the intent of Russia.
Now, the CIA believes pretty strongly, it looks like, that there was hacking -- the FBI agrees -- and that the intent of Russia was to try and steer the election towards Donald Trump. Why does the CIA believe that? Because they believe that Russia only released information it got from hacking the Democrats, that it did hack some sort of Republican entity, if not the RNC itself, but had only released Democratic data, not Republican data. Conclusion: they wanted to steer the election towards Donald Trump. The Republicans reacting to this, Republican -- RNC communications director Sean Spicer talking about it over the weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: If the CIA is so conclude -- convinced of this, why won't they go on the record and say that it was, as they did with the DNC? This is -- I mean, I believe that there are people within these agencies that are upset with the outcome of the election and are pushing a personal agenda. But the facts don't add up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: Now President Obama, of course, ordering a full investigation into Russia and hacking before he leaves office and, as Jason just mentioned, bipartisan consensus emerging on Capitol Hill to have a look at all of this -- Alisyn.
[06:05:11] CAMEROTA: Barbara, thank you very much.
Let's discuss it with our panel. We have CIA counterterrorism analyst and former CIA counterterrorism official Philip Mudd. Great to have you. "Washington Post" reporter Abby Philip. And senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner" and host of the podcast "Examining Politics," David Drucker. Great to have all of you.
Phil, when you heard Sean Spicer of the RCN say, if the CIA is so sure, why wouldn't they come out on the record, why did you react?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I feel like jumping through the TV screen and taking this guy on out behind the shed. Let me be clear: Talk to President Bush 43, a noted Republican, as far as I remember, about the service he received from the CIA for eight years.
Talk about -- talk to his father, one of the most staunch defenders in the Republican Party of the CIA. This guy who doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground is telling me that the CIA is political after all those years of service to Republicans? I don't buy it.
CAMEROTA: You're angry that Donald Trump, even, has said that how can the CIA be trusted? They got the intelligence wrong with Iraq.
MUDD: I'm not angry that he has questions. I'm not even angry that he doesn't take the president's daily brief. If you look at the history of presidential engagement with the CIA, very mixed. Sometimes presidents like to read things. Sometimes they like to take in information through their advisors. But look, my mom taught me something that maybe President Trump can learn. If you have something negative to say about somebody, especially if they're a subordinate, you do it courteously in private. If you want to praise them, you do it in public. I don't think this is the appropriate way to go with the executive branch and tell the FBI and the CIA, "This is how I'm going to manage you." CUOMO: Now, in terms of what we understand about the intel here, is there any question among any of the agencies, yet alone division with the CIA and FBI, as to the main question of whether or not Russia was involved or somehow motivating the hacking that went on in the election?
MUDD: No, you pointed to what I think is a real confusion over the weekend. The difference between what happened and why. I don't think there's anybody in the intelligence community who's followed the electrons here that has looked at what the hackers have tried to do during the election and come up with anything but one conclusion. Russians were involved in hacking before the election. Not any dispute about that, Chris.
CUOMO: All right. Because the president-elect, David Drucker, he disputes that, as well. Not just the motive. That's where Alisyn's quote becomes operative. The thing, hey, they got you wrong about Iraq. He's talking about whether or not the Russians were involved at all. He has laughed it off. He said it was some fat guy in a bed. What about that part of the analysis, not the motive for why they did it, because that gets soft, even by Phil's own appraisal. But why does the president-elect question whether there was hacking at all?
DAVID DRUCKER, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": You know, it's interesting, right, I think the president-elect could say that Hillary Clinton and her supporters are trying to lean on this as an excuse for why she lost the election. And all he really has to say is, "It's not an excuse for why she lost, but as president, I'm not going to stand for this the way President Obama has and allow it to continue."
So there is a very easy, political way for him to say that "Democrats shouldn't use this as a crutch, but I'm going to actually do something about it. And that's why people elected me to fix all these problems."
What do we know about Russia and hacking? We know that there are very few countries and entities that can actually hack at the level of Russia and the United States. We were able to do a lot of of this. They're able to do a lot of this. The Chinese can. This is not necessarily something somebody in their basement can do.
No. 2. We know that Vladimir Putin has looked very kindly on Donald Trump from the beginning. Whether or not Trump in his heart likes that, doesn't like that is beside the point.
CUOMO: You wrote about this a long time.
DRUCKER: I wrote about this over a year ago. It has an army of Vladimir Putin has an army of Internet trolls that are unofficial Kremlin mouth pieces. And they were promoting make America great again and Trump on their websites in Russian language going back a year.
And if you talk to former ambassador to the United States Michael McFall, granted he worked for Obama and was a part of the Obama Russian policy. He now works at the Hoover Institution. He will tell you that Vladimir Putin still holds it against the United States that when Putin came back into power, there were democratic protests in Russia. He blames us. And so he has had this up his craw forever.
And finally, Putin is a nationalist. He views Trump as a fellow traveler. That may not be fair, necessarily. When you appoint James Mattis to DOD and some of these other mainstream Republicans, Trump could turn out to be a lot different than maybe even Putin thinks. But this is what Putin thinks about Trump. This is the way Putin has acted towards other nationalists in Europe and France and Scotland.
And so, it makes sense that he would try to be very active in disrupting our democratic process simply because he's a hostile actor, and he would take a lot of pleasure from being able to believe that he is either manipulating the American system or that we think so. And I don't think any of those can be denied, whether or not you believe the CIA's report and their intelligence or not.
[06:10:05] CAMEROTA: So, Abby, I mean, what does it tell Americans that the president-elect, Trump, seems to believe Putin saying, "No, we didn't do anything," over the intelligence community?
ABBY PHILIP, REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, this goes both ways. As an addendum to what David just laid out, I mean, Donald Trump has also done and said and appointed people close to him who also have positive ties to Putin.
CAMEROTA: Rex Tillerson, who might be the next secretary of state.
PHILIP: Michael Flynn, who's his national security adviser, is one of his closest advisers on broad national security issues and will be in the White House. His nomination is not subject to Senate confirmation, in part because those ties are something that would be under scrutiny if he were to go before the Senate for confirmation.
So, you know, Trump has over the course of the campaign not just been the sort of recipient of positive words from Putin, but he has also expressed positive words about Putin himself. Maybe it's because it's a situation of mutual flattery.
But that is the scenario that has left a lot of people in the intelligence community and elsewhere wondering what is going on here and why won't Trump establish a certain amount of distance between himself and another nation which -- while the United States tries to have a cooperative relationship with Russia, we are at odds over a lot of major issues.
CUOMO: But ties with Russia could have been a virtue for some of these picks. There's no question you need a better relationship. But because of the president-elect's resistance to reality, now everybody is more suspicious of this. Certainly the men and women in Congress.
Well, look, we have a lot to talk about. Stick with us here as a panel. Can you do that, Phil?
MUDD: I can try.
CUOMO: Please, calm yourself down. Get you some chamomile.
And we want to talk about some other threads that are on this weekend that we need to be tied up. For instance, what we were just talking about, the top contender for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. He is the former CEO of Exxon. He has had very successful relationships with Russia.
That could have been a plus, but now there are a lot of questions about the depth and the potential loyalties involved here. We discuss.
And China is on the horizon in a whole new way. Stay with us.
[06:16:13] CUOMO: Rex Tillerson is the current Exxon chairman and CEO. I was saying if he becomes secretary of state, obviously, he'd have to become the former one, but he is supposedly high on the list of President-elect Donald Trump's candidates for secretary of state. Who is he? And his inarguably close ties with the Russian government and with Vladimir Putin could have been a plus, but now it's question mark.
Let's bring back our panel to discuss: David Drucker and Abby Philip and Philip Mudd. And the reason it went from a plus to a question mark is because of the president-elect's, you know, obstinence when it comes to Russia. It seems like it's almost something protective when it comes to condemning Russia as the facts would allow. And that makes what could have been a plus -- Tillerson is good with Russia, maybe that could help our relationship with them -- now look like a question mark, because we don't understand the motive in seemingly propping up Russia on the part of the president-elect.
MUDD: Well, I understand the motive. I think it's pretty clear. And I think we ought to remain open-minded on this, with one question. Open-minded, because if you look at the past few years in Eastern Europe with Iran and in particular with Russia and we're sideways with them in Syria. The president wants -- the president-elect wants out of Syria.
How do we figure out a better relationship so we're not confronting each other in NATO states, so we're not bombing different people in Syria. I think there's a chance that Trump realizes. That said, we just come out of election where every intelligence professional says forget about Republicans and Democrats. That the Russians tried to undermine Americans voting for the president of the United States. One of the basic values.
CAMEROTA: So then why don't you see something more nefarious at play with Russian alliance?
MUDD: First of all, money talks. I want to see what the president- elect does when he gets into office. For example, he's talking about rolling back the Iran deal. I don't buy it. I don't think he can. I don't think he will. So there's a lot of talk here. I do think he's appointing people who have the potential for a different kind of relationship and leverage with Russia -- maybe I'm Pollyannaish on this -- than we've seen in the past.
PHILLIP: I think that's right. I mean, there is a potential for them to make some substantive changes that might improve the relationship, long-term. From a political perspective, I think you're going to see on the Hill if Trump nominates Rex Tillerson, he's just going to be used as a proxy to draw out answers from him about his position on some of these macro questions.
It may or may not be about Rex Tillerson, but I guarantee you folks like Lindsey Graham and John McCain are going to use that as a vehicle to extract, you know, extract questions and answers from this administration about what their policy actually is.
Like, let's not forget that Donald Trump has not exactly outlined exactly what he wants out of this relationship. He's expressed some positive views toward Putin, but he hasn't been particularly specific about his world view for that relationship and for sort of -- the United States' geopolitical position around the world.
So, the more of those answers that we can get, and I think Republicans are going to be -- some of the moderate Republicans are going to be some of the folks wanting that information more and putting, you know, the Republican leadership Mitch McConnell in a tough spot.
CUOMO: On the basis of what is already known about what Russia may have done to influence the election, if it turns out to be true that Congress comes together and slaps sanctions on Russia for what they did, forget about the motives and all that. That's a political discussion. What kind of situation does that put the president-elect in?
DRUCKER: Well, let's see what happens. I mean, let's not forget that Congress is done for the year. So, nobody's slapping sanctions on anybody between now and when the new Congress is seated in early January. There's just going to be about ten days, two weeks where you would have President Obama available to sign a sanctions bill, and is this something that Republicans are going to let pass through both houses of Congress, in a sense, allowing President Obama to act on foreign policy that close to the end of his term? I really don't think so.
[06:20:07] And so if Republicans and Democrats work together to push this after Trump is elected -- inaugurated, excuse me -- then the issue is, what does he do about it?
I mean, I think the big irony here is that Republicans, and I think rightly so in many ways, have criticized Obama's Russian reset as being failed policy. And yet, Donald Trump campaigned on and now appears, you know, ready to sort of act on Russian reset, part two.
And -- and to the question is, is he going to have any more success in getting the Russians to act the way we want them, as opposed to us doing what the Russians want? Are we going to move back into the Middle East and exert influence over the region, or are we going to continue to leave it to Russia? That's what the Syria play for Putin was all about. Are we going to use our influence to try and make changes to the Iran deal, which in many ways, we'd have to do unilaterally, and which the Russians will not want.
And I think that's where Tillerson becomes very interesting, because as we've been discussing here, Tillerson, with his skillset and relationship with Moscow, could actually be a plus if we want to push back on the Russian government and reset the relations to our advantage.
The reason everyone is questioning Tillerson is because we're wondering if Donald Trump is going to tell Putin, "Hey, man, we're friends. Do what you want. We're not really that interested in being that involved any more in places like the Middle East. Just -- you know, just don't cause us too many problems." That's where Tillerson becomes, in essence, a Rorschach test for what this administration is going to do.
CAMEROTA: Right. OK. Other big questions about what the U.S. relationship will be like with China. Particularly became President- elect Trump took the call with Taiwan, much to China's ire.
Yesterday President-elect Trump explained where he is on China. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I fully understand the one-China policy, but, I don't know why we have to be bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.
I mean, look, we're being hurt very badly by China with devaluation, with taxing us heavy at the borders when we don't tax them. We're building a massive fortress in the middle of the South China Sea, which they shouldn't be doing. And, frankly, we're not helping us at all with North Korea.
CAMEROTA: Phil, does that explain where the U.S. will be with China in their relationship?
MUDD: Are you kidding me? I have less idea now than I did 30 seconds ago. This is in the national security sphere, which is a concern to me, the same thing we saw in this political sphere. Throw every card out the window, every plan out the window. Come up with the campaign strategy that upends everything we know about politics. Now we're going into the national security realm overseas saying Iran nuclear deal, maybe not. Dealing with Russian and Syria, that's fine. What did we do with the two-China policy? We'll figure that out on the fly.
I think this, to me, says he'll act the same way in national security that he did during the campaign.
PHILLIP: I think that's pretty -- that's pretty accurate. What he's doing in that interview is using the bully pulpit to pressure China on diplomatic issues, which is...
CUOMO: He has higher ground with China right now in the state of play than he does right now with Russia. The -- both subjects do not deserve the same scrutiny. He is right as the incoming president to question the policy with China. That has not borne fruit the way many Americans would have wanted.
PHILLIP: I think he has that right to change that policy, if he wants to. The question is, how is he doing it? He's going about it in a television interview, basically saying, "We're going to force China to make a deal. So far China has responded to this by basically being fairly calm, but we can see the levels kind of ratcheting up slowly as we go forward."
CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much. Great to get all of your expertise.
So, thousands desperately trying to leave Aleppo as Syrian regime ramp up air assaults and tighten their grip on that city. So we go right to the front lines for you, ahead on NEW DAY.
[06:28:07] CAMEROTA: An update now on the situation in Syria. Government forces there are tightening their grip on Aleppo, reclaiming yet another neighborhood. This as tens of thousands of Syrians run for their lives.
CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen spent the weekend in Aleppo. Fred, tell us the latest.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn. It looks like there was another collapse of many of the rebel defenses in that little enclave that they have in Aleppo. There was really a sustained campaign by the Syrian government forces, and I don't think that we can stress enough that, even by the Syrian civil war, what we've been seeing in Aleppo over the past couple of days is a lot more fire power. You're not talking about an ebb and flow on the battlefield.
You're talking about a sustained 24-hour campaign, using very heavy weapons. And at the same time, Alisyn, you have tens of thousands of people trying to flee those besieged areas, and the only way they can go out is to go right through the front line. We were there just two days ago, and we saw people who were in a devastating state, who said that it was very dangerous for them to come up, but they had to make that journey, hoping they would make it out safe.
So, really looks as though the rebels are losing their foothold in Aleppo. This is something that could only be a matter of days, the Syrian government believes. But at the same time, the Syrian government is losing ground elsewhere where ISIS has gone back into the ancient city of Palmyra. Of course, there's a lot of concern about the ancient Roman ruins, which really are a cultural heritage. But it seems as though ISIS used bad weather in the past couple of days, which meant the Syrian air force couldn't fly airstrikes, and has moved into that town, again.
So, a lot of motion there on the battlefield. A lot of things happening. A very, very brutal state of affairs right now, especially out there in Aleppo -- Chris.
CUOMO: Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much.
Another story for you this morning. The gunman who shot and killed former New Orleans Saints football player Will Smith after this traffic confrontation last April has been convicted of manslaughter. Last night very late, actually, the jury also found 29-year-old Cardel Hayes guilty of attempted manslaughter for wounding Smith's wife, Raquel.