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Source: Russian Hacking Ordered by High-Level Officials; Obama: Some Russian Countermeasures May Be Public, Some Not; 'Wall Street Journal': Trump Not Planning to Divest from Business. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired December 16, 2016 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's only one decision maker, and that is Putin.

[05:58:22] BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The hacking tools could only point to the highest levels of government.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Republican nominee himself calling on Russia to hack his opponent.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: This foolish guy Josh Earnest. Having the right press secretary is so important.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We're going to hit you and hit you hard.

JACK KINGSTON, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Sanctions is not something the administration is going to lead with.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections, we need to take action. And we will.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Evacuations are suspended in Aleppo.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have witnessed indiscriminate slaughter, not accidents of war.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one really knows how many people are left in these besieged neighborhoods.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: It is going to be a busy Friday. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is December 16, 6 a.m. in the east.

We begin with the damning intelligence that strongly suggests Russian President Vladimir Putin was involved in hacking the U.S. presidential election, and that the hacks are still ongoing. President Obama vows to retaliate.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, one thing is for sure: The news of the intel is raising tensions between the U.S. and Russia and raising tensions between the White House and President-elect Trump's transition team, which continues to publicly deny the hacking.

We have every angle covered for you. Let's start with CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez. You're here with us. You've been ahead on this story.


Russian spy agencies deployed sophisticated hacking tools, the kind that were used by the NSA, to break into U.S. political organizations in the past year. Now, U.S. officials tell CNN that this is part of the reason why intelligence officials are believed [SIC] persistently that Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the information campaign that targeted mostly Democratic party groups in the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

Now, investigators haven't found evidence directly linking back to Putin, but officials believe because of the nature of the operation, he would have had to give the orders on what to do with the stolen e- mails.

Now in recent weeks, intelligence agencies have collected more evidence, including from human sources, to back up these assessments they first made in October that only the most senior members of the Russian government could have ordered this operation.

And the hacking hasn't stopped. Law-enforcement sources tell CNN that the FBI is now investigating hacking attempts after the election, targeting Clinton campaign staffers. Campaign officials tell CNN that they recently received notices as recently as last week, indicating attempts to get into their private e-mail accounts. Officials say that despite Russian expectations of better relations with the incoming Trump administration, Alisyn, they expect that the Russian hacking activity is going to continue largely unabated.

CAMEROTA: My gosh. Evan, thank you very much for all that reporting. Obviously, we will get into it more as the program progresses.

So how will President Obama fight back? We may get some answers when he speaks with reporters later today. But first, let's bring in CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. She is live at the White House. What do you expect, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, it's just days left in his presidency, and President Obama is vowing retaliation against Russia for the hacking and potentially influencing the U.S. presidential election.

Now, President Obama says in an NPR interview it was back in September. It was a G-20 summit, a sideline meeting that he had with Russian President Vladimir Putin, confronting him about this cybersecurity threat. It was in October. Intelligence analysts publicly named Russia as involved, as responsible for the hacking, and vowed a proportional response. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think there is no doubt that, when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections, that we need to take action. And we will, at a time and place of our own choosing. Some of it may be explicit and publicized. Some of it may not be. But Mr. Putin is well aware of my feelings about this, because I spoke to him directly about it.


MALVEAUX: So, the president does not give a timetable or the specifics, but there are a number of options that he could take. He can privately and publicly shame Russia, which he has already done. He can also impose additional sanctions and perhaps own a cybersecurity threat from the United States' point of view. But there are no details at this point.

There is a press conference around 2:15 or so. He's going to be getting a lot of questions about this later -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Suzanne, thank you very much.

You know, part of the danger here is that national security is getting lost in politics. The president-elect, Donald Trump, has denied Putin's hand in this situation, a sign of the growing rift between the president-elect and the Obama administration over the role of the Kremlin and Putin in our election.

CNN's Sara Murray has the latest on that story -- Sara.


Well, that warm, fuzzy feeling we may have had for a couple minutes when the Obama administration wanted to play nicely with the Trump administration appears to be evaporating, at least a little bit, and of course, Donald Trump is playing a hand in that, as well, going after White House press secretary Josh Earnest.


MURRAY (voice-over): A week of Russia revelations, and Donald Trump's denials creating a rift between incoming and outgoing administrations.

TRUMP: This foolish guy, Josh Earnest.

MURRAY: The president-elect taking shots at President Obama's press secretary.

TRUMP: He is so bad the way he delivers their message. He can deliver a positive message, and it sounds bad. He could say, "Ladies and gentlemen, today we have totally defeated ISIS," and it wouldn't sound good. MURRAY: Lashing out after the White House sharply criticized Trump's

continued dismissal of intelligence about Moscow's election meddling.

EARNEST: Mr. Trump obviously knew that Russia was engaged in malicious cyber-activity that was helping him and hurting Secretary Clinton's campaign.

TRUMP: The president is very positive, but he's not positive. And I mean, maybe he's getting his orders from somebody else.

MURRAY: Russia putting a strain on the roller-coaster relationship between Trump and Obama. The two attempting a show of unity for a smooth transition after a bitter campaign.

Now, tensions rising between the camps, fueled in part by Trump's tweet accusing the White House of only complaining about the hacking after Hillary Clinton lost. But, in fact, in early October, the intelligence community was saying they were, quote, "confident Russia was behind the DNC hack."

Clinton herself addressing the hacking for the first time since the election, telling donors that Russian President Vladimir Putin's grudge against her prompted the attack against the DNC.

This as Clinton's former campaign chair, John Podesta, penned a scathing rebuke of the FBI's handling of the hack, writing in "The Washington Post," "When the FBI discovered the Russian attack in September 2015, it failed to send even a single agent to warn senior Democratic National Committee officials," adding, "Something is deeply broken at the bureau."

Podesta's criticism echoed by outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: I think that it's about time that Comey acknowledged publicly what a disservice he's rendered to our country by doing nothing -- nothing except interfering with the election. He became such a partisan that he should become the new chair of the RNC.


MURRAY: Now, there are still efforts on both sides to put politics aside and ensure that there is a smooth transition of power. Reince Priebus, who is going to be the incoming White House chief of staff is meeting today at the White House with Dennis McDonough, the outgoing chief of staff for President Obama, as well as Rahm Emanuel, the mayor who was President Obama's first White House chief of staff.

Back to you, Alisyn and Chris.

CAMEROTA: OK, Sara. Thanks so much for all of that reporting.

We want to discuss all of this with our political panel, so let's bring in CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" columnist Josh Rogan; CNN political analyst and senior special writer for "The Wall Street Journal," Monica Langley; and CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA counterterrorism official Phil Mudd. Great to have all of you here for this very important conversation.

Josh, so, we have heard now for weeks, maybe months, that Russia was somehow involved in hacking into the DNC's computers and somehow possibly, thereby, swaying the election. What is new here? What is the bombshell today?

JOSH ROGAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What we've got now is now more official confirmation that this went to the highest levels of the Russian government. Now, you could probably guess that was the case. It's as if Russian government hackers are freelancing here, OK? This can only be done in the Russian system with top-level political cover. But now we're getting more intelligence, more human sources, more consensus among the intelligence community and public statements, including by the president of the United States and the White House press secretary that is going on.

So we're moving past the point of the discussion where "Did the Russians do it?" and we're moving to, "OK, now what do we do about it?" And that's the really more important part of the discussion.

CUOMO: Except, Josh, that assumes that we can define "we" as everybody. So let's bounce that concept to you, Phil Mudd, because the nature of how this is being communicated does not necessarily blow someone out of the water who wants to deny it. We don't know where they got it. We don't know how they got it. I know that the intelligence community has to keep methods and sourcing somewhat under wraps, but in a situation like this, that's become politicized. The president-elect says, "I don't buy it. They've been wrong before. How do they know?" And the answers forthcoming aren't the most clarifying.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I agree, Chris. We've got problems on both sides. Problems on the intelligence side and problems on the political side.

CUOMO: Well, when you say problems, Phil, just to be clear. Are you saying that you don't trust the intel or is it about messaging that you're talking about?

MUDD: Both. What I think is we're losing the distinction between what we know and what we think. We know someone stole information that was released on WikiLeaks. We know the fingerprints of the Russian security services in the digital world, because we've been following them for years. We translate that into saying, because we know they stole stuff, we also know who stole it and why. That distinction between what happened and what the intent was behind what happened is critical and that's being lost today.

Before I close, as a loyal American, let me tell you, I'm disgusted by the White House and disgusted by the incoming president. This is nonpartisan. We've got to figure out what to do with Russia and the digital world, in the Iran nuclear program and Syria. We have two 6- year-olds figuring out who can piss higher on a tree about what happened with the intel when the real question among professionals is how we deal with the main adversary after they disrupt an election.

I've had it with these guys. My message is shut up to the White House, shut up to the Trump office. Figure out what we do going forward and stop trying to figure out what happened six months ago.

CAMEROTA: But Phil, before we let you go on that note...

MUDD: I'll have a heart attack.

CAMEROTA: What is President Obama to do?

MUDD: Well, first of all, the conversations about how we retaliate against the Russians have to be discussed with the Trump people. We've got 30 days left. The conversation about Russia can't be isolated to deal with the hacks. As soon as you talk to the Russians publicly and accuse them, there's a potential even that that could be counterproductive. Everybody is talking about sanctions as if that might not allow Putin to tell the Russian people, "Look, it's me against the Americans. I'm going to win this one." His approval rating is 80 percent. Humiliating him in public might not work.

I think the conversation has to be broader. What's the new approach to Russia that includes conversations about Iran and Syria? And can the Obama administration do something to put the ball on the tee for the Trump campaign? They've got to work together, and right now it's like two kids in a sandbox. Disgusting.

[06:10:10] CUOMO: Look, Phil makes a lot of good points. He was in the business. Right? He knows the intel world. But this has been politicized.


CUOMO: So, now, because of these implications, founded and unfounded, about what the impact on the election result this hacking can be traced to, President-elect Donald Trump, his team, dug in and said, "We must deny the premise because of the potential conclusion." So now you have national security being used as a political football.

LANGLEY: That's bright. That was the clearest statement that I've heard this week about what we know versus what they think. And that's exactly why Donald Trump and his team keep swatting this down, because they're saying whatever we do know has now become convoluted into what they're accusing the Trump campaign of, that they -- that they won this election only because of the Russian hacks. So that's why they are continuing to say, "We don't. We're not, you know, into this."

I talked to a top Trump adviser yesterday. I said, "How much are you into this? You know, some people are saying the campaign is concerned." Some in the campaigns think Trump is concerned about the Russian hack. This senior adviser said Donald Trump is spending zero time on the Russian hack. He is more concerned with getting the best cabinet possible and bringing back good paying American jobs.

I mean, they believe that this is a total effort to delegitimize his election victory. And, so, they are really having nothing to do with it right now.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Josh.

ROGAN: That's the problem. I mean, we have to be able to say to ourselves, "OK, the Russians did it, and Trump won." Both of those things can be true, and we have to separate them. And then we have to figure out...

CUOMO: Both of those things are true, by the way.

ROGAN: Exactly.

CUOMO: If you believe the intel committee and you believe the political reality.

ROGAN: Right. And this whole discussion about, like, what was their intent? Well, they only leaked on one side, OK? So, you can draw from that what conclusions you will.

But again, it doesn't matter, because if they're doing this kind of stuff, and we have to respond to it, and both administrations have to be onboard with that.

Now, it doesn't seem like the Trump administration is going to do that. There is something that the Obama administration can do that the Trump administration can't reverse. They can release what information they have on Putin. OK? They release what his financial dealings are, what stuff he's been up to. All they have to do is release the information.

CAMEROTA: What does that do?

ROGAN: Well, the Trump administration can't reverse that, and then that will be a retaliation that the Obama administration can do before they leave office that will have an effect, that will show the Russians that we mean business, that they can't do this stuff and get away with it. And then, even if the Trump administration doesn't want to take this seriously, we'll at least have responded and at least put up some sort of fight and some sort of deterrence against this kind of attack going forward.

LANGLEY: What this shows, though, is that the Obama and Trump relations that started off on a good note is quickly deteriorating. Right? So they're already -- I mean, you saw Donald Trump last night at his rally attack Josh Earnest and by implication, also, Obama, the president. So you know -- and we know that this is what Donald Trump does. I mean, I covered his campaign. You know, it was a campaign by counterpunch. So, Josh Earnest punched him. He counterpunched Josh Earnest. And...

ROGAN: The campaign's over, OK? So Donald Trump has to switch to governing. OK, this about American national security, not about his political situation. OK, so -- OK, for the next few days or whatever we can still have this debate, but at some point, the Trump administration is going to have to stop talking about what's about Donald Trump and start talking about what's about... CUOMO: The irony is Trump comes at anyone who comes at him except

Putin, who may as well just have attacked his own country.

LANGLEY: OK, but you know why he hasn't come against Putin yet? Putin has not attacked him yet.

CAMEROTA: Humbly (ph).


CUOMO: Assume the stewardship of the country.

LANGLEY: Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

CUOMO: And you just had the Kremlin quoting intel...

LANGLEY: Exactly.

CAMEROTA: Panel, we have so much more to talk about. Stick around, please.

CUOMO: President-elect Donald Trump is not planning to divest entirely from his business empire when he enters office. Now, is this fair or is this unfair? We're going to also get into why Democrats are trying to force his hand on this issue. How can he satisfy the protection against conflict of interest? Is it possible? Good answers ahead.


[06:18:04] CUOMO: All right. The president-elect is tweeting this morning. It seems that he is monitoring the show. If so, good morning, Mr. President-elect. We hope that you're getting some good information out of our coverage.

He is tweeting about this cyberattack issue. And he has tweeted this: "Are we talking about the same cyberattack where it was revealed that head of the DNC illegally gave Hillary the questions to the debate?"

And I think the short answer to that -- let's bring back Monica Langley and Josh Rogan and Phil Mudd -- is, yes, we are talking about these hacks that went on. That is talking about Donna Brazile. She gave a question not to a debate, to a town hall. Still wrong. It did not involve a CNN staffer. CNN figured out what has happened. Brazile is gone. It was wrong.

Now let's talk about why the president-elect has decided to focus on the substance and not the sourcing of the hacks. What does this say to you, Josh Rogan?

ROGAN: Well, it says that he's still trying to distract us from the real issue, which is the fact that the Russians hacked our political system. OK.

Donald Trump, if you're watching, you won. It's OK. We can move on, OK? We've got... CUOMO: And he deserves that respect and that confirmation.

ROGAN: Absolutely. But the -- OK, so what was revealed in the hacking is one thing. We already know that. Now we have to figure out how do we make sure this doesn't happen, again? OK? Because what's going to happen next time? What if the Russians change their mind, and they want to hack the Republicans? What if they want to hack Donald Trump, right? All of a sudden the tables will be turned.

So we've got to sort of, you know, put aside the politics here and focus on the policy, all right? It's a national security issue that applies to all of us. And we need to sort of stop sort of distracting by talking about what was in the hack and talk about what we're going to do about it and how we're going to prevent this from ever happening again.

CAMEROTA: Monica, let's also move on and talk about what Mr. Trump plans to do about all of his business empire once he enters the White House. You have some great original reporting about why was the press conference yesterday canceled when they were going to spell out the plan? What have you learned about the plan moving forward?

[06:20:02] LANGLEY: Well, I think they're still working out the details. But as Donald Trump said yesterday, he believes it's simple on -- from his point of view, is that as the president, he could -- there's no law specifically that deals with whether he could run his business at the same time he runs the country. And what people say is, yes, he could do both.

However, as he stated, he wants the two older sons, who have been part of Trump Organization for years, to run the business. All the controversy has been whether those, the sons and the properties, though, will cause -- pose a conflict of interest.


LANGLEY: So what everybody has said, the answer to that is divest your properties. Sell them before you become president.

Well, what my reporting is telling -- what people are telling me is, no, he can't sell these properties. He doesn't even want to sell these properties. They have been in his family for a long time.

CAMEROTA: He doesn't want to, but he can. But he doesn't want to.

LANGLEY: Well, but it would be very difficult for a couple of reasons. One is, if you suddenly put all these properties on the market -- these are iconic real estate all over the world, you know, hotels, apartment buildings, office buildings, et cetera, golf courses -- that you'll either sell them at a fire sale. They'll go for so little if they're under time pressure to sell.

CAMEROTA: Which is not fair.

LANGLEY: OK. Or they're now going to go at high prices, because foreign governments or sovereign wealth funds will say, "Oh, this is a way to curry favor with the Trump administration. I'm going to pay a big price."

So I talked to someone high up in the Trump Organization yesterday. He said, "We can't win if we were going to have to liquidate these properties. We'll be accused of something."

CUOMO: And a lot of the businesses aren't bricks and mortar. They're licensing deals where his name is on something. And that's something that doesn't have a whole lot of value if he's not still attached to it.

CAMEROTA: But if they're at an impasse, then what?

LANGLEY: Well, then, what they're thinking about doing right now is having Donald Trump still be the owner but put them in a blind trust or something, have the two sons run it. The sons, starting on inauguration day, will no longer sit in meetings the way they have been at the transition team...


LANGLEY: ... influencing cabinet choices. And they were at the tech meeting the other day. Yes, take them out of it. No more. They can't be part of it. Clean break.

CUOMO: Got it. Josh, I'm going to bounce to you in one second, but let me get Phil's take on this idea of foreign governments currying favor. There's been a little bit of suspicion with that at who stays at his new D.C. hotel and why. What's the intel take on that?

MUDD: Couple things, Chris. First, stepping back, I don't think anybody, at least I don't presume at all that the president-elect would ever have somebody in the office and consider that his business interests affected the national security. I don't buy that. I think any president would act in the national interest.

But let me give you two quick angles on this. The first you already mentioned. Let's say a delegation comes into the Oval Office to discuss a sensitive issue -- China, Russia -- and says, "Boy, it was great to stay at your hotel down the street." I think that colors the conversation.

There's another angle on this, Chris, that's even more complicated. What if the intelligence community acquires information that shows that a foreign government is trying to curry favor with the president by going to his golf club, by staying in his hotel, by buying stocks and selling them to his companies? I think that gets even more complicated. Do you release that? Do you talk to the president about that?

I think this issue is not just an ethical conflict of interest. It's a question about how foreign governments would play the president and how the intel community might actually collect that information.

CUOMO: In the hypothetical, the stock part doesn't hold, because these are private entities. You wouldn't be buying up equities. But the point stands. MUDD: You're right.

ROGAN: Great reporting on how they're thinking about this. The problem is they haven't said any of that in public. All right? They keep delaying all of the press conference that are supposed to tell us how they're going to deal with these conflicts of interest.

And my response to what you've reported is, if the children are going to represent a conflict of interest after the inauguration, then they represent a conflict of interest now. Why not divorce them from the administration proceedings now? Right?

If it was bad for the Clinton Foundation before she was elected, then it's bad for the Trump administration before they're inaugurated. OK? They're all mixed in. All right. If it's not legally a conflict of interest, it's ethically and morally a conflict of interest. They don't seem willing to...

CAMEROTA: Yes. Hold on. Hold on. We're getting a little bit of breaking news. It's not just Mr. Trump that is awake at this hour. It's also the Kremlin. They have just released...

CUOMO: Much later there.

CAMEROTA: Thank goodness they're awake, or something would be wrong. They've just released this statement that we want to get to right now, saying -- this is first time we're reading it, so bear with us -- "They should either stop talking about that or produce some proof at last. Otherwise, it all begins to look unseemly." That's the Russian president's spokesman. Meaning, I guess, the White House...

CUOMO: Put up or shut up.

CAMEROTA: ... should produce the actually -- connect the dots.

ROGAN: I agree with the Kremlin on this. Let's see the evidence. Why not? You know, there's a...

CUOMO: They say, here's why. Because, you know, we've been digging into this. We have good sourcing on people who are actively involved in this identification process of who is doing the hacking. "Because if I tell you how I did this..."


CUOMO: "... now they know how we track their footprints. And if I tell you who we were putting and where that helped establish this..."


CUOMO: "... now they know. And this is an active combat."

ROGAN: This is also what the administration is saying to defend the fact that it didn't release this information before the election. Right? CUOMO: But that had political motivations. We know that from Evan Perez's reporting. That was them about trying to be expeditious for their own political goals.


[06:25:09] ROGAN: They thought Hillary was going to win.

CUOMO: That's right. So that's politics.

CAMEROTA: Phil, last thought.

MUDD: Look, I think thanks to the White House and to the Trump -- incoming Trump administration for giving an early Christmas gift to the Kremlin. If you're in the Russian security service, you're stepping back, especially this morning, and saying, "I thought this covert action campaign to unsettle the election worked pretty well, and now I have icing on the cake. We have the White House and the incoming administration fighting publicly over Russia, when the White House can't release the information based -- that they base this on, because it shows how they collected against the Russian security service." If you're a Russian security officer, this is Christmas early.

ROGAN: True.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much for all of the reporting.

Well, we have an update for you on Syria. Thousands of people are fleeing war-torn Aleppo, but new roadblocks this morning grinding their escape to a halt. We have the latest in a live report for you ahead on NEW DAY.


CUOMO: All right. Let's get to Syria right now. Efforts to evacuate civilians from the war zone have hit yet another speed bump. The operations in East Aleppo shut down this morning, we are told, after 8,000 to 10,000 evacuees were taken to one of the emerging refugee camps. What's to blame for the sudden stoppage?

CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen, who was recently reporting in Aleppo, is tracking this live for us this morning -- Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Chris. And as usual, in situations like this one, it's both sides blaming each other for the breakdown and the stop in those convoys evacuating people from eastern Aleppo.