Return to Transcripts main page
U.S. Official: Intel Suggest Putin Involved in Hacks; Obama Vows Retaliation Against Russia; Rift Developing Between Trump & White House; Trump's Pick for Ambassador to Israel Vows to Move Embassy to Jerusalem. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired December 16, 2016 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... or did they have an intent of helping one candidate?
[07:00:04] JASON MILLER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TRUMP TRANSITION TEAM (via phone): The continued efforts to try to delegitimize the election. You've got to realize that the election from last month is going to stand.
SEN. DIANNE WEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: It was foreign espionage. This is not new to Russia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dylann Roof found guilty on all charges.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One step towards justice is being done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He thought he was starting a race war, but look at what love conquered.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Happy Friday. Welcome to your NEW DAY. So the intelligence community is weighing in more now, saying not only do we know that this is about the Kremlin, but we know that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was personally involved in hacking the United States presidential election and that those hacks have not stopped.
President Obama says that the United States will take action before he leaves office.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: These developments widening the rift between the White House and President-elect Trump's transition team. And this morning, the Kremlin is weighing in.
So we have every angle covered for you, starting with CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez, who is here with us live. Evan, you've been out front reporting all of this. Tell us the latest.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
Well, you know, we know that Russian spy agencies deployed sophisticated hacking tools, the kind used by the NSA, to break into U.S. political organizations in the past year. U.S. officials tell CNN that this is part of the reason why intelligence officials believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the disinformation operation that targeted mostly Democratic Party groups and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
Investigators haven't found direct evidence linking back to Putin, but officials believe that, because of the nature of the operation, he would have had to give the orders on what to do with the stolen e- mails.
In recent weeks, intelligence agencies have collected more evidence, including from human sources, to back up their assessments, first made in October, that only the most senior members of the Russian government could have ordered the 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. A campaign official tells CNN that they received security notices as recently as last week, indicating attempts to get into their private e-mail accounts.
Now, officials say that, despite the Russian expectations of better relations with the incoming Trump administration, they expect that the Russian hacking activity is going to continue largely unabated -- Chris.
CUOMO: All right, Evan, thank you very much. Appreciate it. We know you'll stay on this story.
So President Obama now vowing to fight back against Russia. How? Why now? What not sooner? What is the real truth about the state of play? We may get some answers when he speaks with reporters later today.
But right now let's bring in CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live at the White House.
What is the messaging about? We know Evan, you know, advanced this story about why the White House says they didn't jump on this sooner when they first new. But why the urgency now?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, we are going to hear from the president later today and, of course, he is going to talk about the retaliation against Russia, that this is very important that there is a strong U.S. response.
The president in an interview with NPR said it was back in September, that is when he actually confronted Vladimir Putin at a G-20 summit in China confronting him about this hacking, saying that it would not be tolerated. It was in October it become public when intelligence analysts pointed to Russia, publicly saying that there would, indeed, be a proportional response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: The president is not giving a timetable, but it is very clear that he wants something to happen before he leaves office. There are a number of options on the table. Could be public or private shaming of Russia, of Vladimir Putin, which already seems to have been done. Could also be economic sanctions or even some cybersecurity threat of our own. But it's expected there's going to be a lot of tough questions later this afternoon about some of those details -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, Suzanne, thanks so much for previewing that.
Well, the back and forth between Donald Trump and the White House over Russia's apparent meddling is turning national security into a political football.
CNN's Sara Murray is here with the latest.
What have you learned, Sara?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
Well, all these warm, fuzzy feelings in the beginning between the Obama administration and incoming Trump administration appear to be having some riffs. That's as Donald Trump and the White House press secretary are exchanging barbs.
MURRAY (voice-over): A week of Russia revelations and Donald Trump's denials creating a rift between incoming and outgoing administrations.
[07:05:04] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.
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.
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, both sides are going to try to put politics aside today and ensure the smooth transition of power. There is going to be a summit at the White House for chiefs of staff that will have incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus as well as Dennis McDonough, the current White House chief of staff, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was President Obama's first White House chief of staff -- Chris.
CUOMO: Sara, appreciate it.
Joining us now is a ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Democratic congressman from Maryland, Elijah Cummings.
Good to see you, sir.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Good seeing you all.
CUOMO: So, I don't know, but I suspect that the president-elect was watching NEW DAY this morning, hearing us talk about the hacks during the election, and the intelligence communities believe that they see the fingerprint and marks of Russian influence on those processes. And he pointed out in a tweet, "We talking about the same hacks where someone at CNN gave a debate question to Hillary Clinton?"
Now, his intention is clear. He wants to focus on the substance of what was leaked and not who was behind the hacking.
His other political point, Congressman, is the White House knew and did nothing. Why, if it's such a big deal and they were so sure it was Russia, did they do nothing? Fair question.
CUMMINGS: Yes. Well, keep in mind, and it's been reported on your show this morning several times that back on October 17, the president did issue a statement, it just so happened, with regard to the Russian hacking. It just so happened that it came out the same day that the Billy Bush tape came out. So, it got kind of snowed under.
But let's -- we need to be very clear on this. Because I think we're getting distracted. I've listening to a lot of news broadcasts. The fact is that there has been hacking by the Russians. We're clear on that. It goes up to the highest levels of the Russian government. We're clear on that.
And this is like, as the former CIA director said, this is like a 9/11 for us. And we should be addressing it in a very serious and it must be an independent way. And that's why Congressman Swalwell and I have proposed legislation or put forth legislation to make this more of a 9/11-type commission to actually look at what is going on.
Chris, I've said -- I've said it for weeks, that this is a struggle for the soul of our democracy. I mean, we're seeing all of our institutions being attacked, even our election system, the FBI, the CIA. And so there is a real crisis of legitimacy.
[07:10:06] But more -- just as significant, our election process has been the fact that we need to address it in an independent way.
CUOMO: Right. The...
CUMMINGS: We have no time -- we have no time for partisanship here.
CUOMO: The transparency...
CUMMINGS: We can't afford it.
CUOMO: The transparency will help, if you guys hold hearings. The intel community. I know there's been some reluctance from them to want to put forward briefers, but if you can get past that that and people get more of an understanding of the sum and substance, I think you'll see the two sides coming together.
And the issue of that transparency takes us to another question you're dealing with. There is no real issue as to whether or not the president-elect and his kids have present conflicts of interest at play. They do. Because they have the Trump Organization, and now you have the president-elect with stewardship of the country. And you have his kids, who if they work in the government, will have the same problem. The question is what to do about it. What do you want?
CUMMINGS: Well, the thing I want, first of all, is to do what both Republican and Democratic experts have said -- ethics experts have said. That Donald Trump has to divest himself of all of these -- of his interests.
CUOMO: Is that fair?
CUMMINGS: Put them in a blind trust.
CUOMO: You can't put them in a blind trust, because they're not just simple securities, Congressman.
CUMMINGS: Chris -- Chris -- Chris...
CUOMO: And if he sells them, he's selling them under hardship under time pressure, could affect their value.
CUOMO: You could have opportunists buy them to try to curry influence. Seems like a tough solution.
CUMMINGS: Yes. Yes, it's a tough situation. But again, when we go into government, we go into government knowing that we're going to have to make major sacrifices.
And so he knew. He ran for president. He bragged about running for president. He talked about the fact that he wasn't worried about money. And now it's time for him to govern.
And so we cannot have the president of the United States sitting in meetings with his kids, who are also his transition assistants and running his business, sitting in, for example, the other day with the tech industry folk. You can't do that.
I mean, and there's another piece to this. Keep in mind, Chris, he's got at least 111 companies operating in 18 countries. And, so, he knew all of this when he went into it.
CUOMO: Except the voters...
CUMMINGS: He has to do.
CUOMO: But the voters say, "Yes, we knew, too. And he won." So is there -- is there an implied acceptance of these conflicts as they exist? And then as long as he's open about it and you know what he has and where, then you move forward on good faith basis?
CUMMINGS: Well, you know what, Chris? You just said the right words.
CUMMINGS: We know what he has. We don't. That is the point. He does not -- we don't know -- he will not turn over his tax returns. We don't have a clue of what he has. We don't even have a clue of all the conflicts that are facing us.
Keep in mind, remember what I said a few minutes ago. We're talking about a question of legitimacy of our institutions. Here, you've got -- you're going to have the president making decisions on all kinds of issues. We do know that he's gotten a lot of Russian money because he couldn't get certain loans here in the United States. So, a disproportionate amount of his money is coming from Russia. We know that.
But it's just not Russia; it's all over the world. And so -- but he knew this.
CUMMINGS: He knew this when he came into it. CUOMO: The last point is...
CUMMINGS: Come on, Chris.
CUOMO: You wrote an op-ed where you talk about the Emoluments Clause, which is a very arcane word. It's in the Constitution. Boiled down it means getting paid for things while you're in office, which you're not supposed to do. And Politico reported on what they call a mock corruption hearing to try to compel an oversight hearing that you were behind. What do you want to do here, and how far are you willing to go?
CUMMINGS: What I want to do is make the American people know that we are in crisis mode, and that we are fighting for our democracy. And I want them to understand the fact that President-elect Trump has a duty to us as Americans. He's no longer an employee of Trump Enterprises. He is an employee of the people of the United States of America. And there are certain rules that come along with that.
And there's certain things that we want to accomplish, and that is we want to do away with, as best we can, not only the conflicts of interest, but the appearances of conflict of interests. Because we want to know, when he makes decisions anywhere, that's not just to line his pockets or that's a major incentive for him to do those deals.
And so, I mean he has to be -- you know, you talk about transparency. No. We -- things have not been as transparent as they need to be. I think the electors are right, the ones who have asked for more information. I think they should have it immediately. After all, their duty is to deliberate. What are they deliberating over?
[06:15:08] And then the other thing is, I think the president asking for what he's asked for and more information. I think all all of that is important. But the American people need to know what we are dealing with and who we're dealing with.
CUOMO: All right. Congressman Cummings, I appreciate this. This is -- this is going to go on for a while. So, we'll keep the conversation going. Thank you for being on NEW DAY. Early Christmas wishes to you and the family. CUMMINGS: Same exact to you.
CUOMO: All right. Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: All right, Chris. Trump's choice -- Mr. Trump's choice for Israel ambassador has many controversial plans and ideas. So, "New York Times" columnist and author Thomas Friedman is going to weigh in on that and much more when we see him next.
CUOMO: Donald Trump naming his ambassador to Israel, and it is raising eyebrows. The man's name is David Friedman. He's a bankruptcy lawyer. He's already vowing to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, this thing that has a lot of roots in history and in politics.
Joining us now from Washington is "New York Times" columnist and author of "Thank You for Being Late," Thomas Friedman.
Also, must be noted you won a Pulitzer Prize for your reporting about the situation in Israel and the politics surrounding it. Tom, thank you for joining us on NEW DAY. What is your take on this choice?
[07:20:11] THOMAS FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it's sheer madness. I mean, to have someone who has referred to Jews who support a two-state solution as equivalent of kapos. Those were Jews who collaborated with the Nazis in concentration camps. That's talking about Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, the Israeli general staff. More than half of Israel -- well more than half of Israel -- still believes in a two-state solution. I believe Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still on record of supporting a two-state solution.
So, to appoint someone that extreme, well, I could tell you this, Chris. He'll be the first American prime minister to the state of Israel-Palestine. Because if you're against the two-state solution, you're for a binational state.
CAMEROTA: So let's talk a little bit more about that. His name is David Friedman. No relation to you.
FRIEDMAN: No relation.
CAMEROTA: He goes further. I mean, he has lots of controversial ideas. Not only is he not a fan, in fact, an enemy of the two-state solution, he does want to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, also controversial. He also believes in building more settlements in the West Bank. I mean, what -- what do you see happening once he becomes, if he does, ambassador?
CUOMO: Also, Tom, give us the background of -- he didn't create the idea of moving the capital to Jerusalem. This has been out there, and it's been ignored or passed on by presidents in at least there administrations. Tell us what the issue is here? FRIEDMAN: The issue is that we continue -- the United States'
position is that the ultimate disposition of Jerusalem remains to be negotiated by the two sides, and until it is, we're going to keep our embassy in Tel Aviv.
Now, moving the American embassy. And this is an evergreen, everyone running for president tosses this out, but no one actually does it. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, in the absence of an agreed-upon solution between Israelis and Palestinians, I would call that the Full Employment for Iran Act. Because I can tell you, Chris, the Iranians, oh, they would be clinking glasses over that.
Because what the Iranians would then do is make a huge issue of this, paint the Americans as a pro- -- a basically fanatical right-wing supporter of the worst kind in Israel. And that would then embarrass all the Sunni Arab regimes. They would have to do something, enormously complicating, by the way, Israel's relations with them but also with their relations with us. This would put Egypt, Saudi Arabia in a very awkward position.
I can tell you, the Iranians right now, I mean, they would be sending love letters to David Friedman.
CAMEROTA: OK. That's -- those are stark words. So, let's move on to Russia.
FRIEDMAN: Let's move on.
CAMEROTA: Let's move on. I mean, you know, that -- there it is. Let's move on to Russia.
FRIEDMAN: This is such madness that it's just -- I can't believe we're talking about it.
CAMEROTA: So where are you with the meddling of Russia? What do you think the right -- President Obama has now said that he will respond. What is the right response to this?
FRIEDMAN: Well, the right response at the time should have been, I would argue, a cyber-response and a diplomatic and sanctions response.
You know, the president of the United States, whether it's Barack Obama or Donald Trump, you know, puts their hand on the Bible and promises to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution. The Constitution enshrines our democratic election process. Russia has attacked that process, we are told by the director of national intelligence and by the president. And it seems to me that is an attack on the very core institution of our country. It should have been responded to by Obama at the time. No questions asked.
And the fact that Donald Trump, now the president-elect, doesn't even want to get a briefing from the national director of intelligence, Admiral Clapper, on this, who is one of the finest public servants I've ever met in Washington, D.C.; the fact that he doesn't even want to sit down and hear the facts but just dismisses them out of hand is deeply disturbing. CUOMO: Well, is there any blame here -- well, I can't ask it that
way. There is blame. How much blame is there to be put on the White House and on the political left for putting Trump into a position where acknowledging the Kremlin/Putin role in these hacks is tacitly acknowledging that they swayed the outcome of the election? Because the left keeps banging on that point, and there's no real proof that this made a difference in the election, Tom. But they're pushing that point. And is the politics really overcoming the policy considerations?
FRIEDMAN: I can't answer that question, Chris. I only know two things.
CUOMO: You must.
FRIEDMAN: I can't, because I'm not here to speak for the left or the right. All I know is, as an American citizen, I want to know all the facts. If our national director of intelligence is saying that Russia hacked our election -- I personally think Donald Trump is president. He won. You know, I don't -- I'm not in a position to say this swayed anything left or right.
[07:25:17] But Russia hacking our elections, that is a direct threat at the core of our democracy. It should be something that the sitting president should have responded to, and it is something that the incoming president should be appalled by and demanding right now to come to Washington, have a full briefing by the people who know the facts in the FBI and the CIA.
And the fact that he doesn't do that, that he won't ask for the facts, that he's trying to delegitimize our intelligence agencies is appalling, because when he becomes president, and a month or six months later, and we suddenly discover that North Korea has developed an intercontinental ballistic missile that could develop a nuclear weapon to California, and then-President Trump has to act, has to act on intelligence. And who knows what implications, what would be the side effects of such an act against a country like North Korea. And he says, "Wait a minute. The intelligence community told me this." Who is going to believe him?
CAMEROTA: Tom, stick around, if you would. We have many more questions for you. We want to talk about the cabinet picks that Mr. Trump has already put out there. So, stick around for that.
Also, we're live in Charleston where a jury needed just two hours to render their guilty verdict on the church shooter, Dylann Roof. So we have reaction coming up.