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NEW DAY SATURDAY

Obama Blames Putin For DNC, Podesta Hacks; Trump Makes Final Stop On "Thank You" Tour Today; Obama Vows Retaliation Against Russia Over Hacks; Trump's Conflicts Of Interest; Report: Syria Says Evacuation Of Aleppo To Resume; Moscow Responds to Obama; China Steals U.S. Navy Drone; Football Team May Boycott Bowl Game. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired December 17, 2016 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you. President-elect Donald Trump embarking on the final stop of his "Thank You Tour" today. He is ending it where many saw the first sparks of his power of his political movement. Trump will hold a rally in Mobile, Alabama. You'll remember this picture, 30,000 people there at a stadium last August.

PAUL: This morning, he continues to build out his cabinet as well. The team naming South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney as Trump's choice for director of the Office of Management and Budget. He co- founded the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which has clashed with Republican Party leaders.

BLACKWELL: Meantime, President Obama and the first family have arrived in Hawaii where they will spend their final Christmas vacation while the president is in office. The president is leaving Washington with the promise of revenge against Russia over their alleged hacking and interference in the election. The president all but pointing the finger explicitly at Russian President Vladimir Putin as the man behind these alleged hacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin. This is pretty hierarchal operation. Last I checked, there's not a lot of debate and democratic deliberation, particularly when it comes to policies directed at the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Still wondering if Donald Trump will have anything to say about this. Let's bring in CNN's Ryan Nobles is live for us in Mobile, Alabama, where Donald Trump will be. What are you hearing is on the itinerary this morning, Ryan?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's pretty quiet here this morning, Christi and Victor, but it's going to be a lot different here in a couple hours when crowds are expected to descend here at this football stadium behind me. It's pretty appropriate that the president-elect will wrap up that "Thank You Tour" that he's been across the country here at this football stadium.

Because as you guys showed about a year and a half ago he brought 30,000 people out for a rally in Mobile, Alabama, and that was long before any votes had been cast. Many people questioned the idea of Trump coming here to Alabama.

It was a long way away from the Alabama primary. Alabama not expected to be a swing state, but what that rally demonstrated was Trump's passionate support among working class voters. And it was those voters that helped him on his methodical march to the White House which turned out, of course, to be successful.

Now, Trump has taken somewhat of a different tone in these "Thank You" rallies that he did on the campaign trail, kind of a gentler Donald Trump in some respects. Last night at his rally in Florida, he asked the crowd to follow his lead. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: You people were vicious, violent, screaming, where is the wall? We want the wall. Screaming prison, prison, lock her up. I mean, you are going crazy. I mean, you were nasty and mean and vicious and you wanted to win, right? But now you're mellow and you're cool and you're not nearly as vicious or violent, right? Because we won.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: And I can tell you I was at that rally about a year and a half ago here in Alabama. At the time, we were wondering if these crowds were coming out just because they wanted to see a reality TV star up close and personal, but I remember talking to a lot of people who stood in line for hours to see Donald Trump, that no, they believed in his message and thought he should become the next president of the United States.

Obviously that support continued over the next year and a half as Trump made his way to victory. This will be the last stop on that thank you tour, as we mentioned. Trump and his family now preparing for the Christmas holiday.

He dropped his wife and young son off at the Mar-a-Lago Resort in Florida last night and Trump will return there tomorrow and is expected to be there throughout the Christmas holiday -- Christi and Victor.

PAUL: All righty. Yes, Ryan, it will be interesting to see what you hear from those people that are there today if any of them are returning from the last time you were there. Thank you so much, Ryan Nobles. We appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's continue the conversation now with CNN senior politics reporter, Stephen Collinson, and CNN political commentator and Spectrum News anchor, Errol Lewis. Good to have both of you back with us. Steven, I want to start with you on what we are now hearing

from the president-elect about the hacks here. We did not hear him talk about it last night in Orlando. We will -- it's yet to see if we will see if he talks about it today in Mobile.

But the last time he mentioned it was this tweet that he sent out that was going to the DNC and Hillary Clinton, not the hack itself. There seems to be a specific strategy there going after by not talking about Russia.

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: Yes, I think so, victor. What the Trump transition has tried to do is portray this as part of political tumult. The idea that in their opinion Democrats and critics of Donald Trump and the intelligence community are trying to invalidate his election victory.

[08:05:05]But if we look at it, this is an extraordinary situation where the president-elect of the United States is going into office in 30 odd days completely at odds with the combined assessments of the U.S. intelligence agencies who will advise him on some of the most grave questions of national security when he becomes president.

So I think it's going to be interesting over the next month or so to see whether Donald Trump in any way steps back from these accusations or rejection, in fact, that Russia had any role in intervening in the election, a position which obviously puts him at odds with the White House as well and the White House has vowed to take action.

So I think we're going to see an interesting political dimension to this issue unfold before Donald Trump officially becomes president.

BLACKWELL: Errol, beyond at odds with the White House, it puts him at odds with members of his own party. Let's look at a tweet from Senator Lindsey Graham out this week where he says if you don't go after Russia for hacking during 2016 election, you're inviting other bad actors, China, North Korea, Iran, et cetera, to do the same. This could be his first big intraparty fight as he begins the Trump administration.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's right. There's a lot of members of the Senate leadership, of the congressional leadership in the Republican Party who are veterans of the cold war, who remember what the KGB meant, who remember that it was sort of job one on foreign policy of the national leadership of the United States to confront this kind of tampering and meddling and espionage.

It's also worth pointing out, Victor, that the cyber-attacks, the meddling in American elections was not confined to the presidential contest. There are nearly a dozen House seats where we now know the Russians were involved in releasing damaging information and attempting to sway different races.

That really sort of hits home for members of the Congress. They're not likely to look the other way, even for a member of their own party.

BLACKWELL: This is part of the conversation about sanctions, if there will be further sanctions on Russia that many -- several of the top names in the Republican Party in the Senate we know from Senator McCain, Senator Graham as well, Stephen, this comes a at time when their discussions of possibly lifting sanctions against Russia related to their annexation of Crimea.

COLLINSON: Yes, that's right. We know that the nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson is head of ExxonMobil criticized sanctions on Russia saying that they weren't proven to work and the Tillerson confirmation is now being caught up in this whole aftermath of the Russian alleged hacking of the election.

There are a number of senior Republican senators, John McCain, for example, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, have expressed concerns about Tillerson's close relationship that he forged with Vladimir Putin as the head of ExxonMobil. It's actually quite ironic.

What we're seeing is Donald Trump was the ultimate anti- establishment figure. He picked Tillerson for as his nominee for secretary of state. What we're seeing is establishment Republicans coming to Tillerson's rescue to try and keep his nomination on track.

He was recommended by former defense secretary, Robert Gates, former national security adviser and secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, has also spoken up for him.

We understand that even former Vice President Dick Cheney is sort of lobbying senators to let this nomination of Rex Tillerson go ahead. But what's so interesting is Russia is at the center of this -- was at the center of this election, now at the center of the transition.

If this was a Russian attack to sew discord and distrust in American democracy and in politics in Washington, it's clearly worked.

BLACKWELL: Errol, we'll have Congressman Jack Kingston on later and he traveled to Moscow shortly after the election. He says he was not there on behalf of the campaign, but he was a Trump campaign adviser talking in part with businessmen about the sanctions. How high now have the issues sanctions moved in the hierarchy of this Trump administration considering the call of new sanctions from Congress and when you have Tillerson in the position of secretary of state, someone who is no fan of these sanctions?

LOUIS: Well, it's very interesting. They're playing a game of chess there, Victor. I think you're right to point that out. Imagine this scenario, the departing president of the United States based on the things that he said yesterday, saying that, we're going to respond to all of these Russian meddling, these cyber-attacks.

We're not going to necessarily tell you what it is. Imagine if he ratchets up sanctions before leaving the White House, leaving to Donald Trump and his future secretary of state the very difficult question of whether or not to lift sanctions, even as we've now proved that in addition to whatever went on in Crimea, we've got this huge problem of them meddling in American elections.

What president is going to want to in his first few months lift sanctions on a nation that interfered in such an unprecedented way?

[08:10:05]BLACKWELL: Again, could be the first big foreign policy fight there. Errol Louis, Stephen Collinson, thanks so much.

PAUL: Still to come, the moral and ethical issues of President-elect Donald Trump's millions that he paid to his businesses during his presidential campaign.

BLACKWELL: Plus hope for people trying to get out of the Aleppo. A new report says the evacuations from Eastern Aleppo could soon resume.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: It's 13 minutes past the hour right now. A CNN review of federal reports show that Donald Trump paid nearly $12.5 million to his own businesses and family members during his 18-month long campaign for president.

The president-elect has also been including his children in official meetings with heads of state and leaders of major U.S. companies. S o a lot of people are saying does this pose an ethical problem? And if so, how serious a problem is it?

CNN Money correspondent, Cristina Alesci is live from New York with us trying to answer that question. What have you found in your research here, Cristina? And good morning to you.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. I spoke to a number of ethics experts and they say, yes, it's a serious problem. In fact a number of outspoken experts are comparing the Trump's family behavior to corrupt regimes around the world.

We have to see what happens when Trump actually takes office in January, but the involvement of the president-elect's kids are raising red flags right now. Experts say when Trump's children are sitting beside him at the table or on a phone call with world leader, that relays a certain signal, intention or not, that they are as important as he is.

One of Trump's biggest critics on this Norman Eisen (ph), who worked on government ethics for President Obama is warning that this kind of behavior really undermines democracy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The problem with it is it sends a message that if you want to have influence in the administration, do it through the kids. And there's a tradition. This is not the first time this has happened. I'm just shocked it's happened in the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[08:15:01]ALESCI: So Eisen (ph) really went on to compare Trump's children to those of the ruling communist party officials in China, they're called princelings. Corporations here in the U.S. and abroad have hired princelings in order to curry favor with the Chinese government.

JPMorgan Chase, for example, a major U.S. bank with extensive major business in China recently agreed to pay $264 million fine for hiring these princelings in what regulators called a systemic bribery scheme -- Christi.

PAUL: OK, but is it a fair comparison to take Trump's family involvement in official government and business? Is it fair to compare that to the regimes of China? And is it that serious an issue?

ALESCI: Well, it could be. And of course, you know, Trump has yet to take office, but lawyers and ethics experts are becoming alarmed now because of the pattern they are seeing. Not only is Trump including his children in these official transition meetings, but he's also telling the public that two of them will run his company.

That clearly mixes the office of the president with family business. Now, this is the salient point, why should Americans care? Primarily because corruption thrives in countries where the lines between family and government are blurred or indistinct all together.

As Eisen (ph) knows this often results in wasteful overpriced government projects being awarded to friends and cronies of the ruling family elsewhere and if that happens here in the U.S., Christi, it could end up costing U.S. taxpayers billions.

PAUL: Quite certain that people will be watching it very closely. Cristina Alesci, always good to see you. Thank you.

ALESCI: Thank you.

PAUL: Sure.

BLACKWELL: We've all watched these heart breaking scenes out of Aleppo, people are suffering from this ongoing war, but now there is a bit of renewed hope, according to a military news outlet run by Hezbollah, the Syrian government may allow evacuations to continue in Aleppo.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: Well, Donald Trump while on his "Thank You Tour" in Orlando yesterday, he talked about radical Islamic terrorism and how he plans to address the situation, particularly the humanitarian disaster in Syria.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: We're going to build safe zones. We're not having them come over. We're going to build safe zones in Syria. We're going to build safe zones. And we're going to get the Gulf States to pay for the safe zones and we're going to try and help people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[08:20:11]BLACKWELL: Well, this is coming as there is new hope for the people who are trying to get out of Aleppo. This is according now to a military news outlet run by Hezbollah. The Syrian government and the rebel group in Eastern Aleppo have reached a new agreement that will allow evacuations in that city to continue.

PAUL: The announcement, though, comes after the evacuation of thousands of refugees from that city had been halted. CNN senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, is following the story for us from Beirut.

I want to forewarn you, I mean, the images that we are seeing of these families, of these children, of the things people are going through are just gut wrenching. So, what are you learning there about how expansive or how plausible, even, the evacuations starting up again could be? Is it really going to happen for them?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, that's a really good question, Christi. I think one of the things that we always have to keep in mind when we hear that some new agreement has been reached is that so far two of these agreements have been reach and fallen apart. Thousands of people have already been evacuated, but yesterday at some point everything went bad when one of the convoys was stopped and even shot at. Let's have a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN (voice-over): They were supposed to be brought to safety, instead they're running for their lives once again. A convoy meant to take these East Aleppo residents out of the besieged areas under fire. This eyewitness says he was part of the convoy stopped he claims by an Iranian militia fighting on the side of the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language).

PLEITGEN: The Syrian government has a very different account, it says rebel fighters in the convoy were carrying concealed weapons and that they are to blame for the violence that reportedly left a number of people dead.

Evacuations that had already succeeded in getting thousands out of Eastern Aleppo ground to an immediate halt as the blame game began. Russia making a puzzling announcement saying it believed the evacuation of East Aleppo was complete and that only hard lined rebel fighters remained in the enclave.

Turkey, which helped negotiate the agreement, shooting down those claims. The Red Cross and UNICEF for their part say tens of thousands of people, including more than 1,000 children are still trapped inside the war-torn city. For those that made it out, the anguish was almost too much to bare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in foreign language).

PLEITGEN: But for those still trapped inside the tiny rebel enclave in Eastern Aleppo, the situation is even worse. Stuck in the bitter cold with no food and no medical supplies, left to pray that the violence won't begin again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: And just want to update you on the latest that we literally got a couple minutes ago. You saw in our report there those green buss that are supposed to take people from Eastern Aleppo, from the rebel-held areas through government territory and then to other opposition-controlled areas in Syria, those are apparently as we speak lining up once again, getting ready to resume those operations that are supposed to resume in the next couple of hours.

You know, the Red Cross has come out and said it's absolutely important that this does happen because there are a lot of people who are at risk, who haven't eaten anything real in weeks, who haven't slept very much and of course, were deeply traumatized as well and they say that it is especially the children who need to be evacuated otherwise they may not survive much longer.

PAUL: As we saw in your piece -- I want to bring out the point that Donald Trump was talking about earlier. He said in this rally that he was attending, that he wants to build safe zones and that's where he wants these people to go. How plausible is that to do in Syria, Fred?

PLEITGEN: It's a very good question. You know, if you look towards the north of Syria, there's some areas that the Turks have taken control of essentially. They have some Syrian rebel groups that are fighting on their side. They've taken some territory away from ISIS and those are essentially administered and sought after by the Turks.

So if you want, that would already be somewhat of a safe zone. Anything above that, there's no way that you're going to put in a safe zone without the consent of the Syrian government and of course, of Russia as well because they pretty much control a lot of those areas, at least in the skies, also the ones that the rebels are holding as well.

It would be very difficult to do. There are some areas that are fairly safe in the north controlled by the Turks.

[08:25:07]PAUL: Hopefully, they can get there. Fred Pleitgen, we appreciate it so much. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's go next door to Turkey where 13 soldiers are dead and 55 people are wounded, this after a deadly explosion there. A car rigged with a bomb exploded next to a bus transporting off-duty soldiers.

This is the latest in a wave of deadly bombings that have struck Turkey this year. Turkey's president released this statement, "We know that those attacks that we are facing are not independent from the developments in Iraq and Syria." He added that, quote, "We will fight against terrorist organizations."

Twenty five million dollars, that's how much the U.S. State Department says it will now reward anyone with information leading to the location, the arrest or conviction of ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi. It's a steep price.

Back in 2011, the reward was $10 million. Government officials feel that raising the reward is a proactive incentive siting that taking out al-Baghdadi would better protect our homeland.

PAUL: Laying the blame on Vladimir Putin, President Barack Obama pointing the finger at the highest levels of the Russian government for interfering with the U.S. election campaign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: It's so good to have your company as always on a Saturday morning. It's 28 minutes past the hour. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you. Donald Trump will be in Mobile, Alabama today, the last stop on his "Thank You Tour" then he's off to Palm Beach, Florida to spend some time at Mar- a-Lago.

PAUL: Well, he says thank you. President Obama says be forewarned nearly naming here Russian President Vladimir Putin as the man behind Russia's hacking and interference in the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In early September when I saw President Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that didn't happen was to talk to him directly and tell him to cut it out and there were going to be serious consequences if he didn't. And, in fact, we did not see further tampering of the election process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: But Russia has a message back for the U.S., it says prove it or shut up. Want to talk with this with CNN senior international correspondent, Clarissa Ward who is live for us in Moscow.

[08:30:04] Clarissa, are you hearing anything about whether Russia may retaliate when it comes to these and what they will do or how far they would go?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this stage, we haven't heard much of a reaction from the Russians to President Obama's press conference yesterday in which he all but specifically named President Vladimir Putin as the perpetrator behind the hacking of the U.S. elections. But up until this point, the Russians have been pretty consistent in their denials of having any involvement. They have dismissed these accusations as ludicrous nonsense. Just yesterday the Kremlin spokesperson said, as you paraphrased

before, that essentially the U.S. had to either prove these allegations or it should stop making them all together, calling them, quote, "indecent." So there's a sense here all along that the Kremlin party line has been to deny these allegations and to dismiss them as being an attempt really to poison the well, to try to poison the relationship that appears to be warming up between President Putin and between President-elect Trump.

A lot of state media also casting this as a kind of pathetic attempt of the U.S. government to hide or to conceal the deep seeded problems that America has domestically from the American people. But funny enough there's also a strange sense as well that Russian people are kind of enjoying this. They're kind of enjoying all the attention they're getting and they're kind of enjoying the even suggestion that they could pull off such an audacious move as swinging the U.S. election.

So I wouldn't expect to see much in terms of a specific reaction from the Russians. I think for President Vladimir Putin 2016 has been a very good year. And frankly, I think they're almost enjoying watching this play out, Christi.

PAUL: That's interesting. I'm wondering -- I talked with former FBI director Tom Fuentes last hour and he said he believes the motivation for Putin when it comes to these hacks is basically to show the U.S. that he can do it. To show that the U.S. is not strong enough to stop it. Do you see a power struggle coming between President Putin and President-elect Trump because you can't imagine that Donald Trump would appreciate that view of being seen as weaker?

WARD: I think it's really difficult, Christi, to speculate as to what the motivations were for these hacks. I think quite possibly the primary objective may just have been to try to disrupt the U.S. election, to try to disrupt the Democratic process, to cast the election in a kind of negative light, to bring out this divisiveness and create a little bit of chaos surrounding the whole event.

I do think, though, tapping into your second point, that it is way too early to talk about a serious warming of relations between the U.S. and Russia because ultimately while President-elect Trump and President Putin have been saying nice things about each other, they also have certain things in common that may make it difficult for them to have a real relationship because they are both strong men with strong opinions and it remains to be seen what compromises either side would be willing to make in the interest of improving a future relationship, Christi.

PAUL: And how that would work together.

Clarissa Ward, we appreciate it so much. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's bring in Jack Kingston. He was the senior adviser to the Trump campaign, former Georgia congressman. And Josh Rogin, senior political analyst and columnist for the "Washington Post." Gentlemen, good morning to both of you.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

JACK KINGSTON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Good morning, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Congressman, I want to start with you. You traveled to Moscow shortly after the election, just there a couple of days ago actually, and we understand, you told our Jake Tapper that you were there not as a representative of the transition but as a private citizen, but you did speak with some business members there who were concerned about the future of sanctions against Russia. What did you tell them?

KINGSTON: Well, first of all, Victor, I was there as a private citizen. I work with a large international law firm and we've had post-election evaluations and wrap-ups in London, and in Australia, Washington, D.C. and one in Brussels before the election, and we meet typically with businesses that our clients that are in our network and so forth.

One of the concerns that they had is lifting the sanctions. And what I had discussed with them and much of it was list in rather than speaking on that particular topic.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

KINGSTON: But what I had discussed with them is that the sanctions have been in place to the degree that we can see if they've been effective or not. And at that point seeing if we got the results that we needed then a new coming president can decide if that's something to expand, something to contract, something to continue as is.

BLACKWELL: But, Congressman, let me ask you, at a time when the heads of the FBI and the director of National Intelligence agreeing with the CIA assessment that Russia interfered in the U.S. election in part to help Donald Trump, why would this be a time to consider lifting sanctions?

[08:35:13] KINGSTON: Well, Victor, as I said, I was meeting with a lot of businesses and they tend to look at things from a profit standpoint. One of the things that we also discussed is, look, the big issues still are going to be Crimea, Syria and Ukraine, and the president just has to deal with that. Where businesses can play a role without sanctions or with sanctions is just being a good conduit for relationships and communications. Many of these business have been there for 20, 30, 40 years. Caterpillar Tractor, for example, has been in Russia for -- since 1930.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

KINGSTON: And so for an opportunity for communications I think it's important. One of 50 --

(CROSSTALK) BLACKWELL: One of those -- I hate to jump in here but we're running low in time and I want to bring Josh into the conversation. One of the businesses that's been there for some time is ExxonMobil. And we know that the president of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, now is Donald Trump's pick to lead the Department of State. I want you to listen to what he said about sanctions and Russia just a couple of months ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX TILLERSON, EXXONMOBIL CEO: We've got the sanctions in place right now. And he understands that's -- you know, I'm going to comply with the sanctions. There's not any conversation otherwise about that. And they recognize that. The first time I went over to see them after the sanctions were in place I was a little nervous. Wasn't sure. And it was interesting because the first question they asked me was, well, how are you doing? Are you OK? And I said, well, yes, I'm fine. Why do you ask? Well, we just wondered whether your government was coming after you because you've been doing business with us.

So they were more worried about me than -- and so they understood. You know, we understand you can't do certain things now. And what I tell them is, you know, we're not going anywhere. We've been around for 130 years. When the sanctions are over, we'll all sit down and get back to work. And until then, we just have to comply with the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Rex Tillerson there, speaking about the sanctions as temporary and also talking about them in the context of a personal relationship with Vladimir Putin.

Josh, to you, how high does the issue of sanctions move on this list of priorities now that you've got a Tillerson in at State?

ROGIN: Yes. I would just say, you know, we should look at those three issues that Congressman Kingston mentioned about the sanctions. Crimea, Ukraine and Syria, and while it's true that the sanctions haven't produced a change in Russian behavior, Russian behavior in all of these things are still bad. So you have to think about the implication of what lifting the sanctions would do.

You know, I'm sure that when the Trump administration comes in they'll take a look at this, OK? But Rex Tillerson is no longer going to be representing ExxonMobil. He's going to be representing the United States, if he gets confirmed. He's going to be representing the need for the government to defend our national security. And if you just take away sanctions and the bad behavior continues, all you've done is re-enforce that bad behavior, OK? And you've probably lessened the efficacy of sanctions for any use going forward.

So these are things that were done very deliberately. If we're going to remove them, that has to be done very deliberately. And I think all administrations come in thinking that they're going to have a good relationship with Russia. The last few administrations have done that, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, it doesn't work out because the Russians have a vote, OK, and they have interest that's are not aligned with our interests.

So I think we're going to go through a process where the Trump administration tries to make deals with Russia that can lift those sanctions and move forward some of those issues, and whether or not the Russians cooperate is really up to them.

BLACKWELL: Josh, looking forward at potentially the next five weeks in the response from the U.S. government to Russia as a result of the hacks. What goes into the decision-making process here of the proportional response or a big bold exclamation point to deter a China, a North Korea, an Iran, as Lindsey Graham pointed out earlier this week?

ROGIN: Yes, I know. I think you're going to see demands in Congress from both parties for that big, bold response that you're talking about and you're going to see an Obama administration that's looking for a more proportional measured, quiet response. I mean, you've got two tensions here. On the one hand, you don't want to escalate. OK. There's no reason to make this into an all-out, full-fledged conflict with Russia. That's an overreaction. That's bad.

On the other hand, you don't want to under react because this is a very serious breach of our national security that needs to be addressed and deterred as you pointed out. Threading that needle is tough, all right? The first step would be if everyone could get on the same page. And by everyone I mean the president-elect, you know, he should immediately come out and take the intelligence briefings and give them the benefit of the doubt rather than the Russian government.

And once we can all agree that this has happened, that there's a lot of evidence that the Russians are involved, then we can proceed with the investigation to get the rest of the evidence. Then we can talk about what we need to do about it. But first things first, we have to stop this sort of discussion of, oh, did this happen or did this not happen?

BLACKWELL: Yes.

ROGIN: It happened and it was real and it was serious.

BLACKWELL: All right, Josh Rogin, Jack Kingston, thank you both.

ROGIN: Thank you.

KINGSTON: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Christi.

PAUL: Meanwhile, China steals equipment from the U.S. Navy, the U.S. demands it back.

[08:40:02] What Chinese officials just told CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: The Pentagon is demanding China return their U.S. Navy drones. This of course after it was stolen.

BLACKWELL: Yes. China stealing the drone near the Philippines in international waters, so that's illegal. The move comes amid high tensions in the South China Sea with new reports that China has now weaponized these disputed manmade islands.

PAUL: As for the stolen drone itself, U.S. officials say it was, quote, "simply measuring ocean conditions."

CNN's Matt Rivers is live in Beijing this morning with more.

Matt, what are you hearing this hour from China and their response?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're hearing from China is a very, very measured response from Beijing, which is something that we're very used to. We got one line from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs basically saying they're working with their U.S. colleagues to come to a smooth resolution to this incident. But even though that was a measured response, this is an incident that is quite serious and it's something that will absolutely alter what has been a rocky U.S.- China relationship over the past weeks and years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIVERS (voice-over): The USNS Bowditch, an unarmed military research ship, was about 50 miles off the Filipino coast Thursday where the Navy says it was conducting research using two underwater drones called ocean gliders. Officials said the research was legal under international law. It was set to bring them back on board when officials say a Chinese naval ship trailing the Bowditch launched a small boat which swooped in and stole one of the ocean gliders. The Defense Department says the Bowditch immediately made contact to ask for it back but the Chinese ship simply sailed away.

Friday Pentagon officials asked again. Spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters, quote, "It is ours and we would like it back. And we would like this not to happen again." China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Saturday that, quote, "China and the United States are using military channels to appropriately handle this issue." A Chinese state-run newspaper, the "Global Times," citing a Chinese military source said the Naval ship took it to prevent any navigational safety issues. The paper went on to say the source told them, quote, "This issue will be smoothly resolved."

[08:45:07] The seizure comes at the time of heightened U.S.-Chinese military tensions in the South China Sea. China has built and militarized artificial islands in disputed territory, action the U.S. calls illegal, and President-elect Trump has made Beijing angry twice in the last two weeks, first taking a call from Taiwan's president and then questioning the legitimacy of the One China policy, a decades old diplomatic staple of U.S.-China relations.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RIVERS: And as for the motivation behind the Chinese seizure of this underwater drone, no one can say, for sure, but there are a couple of theories floating around out there. One is that it could be in retaliation to the incoming administration's reaction and relationship to Taiwan so far. You could also look at maybe part of a broader change in strategy for the Chinese perhaps testing the waters a bit ahead of the administration changeover set to happen in January, but the fact remains which you can talk about with all experts in terms of an opinion that they all share is that this is relatively unprecedented in recent times and that it very well could alter the U.S.-China relationship moving forward.

BLACKWELL: All right. Matt Rivers for us in Beijing. Matt, thanks so much.

PAUL: All righty. Severe weather across parts of the northeast right now we're getting word, one major airport has shut down due to ice. There's live pictures of New York for you. We're going to get your update on the other side of the break here. Do stay close.

But first, a London born actor takes us on a tour of his favorite local spots in this week's edition of "Around the World."

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JIM STURGESS, ACTOR: Welcome. We're outside the Camden lot, the Stables Market, you know, which is really the kind of heart of the cultural, you know, London scene. Very much the place of a lot of British guitar music. And right behind us you can see a place which is in the heart of the market there. It was really the focal point for a lot of British punk music. Bands like the Sex Crystals played there, the Clash. It's embedded in a lot of musical history.

You know, well, I'm fortunate enough because I get to travel around the world a lot with the work that I do, but the one thing that I always look forward to coming back to is having a pint in a north London pub and enjoying one of these amazing London scotch eggs. Cheers.

Yes, there really is no better place to finish my tour of London than at the top of Prim Rose Hill. You can see the whole skyline of London and just to have a moment and just take in this beautiful scene.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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[08:51:10] BLACKWELL: Well, first it's the roads, then it's the airports and the weather really doing a number up in the Washington, D.C. area. Dulles Airport is closed right now because of icy conditions, all the runways at the airport shut down because of freezing rain in the area. The airport says it's made surrounding roads just impassable there. Crews are treating the runways with ice melt and we know the airport says to check with your airline to confirm the flight status.

PAUL: Yes. They said the local roads are treacherous as well, that was their description.

CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar looking at this. It's not just how bad it is right now, it's how long will it last, Allison.

ALISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And that's going to be a big case for some of these airports and also as you mentioned the surrounding roadways. Now in and around the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore area, they've had reports of anywhere from a tenth of an inch up to two- tenths of an inch of ice and that's a concern. And again, notice, we still have some more bands of this that are going to be making its way through, again adding to some of the freezing rain and the ice that has already started to accumulate.

And it's not just in D.C. We take a look at Philadelphia dealing with many of the similar situations. New York right now is getting snow, but that's going to transition into that freezing rain and eventually rain as we go through the day. So they're also going to likely have some slick spots and then dealing with some pretty heavy snow coming down into Boston. So as we mentioned, it's also going to be other cities, yes, Dulles Airport in D.C. closed. All the runways are not operating at this hour, but it's not that much better in some of the other locations, including Philadelphia.

You could have delays and cancellations up to two hours. We're looking at New York, LaGuardia, JFK up to 90 minutes, Boston very similar and even Denver as well. So even if you're connecting in and out of some of those airports, definitely check with your carrier because some of these airports are dealing with pretty substantial delays if not cancellations.

The additional ice that we are expecting on top of what we've already had still looks all of the pink shaded area to be about a quarter of an inch. You can see some pockets of purple in Pennsylvania, Maryland, also down even into Tennessee where we could be looking at half of an inch of ice atop of what we've already had. We know of at least a quarter of an inch that has fallen in states like Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and now you're adding more on top of that.

Snowfall is mainly going to be limited to New England and again even some of these areas could be looking at, say, additional six inches of snow. Now the radar right now, again we're showing some more of that freezing rain expected to move into Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia and then the changeover taking place in New York within the coming hours.

So, again, Victor, Christi, unfortunately the problems are going to be there for at least the rest of the day. It will just be changing from one airport to the next.

PAUL: Oh my goodness. What a mess. Alison, thanks for the heads up.

BLACKWELL: And so the University of Minnesota's football team might be staying home for the holidays. Andy Scholes is working on details of this one.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Victor. Minnesota's players, they are boycotting all football activities right now until their teammates are reinstated. I'll have the details up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: The players for the Minnesota football team may boycott their ballgame. This is the top story on CNN.com right now.

PAUL: Yes. Andy Sholes is looking into it. Now this is because 10 of their teammates were suspended earlier this week and they're saying, am I right, if they don't play, we don't play.

SCHOLES: That's right. University of Minnesota so they indefinitely suspended 10 players earlier this week like you said without giving a reason. Now the attorney for the players say they're being suspended for they alleged role on a sexual assault on a female student that happened back in September. Now the players were suspended even though none of them were criminally charged. And on Thursday the other players that are on the team may not play, were going to boycott all football activities until their teammates have their suspensions lifted.

Now players from the team have met with officials from the university to try to resolve this boycott, but as of right now there is no resolution and the University of Minnesota's president said in a statement, "We support Gopher Athletics decision because this is much bigger than football. It's about the values every University of Minnesota student is called on to uphold. We make these expectations clear. When they are not met, there are consequences."

Now the Gophers are scheduled to play Washington State in the Holiday Bowl on December 27th. The "Star Tribune" is reporting this morning, guys, that Minnesota officials, they have until noon today to make this decision whether or not they are going to go play this bowl game. It's really unfortunate situation for everyone involved and you have to feel for just the seniors in the band, this was their last hoorah, the last bowl game and this could all be for not.

PAUL: OK. But let me ask you something, are there indications that there are charges forthcoming for any of these?

SCHOLES: No. Police say that there was not enough physical evidence to bring charges. So the case in that essence is closed.

PAUL: Is the case -- so the case is closed.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

PAUL: I wonder if there's a civil case?

BLACKWELL: And that may be coming down the pike. Let me ask you about what's happening as it relates to the holiday bowl. You've got cities that rely on these games.

SCHOLES: Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: You've got the other team that wants to play. Is the bowl over?

SCHOLES: No, the bowl is happening no matter what.

BLACKWELL: OK.

SCHOLES: And ESPN is reporting that Northern Illinois right now has been contacted and they are standing by as the backup team to come in at the last second scenario. But again, what about all the parents from Minnesota, all the students who bought tickets to go to the holiday bowl? They will all be, you know, left out in the cold.

PAUL: But can you imagine the scrambling going on?

BLACKWELL: Yes. It's scrambling for them. But also this is a very serious subject.

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: But if the case has been closed there are a lot of questions here --

PAUL: Yes. I thought about it.

BLACKWELL: If this is moving forward. All right.

PAUL: Hey, Andy, thank you.

SCHOLES: You're welcome, guys.

PAUL: Appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: Well, that's it for us. We'll see you back here at 10:00 a.m.

PAUL: Yes, don't go anywhere. "SMERCONISH" is looking next.