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Buses Arrive in Aleppo to Evacuate Trapped Citizens; Arctic Storms to Freeze Out Lower 48; Trump Ends "Thank You" Tour With Alabama Rally; Trump Picks Hard-Liner for Ambassador to Israel; Attorney General Defends FBI Over Hacking Probe. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired December 18, 2016 - 07:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:00:20] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Hope you have a nice cup of coffee, something warm because it is frigid out there in a lot of places. But we're glad to have you here. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLACKWELL: Breaking news is out of Syria. There's new hope for thousands of people trying to escape the violence in eastern Aleppo. According to state TV, buses have arrived to evacuate those still stuck in the city. This is after a new deal was reached.

PAUL: This is happening, of course, as Russia, Syria, Turkey, Iran all meeting to discuss the situation in Aleppo. That meeting taking place just a couple of days.

CNN's Muhammad Lila is live from the Turkey/Syria border.

Muhammad, I understand there are some new details coming in about how this evacuation will play out?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We understand that those now infamous green buses that are going to be evacuating people are now on the ground in the eastern part of Aleppo ready to start evacuating the people that have been trapped inside that rebel held area. But more than that, you know, this started out as a simple evacuation deal to get those people out. It's now grown and morphed into a much more complicated plan that involves four different towns, two of those towns are towns that had mainly Shiite residents.

But they have been besieged by Islamist rebels for more than a year and a half. So, now, the evacuation used to be -- initially it started out as flowing out of Aleppo. But now, it's effectively become a transfer. And any time you have a transfer involving people evacuated from different locations, it becomes a lot more fragile because you're dealing with different elements on the ground. You need security clearance from all of the fighting groups. But, of course, all it takes is one person to fire a gun in the wrong direction and all of this collapses.

Now, you'll notice that I'm standing here right at the border. Interestingly enough, guys, just as this evacuation plan was starting to resume, we've seen a very sharp uptick in the number of trucks that are crossing the border as well into Syria. The Turkish government says these are filled with humanitarian relief. We've also seen some heavy construction equipment that's been crossing the border, as well as ambulances. So, clearly, the indications now from where we're standing on the ground are that things are definitely in movement.

PAUL: We certainly hope so for all of those people there. I want to ask you real quickly. What do you know about the expectation of this meeting as we said with Russia, Syria, Turkey, Iran later this week as they talk about Aleppo? Do we understand or have any understanding as to what -- what's going to come out of that, what are they hoping for?

LILA: Well, there's no question it's probably the most important meeting between the powers that are involved in Syria in certainly the last several months. I mean, look at who's there, Syria, Russia, Turkey, Iran. These are the main players that are on the ground. They all have some proxy forces or militia forces in Syria, in case they have their own army on the ground. So, this is a very key thing that they're doing.

But one of the complications, we've seen some signs on the ground that there may be disagreements between the Russians, the Syrians, and the Iranians that all have, you know, their own interests on the ground. There are some disagreements. There have been some accusations that maybe the Iranian side or the side that held up the evacuations from continuing this weekend. So, we don't know how strong those alliances are, but, you know, the timing is very interesting because it's coming at the end of the year. It's coming after Aleppo is now more or less being retaken by the Syrian government.

And, of course, it's coming before the Trump inauguration in January. All of these are key milestones. And there's been some indication that the powers on the ground may want to have some sort of tangible, very loose cease-fire on the ground before President-elect Trump comes to power in the United States.

PAUL: Interesting. All right. Muhammad Lila, appreciate so much you bringing us the very latest from that region. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's talk about the weather here stateside because the temperatures are plummeting and millions of people are bracing for a deep winter freeze. Heavy snow, the ice, of course, slippery there on the roads, subzero temperatures have disrupted holiday travel we know. Millions of people have been warned to bundle up or just stay inside. This frigid air has already made for deadly travel in some states.

PAUL: Yes, two people killed in Baltimore after this massive 55 car pile up along I-95. Look at that thing. A tanker carrying gasoline skidded off the highway. Look at that. And as you can see, it exploded. BLACKWELL: And, look at this, the weather is affecting sports as

well. NFL fans in Chicago and the players are bracing today for what could be the coldest game in Chicago history.

I want to start with CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar tracking the forecast for us.

Allison, not just about the snow and the ice but we're talking about just really cold air.

[07:05:04] ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We're talking about air so cold, Victor, you have frostbite that can set in in less than ten minutes. In fact, this air temperature right now, not the wind chill, the air temperature in Aberdeen, South Carolina, minus 31 right now. The wind chill into the minus 40 degrees range when that windows kick up.

So, for obvious reasons, we have the wind chill warnings and advisories out for many of these areas. But we are still contending with winter weather. We're talking ice, freezing rain, and sleet. So, we have the winter weather advisories out.

You can see the line stretches all the way from Louisiana up to Maine. We have winter precipitation and freezing rain in Maine, right now in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, stretching all the way down towards Nashville. We have power outages and power lines that have snapped and come down in Nashville because of some of those issues.

And we talked about this before. This is what can happen when you have freezing rain. It doesn't take much, even about 1/4 of an inch can cause a lot of slick spots on the roads. That causes hazardous travel conditions.

Once you start getting between the quarter and half inch rains, now you're talking, it starts to stick to power lines and tree limbs. And then once you get to the half inch threshold, that's when your power lines start to snap and come down. Your tree limbs come down, and you can also, Victor and Christi, be dealing with frozen pipes. And that may be a concern going forward as we have what's called a flash freeze which will take place in cities like Boston and Raleigh overnight tonight.

BLACKWELL: All right. Allison Chinchar, thanks for watching out for us.

PAUL: I still have minus 31 in my head without the wind chill.

BLACKWELL: When the air just hurts, the air hurts your face.

PAUL: Yes, that's not good. That's not good. It makes you think about, you know, the people obviously that want to stay inside. They're fine.

They have some football games today. People are die hard fans, Andy Scholes. They're going to be in their seats. ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Christi. You

know you're a hard core football fan if you go to one of these outside games today, especially in Chicago. You know, the Bears and Packers, they have played some cold ones.

But today's temperature could set the all-time record. The forecast at kickoff for Bears and Packers calls for an air temperature of two degrees. With the wind chill, it's going to feel like 16 below zero. That would make this afternoon's game at Soldiers Field, the coldest home game in modern story for the Bears. Fans will, of course, bundle up for sure. But the team is also trying to make it a little less miserable inside the stadium.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've added two warming stations on top of the two we already have. We also have added medical teams, if need be. We've added staff and we have roving teams throughout the day. So, that's all been beefed up a little bit for the game as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: The kickoff in Chicago is at 1:00 Eastern. It's also, of course, cold in Buffalo. The bigger problem there is all the snow. And they had so much the Bills asked for fans to come help shovel it all out of the New Era Field.

Dozens of people armed with shovels quickly got to work, clearing the seats and the aisles. Their hard work didn't come for free. The team paid them $10 an hour and also gave them a free ticket to an upcoming game. By the way, they were asked to bring their own shovels if they could.

So, guys, right now, it's good time to be a Texans, a Cowboys, a Vikings, or a Cardinals fan, because you know what? All of those teams play inside.

PAUL: Medical teams and I thought unless your medical team is going to bring me a warm blanket, I don't know what --

BLACKWELL: Two warming stations and how many tens of thousands of people are going to be in that game?

SCHOLES: Those are the two they already have so they have four.

BLACKWELL: Four.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHOLES: Hot chocolate.

PAUL: Andy, thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.

PAUL: As we're talking about this weather, I want to talk to you about something that happened in California. There was a huge tree that fell on a wedding party in a park. This happened just outside of Los Angeles. One person was killed, five were injured.

BLACKWELL: Some officials say that the drought that they are having there may have weakened the tree but there were no indications it was vulnerable to falling. Witnesses say the wedding party was taking photos just moments before the tree split in two and fell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were taking pictures like right on the side and the tree, like we just heard like something crack like really hard and people were yelling and I guess like there was another party over there and a lot of people started running.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Firefighters had to use chain saws to cut those branches, those limbs into pieces to pull people from under those huge chunks of that tree.

There's new hints this morning on how Donald Trump plans to try to avoid business conflicts as president. We've got details, next.

PAUL: Also, the wild card of the Trump presidency -- Ivanka trump, the president-elect's daughter, expected to take an informal role in her father's administration. But she may end up, some say, looking more like a first lady.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:12:29] BLACKWELL: President-elect Donald Trump is ending his "thank you" tour where he says his political movement began. Donald Trump taking one last victory lap in an hour-long speech in front of this crowded football stadium. This is in Mobile, Alabama.

PAUL: His speech echoed familiar campaign themes, keeping his focus on creating jobs, also praising the Electoral College system, something that he once called a disaster back in 2012.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: The electoral vote -- I never appreciated it until now, how genius it was, what they had in mind, because at the time they didn't want everybody going to Boston and New York and everything else would be forgotten. And now, it's the same thing. It's genius. It's genius, I'm telling you. I went to 17 states.

(APPLAUSE)

I went to states -- I went to states that, you know, you just wouldn't go to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Trump also responding to First Lady Michelle Obama's recent statements about some Americans feeling a lost of hope.

CNN's Ryan Nobles watched it all on the ground.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump making good on a campaign promise returning here to Mobile, Alabama, the site of one of his first major campaign rallies. It was back in August of 2015 that Trump brought out a crowd of some 30,000 people, and on Saturday, he told a similar sized crowd that this is where it all began.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. This is where it all began, remember that incredible rally we had? And people came out and it was like this. It was packed and incredible. And people said, something's going on there, right? That was the beginning, wasn't it? That was the beginning.

And if you remember, even though you don't have to vote for me, maybe four years, we'll take a look, right? But you know what, I said I'm coming back to see you in Alabama, right?

NOBLES: Now, Trump gave the crowd a history lesson, detailing state by state his victory on election night. What Trump didn't do is wade into some of the complex policy issues that await when he takes office. He didn't mention China or Russia. Despite the relationship with both of those countries becoming a growing situation for the incoming Trump administration.

Instead, the president-elect focused on many of his campaign promises, specifically how he plans to help the American economy. He did go off script a bit, criticizing the current first lady, Michelle Obama, for an interview that she recently gave to Oprah Winfrey where she suggested that a sizeable part of the country lacks hope because of Trump's election victory.

[07:15:07] TRUMP: Michelle Obama said yesterday that there's no hope.

(BOOS)

But I assume she was talking about the past, not the future, because I'm telling you, we have tremendous hope and we have tremendous promise and tremendous potential. We are going to be so successful as a country again. We are going to be amazing.

And I actually think she made that statement not meaning it the way it came out, I really do, because I met with President Obama and Michelle Obama in the White House, my wife was there. She could not have been nicer. I honestly believe she meant that statement in a different way than it came out, because I believe -- I believe there is tremendous hope and beyond hope, we have such potential.

NOBLES: Trump now heads to his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, where he plans to spend the Christmas holiday with his family. He's not expected to make any news but there is a chance we can learn more about the appointments to his administration in the coming week. Ryan Nobles, CNN, Mobile, Alabama.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's continue the conversation now with CNN politics reporter Tom LoBianco, and CNN political commentator and Spectrum News anchor, Errol Louis.

Good morning to both of you.

TOM LOBIANCO, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Good morning.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning.

BLACKWELL: Errol, I want to start here with China and President-elect Trump did not talk about China last night. But, again, he has gone to twitter to talk about this drone that was snatched out of international waters by the Chinese. And he tweets this, "We should tell China that we don't want the drone they stole back. Let them keep it."

There has been this policy that there's one president at a time when you have a president-elect on deck. President-elect Trump now weighing in here, and it seems as if this is going directly to his phone without going to any of his advisors.

LOUIS: Well, that's right. And I think we can expect a lot more of that. It will be interesting to see if that continues after the inauguration when he's -- he'll be in an ideal position to under cut his ambassadors, his secretary of state, his national security team and everybody else. I think it's important that the country speak with one voice.

And to that extent, you know, right now as we're in this lame duck period, I suppose he could get away with this here and there, but it's really going to be a whole new ball game after the inauguration. One would hope that there would be less of this because in certain instances, you know, you can write off statements about Taiwan, you can write off this statement or that statement, but it really starts to become a serious problem if you have a president or a president- elect even who's not going to take any time to come up with a measured response on the most serious of matters.

BLACKWELL: Especially as it relates to Twitter. The president-elect said he will not tweet as president because he said it's not presidential. We'll see. He's got five weeks to tamp that down if he chooses to.

Tom, let me come to you, what we're learning about the division that the president-elect will create between his administration and his businesses. Hope Hicks, the transition spokesperson, tells CNN's Sarah Murray that "under no circumstances is Mr. Trump requested nor would he participate in briefings regarding the business during his presidency. And additionally, he is not against restrictions on speaking with his family regarding the business."

Not against restrictions, is that the wall that they've been talking about? I'll be open to maybe not talking about it?

LOBIANCO: Well, I mean, they're entering that way. Since the election, they've been kind of getting in that direction. It kind of reminds me of when the office of government ethics had that sort of interesting -- a lot of people thought it was a Twitter hack when they started putting out these fairly candid tweets talking about how happy they were that Trump was going to divest. Of course, he wasn't divesting. It was very odd.

But he seems to be pushing that way. You know, one of the interesting things, you want to put this in context, is that this is kind of moving away from the campaign mood in towards actual governing. You know, regardless on how they may feel about the ethics, or, you know, any sort of conflicts of interest that arise out of this, there's also a practical matter of being the president 24/7.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

LOBIANCO: But you can't run a business. You could theoretically, but it doesn't seem plausible.

BLACKWELL: Errol, let me come to you with one of the picks that we've learned about this weekend. Representative Mick Mulvaney, who will head up the Office of Management and Budget, be the budget director. This is someone who is known as a deficit hawk.

How does his philosophy reconcile or coincide with Donald Trump who's made campaign promises for big military spending, for big infrastructure spending? I mean, this is the deficit hawk who now works for at least in business the self-described king of debt.

LOUIS: Yes. It's interesting you should say that. He's a -- deficit hawk is a nice euphemism.

[07:20:02] You're being very polite there, Victory.

He's one of the people who was an architect of and voted for a government shutdown. This is somebody who has been of the biggest members of the Freedom Caucus, kind of making war on the whole notion of government functioning as we've known it over the last generation. So, you know, I suspect what may be going on here is that there are some politics, there's some consultants who have been suggesting to me, Capitol Hill politics at play here. You send somebody like that out of the House of Representatives, it gives Paul Ryan a little bit less of a headache, the same kind of Freedom Caucus radicals who drove his predecessor out of office are now out of his hair.

This person ends up in government and as you say, is going to be pushing in exactly the opposite direction of what the president has promised. This is, I think, a conservative wing, Mike Pence wing of the party and of this administration sort of taking up a lot of space, grabbing a lot of turf, grabbing a lot of territory. We'll see what happens when those commitments run smack into the promises that the president-elect has made.

BLACKWELL: Guys, we have time for the rally sound bite yesterday? The rally sound bit about rallies? All right. Let's play it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This is the last time I'll be speaking at a rally for maybe a while, you know? They're saying, as president, he shouldn't be doing rallies. But I think we should, right?

(CHEERS)

We've done everything else the opposite. No, this is the way you get an honest word out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Hey, Tom, is that unusual, for a president to go out on the road after a State of the Union Address when he has a big policy push? But should we expect a President Trump to be out more often at these rallies?

LOBIANCO: I mean, this was his strength. I mean, this is what brought him -- it made him a rock star, right? We started picking up on this 18 months ago when this is like an arena rock show. I mean, tens of thousands of people showing up to this.

You almost think, why not, right? Everything else is different about this. You know, why not do that? It's your job as the president to go out there and sell your policies to the public. So, hey, it seems like a great idea if that's what he wants to do.

BLACKWELL: All right. We'll see. Tom LoBianco, Errol Louis, always a pleasure.

LOUIS: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: Christi?

PAUL: Ivanka Trump setting up the beginning of a long-term career (INAUDIBLE)

BLACKWELL: This weekend, "Saturday Night Live" made no apologies to wrap up their final episode in 2016. We'll have a couple of their funnier moments.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:25:37] BLACKWELL: Ivanka Trump on the phone this week with members of Congress discussing child care legislation.

PAUL: And then, of course, there's an auction selling a coffee date with the president-elect's daughter. It got canceled in published -- amid the published allegation that is a little bit more than access for sale. Now, the bidding climbed to more than $70,000 before that plug got pulled.

BLACKWELL: Now, this comes as we learned that the soon to be first daughter may end up functioning really more like a first lady.

CNN's Tom Foreman looks at the evolving role Ivanka Trump may play.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REPORTER: The Christmas season brings Mrs. Kennedy to a children's hospital in Washington for a visit with ill and crippled children.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fifty-five holiday seasons ago, the first lady was doing what so many have since, making ceremonial appearances, pushing social causes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just say no.

FOREMAN: Sometimes grappling with governmental issues.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER FIRST LADY: We know we can get savings.

FOREMAN: But when Donald Trump's wife Melania slips into that role, it is now clear she will have company.

His older daughter Ivanka is expected to play a major part in the pageantry and policies of his presidency.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: He will deliver.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: Ivanka is incredibly committed to women in the workplace, women in the economy, women entrepreneurs. She's had a wonderful platform during the campaign. Certainly, she and her father announcing the child care and elder care plan I think was a big highlight of our campaign and our outreach to women, particularly.

FOREMAN: Already, there is talk about Ivanka having an office at the White House. Since her role is not yet defined, the transition team is pushing back on that. But she and her husband have been house shopping in D.C.

She's Instagrammed about her father's summit with the tech industry. Sat in on chats with world leaders. Helped arrange a meeting with Al Gore to talk about climate change.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I found it an extremely interesting conversation.

FOREMAN: The Ivy League educated 35-year-old has been a key player in her dad's business empire for a long time and she's helped temper his hottest moments on the campaign trail, too.

IVANKA TRUMP: While I do tell him sometimes to withhold some of that sort of fire. I also understand it and I think it's instinct and I think it also speaks to his passion.

FOREMAN: In return, he openly admires her intelligence, drive, sometimes to an uncomfortable level, her looks, as it was on "The View" half dozen years ago.

DONALD TRUMP: If Ivanka weren't by daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop it. So weird.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLACKWELL: Our thanks to Tom Foreman for that report.

The president-elect's choice for ambassador to Israel is concerning some, let's say that. We'll tell you why David Friedman is being called a controversial pick. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:31:07] PAUL: So good to have you with us. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning.

Donald Trump's pick for ambassador to Israel is known for several hard line views and controversial stance on -- that could, rather, change U.S. relationships in the Middle East in the future.

CNN's global affairs correspondent Elise Labott has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Christi, Victor, Donald Trump has tapped his hard line campaign advisor as ambassador to Israel. David Friedman has voiced opposition to decades of U.S. policy on the region, on settlements, the two-state solution and the embassy in Jerusalem. And the reaction is swinging from a potential true partner to totally unqualified and risking U.S. credibility around the world.

(voice-over): In tapping his long-time friend and bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman as his ambassador to Israel, Donald Trump moved to make good on a campaign promise.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We will send a clear signal that there is no daylight between America and our most reliable ally, the state of Israel.

LABOTT: Israel's right wing education minister Naftali Bennett praised Friedman, calling him, quote, "a great friend of Israel." By appointing the hard line Friedman as ambassador, Trump could be signaling plans to reverse decades of U.S. policy towards Israel.

Friedman, an orthodox Jew, has no experience in diplomacy. He strongly supports legalizing settlements and Israel annexing the West Bank. And he's questioned the need for a Palestinian state writing that a two-state solution appears, quote, "impossible as long as the Palestinians are unwilling to renounce violence against Israel or recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state." AARON MILLER, DISTINGUISHED SCHOLAR, WILSON CENTER: I'm reminded of a line from "The Wizard of Oz" when Dorothy lands and says to her little dog Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore. The issue is the positions that have been attributed to him on issues like two-state solution, settlement activity, that clearly contradict decades of U.S. foreign policy.

TRUMP: We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.

LABOTT: In a statement, Friedman said he looks forward to doing his job, quote, from "The U.S. embassy in Israel's eternal capital, Jerusalem", echoing his promise to Israelis in Jerusalem in October.

DAVID FRIEDMAN, AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL NOMINEE: The law provides that the obligation to move the embassy to Jerusalem can be waived at the desire of the State Department. The reaction from Donald Trump is going to be, you know what guys, you're all fired.

LABOTT: For decades, U.S. presidents have argued the status of Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians see as their rightful capital, can only be settled as part of a peace deal. Friedman has criticized the left-leaning Jewish lobby J Street, which has criticized some Israeli policies, calling them, quote, "far worse than kapos -- Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps."

Asked to respond to those comments, Friedman said, quote, "They're not Jewish and they're not pro-Israel."

In a statement, the group that supports a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians said it was, quote, "vehemently opposed" to Friedman's nomination, calling it "reckless" and "putting America's reputation in the region and credibility around the world at risk."

(on camera): Current and former diplomats say by picking Friedman as ambassador and promising to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, Donald Trump is running counter to his professed desire, which is making what he called the ultimate deal between Israelis and Palestinians, because it raises doubt about whether the U.S. can continue to be an honest broker in future U.S. Mideast peace talks -- Christi, Victor.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: Elise, thank you so much.

Tom LoBianco, a reporter for CNNPolitics.com, and Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, both with us now.

Tom, I would like to start with you.

So, let's talk about Friedman and the fact that so much of what he's talking about would, indeed, spin on its head decades of U.S. policy.

[07:35:07] How much do you think he can actually change? TOM LOBIANCO, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, I mean, Trump's,

president's place to set the tone. Obviously, he's picked someone who is a hard liner who, you know, wants to go the opposite direction of where we've been going for decades now. So, I mean, I guess what's surprising is trying to square this with differing campaign statements.

You know, as Elise point out there, earlier, you know, on the one hand, we heard there would be no daylight between Israel and the United States. But, on the other hand, we heard they wanted to set the ultimate deal for some two-state solution.

I mean, you can't -- those are two diametrically opposite things based on this. So, he sets the policy and it's pretty clear where it's going to go. It's definitely not a two-state solution.

PAUL: Well, we talk about the direction that he wants to go. We had Ben Ferguson earlier saying, you know, this is the draining the swamp. This is what Donald Trump promised to do with some of these picks who are people who do not have diplomacy under their belt as Friedman does not. Is this just a changing of the guard, Errol?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I think it is not. It is a radical departure from, as your reporter points out, decades of American policy. We've got to keep in mind a couple of things. One is that Israel itself has not made up its mind about this question. The notion that, you know, simply backing the most radical settlers, rejecting a two-state solution, moving the embassy and so forth is what Israel wants is by no means determined. And if you take any kind of even a casual look at Israeli politics, that becomes clear. It's a controversy.

The second thing though which is more important is that, you know, this is not America's deal to make. This is between the Palestinians and the Israelis. To the extent that the United States can be helpful as at the Camp David accord, is as a broker, not as a participant. And so, to get involved and give away all of his political capital and to simply say, well, we're going to take one of the most controversial parts of this deal that two other parties have to negotiate between themselves and simply, you know, sort of give it away before day one, namely the location of the capital, not a very good way to make or broker a deal.

PAUL: Tom, how involved do you think Donald Trump is going to be? Do we have a good indication as to whether he's going to be taking the reins here or if he's going to be passing this off to the people he's appointing?

LOBIANCO: Well, I mean, listen to what he said and listen to how he sees how he's put things together. I mean, it's clear he wants to delegate on this, although, you know, the Israeli relationship and, again, you know, here with you had a lot of conservative Jewish support for Trump so you have to think this is a special case. You know, this is not any other country that we're talking about. Of course, this is an incredibly important region that we're talking about as well. Any decisions will ripple out. I mean, what does this feel to how we play out in Syria, for instance?

You know, I'm not a policy expert by any stretch. I do follow American politics and how this ripples is huge. So, whether or not he wants to, he might be forced to. I think that's where this is important, you know?

He's back to -- this reminds me Newt Gingrich used to say this, politics every now and then, it's easier to toss a grenade than it is to catch one.

PAUL: That's a good one.

I want to ask about -- look forward to what's going to happen tomorrow with the Electoral College. We're seeing something that I don't know we have seen before. Let's take a look at what Hollywood is doing, this campaign that they have created themselves trying to keep Trump from officially getting voted in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: Republican members of the Electoral College, this message is for you. As you know, our Founding Fathers built the Electoral College to safeguard the American people from the dangers of a demagogue and to ensure that the presidency only goes to someone who is to an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Errol, what do you make of -- is it unprecedented to see something like this?

LOUIS: Oh, it certainly is, and God knows if they got their wish and provoked yet another constitutional crisis on top of the other ones that are already brewing because of the conflicts of interest presented by the president-elect. I don't know if we would thank these people for doing this.

This is, I think, sort of a last-ditch effort. They can tell themselves at their cocktail parties and on the red carpet that they do everything that they could to try and stop what I think we all know is going to happen in 30 days. But kind of a distraction in a lot of ways. Any reporting that we've seen on the electors, and if you go through the thicket of laws that govern their activity and their behavior, it makes clear that it's just not in the cards.

[07:40:08] PAUL: All right. Tom LoBianco, Errol Louis, always appreciate your insight, gentlemen. Thank you for being here.

LOBIANCO: Thanks.

LOUIS: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: An exclusive interview with Jake Tapper on "STATE OF THE UNION". How Attorney General Loretta Lynch is responding to claims from Hillary Clinton's former campaign chair that the FBI looked more closely into the candidate's e-mails than the DNC hack by the Russians.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: Hillary Clinton's former campaign chair, John Podesta, who was the target of a massive cyber attack earlier this year blasted the FBI in an op-ed in "The Washington Post", calling it broken over it's handling of Russian hacking during the presidential election.

Well, today, in an exclusive interview on "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper, Attorney General Loretta Lynch weighs in on Podesta's claims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": John Podesta is out there trashing the FBI, and he's saying that the investigation into the hacks of the DNC was substandard. I mean, that's clearly what he's saying. Do you agree with that characterization?

LORETTA LYNCH, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't. I don't. First of all, the investigation isn't even over, so I think it's impossible to characterize it in any one way or the other. You know, again, I don't know where Mr. Podesta is obtaining information.

TAPPER: He said "The New York Times." There was a big long "New York Times" story.

LYNCH: So, I know also because of his involvement with the campaign, he's going to have a certain interest in this and a certain view of that. And so, I -- again, I allow him his opinion. Everyone has a great deal of respect for him, so I allow him that opinion, but I disagree with that if that is, in fact, the characterization he is trying to make.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Jake Tapper, hosts of "STATE OF THE UNION" joins us now.

Jake, good morning to you.

TAPPER: Good morning.

BLACKWELL: What's your take on the degree of frustration that Loretta Lynch is feeling over Podesta's comments?

TAPPER: Well, she's really in a tough position because obviously she did not authorize a lot of what FBI Director James Comey did, but because of that incident in the summer when Bill Clinton went on to her plane to talk to her, she kind of, although not officially, but kind of stepped back and recused herself and allowed Comey to be more autonomous with his decisions when it came to the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server.

[07:45:15] So, she's in a position of having to defend actions that she didn't necessarily authorize. But by the same token, you know, we see a lot of Democrats now blaming Hillary Clinton's election loss directly on FBI Director Comey. And I think there are a lot of people in the law enforcement community, even those who are Democrats and supported Hillary Clinton, who think that that is unfair and untrue.

So, that's kind of the situation she's in. But she did offer a full throated defense of the FBI.

BLACKWELL: One of two big interviews on "STATE OF THE UNION" coming up at 9:00 a.m. this morning. We understand you also have Senator John McCain who has expressed some concerns about at least one member of Donald Trump's potential cabinet, Rex Tillerson at State.

TAPPER: That's right. And here's somebody else in another tough position. Senator John McCain who has squabbled with President-elect Donald Trump and is trying to enter the New Year not being a harsh critic of Donald Trump and yet has always been a hawk when it comes to Russia. So, you know these issues having to do with Rex Tillerson and having to do with the Russian hacking of the DNC and John Podesta really concern him quite a bit.

And so, we'll see what he has to say today. Obviously, we have still heard more from Donald Trump in terms of pooh-poohing what the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies are saying about Russia's involvement in the election and hacking Democrats.

BLACKWELL: All right. Jake Tapper, looking forward to both of those big interviews.

TAPPER: Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Senator John McCain, Jake's guests on "STATE OF THE UNION", again, 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

PAUL: And "Saturday Night Live" wrapping up its final episode with quite a punch. Political impersonations back in full swing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:50:04] BLACKWELL: All right. Donald Trump, you got Vladimir Putin, you got potentially Clinton and Kellyanne Conway, even ExxonMobil CEO made their way on this final episode of "Saturday Night Live". Baldwin's Trump was mocked for his pick of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and ties with Putin.

PAUL: McKinnon's Clinton was teased for pleading with an elector member ahead of tomorrow's electoral vote. And there was so much.

You remember this one from "Love Actually." Taking their shot at that scene.

BLACKWELL: Oh, yes.

PAUL: And CNN's Brian Stelter -- best moments from the night, Brian.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I know you're wondering but no Donald Trump has not weighed in, has not tweeted his review of SNL this week. Maybe he will when he tunes in.

Let's show you part of the cold open, of course. This is Alec Baldwin playing Trump and inviting someone over for a merry Christmas. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin? Oh, my God.

(INAUDIBLE)

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my stars. You didn't tell me Putty was going to be here. Man, was I hoping to catch up with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My old friend, so much to talk about right here. We're having some oil drilling problems here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that's no problem as soon as the sanctions are lifted. We'll up our intake by 30 percent.

ALEC BALDWIN AS DONALD TRUMP: What are you guys talking about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't bother it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about doubling production here in the (INAUDIBLE) Sea?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Already under way. Just have to take control of the bridge. Our military is on it.

BALDWIN: Then we'll destroy "Vanity Fair", right? They're a terrible publication, really just terrible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure, buddy, sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Trying to use Trump's own words against him. In that case, that "Vanity Fair" tweet.

But you guys, you mentioned the Hillary Clinton cameo as well -- of course, not the real Hillary Clinton. Kate McKinnon playing for Clinton holding out for one more chance maybe, referring to the Electoral College. Watch this.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

STELTER: This is straight out of "Love Actually", that great Christmas movie. There were go, Kate McKinnon as Clinton.

You know, guys, "SNL", no friend of Donald Trump and we've seen that the past few weeks in particular. This show, especially on weekend update and with the cold open and with skits like this still sort of wishing Hillary Clinton was in the mix, was still a possibility. "SNL" showing maybe its true liberal hearts, comedians going out,

finishing the year with this Christmas scene episode. They will be back in January in time for Inauguration Day.

PAUL: Oh, my goodness.

Brian, thank you so much.

STELTER: Thank you.

PAUL: We appreciate it.

Be sure to watch Brian, by the way, later this morning. "RELIABLE SOURCES", 11:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN, of course.

BLACKWELL: So maybe you recall the moment caught on tape earlier this year at the Trump rally in North Carolina where Donald Trump supporter suckered punch a protester in the face. Now they face one another again, this time in North Carolina in a courtroom.

John Franklin McGraw apologized. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN FRANKLIN MCGRAW: We got caught up in a political mess today, and you and me, we got to heal our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Well, the Trump protester Rakeem Jones opened up about why he accepted that apology.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAKEEM JONES: I just want to shake his hand and be able to, you know, be able to actually face him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: And more than just the apology and being accepted the two men agreed to work together to heal the nation.

PAUL: The Trump supporter was sentenced to a year probation, by the way. Boy, what does that say to all the people and all of the -- boy, I dare say hatred that we saw.

BLACKWELL: There was a lot of vitriol during the campaign, no question.

PAUL: So much of it yes.

BLACKWELL: And that was one of punctuation moments of this campaign.

PAUL: Absolutely, and what an example.

[07:55:00] BLACKWELL: Yes, those two men can come together and apologize and accept the apology and work together to move forward. It will be a good example.

PAUL: No doubt about it.

Hey, thank you so much for sharing part of your morning with us. We hope you make some great memories today.

BLACKWELL: Stay with us, though. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

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