Return to Transcripts main page


Electoral College to Vote Today; Obama: I Told Putin to 'Cut It Out' after DNC Hack. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired December 19, 2016 - 06:00   ET



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: The electoral vote. I never appreciated it until now.

[05:58:23] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we vote in the Electoral College, I fully expect that Donald Trump will be formally elected.

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF APPOINTEE: He would accept the conclusion if these intelligence professionals would show the American people that they're actually on the same page.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is an attack on our country. Cyber war is real war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The CIA, the director of national intelligence, the FBI, all agree that the Russians intervened to help Trump.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: If they're able to harm the electoral process, then they destroy democracy.


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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Looks like it's still night, but we say good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

It's Monday, December 19, 6 a.m. in the east and six days until Christmas.

Up first, the Electoral College is set to make Donald Trump's presidential victory official today. Electors are gathering in all 50 state capitals and Washington, D.C. This vote will get more attention than usual because of this rumored anti-Trump protest. What's going to happen? We'll cover it.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And the real drama is coming from the responses to Russia's alleged hacking during the election. Trump and his team largely dismissing the issue, but a bipartisan group of senators calling for a broader investigation.

There are just 32 days until the inauguration. We have it all covered this morning, beginning with CNN's Jessica Schneider. She is in Lansing, Michigan, where the state's electors will vote later today. What's the latest, Jessica?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Alisyn, it was a narrow win for Donald Trump here in Michigan. He beat out Hillary Clinton by just about 10,000 votes. So that close win, combined with the revelations of Russian hacking now have many people calling on electors to vote their conscience, something extremely unlikely, since almost all electors are party loyalists.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Donald Trump getting one step closer to officially becoming the next president of the United States today, all 538 members of the Electoral College casting their ballots across the country. The typically ceremonial process in the spotlight, since some are urging electors to go rogue and block Trump from the office. For that to happen, though, 37 Republican electors must switch their votes, a scenario seen as highly unlikely.

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CHAIRMAN, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: The question is whether there are 37 Republican electors who think that -- that either there are open questions or that Donald Trump, based on everything we know about him, is really unfit to be president of the United States.

SCHNEIDER: So far, only one elector, a Republican from Texas, has said he will not cast his vote for Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's time to pull the brake.

SCHNEIDER: Some Republican electors say they've gotten thousands of letters, even death threats, after pledging to vote for Trump, regardless of outside pressure.

MICHAEL BANERAN, MICHIGAN ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTER: It's utter hypocrisy, because I don't think that, if the roles were reversed, most of these people would be OK with electors being faithless.

SCHNEIDER: Trump fighting back, tweeting, "If my many supporters acted and threatened people like those who lost the election are doing, they would be scorned and called terrible names," after praising the Electoral College over the weekend.

TRUMP: The electoral vote, and I never appreciated it until now, how genius it was.

SCHNEIDER: Meanwhile, the president-elect's top aides continue to question Russia's interference in the U.S. election, now asking for a unified presentation from U.S. intelligence agencies.

PRIEBUS: If there is this conclusive opinion among all of these intelligence agencies, then they should issue a report or they should stand in front of a camera and make the case.

SCHNEIDER: President Obama speaking out about the hacking operation in a new interview. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The issue now is not

re-litigating the election. The issue now is for us to learn lessons so that we don't have an ongoing situation in every election cycle where you have substantial foreign influence in our campaigns.

SCHNEIDER: Team Trump questioning the president's motivation.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISOR: It seems like the president is under pressure from team Hillary, who can't accept the election results.

SCHNEIDER: Four bipartisan senators continue to press for a select committee to investigate Russian interference in the election.

MCCAIN: This is serious business. If they're able to harm the electoral process, then they destroy democracy. Which is based on free and fair elections.


SCHNEIDER: And many are now pointing to the details of those Russian hacks in the hopes that it will sway electors. In fact, Michigan's own Michael Moore is pledging to actually pay the fines of any electors who vote their conscience.

But despite that and the many protests expected all over the country, almost all electors are expected to pledge -- or to vote the way that they've been pledged. In fact in many states, including right here in Michigan, if those electors don't vote the way they're pledged, they will be replaced -- Alisyn and Chris.

CAMEROTA: OK, good to know. Thanks so much, Jessica.

So let's bring in our political panel to talk about all this. We have CNN political analyst and presidential campaign correspondent for "The New York Times" Maggie Haberman; CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, Errol Louis; and CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA counterterrorism official, Philip Mudd. Nice to see all of you.

I don't remember a time, Maggie, that we were ever conscious of when the electors were voting, but now, of course, it's top of mind for so many people. Is there any chance that something nutty happens today? I mean, in an election that has surprised us all along the way, what's going to happen today?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. We should never say never. But I think the chances of this election being overturned in terms of the Electoral College results are slim. It would take 37 electors changing sides.

There's an enormous amount of pressure on people. There have been sort of rumored reports from Democrats. There's this one Democrat in particular saying, "There's as many as 20 who I know of who are thinking of switching." Nobody else has been able to track down evidence of that. It is where you are seeing a lot of Democrats and a lot of liberals

lasting their last hope as to stopping Trump from getting sworn in. But it seems like it's a lot of frustration building ahead of steam, and I don't think it will end up in their desired result. And I don't know what happens, then, if it doesn't succeed.

CUOMO: You have Jessica Schneider who was just pointing it to us a little bit. Errol, you have laws in place. State decide this. Twenty-eight laws have you go for our popular vote winner laws. Michigan is one of them. If you had to challenge that, just on time alone, it wouldn't happen.

The bigger question is, should if happen? Do you believe that the Electoral College is that active a mechanism that it should be used to overturn the result?

[06:05:11] ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, no, no, no. I mean, this is the wrong way to do it. You know, it's understood and sort of understandable that people might want to sort of make sure that the votes are counted in these states where less than 1 percent.

It's understandable if even people want to sort of start raising questions about why we have the Electoral College system. Who are these electors? What do they do? To a certain extent, it's educational, and it's somewhat instructive.

But the states are all different. I mean, they're such insiders. Even the most anti-Trump electors that we know here in New York, these Democratic officials, they're not going -- they made public statements. They're not going to go in and try and provoke a constitutional crisis, because that's what it would take.

CUOMO: So you have laws that would but them from doing it anyway. At least initially. And even if they got it to 270, it then goes to the House of Representatives. And in a simple majority vote, the president-elect will become the president anyway.

CAMEROTA: So you're saying there's a chance?

CUOMO: No, I'm not. I am saying there's a chance we keep talking about it.

CAMEROTA: I mean, look, I have a panel coming up later of passionate Hillary Clinton supporters, and they are holding out some glimmer of hope that something will happen today, but we've tried to make clear that that is beyond a long shot.

Let's move on to Russia, Phil, and talk about the Russian hacking. President Obama addressed this on Friday at his press conference and said that he told them to cut it out. So, listen to this moment.


OBAMA: 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 was going to be some serious consequences if he didn't. In fact, we did not see further tampering of the election process.

CUOMO: That's not what Donna Brazile says. She says that they were trying to hack the DNC, Phil Mudd, almost on a daily basis. But what do you think about that as a strategy and whether or not it's been effective?

MUDD: I don't think it's been effective yet. But this is a bigger issue. This goes back to the 1990s and the dawn of the digital age. The Chinese and the Russians have been stealing American military secrets -- forget about the secrets from the DNC -- for a long time.

I think Senator McCain and Chuck Schumer are right. There has to be a broader conversation in the Congress outside individual committees about how we move forward to ensure we can protect ourselves during the election of 2020. This isn't about what's happened. This is a big issue. And I don't think a presidential statement behind the scenes to Putin makes much difference. We've got to address this in a bigger way.

CAMEROTA: So there are bipartisan effort to try to address this. John McCain is leading the charge. Donald Trump has resisted believing, Maggie, that this is even happening. Reince Priebus yesterday talked about what it would take to get Donald Trump to believe it. So, listen to this.


PRIEBUS: I think he would accept the conclusion if these intelligence professionals would get together, put out a report, show the American people that they're actually on the same page. If there is this conclusive opinion among all of these intelligence agencies they should issue a report or they should stand in front of a camera and make the case.


CAMEROTA: What do you think of that?

HABERMAN: I don't know that standing in front of the camera is the -- is the status. And you saw a joint statement that came out in October.

CUOMO: October 7.

HABERMAN: Yes. From two intelligence agencies saying this is what happened. You now have the CIA joining. You have the FBI being pretty clear. There's not -- there's not a whole lot of distinction between -- between the agencies at this point on this topic, and you saw some efforts to try to clean up any disparities this last week.

I suspect you will see an effort within Trump's circle after you get through today, after you get through the Electoral College vote. Because remember, part of the push that was being done by John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman who was hacked and whose e-mails were at the center of this in October, saying that the electors ought to be briefed -- this information ought to be declassified, and they should be briefed on it before the vote. I've had some people close to the Trump transition say to me that there is some pressure in that circle to try to get him to say something different, even if it's just a partial accepting of what this means or, yes, we should look at it or an endorsement of a hearing. But a recognition that it's not going to hold. But some of his reluctance at the moment, his digging in, is related to the Electoral College vote.

CAMEROTA: He doesn't want to be denied what is rightfully his.

HABERMAN: Yes. That having been said, you've both interviewed him; you know him. I've interviewed him; I know him. Errol knows him. He also believes that this is generally being done on some level to try to undermine his presidency and his legitimacy and I'm not sure how you get him past that.

CUOMO: But yet, John McCain this weekend, do we have the sound of him talking about Trump's ignoring of this, which I just characterized? Do we have it? All right. I love silence. But we do have -- so John McCain, who has been talking about Trump's refusal. Not just to talk about the e-mail, but to talk about Vladimir Putin at all. Listen to this.


MCCAIN: No, I have not heard him criticize Putin. I think reality is going to intercede at one point or another, just because of the Russian activities. And I hope that, with people like General Mattis and some other people around him, that he will very quickly understand what the Russians are all about. And that is, they are ahead of us in many respects. and this whole issue of cyberwar fare.


CUOMO: Quickly, Phil Mudd, from the intelligence community and your context there, does anybody share the kind of forbearance for Putin and the hijinks of the Kremlin that Donald Trump seems to?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: No. And I would take this a step further. This is not complicated. Trump Tower, you have intelligence briefings. If you want to know what the intelligence community thinks, dial 1-800-CIA. Come up here with the FBI and talk to me about what happened. That's what we call -- let me give you a technical term -- intelligence briefing. This is not that complicated.

CAMEROTA: On that note, panel, stick around. Thank you. Thank you very much. We know the president-elect may be watching. So, call Phil Mudd.

CUOMO: That's right.

CAMEROTA: It's been more than 40 days and 40 nights since the election. Is the Trump thank-you tour working? The president-elect says he's got an boost of 20 points in the polls. We have the reality about how united the country is or is not, next.


[06:15:04] CUOMO: The Electoral College is set to officially sign, seal, vote and deliver Trump's presidential victory today. So then it will be over, right? No. In the first week of January, you'll have in Congress read it and tabulate it and then it's over. Wrong. Then we have the inauguration, and then it will be final. We'll have our next president of the United States.

CAMEROTA: But then the next campaign starts.

CUOMO: Yes. I think it started yesterday.


CUOMO: So, the president-elect is doing his thank-you tour. He says it's helping boost the spirits of America. Is that true? He did start making a point, somewhat of an early Christmas gift for the president-elect from Michelle Obama for this recent statement.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Now we're feeling what not having hope feels like. You know?

TRUMP: Michelle Obama said yesterday that there's no hope. But I assume she was talking about the past, not the future.


CUOMO: Let's bring back our panel. Errol Louis, Maggie Haberman and Philip Mudd.

Errol, when this came out last week I said, "Oh, boy, she just gave them a gift because this was the second time, right, from the beginning of the administration. Michelle Obama said, "I'm finally proud of my country." Now here at the end she says this. What kind of fodder is this for Trump? How does he use it? What does it mean?

LOUIS: Well, it depends on whether he means what he says about, "Let's bring the country back together again." These tours, which have been, you know, solely for his supporters. And throwing them red meat, attacking the press, ridiculing his opponents and so forth, is not necessarily the way you try to bring things back together, again.

Michelle Obama has sort of played right into that and sort of saying, "It's still a divided nation, but I won." And that's really what this thank-you tour is about, saying it's divided, but we won. It's kind of a morale boost, I think, for him or his supporters, trying to shore up some of these poll numbers that are floating out there.

The reality is, they've got to be a little bit concerned that they come into -- they come into power with their approval ratings very, very low, historically. And in some cases, you know, sort of upside- down, on disapproval ratings exceeding the approval ratings. Makes it very hard to get started on a high note.

So, I think if he wants to continue to play backlash politics, you know, sort of divisive politics, that will work for him, I suppose, in any given arena. It won't change the numbers. It's not going to help him get his first budget passed. It's going to cause, in some ways, more problems than it might be worth.

CAMEROTA: I mean, wasn't that also just Exhibit A of what Michelle Obama said of the polarization in this country? She thinks that now the country doesn't have hope whereas half the country that voted for him feels extremely hopeful and excited that things are about to turn around in their direction.

Part of where they get that is from Donald Trump's rallies. Donald Trump admitted this weekend that somebody in his staff is telling him to back off on the rallies, but he doesn't want to. So here is Mr. Trump.


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?

We've done everything else the opposite. Well, no, this is the way you get an honest word out. Because you can't give it to them, because they're so dishonest.


CAMEROTA: Oh, that was a twofer.

CUOMO: Just to the extent that he wants to apply truth to this. Because this is just politics, right? He's politicking. He didn't get half the vote, OK. He got about 46 percent of the vote and only half of the country voted. So, you wind up getting half of a half. So, he's got a long way to go. He could have rallies all he likes.

CAMEROTA: My point is the enthusiasm is on one side of the country. She can't say that people are hopeless across the country.

HABERMAN: I think that his supporters feel hopeful and his retractors don't, which is not uncommon in an election, but I don't remember an election that was as visceral and nasty as this one. So it is a little different, No. 1. I think Errol is right. I think that, look, he's coming in with -- he's not coming in with an historic high in terms of approval ratings.

Some of this is that we have seen a change across the country, in terms of how people come into office. They come in with higher unfavorables, just because the tenor has gotten nastier. There's an enormous distrust among voters across the board of elected officials and of politicians. But that means he has no real cushion if something goes wrong. So the first time that there is some kind of a controversy, he doesn't have an enormous will of good feeling to rely on it and will give a lot of fodder to his opponents. That is something he has to be careful with. He said two things that

were very, very specific to him there. One was about I have to speak to you directly, because this is the only way to get a word out. This is an idea that consumes his team is the idea that we need to get around what they would call a filter. Others would call it fact checking and making clear, you know, sort of when he says something that isn't true. He also is continuing to use "we" about his own supporters. It's really interesting. Something that he started doing very early on in his rallies in 2015, it was very "we versus them."

CUOMO: Right.

[06:20:08] HABERMAN: He's still doing that as president. That's difficult.

CUOMO: It worked then, but now he wants the consensus. I'm sure that being approved of is not at the top of his list. He can't do it with the numbers that he has right now. Phil Mudd, something else he's doing that we hear from people in your community, is by attacking the institutions of the democracy. You guys on the intelligence side, the government, the media that he is creating opportunity for enemies abroad. Why could that be true?

MUDD: I think if you look at people like me who work in the CIA, the FBI, both -- both organizations have been attacked by Mr. Trump. You go into this thinking not what happened but how do I serve the president moving forward? How do I walk into the Oval Office, assuming he wants to see people from the bureau and from the agency? How do I present a nonpartisan view on what's happening in terms of Iranian cooperation or lack of cooperation on the nuclear program? On Chinese activities in the South China Sea?

I think the question for someone who has to go in, not only as president, but to manage the executive branch, is when people walk into the Oval Office, are they going to be honest with me? Are they going to look at how I attacked them and say, "I'm not going to give this guy the truth, because he doesn't want to hear it"?

CAMEROTA: Errol, very quickly, Attorney General Loretta Lynch sat down with Jake Tapper this weekend; and for the first time, we heard her express real regret for what happened on the tarmac with Bill Clinton. Listen to this.


LORETTA LYNCH, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I do regret sitting down and having a conversation with him, because it did give people concern. And my great -- as I said, my greatest concern has always been making sure that people understand that the Department of Justice works in a way that's independent and looks at everybody equally.

And when you do something that gives people a reason to think differently, that's a problem. It was a problem for me. It was painful for me. So, I felt it was important to clarify it, as quickly and as clearly and as cleanly as possible.


CAMEROTA: I wonder if, when it was happening, she knew what the ramifications would be.

LOUIS: You know, I've known her for a while. She, in fact, lived in my neighborhood in Brooklyn. She -- she's not a politician. You know? I mean, I took it -- I took her at her word at the time, and I think this even underscores it, is that she was blindsided by that. You know, I mean, whatever he had in mind, Bill Clinton had in mind, playing this three-dimensional chess, which is the way his political mind operates. She was in some ways almost like a dupe in that. She's not somebody who's thinking four and five steps ahead, and what the impression is going to be and how it's going to affect the election and what it is going to do to her reputation and legacy and so forth. I think she basically got corralled into a political move and I think that was her expression of regret that she allowed that to happen.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much. Great to talk to you.

So, let's talk about what's happening outside. Much of the country in a cold snap. There are also storms on the way. How will they impact your holiday travel? That's next.


[06:26:49] CAMEROTA: Police in Jordan shooting and killing four gunmen who killed ten people and wounded 34 others during what officials call this cowardly terrorist attack. The attackers firing at police officers in two locations then moving to an ancient castle that's popular with tourists. Police say they found automatic weapons and explosives, including suicide belts in the house that they raided there.

CUOMO: All right. Remember, many thousands are still trapped in Aleppo. The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote this morning to allow U.N. monitoring of evacuations in eastern Aleppo. Limited evacuations, we're told, have resumed. About 3,500 villagers and rebels finally getting out. Buses meant to carry evacuees have been coming under attack earlier. Part of it is that they're fighting against the rebels that they think they're in there with the evacuees, they're going to attack.

One positive note, 7-year-old Bana Alabed (ph). She had been -- become like a real focal point for her tweets showing the despair of life in that war-torn city. She has gotten out safely. Coordinators confirming that she and her family were evacuated Aleppo earlier -- from Aleppo earlier this morning. But there are many, many still Banas (ph) still there.

CAMEROTA: Well, Hollywood mourning the unforgettable Zsa-Zsa Gabor. Her longtime spokesman confirming to CNN that she died of heart failure at her Bel-Air home.

Zsa-Zsa emigrated to the U.S. from Hungary in the 1940s. She later went on to make more than 50 films, including 1952's "Moulin Rouge." Zsa-Zsa also made several appearances -- I mean scores of them -- on TV. She may have been most famous for her nine marriages, seven divorces and one annulment.

Gabor was 99 years old. I read in "The New York Times," it said she was probably 99.

CUOMO: I know.

CAMEROTA: I like that, even now, she's not revealing her true age.

CUOMO: Her charm was timeless, that's for sure. She had a million great lines. One of them was, "Why do you get married so many times?" She goes, "Men love me, because I'm a great housekeeper. Every time I get divorced, I keep the house." She was great, and she will be missed, for sure.

All right. So, on the weather side, we don't have good news for you. Much of the eastern half of the U.S. is still in the grips of bone- chilling cold. Once again, raising the risk of what comes along with dangerous, icy conditions.

Let's bring in CNN meteorologist Jennifer Grey for a look at the forecast over the weekend. Huge numbers in accidents: 30 cars, 40 cars, 50 cars.

JENNIFER GREY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. We have a lot of accidents. We had very, very cold temperatures.

Look at these record lows from Sunday. Average in South Dakota, 37 below zero. That's your actual temperature before you factor in the wind chill. Bismarck set a record 31 below. Sioux falls at 27. Joplin, Missouri, even 4 degrees below zero. We have wind chill values 35 below today. All of these areas shaded in blue. That does include Chicago. So a very cold start.

Seven a.m. this morning, we are going to see those wind chill values right around 19 below in Chicago. Actual temperature 7 below. New York feeling like 16 this morning. And then as the afternoon moves on, we'll only feel like 23 in New York by this afternoon.

Chicago never feeling like temperatures will get above zero.