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Obama: I Told Putin To 'Cut It Out' After DNC Hack; Texas "Faithless Elector" Speaks Out; Trump Makes Controversial Pick For Israeli Ambassador. Aired 7:30-8a ET
Aired December 19, 2016 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:30:04] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And if you follow that line of logic of that he preferred Donald Trump to win, why do you have so much doubt that he might have tried to meddle somehow to make that outcome?
VLADIMIR POZNER, RUSSIAN JOURNALIST: Well, I would think that if the president of a country would like to see someone else elected and would really like that to happen, I don't think that gives you reason to think that that president would meddle in the affairs of the other country.
Let me just give you another example. Say someone like Gorbachev was going to come back here. Would the United States president -- clearly prefer him to Putin -- would he try to influence the election process in Russia? I don't think he would. I don't think presidents do that, whether they're Russian, American, French or whatever. I just don't buy that.
CAMEROTA: So you don't think that Vladimir Putin is capable or has any interest in having done some sort of mischief in the U.S. presidential election?
POZNER: I don't think so. I would be very surprised if he did. And if he did, I would be -- I would be -- I don't even know what I'd say. I mean, it would be something unacceptable as far as I'm concerned.
CAMEROTA: What's your take on Rex Tillerson possibly become Secretary of State?
POZNER: (Laughing) You know, I've never met the man and, clearly, he does have some kind of relationship with Russia. After all, he got a medal from the Russian government. Maybe that's a good sign.
Let me make a point here. Most Russians really would like to see normal relations with the United States so the more people they see in the U.S. government -- the new U.S. government -- who are more open to kind of finding a way to deal with this country, finding a way to solve problems, rather than grandstand about, you know, this country being this and the leader being that and so on.
So this man probably is someone that most people here say wow, that's nice to hear at least of someone who's come over here, who knows us a little bit, and who's not anti-Russian. He's got an anti-Russian bias, you know? CAMEROTA: Vladimir Pozner, always great to get your perspective. Thanks for joining us from Moscow -- Chris.
POZNER: You're very welcome.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The Electoral College votes today. One elector said he won't be voting for President-elect Trump. What happened to him for saying that is a story. We tracked him down, next.
[07:36:00] CUOMO: OK, a quick reminder for people. When you vote on Election Day that's an indirect vote. You are voting for a slate of electors in your state. Today is the day that those electors will confirm the outcome of the election, was that Donald Trump won the Electoral College. Five hundred thirty-eight members of that college are going to meet to officially cast their ballots. They do it in your home state. Everybody's in their own states. Remember, you need 270 to win the presidency and now, today, we'll see.
However, one Texas elector came out publicly saying I'm not going to cast my vote for Donald Trump. He has faced major backlash ever since. CNN's Kyung Lah spoke with him. She's live in Austin. There's a lot of intrigue around today. The outcome is probably foregone but this guy's paying a price for his faithlessness.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A very heavy price, and let's remember why because he is the only Republican elector in the country who has publicly said that he'll flip -- that he won't vote for Donald Trump. Thirty-seven of them -- those Republican electors are needed to flip an order to send it to the House of Representatives. You say it's a foregone conclusion, they say it might be possible.But what it's meant for this man, innumerable death threats against him, his wife, and his children. He will be taking that vote today. He'll be doing so with security.
LAH: The threats keep coming to Christopher Supran, from raping his wife and daughters with a knife before killing him, to warnings on social media, to messages on his cell phone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, CELL PHONE VOICE MESSAGE: You better get your s*** straight. We coming after you.
CHRISTOPHER SUPRAN, TEXAS ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTER: People have put out my home address, they've put out my home phone number. We're now at a place where oh, you're not going to vote the way I want, I'm going to kill you.
LAH: All because Supran is a Republican Texas elector in the Electoral College. He's a so-called faithless elector. The conservative lifelong Republican will not vote for Donald Trump even though the GOP easily won Texas.
Why not vote for Donald Trump? I mean, isn't that what you're supposed to do?
SUPRAN: If I'm a rubber stamp that's exactly what I'm supposed to do. This is, unfortunately, the first time I think we've needed to use it as a nation but it's time to pull the brake.
LAH: He claims that goal of stopping Trump has made him the target of a smear campaign. Supran says he was a Dale City, Virginia volunteer paramedic at the Pentagon on 9/11. He says Trump supporters are alleging he was never there, a claim he calls outrageous. The Dale City fire department says Supran was a volunteer member from 2000 to 2002 but can't find a record of where he was on 9/11.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These electors are charged with a constitutional responsibility.
LAH: The electoral vote is something we usually never pay attention to but 2016 has been anything but usual.
BRET CHIAFALO, WASHINGTON STATE ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTER: Bottom line, he hasn't won yet. The only vote that matters when it comes to president has not happened yet.
LAH: Bret Chiafalo, Democratic Washington State elector, formed the Hamilton Electors the day after the election, now trying to urge Electoral College members across the country to block Trump from 270 votes. For that to happen, 37 Republican electors must flip. Supran is the first Republican to publicly flip but Chiafalo says he's heard from others.
CHIAFALO: We believe that there's a -- there's a large group of people who are staying silent out of fear or maybe because they haven't made a final decision. But we do believe there's dozens of Republican electors who are seriously considering not voting for Donald Trump.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The tellers will announce the votes.
LAH: But even if that remote possibility happens the House of Representatives, controlled by Republicans, elects the president. He's still going to win.
SUPRAN: He's still going to win.
LAH: So isn't this all pointless then?
SUPRAN: Not if you're trying to vote your conscience. Not if you're trying to do the right thing and bring up the issue. I've been hoping he would become the president we all want him to be but he keeps proving me wrong.
[07:40:00] LAH: As Supran arrives here at the Texas state capitol in several hours he will be greeted by protesters. Those protesters urging the other electors here in Texas and in other state capitals, Chris and Alisyn, to vote against Trump -- Chris, Alisyn.
CUOMO: Important point, they all get together in their own states. The college doesn't all get together in one place so less lobbying to take place. He's in Texas. I don't think that's one of the 28 states where you have to vote the party's outcome so he has a little bit more leeway. But the idea that today changes anything, very, very remote.
Let's discuss the Electoral College vote and the future issues facing President-elect Trump with CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod. You see what happening today?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Donald Trump will get the electoral votes that he needs. I don't think very many electors are going to switch positions. I listened to that poor guy and I'm thinking boy, this was an honorific position really until now and this guy's getting death threats for changing his position.
Look, Alexander Hamilton conceived of the Electoral College, and the founding fathers, as a buffer against democracy run amuck -- as a safeguard against someone who was unsuited for the office to take the office, but it's never been used in the history of our republic. There have been a few electors who've not voted for the candidate who won their states but that's been very rare.
To have it happen now, despite the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and all that swirling around with Russia and so on, I believe would split the country apart in a really destructive way and it would set this mad cycle in which every election, the Electoral College vote would be in question. So I think it probably should end up the way it's going to end up today.
CAMEROTA: I mean, but you're saying that you think they should fall in line but what about Supran there, who says I have to vote my conscience. I can't live with myself if Iwon't. We don't know that there's more than he. It feels that way, though you heard the Democrat -- you heard the Democratic elector say we've heard there are dozens of Republican electors who feel that way --
CAMEROTA: -- but we don't have any evidence of that.
CUOMO: Even if they got it down from 270, it still goes to the House of Representatives.
CAMEROTA: Right, so they're not the final buffer.
AXELROD: Right, but part of voting your conscience is thinking about what that vote might mean for the country. And look, I have -- I have some grave reservations about Donald Trump. I have real concerns about some of the things that happened in that election. But thinking about what would -- what this country would be like if there was an attempt to actually overturn the result would be, to me, very, very destructive. And so, yes, I understand the -- and Irespect -- I respect that gentleman for voting his conscience but I do think part of that conscience vote has to be the impact on the country. CUOMO: Right. Let's talk about conscience for a second. The Electoral College stuff is intriguing on an intellectual level. Go -- if you really care about this go Google James Madison and his arguments about what our election should be. Hamilton gets all the credit but look up Madison because he had just as much to say about it. So let me ask you about this in terms of conscience acts. The conscience is what feeds into the ethical standard about conflicts of interest.
AXELROD: Yes, yes.
CUOMO: It's not as much about the laws as it is about ethics in conscience. You have been tweeting and thinking a lot about this. What do you believe is incumbent upon the next President of the United States to do in terms of conflicts of interest?
AXELROD: Well, you know, we had this big debate during the campaign about the candidates releasing their tax returns and it's kind of an ephemeral debate in some ways until it becomes real. Now we have this issue of Russia and its role in the election and whether they tried to tilt the election to Donald Trump.
And you have alongside that reports, and there was another in "USA Today" this weekend about his business dealings in Russia which apparently are extensive, including financing of some of his projects if this report is true. We don't know if that's the case. We have no idea what his financial entanglements might be or might not be in Russia and there's only one way to resolve those questions, which is why presidents for the last four decades have released their tax returns so people understood exactly what their finances were and where their conflicts might be.
The fact that Donald Trump refuses to do that, and I don't think we're ever going to see his tax returns, is deeply disturbing. He's got global entanglements, we know that. Dealings all over the world. And we don't know where his financing comes from, what his obligations and entanglements are. To make judgments as to whether he is making decisions on the basis of a national interest or his own pecuniary interest, and that's very disturbing.
[07:45:00] CAMEROTA: So David -- I mean -- but, David, you've heard the Trump campaign -- Trump team sowing some seeds of doubt that the Russians were behind the hacking. They don't believe it. And we just had Vladimir Pozner, veteran Russian journalist on, who said the CIA should prove it. We're not just going to take them at their word. They should produce the evidence. Does the CIA ever produce evidence to show exactly how they connect the dots?
AXELROD: No, because to do so would be to expose their means and their operatives, and would undermine our ability to gather intelligence. But look, 16 intelligence agencies and the FBI have all agreed that this happened, first of all. I don't think there's any question in the minds of our intelligence agencies or most members of Congress who've seen the intelligence that the hacking actually occurred. And they further suggested that it was to help Mr. Trump. But even if
it wasn't to help Trump, it's still a huge encroachment on our electoral process. A deep source of concern and that should be a concern for Republicans and Democrats. I don't think the Trump folks are doing him a favor by continually pushing back against this. So they stand with Vladimir Pozner on this question. I'm not sure that's going to rally the country in the corner of the president-elect. They should be for a full and complete investigation of this and if they're not, then people need to understand why they're not.
CUOMO: Axe, do you think that there winds up being an accommodation of this need for disclosure by Trump because everybody keeps running up against the same wall? Is there any chance that you see what you're seeing right now with Russia when it comes to Trump? That you have a bipartisan sealed congressional committee hearing, which is what they're asking for. What Nunes wanted with Clapper, right? You know, the headlines ignored that Clapper says he tried to get Nunes three times.
But the outside is we're going to have a confidential hearing. Trump has to come with his guys, put out his taxes, let us review them, bipartisan, so that Congress can have confidence. And then you try and put in some penalties against leaking because it's a classified hearing so that they don't leak out any of his information. So then at least you have the people who need to know most about the conflicts know. Any chance of that?
AXELROD: Well, that would be great and that would be good for the country, Chris. One of the tests for the Republican leadership in Congress now is will they insist on such an investigation? They've said they're for an investigation but they've sort of hinted that it would be a limited investigation, not the select committee that John McCain, for example, and some others have called for.
This should be fully aired. And even as you suggest, if it is done, in part, in private and in secret and the members get to examine evidence that the public can't --I think it almost necessarily has to be that way -- there should be a full investigation.
This has cast a huge cloud over this incoming administration and it's going to cast a cloud over every decision that's made relative to Russia unless there is a full and complete probe and a conclusion. And so, you know, this is a big test not just for the president but for the Congress.
CAMEROTA: Yes. David Axelrod, great to talk to you. Thank you.
AXELROD: OK, guys. Have a good day.
CAMEROTA: You, too. President-elect Trump making a controversial choice for Israeli ambassador -- ambassador to Israel. What implication could this have on the entire Middle East? We discuss that next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [07:52:35] CUOMO: All right. One of the most controversial choices the president-elect has made for his cabinet is hardliner David Friedman as his choice for ambassador to Israel. Many are questioning what his strong opinions and opposition to the two-state solution will do to U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Joining us now to discuss is former ambassador -- U.S. ambassador to Israel and former U.S. special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Martin Indyk. Good to see you, sir.
MARTIN INDYK, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: Good morning.
CUOMO: So there are three basic points of pushback. The first is the experience of Friedman -- not known to have any diplomatic experience. He is a bankruptcy attorney who helped Trump with his bankruptcies in Atlantic City. His legal acumen aside, what do you see in his background that gives you questions?
INDYK: Well, that's the first one and it's an important one because the post of ambassador to Israel is an extremely sensitive one. It's normally held either by theForeign Service officers who have diplomatic experience or people like me with political experience but knowledge of the issues. It's not clear that David Friedman has any of that.
But on top of that he has (audio gap) and is a strong supporter of the settlement movement in Israel and he's associated with (audio gap) in Israel which (audio gap) in the context of such a sensitive post. It has raised questions if he will able to be a U.S. ambassador to all of Israel or just one part of it.
CUOMO: All right. So another question is what you're talking about with two-state solution. Let's put up the op-ed that Mr. Friedman wrote back in August, obviously before we assume he had any idea to believe he'd be in this position.
"The 'two-state solution' is an illusion that serves the worst intentions of both the United States and the Palestinian Arabs. It has never been a solution, only a narrative. But even the narrative itself now needs to end." Your take?
[07:55:00] INDYK: Well, that position is at odds not just with U.S. policy as developed by others. George W. Bush, who was the first president to support the idea of an independent (audio gap) Palestinian state living alongside Israel in peace. That is the heart of the two-state solution. That is a position that is endorsed and embraced (audio gap) by Prime Minister Netanyahu. We don't know where President-elect Trump stands on that issue. Whether he agrees with the ambassador (audio gap) but it's a real break with U.S. policy in the past by both Republican (audio gap) and the sitting president.
Secondly, and very importantly, President-elect Trump has said on three occasions unprompted that he wants to be a dealmaker between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Well, there's only one deal that can be made between the Israelis and the Palestinians and that is for a two-state solution and interim deals that lead up to that. But the reality is that's the only way in which you get a solution. Any (audio gap) solution at all.
CUOMO: And last, quickly, is Friedman says he will move the embassy. Obviously, he doesn't decide but he looks forward to doing it out of the new embassy location for the U.S. in Jerusalem. Now that's very controversial territory. The Christians lay claim to Jerusalem. The Jews, obviously, lay claim. Even the Muslims have tried to pull out some cultural precedent for their presence there. What does that mean about wanting to move the embassy?
INDYK: Well, that is the position of the President-elect Donald Trump, as well. It's been the position of past presidents including President Clinton and President Bush when they were running, but none of them were prepared to do it because it is incendiary act, not quite for the reasons that you suggest but because it is the crucible of the three (audio gap) visions of the third holiest mosque in Islam is on the top of the ruins of the Jewish Temple (audio gap) temple.
So it was a highly contested and highly combustible issue and for that reason the United States has not been prepared to (audio gap) as Israel's capital, actually because Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 and so moving the capital there would imply that the United States was recognizing Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, including the Arab part and the part which has the third-holiest mosque in Islam.So it's a very provocative move in the current circumstances and for that reason Israeli governments have not been making an issue out of it. They (audio gap) the United States to recognize Jerusalem --
INDYK: -- as the state capital and haven't made an issue out of it because of the danger that it could explode everything.
CUOMO: Right. Martin Indyk, thank you very much. It is unusual, to say the least, that the U.S. ambassador seems to be more hardlined on Israeli issues than Israel itself. Our appreciation to him.
We have a lot of new for you this morning. What do you say, let's get to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: The electoral vote, I never appreciated it until now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we vote in the Electoral College, I fully expect that Donald Trump will be formally elected.
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: 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 COMMENTATOR: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CUOMO: Good morning, welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, December 19th, 8:00 in the East. Just six days until Christmas. We share the CNN countdown clock about that.
The Electoral College is set to make Donald Trump's victory official today. More focus than usual on the 538 electors in all 50 state capitals and Washington, D.C. as anti-Trump holdouts push for an unlikely twist to overturn the will of the voters.
CAMEROTA: The other drama coming from Russia's alleged hacking during the presidential election. Mr. Trump and his team largely dismissed that issue but a bipartisan group of senators are calling for a broader investigation.
We're just 32 days until the inauguration and we begin this hour with CNN's Jessica Schneider. She is live in cold Lansing, Michigan where the state's electors will vote later today. What's the latest, Jessica?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very cold. You got it, Alisyn. Well, Michigan's 16 electors will be casting their votes at 2:00 today. Electors will be in state capitals all over the country casting their votes as well, starting at 10:00 this morning in Indiana. Now, of course, December 19th is something that comes and goes every four years.