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Some Ask Pledged Electoral College Voters to Vote Against Donald Trump; Interview with Karen Finney; Zsa Zsa Gabor Dies; Trump Skeptical Of Hacking Claims; Obama: I Told Putin To "Cut It Out" After DNC Hack; Michelle Obama Discusses The Next First Lady. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 19, 2016 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:03] JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now of course, December 19th is something that comes and goes every four years. It's largely ceremonial. But this year we're expecting protests across the country, and already there have been thousands of calls for electors to quote, "vote their conscience," something that is highly unlikely given the fact that the majority of electors are party loyalists.


SCHNEIDER: 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, CLINTON CAMPAIGN: The question is whether there are 37 Republican electors who think that either they're 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.


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

BANERIAN: 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.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT-ELECT: The electoral vote, 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.

REINCE PRIEBUS, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: 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, (D) 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 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: 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.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: 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 Democrats are pointing to the details of those Russian hacks in hopes that it could sway electors. Even the documentary maker and activist Michael Moore is pledging to pay the fines of any electors who go rogue. But of course, 28 states do have faithless elector laws that bind the electors to vote as their state has pledged. And Republican officials right here in Michigan tell me that even if any of their electors go rogue, which they do not expect, they would simply replace the elector with one who would actually vote for Donald Trump. Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Jessica, thanks so much for explaining all of that to us.

Joining us now is Karen Finney. She's a former senior spokesperson and adviser for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Good morning, Karen.


CAMEROTA: So, Karen, what is this day like for you? And in the past few weeks, in your private moments, have you been holding out some sliver of hope that the electors would turn this around? FINNEY: You know, I'll be honest with you, Alisyn, I took the view

more to where I think, you know, John Podesta was in the clip that you showed, which is, and I think where the president is, which you know, there are very serious questions about the role that the Russian government, Russian state actors, including Vladimir Putin himself, may have played.

And so regardless of changing the outcome of the election, which I don't think that's -- to my mind that's not what this is about. This is about making sure that we know what happened so that we can make sure it does not happen again. I think that's what's more important here.

And to this point about some of the electors, I know some of them are suggesting that really the thing to do is to send it to Congress, because, you know, Republicans -- they're a Republican-led Congress. Members of Congress could actually have access to some of that confidential material, and then would they, too, would have information that I think the electors feel, at least certainly the ones who've asked for a briefing on what may have happened here, to really understand what actually happened, and, you know, what do we need to do to make sure it doesn't happen again.

[08:05:01] CAMEROTA: You know, look, you've heard the Trump team, they say that you guys are just grasping at straws, this is all a distraction, this is a red herring, pardon the pun, to say that Russia in any way played a role in the outcome. Basically Kellyanne Conway is saying that you, your team, is just politicizing this. Let me play for you what she said about you guys.


CONWAY: It does seem to be a political response at this point because it seems like the president is under pressure from team Hillary, who can't accept the election results. It's very clear that President Obama could have, quote, "retaliated" months ago if they were actually concerned about this and concerned about this, quote, "affecting the election." Whatever his motives are, whatever his action is, we'll respect it as Americans.


CAMEROTA: What your response, Karen?

FINNEY: Well, my response is that Kellyanne Conway is a very talented political operative. And I understand why she and the other members of the Trump team are trying to make this about, you know, sour grapes, and not wanting to accept the election results.

And again, that's not what we're saying here. And you know, I find it frustrating, Kellyanne Conway also admitted she herself is not privy to any of the information, the classified information, the intelligence, that, you know, when other members of Congress have seen it, it has been very convincing to them. And, in fact, Donald Trump, if he would decide to show up once in a while for those briefings, those national security briefings, he, too, might be more convinced that there's something really -- there's some there there that is worthy of investigating.

So I understand why they want to cast it that way. And particularly it doesn't look good for them all of these various interconnections, potential business connections with the Russians -- in Russia with the Trump company. So I understand why they want to deflect from that. But I think there's a point at which we can all as Americans say, if the Russians are trying to, you know, in any way, shape or form impact our elections, we got to stop it.

CAMEROTA: But beyond that, Karen, do you think, as you sit there today, that Russian hacking cost Hillary Clinton the election?

FINNEY: You know, I don't know the answer to that. And I don't think we will ever know the answer to that. I think the more important question is, did Russia -- did we -- and this is not a question that is, you know, our friend at this point. Did they try to -- did they hack and did they use information in a way to, you know, put the thumb on the scale of the election, to do something nefarious with regard to the outcome of the election. I just think as an American, I just want to know the answer to that question, because I think it's so important.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And now that the smoke has cleared somewhat and it's been several weeks since the election, actually longer, what do you think went wrong with your campaign?

FINNEY: You know, I think if there are any number of things you can point to, to be perfectly frank with you. Everybody peace got a theory about we should have gone to this state or that state and we could have spent more money here or there. As Mandy Grunwald made a great point a few weeks ago, you know what, you're right. Any of those points I think you could say have merit to them.

I think what's important now, to be honest with you, and this was, you know, part of the conversation I think that is so important going forward is let's understand what happened with regard to, you know, the Russians hacking, because it has real significant consequences going forward. We're not trying to re-adjudicate, you know, what happened in the election.

But when we talk about things like fake news that got so bad to the point that a gunman went into a family friendly pizza place -- right, I mean we know there were certain things and certain characteristics of the nature of this election that have real implications going forward that I want to -- personally I'd like to make sure that we do the things we need to do to rein those things in and make sure that we understand what some of those currents were, particularly, for example, Alisyn, some of the currents in terms when it comes to race and gender and you know, some of the -- what we consider some of the race baiting frankly that I think we saw from the Trump campaign. I think that still has real implications for our country and bringing our country back together and moving us forward.

CAMEROTA: Karen, you know, look, the Trump team says that every time you do that and you look outward to was there possible Russia hacking, was there some level of racism, that it's not the soul-searching that is required for how Democrats are going to move forward.

FINNEY: But you know what, I think there's two pieces to that, Alisyn, because number one is there's the soul-searching and there's the what do we need to do as a party moving forward? But I personally am more interested in what do we need to do as a country moving forward? And I think that one of the big things that are so important, I mean, think about where we were eight years ago when we elected Barack Obama where we were as a country, how we felt about that accomplishment.

[08:10:00] And so my point is that was a huge moment in the history of our country. So elections also are big moments for us to take a look at ourselves and look at our country and say, who are we? Is this a direction that we want to be going in? Yes, we can do all of the, you know, punditry and looking at the various things that we could or could not have done differently in the election. I think that's a slightly different conversation.

CAMEROTA: Karen Finney, thanks so much for your perspective. Nice to have you on NEW DAY.

FINNEY: You bet. You bet.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, big and bad situation in Jordan. Four gunmen who killed 10 people and wounded 34 others, the gunmen are now dead following a standoff with police. Jordanian officials calling it a cowardly terrorist attack. The attackers fired at a police officers at two different locations, then moved to an ancient castle popular with tourists, police finding automatic weapons there. They also discovered explosives, including suicide belts in a house that they raided.

CAMEROTA: The U.N. Security Council expected to vote this morning to allow U.N. monitoring of evacuations in eastern Aleppo. Turkey's foreign minister tweeting that 12,000 civilians have been evacuated, 4,500 since midnight. Buses meant to carry evacuees had been coming under attack earlier. Seven-year-old Bana al-Abed whose tweets have shown the despair in her war torn city is among those who did leave safely we're told. Relief coordinators confirming that al-Abed and her family evacuated Aleppo early this morning.

CUOMO: Remember, a lot of kids in the same situation.

So Hollywood remembers the unforgettable Zsa Zsa Gabor. A longtime spokesperson confirms to CNN she passed of heart failure at her Bel Air home. Zsa Zsa emigrated to the U.S. from Hungary in the 1940s. She was in 50 films including 1952's "Moulin Rouge." Zsa Zsa also made TV. Her life sitting on so many couches for so many different guests. Many have been, most -- you know her famous line was about her nine marriages, we've been joking about it this morning. She said she was a great housekeeper because every time she gets divorced she keeps the house. Zsa Zsa Gabor was 99 years old. She was an original. She'll be missed. CAMEROTA: Absolutely. We loved watching her. She just was the

personification I think of like the '70s, and that sort of Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, you know, whole --

CUOMO: And part of an amazing family. The way she came on with her mix of camp and her glamour, as you say her Ava Gabor, the other sister really captivated the American audience.

CAMEROTA: And 99-years-old.

CUOMO: Beautiful.

All right, Michelle Obama, offering advice to Melania Trump. What is that advice? Next.


[08:16:22] CUOMO: All right. You're getting your 538 electors today meeting in their own respective states to directly elect the next president of the United States. That should be Donald Trump based on what we know about the state voting.

You just heard from a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton about whether there was interference, and what that will mean today and going forward.

Let's discuss all of the political machinations going on right now with David Drucker, senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner" and host of "The Examining Politics" podcast. We also have CNN political analyst and author of "how's Your Faith," Brother David Gregory. Good to have you both.

So today should be a nonevent. They should go out, do what they always do, maybe a couple little bits of dramatic action but it happens. But you have the question of why did it happen and how do you see the issue of Russia hacking and the implications of that hacking?

DAVID DRUCKER, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": So I don't know why we can't both say that these things are events that we should pay attention to. Russia, as one of our biggest geopolitical adversaries is always trying to sow problems in the U.S. system.

Because they want advantage over us around the world, and Putin doesn't look at democracy and government the way we look at it. We look at elections as things that can be free and fair. He thinks everything is cooked.

He's still mad at Hillary Clinton for supposedly fomenting democratic unrest in Russia years ago because she said a couple of things critical because it doesn't occur to him that people actually get upset at him and might want to go protest.

At the same time, Hillary Clinton lost the election because she made a lot of mistakes. All right, she was supposed to go to Wisconsin as her first rally with President Obama. She was going to go to Green Bay.

The terrorist attacks in Orlando happened. They had to cancel it. They ended up never going to Wisconsin with the candidate. That first rally was held in North Carolina instead. They made a lot of key mistakes.

The Russians were also involved in trying to do a lot of bad things here and both things can be true. And so I think that from the national security perspective it's soon going to be Donald Trump's job to take care of that.

Because these are big, big problems that we have where Russia can intrude into our systems, where China can intrude into our systems. At the same time, I think the Democratic Party needs to take a look at why the voters that they thought they had in the bank in the rust belt, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin.

And Minnesota was very close and nobody thought it would be, why did that happen? And how do they get those voters back so that four years from now they can have a different outcome.

CAMEROTA: David Gregory, you know, President Obama has said that he did try to address this with Vladimir Putin and he addressed him directly. He told Vladimir Putin months ago to, quote, "cut it out." How effective do we think that was? And what else can and should President Obama be doing?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think what's really important now is that this gets taken out of the political context because this is not going to do the country any good if this becomes something of a partisan fight.

I think it is, Chris just noted, the Electoral College wraps up its business, formally elects Donald Trump to be the 45th president of the United States. That's done.

Now there needs to be an examination of an act of war against the United States by a foreign power trying to influence U.S. elections for which there is apparently a lot of evidence to back it up. I think that evidence should be declassified in a way that is responsible.

So that the new administration can get a look at it, as well as the current administration. The general public can have some level of satisfaction that this is not a partisan exercise. This should not be used to suggest that Hillary Clinton would have won the election if not for Vladimir Putin.

But there's no question that Russia wanted to make her look bad, wanted to delegitimize her and wanted to interfere in the election one way or the other to make America look bad. That's what has to be dealt with.

[08:20:00]And I think part of what we're seeing out of the new administration and the president-elect is I think a rather hasty reaction to all of this. Assigning political blame rather than really trying to dig in and figure out what was at work here, how you respond to it, because this can't happen again.

And that's the responsibility of the administration to understand it's not about him and it's not about this election. For Kellyanne Conway, who should -- is in her lane of politics, has to I think be very careful about what she may not know about what the evidence here is in just describing this in a political context instead of understanding what now does the United States do against a foreign power. Much bigger than the sour grapes here.

CUOMO: David makes the right point. It's way too much about Trump himself right now. That's why you get a Reince Priebus saying something that's just you know flagrantly untrue that hey you know the -- the intel people should come out and tell us then.

Clapper did it on October 7th. Kellyanne Conway saying that Obama is doing what the Clinton team is trying -- she doesn't know what that's about. She's just trying to distract. When he gets into office he'll have to own it.

Part of the perspective on this. He is very gentle on Putin. Won't attack him. Won't say anything about Ukraine. Won't say anything about the hacking. But with China, put up his tweets. Very aggressive about the drone.

He ignored that nuclear capable bomber that flew over the South China Sea, but with the drone he goes after them. He says very bad thing to do. Then the next one he says something odd about let them keep it. Why so aggressive on China but so light on Russia?

DRUCKER: Right, that's the big question, right? I mean, I think throughout the campaign one of the things that Republicans and I think a lot of people had trouble figuring out is why Donald Trump was so friendly towards Vladimir Putin and dismissed everything negative about Putin with no political cost to him if he had criticized him --

CUOMO: Because everything he says about his rationale for being nice to Russia is doubly true about being nice to China.

DRUCKER: Exactly. What's wrong with -- why can't we get along with China? I mean, what's so wrong with that? We could make the same argument. Look I think that there's a key figure to watch in the Trump administration after he takes office and that's Mike Pompeo, the Republican --


DRUCKER: -- Kansas who is going to be the CIA director. He is a hawk. He gets intel issues. And if he knows that there is a problem and bad activity going on from Moscow trying to mess with us, he's going to want to tell the administration. He's going to want to tell his boss.

He's going to want to put that front and center. And if the administration squashes that, that's going to be on them, and that, and there's -- and that is going to tell us a lot about whether this thing with Trump is the latest iteration of Republican -- of U.S. presidents trying to make nice with Vladimir Putin. It didn't work for Bush. Didn't work for Obama and I don't know why Trump thinks it would work for him.

GREGORY: Could I just add? I mean, think about the difficulty that Trump is now setting up for his national security team. An incoming CIA director who has to try to win the support of his rank and file within the CIA knowing that his boss is just trashed the intelligence community, very, very difficult.

You also have a General Mattis, who is incoming defense secretary provided he gets the waiver, and is approved, is, you know, voted on in the Senate that you know, he's someone who is more hawkish on Russia.

I mean, there has to be a real meeting of the minds here to make sure that there's a coherent foreign policy and then contrast that with what he's doing on China. There's every reason to say, we'd like a more positive relationship with Russia.

But there are boundaries, there are things that we are not going to allow Russia to do and we're going to stand firm in that regard. That would be consistent, and at least be mindful of the fact that as David says two successive administrations have tried with Russia and been confounded and manipulated by Vladimir Putin.

The question is George W. Bush said he looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes and he saw someone he could trust. I'm curious to know what the president-elect sees when he looks at Vladimir Putin.

DRUCKER: This does --

GREGORY: I would like an answer to that question.

DRUCKER: This does give Donald Trump an opportunity to say, I tried to make nice, it didn't work, and now we're going to play hardball if he uses it. It's just there's been no indication that he's been willing to use it.

There was a point at which during the campaign somebody said but Vladimir Putin -- journalists. Look we're not so nice either. The question about Russia and hacking is all really about Donald Trump and not so much that whether or not it's happened. We know that it's happened.

We know that they want it to happen. We know that this is how Vladimir Putin tries to make up for the fact that he can't compete with us militarily. And this goes back years ago the U.S. would always use the KGB and its intelligence services to make up for the fact that financially and military hardware they couldn't keep up.

It's the same old story. We have a Republican president it's very strange that doesn't want to call Russia out.

CAMEROTA: Let's end on the first ladies, the current first lady and the future first lady. We now know a little bit more about the conversation that they had when they met at the White House. Listen to this.


OPRAH WINFREY: Do you have any advice for Mrs. Trump?

MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: You know, I didn't -- we didn't -- we talked about the kids, but, you know, my offer to Melania was, you know, you really don't know what you don't know until you're here.

[08:25:04]So the door is open, as I've told her and as Laura Bush told me, you know, and other first ladies told me so I'm not new in this going high thing. I mean, I'm modeling what was done for me --


OBAMA: By -- by the Bushes.


OBAMA: And Laura Bush was nothing but gracious and helpful, and her team was right there for my team all throughout this entire eight-year process.


CAMEROTA: David, Gregory, it's nice to hear that the first ladies have this bond and you know these communication that will continue.

GREGORY: -- how difficult it is to be in the public lair, which is what they both have experienced, and Melania Trump will now experience in a new way.

CAMEROTA: Davids, thank you for the bottom line.

DRUCKER: Thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: All right, the Electoral College will ratify the election of Donald Trump later today. So what have Hillary Clinton supporters' soul searching taught them? What would they do differently? Those answers next.


CAMEROTA: Hillary Clinton supporters are trying to figure out what went wrong during the election. I sat down with a group of those die- hard supporters to talk about how they got it so wrong.