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White House Ready to Punish Russia for Election Hack; Kerry: 2- State Solution Only Path to Peace; Trump Slams Obama on Twitter on Transition; Charleston Shooter Will Defend Self, Not Call Witnesses; Tribute Pour in for Actress Carrie Fisher. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired December 28, 2016 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Why wasn't this done when the action was actually taking place during the campaign?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Boy, you know, that's the million-dollar question, right? The Democrats even I think have come out and are critical of the Obama administration because they believe some of this could have been done more publicly and certainly much more early and perhaps we would have seen a difference responsibility here before the election. Obviously, there's been a lot of back and forth inside the administration, some of the agencies were concerned about sources and methods. There was even the worry that, frankly, the administration expected Hillary Clinton to win and so they didn't want to do anything to give Donald Trump any more reason to call the elections rigged. It was something, obviously, he was already -- a charge he was already making during the campaign so there was a lot of fighting behind the scenes about what exactly to do here. We also talked to administration officials who say that part of this was the work of the intelligence community and the FBI trying to investigate, get to the bottom of what was happening here. Part of the problem here, Pam, is that there was a lot of focus on the hacking and trying to protect ballot boxes on election day. What people didn't realize, the "fill your imagination" that happens in these cases is that what the Russians were doing was already being accomplished simply by virtue of the information campaign.

BROWN: Masha, I want to go back to you.

How do you foresee Russia responding to the U.S. retaliation? Is there a concern this could escalate into some sort of overt cyber warfare between the two countries?

MARSHA GESSEN, AUTHOR: That's difficult to speculate. What we do know is Putin has really drawn a line between Obama administration and the incoming Trump administration. He is blaming the arms race on the Obama administration. He is giving Trump carte blanche at this point. In his press conference on December 23, he sort of was blaming everything bad that has happened and might even happen in the future on the outgoing administration, so in that sense, he can stay consistent. But Trump will be under a lot of pressure from his friends in Russia to lift the sanctions. That may not be something the Republicans in the Senate and Congress want to do so that -- when they see conflict playing out there. BROWN: Because the first question is, OK, the Obama administration

will retaliate. Obama has less than a month in office, could Trump just come in and sort of overturn everything? That's the question.

And as you look to the future. As you look to the Trump presidency, how do you see the relationship between Russia and the U.S. When you have Rex Tillerson as the secretary of state? What do you envision?

GESSEN: I envision the shortest honeymoon in history.

BROWN: Really?

GESSEN: Because at this point, Putin feels like the winner but he even called himself -- or he had himself called in a pre-arranged manner at his press conference the most powerful man in the world because he won the American election but, you know, that's somebody else's job description. I think Donald Trump is very aware that this is his job description to be the most powerful man in the world. So, I don't think that can last a very long time.

And also, Putin needs the United States as an enemy. He has rested his popularity on mobilization against an imaginary threat from the United States. If that threat is gone, his popularity will be in danger.

BROWN: Interesting perspective there.

Marsha Gessen, Evan Perez, thank you both. Do appreciate it.

GESSEN: Thank you.

BROWN: Up next, Secretary of State John Kerry said today a two-state solution is the only path to peace in the Middle East. How does that fit with President-elect Donald Trump's plans? We will discuss.

Plus, Donald Trump tweeting about a difficult transition and slamming President Obama for what he calls "inflammatory statements and roadblocks." We'll discuss, up next.


[14:37:00] BROWN: Back to our breaking news. Secretary of State John Kerry has laid out his vision for peace and a global impact that has vexed the United States for generations, bringing peace between Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East. And Israel's leader has just weighed in. This war of words comes less than a week after the U.S. allowed the controversial United Nations resolution to pass without vetoing it. It condemned Israel's settlements on what Palestinians believe is part of their future state.

Kerry explained why the U.S. chose to abstain from the U.N. vote, which he insists the U.S. did not orchestrate.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: And we cannot properly defend and protect Israel is we allow a viable two-state solution to be destroyed before our own eyes. And that's the bottom line. The vote in the United Nations was about preserving the two-state solution. That's what we were standing up for, Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state, living side by side in peace and security with its neighbors. That's what we are trying to preserve, for our sake and for theirs.


BROWN: I want to go now to CNN national correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux.

So, tell us what Netanyahu was saying after Kerry's speech there, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Pam, we heard a very direct and strong rebuke from Prime Minister Netanyahu, who said Israel doesn't need to be lectured for foreign leaders. He hopes the Obama administration doesn't do more damage in the waning days, he said. And he said he has uncontested evidence the U.S. was behind the anti-Israeli resolution and it should stop playing games.

I want you to listen. This is just a portion of what we just heard.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: This conflict is and has always been about Israel's very right to exist. That's why my hundreds of calls to sit with President Abbas for peace talks have gone unanswered. That's why my invitation to Knesset has gone unanswered. That's why the Palestinian government continues to pay anyone who murders Israelis a monthly salary.

The persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state remains the core of the conflict, and its removal is the key to peace. Palestinian rejection of Israel and support for terror are what are the nations of the world should focus on if they truly want to advance peace.

And I can only express my regret and say that it's a shame that Secretary Kerry does not see this simple truth.


MALVEAUX: Donald Trump tweeted this morning just hours before Secretary Kerry's speech saying, "We cannot let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but not anymore. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this. Stay strong, Israel. January 20 is fast approaching."

Now, this morning, Netanyahu tweeted him back saying, "President-elect Trump, thank you for your warm friendship and your clear-cut support for Israel."

Also, Pam, this morning, on the conference call with Sean Spicer, Trump's incoming press secretary, said the relationship between the United States and Israel under Trump would be stronger. And we've already seen signs that Trump certainly wants to go in that direction. He selected David Friedman, as the new U.S. ambassador to Israel, who supports Israeli settlements, moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, making Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish state, and defunding the U.N. for its resolution that's critical of Israel.

We also heard from House Republican leaders who announced that the new Congress, which will come back in January, will produce a measure denouncing the U.N. for that resolution. I'm also told this morning that Trump received his intelligence briefing. He has met with his national security team. And Spicer says Trump will make some kind of statement this afternoon on the economy. We'll look to see if he has more to say reacting to Kerry's speech -- Pam?

[14:41:02] BROWN: All right, we'll await that.

Suzanne Malveaux, thank you very much.

Let's talk this over. We have some guests here, Ryan Williams, a Republican strategist and former spokesman for Mitt Romney; and A. Scott Bolden, a former chairman of the Democratic Party in Washington, D.C.


BROWN: First off, Ryan -- good afternoon.

Your reaction to the two speeches and what it means for the Trump administration.

RYAN WILLIAMS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think Secretary Kerry's speech was a disgraceful. This was a change in policy from the administrations that let this resolution be approved. It's an anti- Israel resolution by a vehemently anti-Israel body. It's a disgraceful attempt to shore up his legacy. And it's questionable given how many things have happened in the world while John Kerry has been secretary of state. North Korea is marching towards a nuclear weapon, and we have a crisis in Syria. It's a disgrace. And P.M. Netanyahu's speech in response was with merit. And I think relations will improve with Israel, our strong ally, under President-elect Trump when he takes office.

BROWN: A. Scott, your reaction to Ryan saying his speech was a disgrace and departure from the policy.

A. SCOTT BOLDEN, FORMER CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC PARTY, WASHINGTON, D.C.: It's hardly a disgrace. Let's be clear, there are $38 billion of reasons that have gone to Israel, more than any other administration, by the Obama administration. That says they support the security of Israel. But we don't have to be blind friends. And the two-state solution has not only been supported by the U.S. for several years. Israel knows that. And the extension, quite frankly, may have been a parting shot politically, but it means nothing. It's non-binding. And within 18 to 20 days of the Trump administration, look for them, as conservatives, to match up with Netanyahu's Conservative Party to change that. So, I think it's overblown to say it's a disgrace because the U.S. has been strong security partners with Israel under the last eight years of the Obama administration. That's a fact. That's undeniable.

BROWN: Ryan, you heard Netanyahu say in his speech there is concrete evidence showing the U.S. orchestrated this resolution, this U.N. resolution. Kerry completely denied that.

But why wouldn't Israel just release that information rather than waiting and giving it to the incoming administration, the Trump administration? Do you think he should release it?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think that Prime Minister Netanyahu has realized he can't act in good faith with the Obama administration given what they've done over the last eight years, approving this disastrous Iran deal, letting the resolution go through, which is being celebrated by terrorist organizations, by anti-Israel activists and European capitals across Europe. This is what President Obama has done. He has emboldened the anti-Israel effort and slowed and hurt the peace process. That's not according to me. That's according to Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, and other Senate Democrats who have gone after the administration for their conduct here. So, this isn't a partisan issue. It's bipartisan. Bipartisan and condemnation of what President Obama and Secretary Kerry have done in their final days in office.


BOLDEN: Well, the question was simply why not release that information now if it's so concrete. Netanyahu is doing nothing but politicizing this issue, because there's no disadvantage. You can provide it to the Obama administration. You can provide it to the public and let the public decide.

One of the things missing in this whole debate is that the PLA as well as the Israeli political parties, there is dysfunction within both of those in regard to the peace process. And while Netanyahu says he doesn't want to be lectured by a foreign leader --


WILLIAMS: You can't equate the two.


BOLDEN: Let me finish.


BROWN: Guys, hold on.

Ryan, hold on.

Let's let Scott finish.

BOLDEN: There is disarray in both parties. Do not want to be lectured by foreign leaders.

He's right about one thing, settlement and peace is going to come from those two parties, the Palestinians and the Israelis. But you have to take lecturing from countries that you take $38 billion from. You can't have it both ways. It's untenable.

[14:45:10] BROWN: OK, Ryan, go ahead.

WILLIAMS: The Israelis are our strongest allies in the region.

BOLDEN: I agree.

WILLIAMS: The Obama administration has treated them terribly. The Israelis want peace. The Palestinians won't even recognize the existence of Israel. They fire rockets at them, send suicide bombers over. These are not two equal parties.


BOLDEN: And there are some Israelis who don't recognize-


BOLDEN: -- the Palestinian state either.


BOLDEN: You can't have it both ways.


WILLIAMS: And this administration has emboldened the anti-Israel forces in the Palestinian territories across the world, and that's wrong. And that's why Prime Minister Netanyahu is looking forward to working with President Trump.

BOLDEN: And how do you reconcile the fact that --

BROWN: Strong opinions on both sides.

BOLDEN: -- there are Israelis who don't support -

BROWN: I have to wrap it up here.

BOLDEN: -- a Palestinian state or recognize it, either?

BROWN: A. Scott Bolden, Ryan Williams, I have a feeling we won't resolve everything in this sitting, but appreciate the lively discussion.

I do appreciate it. Thank you so much.

BOLDEN: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: Thanks. BROWN: Coming up, convicted Charleston church shooter, Dylann Roof, representing himself in court today. This, as family members are conflicted about his potential death penalty sentence. That's next.


BROWN: New developments today in the Charleston church massacre trial. The man convicted of killing nine black worshippers told a judge he plans to act as his own lawyer when the penalty phase begins next week, but Dylann Roof also says he won't call any witnesses, nor will he present any evidence to spare his life.

Let's bring in CNN correspondent, Nick Valencia; and legal analyst, Joey Jackson, also a criminal defense lawyer.

Nick, I want to go to you first.

You covered the murder trial. Dylann Roof had attorneys then. What happened?

[14:50:00] NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, there's been plenty of drama surrounding his defense. Before his trial began, he said he wanted to represent himself for both phases of his trial. But a week before his trial began, he did an about face, saying he only wanted to represent himself during the sentencing phase, not the guilt phase. It's something he reiterated after he was found guilty and something he told the judge again today. The judge recommending, he not do this.

This comes as a surprise to a lot of people, especially considering who Dylann Roof's was. David Bruck is a brilliant legal mind, somebody that represented many high-profile clients in the past and managed to spare the life of at least one of them, getting her life in prison instead of the death penalty.

BROWN: When the sentencing phase trial begins on January 3, jurors will have to decide whether or not Dylann Roof should be put to death for what he did. And it may come as a surprise to some of our viewers that the families of the victims, some of them, are conflicted on whether or not his life should be taken for what he did.


ESTHER LANCE, VICTIM FAMILY MEMBER: Giving him the chair is not really -- just let him do his whole life in jail. I'm fine with it. Taking an eye to eye ain't going to -- my mom wouldn't have wanted that.

MALCOLM GRAHAM, VICTIM FAMILY MEMBER: If there's any case in America where the death penalty is deserved, it is this one. The crime was pre-meditated. It was calculated.


VALENCIA: And our producer, Robert Ray, points out federal death penalty cases are rare. There hasn't been one in 13 years. Pamela, even if he is found not to be given the death penalty in this

case, he has another state death penalty case that's expected to be tried next year -- Pamela?

BROWN: Nick, thank you.

Now I want to go to Joey Jackson to get more legal analysis on this.

He, Dylann Roof, dropped out of high school. Would there be legal issues allowing him to represent himself? Could legal cases be forced upon him?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The answer is no. The defendant has the right to represent themselves. The Constitution has addressed the issue. The Supreme Court has addressed the issue. I don't see that.

The bigger issue for me is him not putting any witnesses and deciding to represent himself. He has indicated that he wants to make an opening statement. He wants to make a closing statement. Will he try to justify what he did? Will he apologize? Go on a racist rant? I don't know.

What I do know is, as a practical matter, does it make any difference? The government's case is compelling. Remember what this will be about. Put on overwhelming testimony concerning substantial preparation, seeing what church of significance he could target to get his message out. They're going to do that. The planning he did with regard to getting that weapon, to practicing and carrying it out. They're going to talk about the helplessness of those victims. When, in fact, did he engage in this activity? After they handed him a Bible, a scripture, and when they began to pray, that's what he did. So, they're going to bring that up, in addition to the heinousness and the cruel and inhumane way he did it. So, the aggravation is substantial.

The question becomes, what mitigating things could he do? The law provides you to talk about anything in mitigation, your family history, whether you had any duress, any emotional disturbance. But would that make a difference whether he or his lawyers presented that to the jury? The facts are clear, crystal and overwhelming. The question remains, if he did have his lawyers representing him, what the outcome would be then.

BROWN: And he's been forth coming in his FBI interviews that we've reported on recently.

JACKSON: And he changed his mind, too, before, right? He said I'm going to represent -- OK, my lawyers can, so the judge in this hearing said, we'll give you to January 3, but once the opening statements begin, it's a wrap.

BROWN: That's it.

All right, Joey Jackson, Nick Valencia, thank you both.

JACKSON: Thank you. [14:54:06] BROWN: I appreciate it.

Up next, Princess Leia may have been her most famous role but Carrie Fisher was also a role model for many. Her life as an author and advocate, up next.

Also, much more on our breaking news straight ahead. Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry giving a major policy speech on peace in the Middle East. Moments ago, Israel's prime minister delivering a fiery response.

Back in a moment.


BROWN: Across the galaxy, tributes are pouring in for actress Carrie Fisher. She played the icon Princess Leia in "Star Wars," as I'm sure you know. She passed away yesterday after suffering a massive heart attack days earlier on a plane. She was known for her trailblazing honesty about her struggles with mental illness and addiction and wrote about her bipolar disorder.

I want to bring in Paul Vercammen in Los Angeles.

Paul, what are you hearing from "Star Wars" actors who worked alongside Fisher?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pam, they adored her. Let's set the scene for you. "Star Wars" wasn't her first movie. "Shampoo" was the first. She comes on the set of "Star Wars," she's promiscuous. Then hot shot up-and-coming director, George Lucas, is putting her through all kinds of costume changes and the actors on set reflect on that, including those who played C3P0 and Chewbacca.


PETER MAYHEW, ACTOR: She had a full life-style and I think that if you accepted what she was, that you got a lot more out of her than being, oh, you're an actress. But she wasn't. She was the actress of the '70s because of Leia and the way it moved along on all three of the original movies.

ANTHONY DANIELS, ACTOR: She couldn't take herself seriously in any of this because of the ridiculous hair styles --


-- that George made her way. She was often sniggering about them.


VERCAMMEN: Obviously, Carrie Fisher survived it all, went on to write "Postcards from the Edge" and other great pieces of work. And admired here in Hollywood because she was open about her battles with addiction and being bipolar.

BROWN: That's right. Not just in Hollywood. She was a role model to people around the world for her openness about her addictions.

Paul Vercammen, thank you very much.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROWN: Top of the hour. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Brooke Baldwin.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Secretary of State John Kerry doesn't understand what he and his people have suffered through. Netanyahu firing back calling Kerry's speech a big disappointment.


[15:00:02] BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translation): Kerry's speech is a big disappointment. He obsessively talks again and again about Israel because, instead of --