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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer; Trump's War; Blaming Obama?; Punishing Russia; Trump Talks about Jobs, Obama, the United Nations; Trump's ISIS Challenge As U.S. Troops Face New Danger; Film Legend Debbie Reynolds Hospitalized. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired December 28, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Officials say specific individuals will be called out for their connection to the hacking operation.
Blaming Obama. Trump posts a tweet accusing the president of putting roadblocks in his way, then signals that the transition is actually running smoothly after all. Mr. Trump revealing that he spoke to the president just a short time ago. What is the actual state of their relationship?
And Trump's war. The fight against ISIS just got more dangerous for U.S. troops on the ground as the incoming commander in chief prepares to take the terrorists head on. We will look at the challenges ahead for the man who once claimed to have a secret plan to defeat ISIS.
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Sciutto. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
SCIUTTO: Breaking news tonight, president-elect Trump putting himself front and center on the issue of jobs. A short while ago, he announced that Sprint is bringing 5,000 positions back here to the U.S.
He also said a new company, OneWeb, will be hiring some 3,000 people. He did not provide details. Trump did reveal that President Obama called him today and he said they had a nice conversation. That in sharp contrast to a tweet that Trump sent earlier today, accusing the president of creating roadblocks to his transition.
Also tonight, Secretary of State John Kerry is warning that hope for Middle East peace is slipping away, with a two-state solution in "serious jeopardy." Kerry defending President Obama's policy, declaring that, in fact, no other administration has done more for Israel.
He took a tough line against Israel's settlement activity, but denied that the U.S. was behind a U.N. resolution condemning it. The Israeli prime minister is accusing Kerry of giving a biased speech that blamed Israel for the Middle East conflict.
Benjamin Netanyahu says that he looks forward to working with president-elect Trump to try to repeal that controversial U.N. Security Council resolution.
Also breaking, the Obama administration is ready to punish Russia for election-related hacking. An announcement could come as soon as tomorrow. Some officials say that individuals associated with the hacking operation are expected to be named. Tonight, the Kremlin is promising to respond to any "hostile steps" by the U.S.
The Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, he is standing by, along with our correspondents and analysts, as we bring you full coverage of the day's top stories.
First, to CNN's global affairs correspondent Elise Labott with more on John Kerry's speech and the reaction -- Elise.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Jim, while Secretary Kerry realizes his ideas, his vision for peace may not have a home now, but after four years of trying unsuccessfully to reach a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, Kerry said he couldn't in good conscience walk out the door remaining silent when he sees the hope, the chance for peace slipping away.
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The status quo is leading towards one state and perpetual occupation.
LABOTT (voice-over): In a lengthy and deeply personal final plea, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a strong warning to Israel that a two-state solution was in jeopardy, directing his aim at the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
KERRY: The Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution, but his current coalition is the most right-wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements.
LABOTT: At the same time defending U.S. support of Israel.
KERRY: No American administration has done more for Israel's security than Barack Obama's.
LABOTT: Netanyahu quickly called the speech a biased attack that only paid lip service to Palestinian terror.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: What he did was to spend most of his speech blaming Israel for the lack of peace.
LABOTT: Kerry's message comes amid a bitter war of words between U.S. and Israel after Washington refused to veto a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements, allowing it to pass.
KERRY: Some seem to believe that the U.S. friendship means that the U.S. must accept any policy, regardless of our own interests, our own positions, our own words, our own principles.
LABOTT: Israel says it has proof Washington secretly orchestrated the vote and will show it to president-elect Trump when he takes office in just a few weeks.
NETANYAHU: We have it on absolutely incontestable evidence that the United States organized, advanced and brought this resolution.
LABOTT: Kerry denied the claims and framed the vote as an effort to save Israel from a policy that threatened its future as a Jewish state.
KERRY: We reject the criticism that this vote abandons Israel. On the contrary,it is not this resolution that is isolating Israel. It is the permanent policy of settlement construction that risks making peace impossible.
LABOTT: In his four years as secretary of state, a deal between Israelis and Palestinians has escaped Kerry, but in a recent interview with CNN, he rejected the idea that he failed.
KERRY: I didn't fail. We didn't fail. The United States didn't fail. We put what I think is still the solution on the table. But the parties failed.
LABOTT: Even before Kerry spoke, both president-elect Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu criticized the Obama administration, Trump tweeting: "We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. Stay strong, Israel. January 20 is fast approaching."
Netanyahu responded: "President-elect Trump, thank you for your warm friendship and your clear-cut support for Israel."
LABOTT: And Prime Minister Netanyahu warning against further moves at the U.N. Israeli officials very concerned about a possible French resolution that could come out of a peace conference next month, or another resolution enshrining Kerry's ideas.
The White House is saying that it would veto any such resolution. Meanwhile, president-elect Donald Trump is working with Congress to defund the U.N. if that vote on settlements is not overturned, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Elise Labott at the State Department, thanks very much.
Joining me now is the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer.
Ambassador Dermer, thank you for taking the time today.
RON DERMER, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Good to be with you. SCIUTTO: Certainly momentous events.
I want to begin. You have obviously been repeatedly extremely critical of the Obama administration for abstaining from this vote. But aside from this disagreement, I want to ask, what evidence do you have that the Obama administration has been biased against Israel, anti-Israel?
DERMER: Up until this point at the United Nations, they actually vetoed a Security Council resolution against Israel, in fact, the only veto that they did during their presidency, which we were deeply appreciative of.
But this resolution itself is a resolution that effectively will call for boycotts and sanctions against Israel. That's the language of the resolution, to ask states in their relevant dealings with Israel to make the distinctions between pre-'67 Israel and Israel beyond the 1967 lines.
What does that mean? People will use this resolution to stir the pot for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel and to bring Israeli soldiers and maybe even Israeli citizens to the International Criminal Court.
DERMER: So, they should have vetoed this, because their policy, as they have stated so many times, is to stand firmly against the delegitimization Israel. But what they did was back a U.N. Security Council resolution that delegitimizes Israel.
SCIUTTO: But why shouldn't -- to be clear, it does not delegitimize Israel. This takes issue purely with settlements outside...
DERMER: No, it doesn't. It doesn't. Read the resolution.
SCIUTTO: I have read it many times. And it draws attention specifically to settlement activity, in addition to Palestinian support for terror.
DERMER: It also says, Jim, there can be no change in the status of the territories beyond the 1967 lines without the Palestinians agreeing to it. That's new.
That's shifting the goalposts in the negotiations. And we're having a conversation about Israeli settlements. I just heard a speech from Secretary Kerry of 72 minutes where he spent a good chunk of that speech talking about settlements.
He went after the Israeli government, the Israeli coalition, the extreme right politics. People have to understand, right now the path of the Palestinian government is comprised of Hamas. They're a terror organization that openly calls for the murder of Jews worldwide.
SCIUTTO: No question.
DERMER: I did not hear Secretary Kerry say that.
SCIUTTO: You referenced the resolution. I just want to quote from the resolution, because in addition to calling on Israel to stop building settlements, the resolution also calls on Palestinians for immediately steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians.
But on the issue of settlements, what nation in the world, other than Israel, believes that settlements are acceptable?
DERMER: It doesn't matter that all...
SCIUTTO: It does matter. No, I'm asking for one nation. Can you name one nation?
DERMER: No, that the whole world gangs up against Israel, like I said, it's a very old story.
We have a dispute with the Palestinians of that territory.
SCIUTTO: The reason it's an old story is because international law since 1967 has declared settlements illegal. The fact is, even Israeli law calls some of those illegal outposts illegal.
DERMER: OK. The way it works in international law -- and I don't know during if during this show we can get into all the intricacies of it.
But there was so sovereign. When Israel came into possession of these territories, which are not foreign territories where we're coming in as foreign colonialists, like the Belgians in Congo or the French in Algeria or the British in India, this is the historic homeland of the Jewish people. This is the territory called Judea.
You know why Jews are called Jews? Because we are the people from Judea.
So, now the whole world will say the Jews are occupiers in Judea. The whole world says...
DERMER: The whole world is saying that the Jews are occupiers in Jerusalem. So, because the whole world says it, that makes it right?
SCIUTTO: The resolution specified East Jerusalem. And it's not the first... (CROSSTALK)
SCIUTTO: But just for a moment, it's not the first resolution to cite Jerusalem as part of the occupied territories going back -- Ronald Reagan abstained from a resolution in 1987 that included Jerusalem in the occupied territories.
Numerous U.N. resolutions have included Jerusalem. This one actually specifies East Jerusalem, as opposed to Jerusalem as a whole.
DERMER: Yes, but Jerusalem, and you're talking about East Jerusalem, just so your viewers understand.
That's the Old City of Jerusalem. That's the Jewish Quarter. That's the Western Wall.
SCIUTTO: I have been to Jerusalem many times. There are many Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem and have for hundreds of years and generations.
DERMER: If the whole world said that the Western Wall is occupied Palestinian territory, does that make it occupied Palestinian territory?
It's absurd. We have a conflict with the Palestinians. We have to resolve that conflict through negotiations. We have a territory in dispute. What this U.N. Security Council resolution did is, it basically ceded that territory to the Palestinians. It says it's yours. It's occupied Palestinian territory.
So let me ask you a question. Why would the Palestinians negotiate with us if all of a sudden the world is saying all that territory is yours?
SCIUTTO: I will read you a statement today from Saeb Erekat from the Palestinian Liberation Organization. You know him well.
"The minute the Israeli government agrees to cease all settlement activities, including in and around occupied East Jerusalem, and agree to implement the signed agreements, the Palestinian leadership stands ready to resume permanent status negotiations."
Do you accept that...
DERMER: The minute Israel says that the Western Wall is occupied Palestinian territory, they will agree to sit down with us and negotiate.
Look, you have to understand this administration has been obsessed with the issue of settlements since day one. This is not new. Kerry spoke about all these things that have happened, the Israeli coalition, laws that were passed in the Israeli Knesset.
I'm old enough to remember what happened in 2009. In the first months of this administration, they had a crisis with us on the issue of settlements, which was not a crisis going in. We had reached understandings with the Bush administration of where to build and where not to build.
This has been from day one a policy of this administration. I remember when President Obama was in China.
DERMER: Let me just give these facts to the public.
President Obama was in China during his first year in office and I was sitting in the Israeli prime minister's office, and I heard that President Obama had strongly condemned Israel, strongly condemned, language that is usually used for mass murder. He had strongly condemned Israel for building apartments in Jerusalem, in a neighborhood in Jerusalem, and everyone knows this is part of a peace agreement.
SCIUTTO: These are familiar points.
Just for our viewers who don't know the situation well, I just want to put up a map of Israeli occupations in the West Bank. First of all, here's the map of the occupations, the West Bank there of course on the right-hand side, and then if we can show the next graph how the number of settlers in those occupied territories have grown particularly during the Netanyahu administration.
Let me just ask you this in the simplest terms. Why is that necessary?
DERMER: Look, understand, we have a dispute with the Palestinians.
SCIUTTO: I understand.
SCIUTTO: Because, internationally, the West Bank is not disputed. Outside the '67 borders...
DERMER: It is disputed. But it is disputed.
SCIUTTO: But just answer the question. Even from a security perspective, why do those settlements help?
DERMER: Why do those settlements help what, advancing peace?
SCIUTTO: Advancing peace or even Israeli security.
DERMER: So, basically, the argument says that if we have Jews living in their historic homeland, that that is an obstacle to advancing a two-state solution.
You know what is an obstacle to advancing a two-state solution?
SCIUTTO: I grant that.
DERMER: It's public land. Whenever you have people on private land, the Supreme Court prevents that from happening in Israel.
But I will tell you what prevents peace. What prevents peace is a Palestinian Authority that incites an entire generation of young Palestinians that hates Jews, that glorifies mass murderers, and says we don't want any Jews to live in this territory, period.
What I would like to hear from Saeb Erekat is say, you know what? Just as Israel has...
SCIUTTO: The Palestinians have talked about land swaps that include existing settlements.
DERMER: I want to finish this one sentence.
SCIUTTO: No, but just on that point, because you're saying many things at once.
Palestinian negotiators have accepted as part of a final peace agreement accepting some existing settlements in the West Bank in exchange for land, as you know better than me. The trouble is those settlements have grown, multiplied exponentially -- not exponentially, but they have multiplied during that time period.
I just want to move on...
DERMER: No, if you actually look at the footprint, it hasn't changed much in the last eight years.
SCIUTTO: I have visited those settlements. I have seen them grow, though, on the ground.
DERMER: And there's no question that if we have a Palestinian partner who wants to make peace with us, they can.
DERMER: But the point that I want to finish, which is very important, we need -- whatever you ask me, I'm going to finish this point.
DERMER: Because we had a secretary of state for 72 minutes blame Israel for the lack of peace.
We need a Palestinian leadership that will say that they are willing to live with Jews among them and next to a Jewish state. That has not been said. That's what this conflict has been about.
SCIUTTO: To accept the right of Israel to exist, you're saying.
DERMER: To accept that there will be a nation state of the Jewish people next to them.
And the way that they would show that is by showing, you know all these people who live in this territory, they're Jews, and just like Israel has Muslims, and just like Israel has Christians -- by the way, the only Christians that are protected in the Middle East as they're literally running for their lives -- just as Israel has Muslims and non-Jews in their territory that have full rights, we would give Jews who lived in our territories full rights.
But they never say that, because they want that land ethnically cleansed of Jews, and that's wrong.
SCIUTTO: I just want to make the point here, because you know this again better than me, but I have visited Israel many times, and there are many Israelis who oppose the expansion of the settlements, not just because of the effects of peace, the prospects for a two-state solution, but also because of the danger to Israeli Defense Forces, who are required to defend them.
They don't want to send their sons and daughters to defend them. There are opposition -- there is strong, as you know, opposition to settlements among Israelis.
DERMER: Yes, there is, and because we're a democracy.
DERMER: And we always have opposition. But you know what? The prime minister of Israel has been elected multiple times.
He leads a government that represents the views of the Israeli people. And as the prime minister said today, our future will be determined not by speeches in Washington, not by votes at the United Nations, not by conferences in Paris, but by the people of Israel who, by the way, want peace more than anyone else.
We want it as much as the secretary of state of the United States, with all due respect to him.
(CROSSTALK) DERMER: I have five children. I don't want to see four of my sons have to serve in the Israeli army and fight and die, as so many Israelis have had to make huge sacrifices for peace.
We want peace more than anyone. But we need a partner who is willing to live in peace with us and end the conflict once and for all. And instead of pressuring Israel and blaming Israel for the lack of peace, start telling the Palestinians you have to end this glorification of mass murder. You have to take a stance internally within your societies to end this incitement against Israel and to teach your children that you want to live ultimately in peace.
SCIUTTO: Just a final question, you want peace, and I know you're very close to the prime minister, Netanyahu, peace via a two-state solution, because the prime minister said in March 2015 that the Palestinian nation would never be formed while he's prime minister.
DERMER: That's actually not what he said.
SCIUTTO: He was asked while he's prime minister, would a Palestinian state never be formed? He said, indeed. He said it would simply, and I'm quoting from him here, simply be giving a base for attacks to radical -- attacks by radical Islam against Israel.
DERMER: No, the prime minister, before his election, gave about 50 interviews.
And my prime minister, if there's one thing he knows how to do is, is deliver a message. And if that's the message that he wanted to deliver to the Israeli voters, he would have done it...
SCIUTTO: So he would support a two-state solution?
DERMER: The prime minister would support it. And he said it just recently on "60 Minutes."
He said it after your elections here. He will sell it -- he will say it moving forward. He supports a two-state -- a solution of two states for two peoples, where a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state of Israel. That is the policy of the prime minister of Israel.
SCIUTTO: Ambassador Dermer, thank you for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We appreciate it. And thanks for your honest answers.
DERMER: Thank you. Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Just ahead, the breaking news on the U.S. response to Russia's election meddling. The Obama administration expected to expose people involved in that operation by name.
And we will get unique insight into the Trump transition from a historian who met with the president-elect today. What is at the top of Trump's agenda right now?
SCIUTTO: Breaking tonight, the United States may be just hours away from announcing retaliation against Russia for hacking. The Obama administration apparently ready to name individuals linked to Moscow's meddling in the U.S. election.
Our justice correspondent Evan Perez has been working his sources.
This could some as soon as tomorrow?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It looks like it's going to come tomorrow. The administration is ready to expand sanctions, Jim.
They are going to name names. The outgoing president is trying to respond to the Russian meddling in the presidential election. Officials are expected to announce, again, as soon as tomorrow, a series of retaliatory measures, including sanctions and diplomatic measures. They're expected to name individuals who they believe are associated with the Russian disinformation operation that U.S. intelligence officials say was partly at least focused on harming Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
For their part, the Russians say they're tired of "lies and misinformation" from the Obama administration. A Kremlin spokeswoman says -- quote -- "If Washington really does take new hostile steps, they will be answered. Any action against Russian diplomatic missions in the U.S. will immediately bounce back to U.S. diplomats in Russia."
And, of course, Jim, Donald Trump has said he doesn't believe the Russians are behind these hacks and we expect they're still obviously -- in the next couple of days, we will see a report from the U.S. intelligence community. The Obama administration has asked for this before the president leaves office.
This is going to go back, as you previously reported, back to the 2008 activity by the Chinese. The difference here obviously is that what the Russians did this year is far different. Right? They released some of the information. They didn't just collect it for intelligence purposes.
SCIUTTO: No question. And what does President Trump do? Does he reverse Obama's steps announced tomorrow? Evan Perez, thank you very much.
Now to the Trump transition and the president-elect's relationship with the current commander in chief. We heard the president just a short time ago saying that he had a "nice conversation" on the phone with Mr. Obama today. Earlier, though, he was tweeting a very different tune.
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is with the president-elect in Palm Beach, Florida.
So mixed signals to say the least from Trump today.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim.
Earlier today, this morning, president-elect Donald Trump was really diving deeper into his public feud with President Obama, alleging over Twitter that President Obama had some blame for his transition not going as smooth as he would have hoped.
But then hours later this evening, Donald Trump emerged to say, no, everything is fine and his transition he thinks is going smoothly.
SERFATY (voice-over): Emerging from behind closed doors at his Mar-a- Lago estate today, president-elect Donald Trump making a rare appearance.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: He phoned me. We had a very nice conversation.
SERFATY: To reveal he spoke with President Obama on the phone today.
TRUMP: We had a very general conversation, very, very nice.
SERFATY: Trump attempting to lower the temperature after earlier in the day he escalated his public spat with the president, tweeting today -- quote -- "Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O. statements and roadblocks. Thought it was going to be a smooth transition. Not."
All this coming after President Obama used his high-profile speech at Pearl Harbor Tuesday to take a veiled jab at his successor.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward. We must resist the urge to demonize those who are different.
SERFATY: The escalating war of words between the outgoing and incoming president a sharp departure from the post-election vow to work together.
OBAMA: We now are going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed.
SERFATY: With promises from both sides of a peaceful transfer of power.
TRUMP: I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future, including counsel.
SERFATY: But their relationship showing trains publicly, Obama quipping he thinks he would have won the election if he could have won again.
OBAMA: I'm confident that, if I -- if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could have mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it.
SERFATY: Trump taunting him right back, tweeting: "President Obama campaigned hard and personally in the very important swing states and lost. The voters wanting to make America great again."
And taking another swipe at the president, altering a thanks Obama catchphrase to thanks, Donald. Trump talking in the third person, giving himself credit on the economy, tweeting: "The U.S. consumer confidence index for December surged nearly four points to 113.7, the highest level in more than 15 years. Thanks, Donald."
The president-elect trying to redirect the message back on his transition this afternoon, making an economic announcement with claims of jobs being saved by two companies.
TRUMP: I was just called by the head people at Sprint, and they're going to be bringing 5,000 jobs back to the United States, and also OneWeb, a new company, is going to be hiring 3,000 people. So that's very exciting.
SERFATY: And moments ago, the White House reacted to the phone call between President Obama and president-elect Donald Trump today. A White House spokesman calling it positive, saying that the phone call focused on continuing a smooth and effective transition -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Sunlen Serfaty with the president-elect, thank you very much.
Now let's talk about president-elect Trump and this breaking news on Russian hacking with the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Pete Hoekstra.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us tonight.
PETE HOEKSTRA (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Hey. It's great to be with you. Thank you.
SCIUTTO: You're a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. I'm just curious, does it trouble you that Donald Trump has not accepted the intelligence community's assessment that Russia was behind this election hacking, even before we get to how to retaliate against them or how the Obama administration decides to retaliate?
HOEKSTRA: Well, again, I think what you need to determine here is exactly what Donald Trump is saying, not accepting the intelligence community's assessment.
The assessment has been in a number of different places. It's not clear exactly what they have said. But I think Donald Trump saying that he does not believe that the influence of the Russian hacking and the release of information, that that impacted the results of this election, that's probably very much a fair assessment by Mr. Trump.
SCIUTTO: With respect, Congressman, Donald Trump has not -- that's not what he has disputed.
He has repeatedly disputed both before and after the election that Russia was behind the hacking, and he's done that since his election. And in doing so, he's questioned the intelligence community, even the intelligence community's bias and its capability. He's zeroed in that question and expressed doubts about Russia being behind the hacking.
HOEKSTRA: Well, he's expressed some doubts about some of the things that have been going on, and I think legitimately so.
The assessment of the CIA in terms of what was going to happen in Libya, the CIA assessment of what was going to happen in Egypt if Mubarak was removed and the United States embraced the Muslim Brotherhood, the assessment of ISIS as being a J.V. team. So I think there's...
SCIUTTO: Intelligence has made mistakes in the past, it's never perfect.
But you know as well as me, you know far more than me, having been chairman of the intelligence community, though, that the intelligence community does not often go public with its intelligence assessments, as ODNI, the DHS did on October 6 before the election, they don't often go public with those assessments unless they have evidence to back it up.
HOEKSTRA: Yes, I have been very, very concerned about exactly what you have pointed out, is that the intelligence community has gone public with some of these assessments and hasn't really provided the backup or the detail in terms of exactly how they got there.
And I think that's something that Donald Trump and his people are going to dig into. It's something that the Senate has said that they are going to dig into. And I think it's a question that the American people want to have answered.
[18:30:09] SCIUTTO: Well, let me ask you this. Let's separate from the Russia issue specifically, and just the larger issue of the relationship between the president, the executive, and his or her intelligence agencies, because here you have a case where you have the president, in effect, pitted against the intelligence agencies.
And not just them. I had senators Graham and McCain on our air yesterday, both Republicans as you know, who said the entire Senate sides with the intelligence agencies. Is this a healthy disagreement to have, the president in effect dismissing both the intelligence agencies and members of Congress who have been briefed on that intelligence?
HOEKSTRA: Well, I think what Donald Trump is doing is Donald Trump is putting the intelligence community on notice, that he expects them to deliver quality information in an unbiased format so that he will be equipped to make the best decisions possible as commander in chief. And I think sending that signal to the intelligence community is absolutely fine.
SCIUTTO: How will he judge when it's quality? When it's quality intelligence? What will be his basis of deciding that?
HOEKSTRA: Well, I think one of the things that he'll do is he'll go out and he'll get information from a number of different sources. One of the things that I found...
SCIUTTO: Outside the intelligence community?
HOEKSTRA: ... since I -- I think so, absolutely. You know, one of the things that I have found since I've left the intelligence community and left Congress is the number of other places that you can go and you can get very good information that -- and I did this when I was in Congress, as well, when I was on the intelligence community -- committee. I did not take everything I got from the community at face value.
There are other sources of -- other sources of information that I had access to that would, on occasion, enable me to go back very specifically and target some of the conclusions or some of the recommendations or some of the data that I was getting from the intelligence community.
And sometimes when you push back, you found out that there wasn't a lot of substance and material between -- or behind what the intelligence community was presenting.
And so yes, I mean, Donald Trump has met with the intelligence agencies from Israel. It is another source; it is another perspective of information available to the president of the United States.
SCIUTTO: But you're saying the president of the United States should take the intelligence assessments of another country's intelligence agencies over his own?
HOEKSTRA: No, I didn't say that at all. What I'm saying is that he has other places that he can get intelligence from that he can use to test the quality and the accuracy of the information that -- that he is getting from his own intelligence community.
On the intelligence committee, I can tell you, I got intelligence frequently from other countries. It may have come through the intelligence community, or it may have come through from other places that I could use to test the validity of the information that I was getting from the U.S. intelligence community.
There's nothing wrong with that. That information, some of it comes in classified, some of it does not. But there's -- you know, there's no reason why you have to accept at face value everything that you get from our intelligence community. It is why we have relationships with a lot of different agencies across -- across the globe.
SCIUTTO: Thank you for your perspective, Congressman. We appreciate you taking the time today.
HOEKSTRA; Yes. All right, great, thank you.
SCIUTTO: Coming up, just ahead, we're learning more about the president-elect's next moves. We'll be joined by historian Douglas Brinkley, who met with Trump today.
And the war against ISIS. How will new deployments ordered by President Obama affect President Trump's strategy?
[18:37:23] SCIUTTO: Breaking news tonight. President-elect Trump emerging from his Florida home to talk about jobs, President Obama, and the United Nations. We'll listen again to his short remarks just a short time ago in Palm Beach.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we just had some very good news. Because of what's happening and the spirit and the hope, I was just called by the head people at Sprint, and they're going to be bringing back 5,000 jobs back to the United States. They're taking them from other countries. They're bringing them back to the United States. And Masa and some other people were very much involved in that. So I want to thank them.
And also One Web, a new company, is going to be hiring 3,000 people. So that's very exciting.
So we have a combination of Sprint for 5,000 jobs. And that's coming from all over the world, and they're coming back into the United States, which is a nice change. And also One Web, 3,000 jobs. That's a new company. And it was done through Masa, and a terrific guy, and we appreciate it. OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President-elect, did you speak with President Obama today?
TRUMP: I did, I did. He phoned me. We had a very nice conversation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you bring up any of your concerns about these roadblocks?
TRUMP: We had a general conversation. I think the secretary's speech really spoke for itself. We had a very general conversation. Very, very nice. Appreciated that he called. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, you've been critical of the U.N.
Lately. Do you want the United States to leave the U.N.? Are you considering that?
TRUMP: The U.N. has such tremendous potential; not living up to its potential. There is such tremendous potential. But it is not living up.
When do you see the United Nations solving problems? They don't. They cause problems. So if it lives up to the potential, it's a great thing. But if it doesn't, it's a waste of time and money. OK, thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: We're joined now by presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. He met with President-elect Trump today. Sunlen Serfaty, she is traveling with the president in Palm Beach. Also, CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" assistant editor David Swerdlick here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Douglas, you had the chance to meet face-to-face with President-elect Trump today at his Florida estate. Can you tell us what he said in that meeting?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, he's very relaxed, very comfortable. All that freneticism of the campaign and picking people for his cabinet seems to have been dissipated, so his spirits are very high.
I spent my time talking to him about veterans' issues, which he seems to be top on his mind. I think early in 2017, he really wants to get the healthcare piece for veterans under way.
He also talked about his admiration for NASA and going to the moon and that we -- that it helps the spirit. John F. Kennedy's moon shot helped the spirit of the nation, and he's interested in seeing NASA do that again.
[18:40:11] And I thought it was interesting of just his getting ready for his inauguration and the fact he wants to write the inaugural himself. He doesn't want it to be long. He'd like it to be a shorter one. He doesn't want people standing out in the cold.
So I used my time as CNN historian with him to talk a lot about past presidents in American history.
SCIUTTO: Now, that's a very interesting point: he wants to repeat the moon landings. First in 1969. He wants to put another man or woman on the moon during his term?
BRINKLEY: No, no, not repeat the moon landing. It's the spirit of going to the moon, the can-doism, and the belief of NASA is a positive. There's been the privatization of space lately. And he sees, I think, NASA as a government agency that's going to get his attention. That it was good for us to compete. Today, there are stories of China wanting to go to Mars soon. And so
I think you may have in a Trump administration, NASA being reprioritized like it was during the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon years.
SCIUTTO: So more figuratively going to the moon, in other words?
BRINKLEY: Figuratively going to the moon, meaning the moon shot, which is the metaphor, really for American can-doism.
But his interest in space. He really also talked about the national park system, deferred maintenance, that how sad it is that some, you know, places like the Independence Hall or the White House itself or Lincoln Memorial has so much deferred maintenance; and he's hoping the National Park Service to fix our historic sites, because that's the heart and soul, in his mind, of the country.
SCIUTTO: So he sat down with you, a presidential historian. Presumably, he's conscious of his place in history. And I just wonder, what do you make of Trump's tendency, even since the election, to lash out on Twitter in response to what is only really routine criticism, and I imagine will only become more common once he's president? Does that bode well for his administration?
BRINKLEY: It's going -- this whole Twitter thing, I noticed Netanyahu now responded today by Twitter. It may become the new way of world leaders to communicate.
You know, I once edited -- I've edited presidents' diaries and things like that, and I recognize that somebody will do, like, the Twitter in chief, the collected Twitters [SIC] of Donald Trump -- tweets, because these tweets are now becoming history. I mean, ten years from now, we're going to be looking at those, because he's unleashing them on a daily basis. And it's almost the timeline of his thinking.
But it's a way that he's -- I get the feeling that he is a populist. He feels that that is the way to go over the media. He's still sore at us here at CNN for what he thought was our unfair coverage of him, and this is a way to jump over the press and talk to the American people. So we're going to be seeing a lot more tweets.
SCIUTTO: I imagine we will.
Let's look at one of those tweets, one that Donald Trump sent just this morning, suggesting his relationship with Obama souring a bit. He said, "Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O." -- Obama -- "statements and roadblocks. Thought it was going to be a smooth transition. NOT!" All caps, exclamation point.
David Swerdlick, as you know, we played the comments earlier. He later went on to say he had a nice phone call with President Obama today. What's happening here? Is this relationship deteriorating?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it depends on how you look at it. First of all, as you've said, they've since apparently spoken, and at least for the moment smoothed things over. But look, take a step back. In the days, the couple of days after
election day, President Obama did exactly what you would expect from a president of the United States. Invited Trump in, president-elect and Mrs. Trump, with President Obama and Mrs. Obama, to express the peaceful transition of power, the transition of the two administrations.
But neither of these two gentleman is obligated to agree with each other on the issues; they're not agreeing with each other on the issues. I don't think that means it's not a smooth transition. It just shows that there's sharp disagreements between the incoming and the outgoing administration. In 24 days, all these decisions will be up to President-elect Trump; and he'll be able to say and do what he wants with his prerogatives as president of the United States.
SCIUTTO: And some tremendous issues at stake. Israel, Russia, you name it.
Sunlen Serfaty, the other headline from President-elect Trump's comments a short time ago, this -- this bit of good economic news. Trump talking about several thousand jobs: Sprint, One Web. Was that a surprise? Was there any lead-up to that?
SERFATY: Yes, I thought that was most notable, I think, Jim, from this rare appearance by President-elect Donald Trump today. He rarely has emerged from behind closed doors. But he did today to really get out this news.
And I think this is really the pattern that we've seen from the president-elect. He kind of gets in these side squabbles, much -- much over Twitter many times. And that's what really dominated the coverage today, the fact that he's having this public battle with President Obama.
[18:45:04] So, very clear he wanted to reclaim the narrative of the day, come out and say, no, I'm not just working behind closed doors, just tweeting people. I'm actually talking to companies about jobs saved and created, but very notably, he provided no more details about those deals -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Sunlen Serfaty, David Swerdlick, Douglas Brinkley, thanks very much.
Just ahead, U.S. troops facing new dangers in the war against ISIS. What will that mean for President-elect Trump's battle plan and his promise to defeat the terrorists?
SCIUTTO: Donald Trump will take charge of the U.S. war on ISIS in just a few weeks. And there are many unanswered questions about his strategy, even as dozens of additional U.S. troops prepare to deploy on the ground.
Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
Barbara, we heard tough talk from Trump about ISIS. But what do we expect in the days ahead, and particularly after inauguration?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you are right, Jim. You remember during the campaign, he said he had a plan to fight ISIS. After the inauguration, once he is the president, what will he do? Will he go all in with more U.S. firepower? Or might he turn the ISIS fight over to somebody else?
STARR (voice-over): U.S.-backed fighters near Raqqah, Syria, preparing to attack, hoping to drive ISIS out. CNN cannot independently verify this new video.
[18:50:02] Getting to Raqqah has been a tough U.S. military priority. Now, Donald Trump is inheriting an ISIS war that just got even more dangerous for U.S. troops since his tough campaign talk.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We got to get rid of ISIS, quickly. Quickly.
STARR: The first of two hundred additional U.S. troops authorized by President Obama to go into northern Syria will begin moving in and out of Syria in the coming days, a U.S. official tells CNN.
But the region is so perilous American troops will only stay for a few days at a time. Training local forces no longer a main focus. U.S. troops will have orders to help Turkish and Kurdish troops who are close to outright war between themselves, focus on ISIS. The Pentagon is concerned that as the Turks approach the town of al Bab, they fight Kurds instead of ISIS and may turn towards Manbij, a hard fought victory for the U.S. backed forces.
It is Raqqah to the south that the U.S. wants everyone to head for.
The Turks want U.S. support, even air strikes. The U.S. ground forces could call those strikes in for Turkish President Erdogan.
MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: We're talking to them about how we can help them in their efforts.
STARR: One U.S. official tells CNN the U.S. troops "will not initiate combat but may well find themselves in a combat situation."
The Pentagon believes the risk is vital to stop future ISIS attacks in the West.
LT. GEN. STEPHEN TOWNSEND, COMMANDER, COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE: We know that central to external operations plotting is the city of Raqqah. And that's why we need to get down there and isolate that city as fast as we can.
STARR: U.S. officials say there are specific buildings where they believe top ISIS operatives may be hiding. U.S. drones and communications intercepts are gathering intelligence on those targets, waiting to strike them when civilians are not there.
The big unknown, will Trump hand over the Raqqah fight to Russia and the Syrian regime?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: If you pull completely out you watch focus drift away from defeating ISIS and recapturing Raqqah and eliminating the terrorist threat that emanates from that city.
STARR: And so, if you turn the Raqqah fight, the ISIS fight in Syria over to the Russians, there is a lot of concern at the Pentagon that they will not have the same focus about the danger there and the threat that the U.S. believes ISIS inside Raqqah poses to the United States -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Barbara Starr, thank you very much.
Just ahead, a day after the death of Carrie Fisher, disturbing news about her mother Debbie Reynolds. The details just after this.
[18:56:28] SCIUTTO: Breaking news tonight: Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds has been rushed to a Los Angeles hospital tonight, one day after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher.
"The Los Angeles Times" reporting that Reynolds complained of breathing problems. The 84-year-old actress was one of the biggest movie stars of the fifties and sixties known for films like "Singing in the Rain". But in later years, younger fans knew her at Fisher's mother. That's the way Reynolds describe herself in heartfelt tweet yesterday about her daughter's death.
We'll bring you more information as soon as we get it.
Also tonight, a shocking murder that's remained a mystery now for two decades. A child beauty queen killed. Her family under suspicion. Now, JonBenet Ramsey's father is speaking out.
Here is clip from tonight's CNN special report.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's going on there, ma'am?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is one of the greatest unsolved crimes in history.
PATSY RAMSEY, MOTHER: We have a kidnapping. There's a ransom note here.
CASAREZ: A little girl vanishes from home Christmas night.
JOHN RAMSEY, FATHER: It's just like you got hit in the stomach. Where's my child?
CASAREZ: Hours later, she's found strangled to death. J. RAMSEY: I couldn't do anything but scream.
P. RAMSEY: Keep your babies close to you. There's someone out there.
CASAREZ: Surreal images of the pageant star transfixed the nation.
LARRY KING, TV HOST: Were you a stage mother?
P. RAMSEY: Probably. What's wrong with that?
CASAREZ: No charges have ever been filed. Nobody ever convicted. Tonight, the theories, secrets, and bombshells.
P. RAMSEY: Hurry, hurry, hurry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Patsy? Patsy?
SCIUTTO: CNN's Jean Casarez joins me now.
Jean, you spent a lot of time with JonBenet's father John Ramsey. How has he dealt with the murder that's still unsolved after 20 years and in particular, still being in the shadow of his daughter's death?
CASAREZ: It's completely changed his life and we spent hours with him.
And this is the anniversary week right now. And I think there is just something about anniversary time. And this is the 20th anniversary.
And he spoke at length. I mean, he relived it with me. He believes that this is a DNA case. And he says he spends every day fielding calls himself and tips because that unknown male DNA, he wants to find out who it is.
Now, we did confirm, I did confirm with the boulder district attorney that in 2017, they are going to be doing brand new DNA testing of a more sophisticated level than they have done before with the JonBenet case. However, the district attorney told me he doesn't believe this is just a DNA case. He believes DNA, even identified, would have to fit with all the other evidence they have. And you'll see tonight, they have a lot of evidence in this case, but they still can't solve it.
SCIUTTO: Why do you think people are still so fascinated with the story after two decades now?
CASAREZ: Number one, it's a mystery. Number two as you listen tonight and you're going to will hear things about the evidence that you never heard before. I mean, I didn't realize that the grand jury unanimously voted to indict John Ramsey and his wife. I didn't know it was unanimously. And then, the D.A. did not bring charges, believing he could not prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
SCIUTTO: Incredible, incredible. Jean Casarez, thanks so much. That CNN special report, "The Murder of JonBenet" airs tonight at 9:00 Eastern here on CNN.
I'm Jim Sciutto. Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" with Kate Bolduan tonight starts right now.