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Obama Orders Unprecedented Punishment for Russia Hacking; Russia: Will Respond to Any "Hostile Steps" By the U.S.; Trump on Russia Sanctions; It's Time to "Move On"; Syria Ceasefire in Effect. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 29, 2016 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:04] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN GUEST HOST: Good evening.

When asked about the U.S. intelligence assessment that Russian spies hacked American computers, tampered with U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump said we should all just get on with our lives. He said that last night. Today, President Obama said, "No, let's not."

I'm Jim Sciutto, sitting in again tonight for Anderson, and that's the story of the heart of he the very busy evening.

The White House unleashing sanctions on Russia, as well as high- ranking Kremlin figures, bouncing Russian diplomats and shutting a pair of Russian compounds in the U.S.

And now, late tonight, the president-elect who has been so reluctant about blaming anyone for the hacking, he's speaking out again.

First, CNN's Evan Perez joins for the latest on what the president- elect is doing and the current president is doing in response to this.

So, what did President Obama have to say about why he took these actions now?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, this extraordinary set of sanctions President Obama says was in response to not only the meddling in the U.S. election but also to months of harassing of the U.S. diplomats in Russia. The president said in a statement, I'll read part of it.

It says, "These actions follow repeated, private and public warnings that we've issued to the Russian government and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior." He also added that the U.S. will take additional actions that will not be publicized -- that, Jim, is a reference to possible convert retaliations that we may never know about.

SCIUTTO: It's been more than two months, two and a half months since the intelligence community fingered Russia are for being behind these attacks. Why now? Why is President Obama taking action now?

PEREZ: Well, exactly, and as you know this is something that's been debated among folks in the administration for months. And since Donald Trump's election, even Democrats were being sharply critical of the president for not doing more publicly. It's also clear that the administration sees the clock ticking three weeks to the new administration.

The president-elect has not only been openly skeptical of the intelligence information that the Russians indeed were doing this, he's said he wants to turn the page to better relations with Moscow. Has unlikely he would take any of these actions once he takes off.

SCIUTTO: So, the question is what does he do with the sanctions in place? Could President-elect Trump easily turn them around? Reverse them?

PEREZ: Well, absolutely. These are presidential orders. So, yes, President Trump can with the stroke of a pen simply roll all of this back. Administration officials today told reporters that doing that would be highly unusual but there is also the fact that members of Congress, including Republican leaders today endorsed President Obama's actions. They also criticized President Obama for not doing some of it sooner, and some promise that Congress will take its own actions, perhaps making some of these sanctions tougher to roll back, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's a remarkable back and forth between the outgoing and incoming president.

Evan Perez, thanks very much.

Now, more on the president-elect. He just weighed in tonight with a very brief issued statements. It reads, and I'll read in full, quote, "It's time for our country to move on to bigger and better things. Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its greats people, I'll meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation", end quote. That's all.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux joins us now.

Suzanne, you were on the call with Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary earlier today. President-elect Trump's pick for the White House when he takes office. What did he have to say about the sanctions?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, Spicer said there are two aspects of this. One is political, that Trump and his transition team believed that there were people on the left who are trying to undermine or discredit Trump's big win. And that is what is largely driving this. Trump has called the accusations that Russia is behind this as ridiculous, just another excuse for delegitimizing his victory.

And Spicer also says that in the U.S. has clear evidence that Russia interfered with the election, it should be put publicly for all to see. He says, they need further facts or every day that this is actually true. Now, as, you know, Trump gets its daily intelligence briefings, in

this case, three times a week. So, certainly, the intelligence community would argue they have presented him with all the information he needs. Earlier the week, we saw Trump injecting more skepticism, saying computers have complicated lives very greatly. He says the whole age of computers has made it where nobody knows exactly what's going on, that we have speed, we have a lot of things, but he says I'm not we have a kind of security we need.

So, the emphasis here, Jim, is on cybersecurity and not retaliation against Russia. And so far, Trump and his team have not indicated whether or not he would take that extraordinary step of reversing the sanctions.

SCIUTTO: Well, I mean, it is also frankly on muddying the waters here, because the fact is U.S. intelligence community has identified North Korea as being behind the Sony attack. China being behind previous cyber hacks.

So, it really seems that there is a widespread and really increasingly isolated effort by the Trump camp, because many Republicans have come out and said in fact really the vast majority of Republicans have come out and said Russia is behind this.

[20:05:08] What does the Trump camp saying to defend that line?

MALVEAUX: Well, one of his top advisors, Kellyanne Conway, telling CNN this evening that what they are seeing in President Obama's final days in office is this kind of toughness out the door that people hadn't seen before with the sanctions against Israel and now Russia. So read between the lines there. She said some of these moves the White House is making is largely symbolic, and again, that partisans are trying to fight the election war 52 days later.

Here is how she put it.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, SR. ADVISER TO PRESIDENT-ELECT TRUMP: All we heard all through the election was Russia, Russia, Russia. Whenever it came to anything Donald Trump said or did it seemed most days and now, you know, since the election, it is just this fever pitch of accusations and insinuations, even on those who are sympathetic to President Obama on most issues are saying that part of the reason he did this today was to, quote, "box in" President-elect Trump. That would be very unfortunate if that were the motivating -- if politics were the motivating factor here, but we can't help but think that that's often true.


MALVEAUX: And, Jim, previously Trump had said that he does not believe sanctions against Russia when the annex Crimea actually worked. He called it useless. That is something that he might consider actually reversing. He's not made a comment either way whether or not he would reverse these sanctions -- Jim. SCIUTTO: Yes, shock, shock that politics could possibly be involved

in Washington.

Suzanne Malveaux, thank you very much.

During the Cold War, both sides lived by Newton's third law. Every action would produce an equal and opposition reaction. Expel a diplomat, expect one of yours to be sent packing as well. You could pretty much set your watch by it.

So, what about today? What are we hearing from Moscow in terms of its response, retaliation to retaliation?

CNN's Matthew Chance is there in Moscow for us tonight and joins us with the latest.

So, Matthew, what is the Kremlin saying they are planning to do and have they taken any steps yet?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in terms of what they are planning to do, the Kremlin have been pretty tight-lipped. They've said, look, obviously, reciprocal actions, as you just mentioned, are the only things that count in a situation like this. So, they are giving the sense that there are going to be U.S. diplomats, they're going to potentially face expulsion as well. They haven't officially announced that.

I've heard from the foreign ministry earlier on this evening that any kind of first announcements are going to start coming through tomorrow morning here local time. It is the middle of the night at the moment, so they are not saying anything.

The final decision will be made with Vladimir Putin. That's been made clear as well, and he's not in any rush according to the Kremlin to make that decision. Whether that means he's going to hold back and possibly for a few weeks until Donald Trump takes the White House or whether he's going to act sooner remains to be soon in terms of the expulsions.

What we are hearing from a source in Washington there have been some measures already announced or that at least the American side has been informed of some measures. One of them is the closure to U.S. -- foreign citizen, U.S., Canadian and British citizens of the Anglo- American school, which is the main expatriate school in Moscow. I've got lots of friends who send their kids here. It would be a kind of a sideswipe.

I've spoken to the principal tonight. He said he can't confirm it at the moment. He's waiting for further details about what exactly the situation is.

But if it turns out to be the case, then that would be a real sideswipe to the diplomatic community here. Particularly the United States, many of whom have family people send their children to a school like that. So, that could be clarified in the morning. SCIUTTO: Enormously disruptive for families, when the Magnitsky Act

was passed, the anti-corruption act. Russian suspended adoptions by Americans so a tactic used before.

Matthew Chance in Moscow, thanks very much.

Perspective now from CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. She's former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. Also, Steven Hall, he's a 30-year veteran of Russian operations at the CIA, author of the recent piece for "The Washington Post" titled, "Why the CIA won't go public with evidence of the Russia's hacking". And we also have CNN's former Moscow bureau chief, Jill Dougherty. She's now a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center here in Washington.

Steven, if I could start with you. Your reaction to the actions announced day. When we spoke last, you were concerned that naming names, even making intelligence findings could be costly for those in the CIA and FBI, and the battle here for U.S. intelligence is that this is secret stuff, right, and it reveals sources and methods. It reveals access that you have inside Russian systems. So, there is only so much, isn't there, that you can lift the veil.

STEVEN L. HALL, FORMER CIA RUSSIAN OPERATIONS OFFICER: Yes. This seems to be the first step that the administration is taking now to respond to these -- to the Russian hacks. It seems to be sort of break down into three different categories. The sanctions against the FSB, which is would have been the civilian intelligence service, and the GRU, one of the military intelligence services.

[20:10:00] It seems to be (INAUDIBLE) of the 35 diplomats that will be removed here from Washington. I would be shocked if something like that didn't happen to our diplomats in Moscow. So, I think what you are seeing is the first stage of this now.

SCIUTTO: And that has cost, does it not? Because I mean, we're talking about Russian diplomats leaving here but really the understanding is they are intelligence operatives. And any country like this, it is understood there are spies on the ground, some declared, some not declared. And, of course, the U.S. has spies on the ground, if you want to call them that, in Russia, assuming that they are sent packing as well, that's going to have an enormous impact, is it not, on U.S. intelligence gathering inside Russia, Steve.

HALL: As you might imagine, given the sensitivity of the intelligence collection and what happens in Moscow and Russia I'm not at much at liberty to talk that. But I can say that the removal of 35 diplomat, whether it is Russian diplomats or Washington or whether it is American diplomats in Moscow will have an effect on the mission of both of those embassies. So, yes, there will be a price to pay on both sides.

SCIUTTO: Jill, help us to understand Vladimir Putin's expected reactions here. I'm not going to ask you do predict. That is impossible to do. Our intelligence agencies have trouble doing that as well. He has said -- his spokesman has said there is no alternative to reciprocal measures but he also has what he presumes to be a friendlier U.S. president coming in. Does he temper the response here?

JILL DOUGHERTY, GLOBAL FELLOW, WOODROW WILSON INSTITUTE: I think he's looking at his watch and saying, we've got three weeks, so we might as well let it all hang out. I mean, you look at what they are doing. That step with the Anglo-American school is kind of a personal tawdry step by the Russians to get back at what they perceived are tawdry steps by the Americans.

But I think Putin will probably look at this very seriously. Look at things he can do in a very strict let's say cyber way. He will do things that are symbolic and personal. And then he will do other things that will have to do with intelligence.

So, I think it could be multilevel. And they keep saying it is going to be tit for tat. So, if there are some things that will not be revealed that the Obama administration will be taking, there will be things that will be not revealed by the Russians as well.

But, Jim, I can tell you, the level of personal comments is amazing. On social media, the comments about Obama coming from the Russian administration are really unbelievable, you know, calling them losers, that this administration isn't really an administration. They are just a bunch of losers. That tweet coming from the Russian embassy in England, in London, the lame duck, an actual picture of a duck. It's pretty personal.

SCIUTTO: No question. We've heard some of that in our own politics here in the U.S.

Juliette, you were on the White House call earlier to give some more details on this response. You said that the White House made it clear this is a reaction not just to the hacking, though, primarily, but also tied to Russia's conduct towards U.S. diplomats on the ground in Russia?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. Sort of less- reported story over the last couple of months. And Jill has certainly talked about it before, is just the -- I would say the antagonism, harassment, sometimes even physical of U.S. personnel in Russia. So, the White House is clear that while we are all focused on cyber, this actually is bigger than the cyber attack that these sanctions and I think they wanted to make it clear for two reasons.

One is there is no wiggle room in the intelligence community's assessment today. There is no outlier intelligence agency like we saw with the FBI perhaps earlier.

The second is that because the executive order can only be rescinded by a president, it will require Trump to essentially go against his entire intelligence community. He can certainly do that. But it would take some explanation vis-a-vis his intelligence community, the one he'll be governing in the future. So, it's just important to note that this is -- that the executive

order is not solely related to Russia. It could apply to the Chinese, or the North Koreans, if they try to do this again. And it's not solely focused on just cyber hacking. It's against any nation that now or in the future might try to undermine our democratic processes.

So, while we're focused on 2016, this is really a statement about 2018, 2020 and elections ahead.

SCIUTTO: Perhaps strategically so. But let's not forget, Donald Trump to this point has been willing to stand up against this entire intelligence community. Maybe that doesn't change.

Please hold that thought. We'll pick on this after a quick break and talk more about where this goes when it is only Trump and Putin.

[20:15:05] Later, a new ceasefire taking effect tonight in Syria. The real question, though, can this one hold? We've got a live report from inside the region.


SCIUTTO: We're talking tonight about U.S. retaliation against Russia for hacking and tampering with the recent election. Sanctions that the White House says may not be the only steps taken. We're also talking about leading Republican lawmakers endorsing the message, some even calling them not tough enough.

And Donald Trump's considerable reluctance at the same time to call this what all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies say was a Russian cyberattack.

Back now with the panel.

Juliette, I just want to -- for the sake of our audience -- jettison the spin here. You will hear from Donald Trump and from some of his camp expressing doubts about this, saying, where are the facts, saying that this is a Democratic spin here. But let's be honest, it's the intelligence agencies. I had senators, Republican senators, McCain and Graham, on early this week saying the entire Senate disagrees with Trump and believes that Russia is behind this attack.

You had today the Senate Republican Majority Leader McConnell say that Russia was behind the attack. You had the Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan say that Russia was behind the attack. Russia's -- Donald Trump is standing firm today, saying he'll meet with his intelligence leaders but we all got to move on.

Have you ever seen anything like this in your experience, where the president defies lawmakers and intelligence agencies on an issue of the national security?

[20:20:05] KAYYEM: I have not and it is so unprecedented and quite dangerous. You just simply don't want a president-elect whether Democrat or Republican coming in at war with his or her intelligence agencies. It is a dangerous place to start, because well for two reasons. You want them to support you and the administration and the protection and safety and security of the United States.

But what the Trump administration or the president-elect is doing is making it about himself. It's really not about himself. It's about the United States and our interests in the future.

At some stage relatively soon, President Trump will have to either tell our allies or our enemies that we are going to do something -- a war, bombing, whatever, sanctions, whatever, are the tools that he'll be able to use, based on the intelligence that he has gathered from his intelligence agencies. And those countries will probably have less confidence in those intelligence agencies just based on the Trump administration's response in the last 24 or 48 hours.

So, it is a dangerous way to go and I think the Trump administration needs to now think about the United States' interests. He will be president and now has to think bigger than himself.

SCIUTTO: So, Jill Dougherty, Vladimir Putin is watching this, and oddly enough, those expressions of doubt almost echo what we hear from Vladimir Putin dismissing this intelligence. Does Vladimir Putin enjoy this internal division in the U.S. over this cyberattack?

KAYYEM: Jim, enjoy doesn't even begin to capture the glee that President Putin feels about what is going on. He just can sit back and smoke a cigar and not do anything, and just watch the United States churning in all of this, knowing that he can now criticize President Obama.

He doesn't even have to criticize him directly because he this kind of echo chamber of propaganda, disinformation, et cetera, is swirling around. So, he can just kind of watch it all happen. But President Putin, to be really serious, is smart, and I think that he has the measure of incoming President Trump. I don't think he necessarily 100 percent feels that what was promised is going to be delivered. Witness what's going on with the Congress right now, McCain and others.

So, you know, there is a bit of a reality check. But I think that just to really, you know, stick it to President Obama gives him a lot of pleasure.

SCIUTTO: Steven, I have to ask you as someone with a long history inside the agency, the CIA. How are agents and analysts within the agency reacting to this? How do they perceive this -- this dismissal of their work, of their assessment, some of it attain I imagine at great danger? How do they react to this?

HALL: I think shock is probably a good way to start. Unprecedented is also a good way to describe what's happening. I can speak from inside of CIA as director of operations. You had case officers and we tell these they need to go out in very difficult locations, often times difficult and dangerous for them and their families, and inculcate in them a sense that this is important work.

Why is it important? It is important because the most senior levels of government -- presidents, senior people in the executive branch, need these unique intelligence they collect and to have the president elect come in and say, well, you know -- and cast dispersions essentially. Not only on the agencies and organizations they work for but on the very intelligence which they work so hard and put themselves at such risk to collect. It is going to be a tough row to hoe I would imagine for the president-elect to come in and try to get over that.

SCIUTTO: Truly remarkable. Juliette Kayyem, Steven Hall, Jill Dougherty, thanks very much.

Coming up next, the threat of Russian retaliation now. What the White House to say about -- all this when 360 continues.


[020:28:11] SCIUTTO: More now on our breaking news on the White House retaliation against Russia over election hacking. This includes sanctions against 35 Russian diplomats being order to leave the U.S. tonight. President-elect Trump weighed in, saying once again it is time to, quote, "to move on". But Mr. Trump also says he will take the step of meeting with intelligence officials next week to take a look at the evidence.

Meanwhile, White House officials say they are ready for anything that Moscow might do in response.

Joining us now is Pete Hoekstra, he's former Trump surrogate and a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Monica Langley, a senior special writer at "The Wall Street Journal" and CNN political analyst, also, political strategist Jonathan Tasini, he's host of the working life podcast. And "New York Times" editor Patrick Healey as well, he's also a CNN political analyst.

Congressman Hoekstra, if I could begin with you, you have now Donald Trump and his inner circle really isolated here. They will say that this is a Democratic argument or narrative here. But the fact is, it's not.

The entire Senate, so say Senators McCain and Graham, believe Russia is behind this hacking. U.S. intelligence agencies, they are confident in their assessment. The House speaker who's a Republican as you know believes Russia is behind the hacking, in fact is calling for stiffer penalties, as has Mitch McConnell.

Why is Donald Trump continuing to defy that consensus?

PETE HOEKSTRA, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN SURROGATE: Well, I think what Donald Trump is doing is he's very clear. He's saying I'm skeptical of the intelligence and I'm going the wait to see exactly what my intelligence officials are going to present --

SCIUTTO: But why? On what basis is he skeptical -- skeptical of the assessment of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies and the acceptance of that assessment from Republican members and leaders of Congress who have been briefed on the intelligence? [20:30:00] HOEKSTRA: You know, I love listening to what's going on

now. All the folks that, you know, in the past have criticized the intelligence community are now saying, "Wow, these folks are infallible, how can you question them." I wish that, you know, that would have been the response to the intelligence community said that they saw in Iraq in 2001 and 2002 in terms of their capability of the producing weapons of the mass destruction. But there's no question they made mistakes before in Iraq --


SCIUTTO: You are muddying the waters here. Understandably, listen, the intelligence community got WMD in Iraq wrong. But let's be honest, you've served a long time on the House, intelligence committee, you've seen where they've gotten things right.

Particularly though, let's talk about in cyber hacking. They were able to identify individuals in China which the Justice Department charged individuals in China for hack cyber attacks against the U.S. They were able to identify North Korea as being behind the Sony hack which then carried consequences as well. They have a track record and despite what Donald Trump says, that in the age of computers as he said you can't track this kind of stuff. The fact is the NSA has tools do this as do many private companies. Based on that, what is the evidence then that Donald Trump has to dismiss it?

HOEKSTRA: Well, let's take a look at the report that the homeland security and the FBI issued today. Number one -- and this is where you are absolutely right. They said with 100 percent certainty basically we can say that Russia successfully hacked into a political party in the United States. They then go on to say ...

SCIUTTO: That's something that the president has not -- the president-elect rather has not accepted.

HOEKSTRA: Right. But then they go onto the more important points. They say it is likely that the Russians exfiltrated data from the databases that it went into. It doesn't say with certainty that it happened but it said it is likely that they did. Then it says we assess that they shared with information with certain groups and then the information was made public. But there's lots of other unanswered questions. They don't make an assessment as to whether other people also were able to access that data and exfiltrate it. And they don't go on to perhaps what's the most important point in terms of scribing what the motives were for this Russian behavior. Was it just the hacking?

SCIUTTO: You are making the point that they haven't answered any question. But the key question is who is behind the hack. And that one say seem to have answered with confidence.

Patrick, Monica and Jonathan, I have you to be able to pipe in here. But, Patrick, you've been covering this closely. What do you make of this continued expression of doubt on this?

PATRICK HEALY, NEW YORK TIMES EDITOR: this is all about legitimacy, Jim. Donald Trump is trying to protect an election result that a lot of Democrats and a lot of others have sort of raised some doubts about in terms of the interference by Russian intelligence agencies that may have tipped some of this in his favor, in the sense of creating so much focus around leaked e-mails, hacked e-mails, hacked documents.

This is about for Donald Trump to give in on this and say that Russian intelligence agencies did have a hand in my election, from his point of view, having interviewed him several times would be crazy. You know, it would be weakening himself before he even gets close in here. And you have to remember, Jim, the way that he responds to these sort of allegations, even when they are put forward by the government, by intelligence agencies, is to go to, sort of vagaries and innuendo and sometimes even theories than speak to his voters.

Computers are tricky. We don't know how to handle this. This could be a 400 pound guy in a room doing this. And a lot of Americans might sort of say, "Yeah, computers are tricky." You know, he's not -- so far as president-elect at least and as a candidate, he hasn't been trying to rebut allegations by providing evidence or facts of his own, he just sort of makes statement that might --

SCIUTTO: Muddying the waters. Monica, the fact that this is enter a different phase thought after the inauguration, because you have Republicans in the Senate as well as House members. I mean, you heard this from me today. You heard it from McCain and Graham. They say they want to enact even tougher sanctions. So when you get into the new legislative session, you are going to have the prospect of a Republican-led Congress pushing for penalties for a crime in effect that the president doesn't accept. Does he battle his own party on this?

[20:35:00] MONICA LANGLEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm questioning whether they will push that first or whether they are going to go with his agenda, which is to do jobs and tax reform and things like that. I'm telling you what really is happening, Jim, is he is -- Donald Trump is going with his gut, as I've watched for a year and a half with him now.

He doesn't always follow the evidence. If he had looked at the evidence and the facts that everybody presented to him he would have never run for president. So here he is again listening to his gut. If you'd look at this statement today he said it's time to move on. So he thinks what the American people want him do is focus on jobs, ISIS and things like that and not the Russian hack.

I do agree with Patrick. It has do with he's feeling ticked off they keep questioning the legitimacy of his victory. But I also think he's one that goes for strength and he thinks by trying show weakness about his election are mike making Putin look stronger and America look weaker because oh my gosh.

SCIUTTO: Wait a second. That -- you're turning it on the head there a little bit, Monica. Because if you say ...

LANGLEY: I know, I know. But that's what -- I was talking with an advisor today and they say by laying out all the things that Russia has done to us it makes us look weaker. This is what a Trump advisor told me.

SCIUTTO: But how does it make you look weaker if you don't respond to a major cyber attack? We're entering bizarre world.

LANGLEY: Maybe, you -- look, I'm telling you what a Trump advisor told me and also the same advisor said what's happening is, suddenly Obama is laying all of this out and trying to be strong against the two countries that Trump has shown he wants improved relations with, Israel and Russia.


SCIUTTO: Jon, I do want to ask you question in that, because there is rightful and substantive criticism of the Obama administration that you're hearing from Republicans and Democrats frankly that they waited this long to respond. It was on October 7th that the intelligence community said with confidence Russia is hacking the election.

And frankly part of the reason, we have reported that the Obama administration waited to respond was because they were worried about delegitimatizing what they expected to be a Hillary Clinton victory. So why did they wait so long?

JONATHAN TASINI, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: I don't know, Jim, I'm not moved by that. But I want to make two other points actually. One actually --

SCIUTTO: You have to answer the criticism of the Obama administration --

TASINI: Well, I want to actually answer the question about what would have happened if Hillary Clinton had become -- had been elected president. And I put myself in the place of being a Democrat. What would I do if I was a Democrat and these same allegations had been raised?

And I have to say that, in a small way -- and I'll get to talk Donald Trump in a second. In a small way, I have some sympathy to what the Congressman Hoekstra said which is that, I don't trust the central intelligence agency. I haven't trusted the CIA for not just about the WMD but going back 30, 40 years. I'm not saying this didn't happen. But I think the evidence that the intelligence community has not put forth to the American people potentially for legitimate reasons there is still an open question.

But the second thing that I think is much more important is and this goes back to, Jim, to your previous panel. When you asked and I'm going roughly paraphrase you, have you ever seen anything like it? A president-elect that odds with the intelligence agencies and the problem is, and this is what we're facing every single day. We're trying to normalize Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is an ignoramus. He does not understand domestic or foreign policy. So we're sitting back and thinking how we have somebody who is going to walk into the oval office dealing with Russia when he doesn't understand the first basic thing about arms control. SCIUTTO: Strong words. I want to thank all of you because we covered

a lot of ground there. Appreciate it. And coming up we will have more breaking news. It's about three and a half hours into a ceasefire in Syria but is that ceasefire holding? We're going to get an update from the region right after this.


[20:42:29] SCIUTTO: Tonight more breaking news. A ceasefire that went into effect a little more than three hours ago in Syria, appears to already be in danger of falling apart.

The Russia says the Syrian government and opposition had agreed to the terms of the ceasefire along with a declaration of readiness to enter into more formal peace talks. The agreement does not include ISIS and other terrorist organizations. The latest information we have, however, is that there have already been some clashes as we've seen time and time again, it is fragile. It is precarious.

Joining us now from Istanbul is CNN'S Muhammad Lila. Muhammad, thanks very much. You have been monitoring the ceasefire closely. You have a lot of experience on the ground in Syria. What are you hearing about how this is holding up?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far Syrian state media are not reporting any violations. We're not seeing any violations reported on the Turkish or Russian side. And of course they are monitoring this very closely as well.

Now, there maybe some sporadic fighting going on between groups here and there in Syria but that's to be expected. What we're really looking for to see if the ceasefire is holding is whether there any actions taken on a bigger scale, whether they're coordinated activities either by the government forces or by the rebels on their ground that seem to be on more of a group level rather than individual level. And if they're happening on a group level, Jim, and that's only going to be a bad sign that the ceasefire won't hold.

But so far it is very early in this process. But it is looking as though it sort of very, very loosely holding so far, so certainly perhaps a good sign there.

SCIUTTO: So help us understand how this came about, what were the steps that led up to this agreement?

LILA: Well, the most interesting fact about this is that, this came about entirely without any U.S. involvement. They weren't invited to the peace talks. They weren't participating in any way. This was brokered entirely by Turkey and Russia with Iran having a seat at the table as well as Syria having a seat at the table.

Basically, Turkey and -- Russia got together and hammered out this peace deal. They are the ones that are saying that they will guarantee this peace deal. They're acting as the guarantors to make sure the groups on the ground obey the ceasefire rules. And the hope is if the ceasefire holds and if the roots of this sort of nationwide ceasefire take hold the next step would be peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan where, again, Turkey, Russia, Syria and Iran would all have a place at the table.

And just today, the Kremlin suggesting that president-elect Trump would be invited to those talks as well. Interestingly, they completely bypassed President Obama when he made those comments and that gives you a sense of President Obama's legacy in Syria that he's almost essentially now been written off by all the parties as though that President Obama didn't really do anything and there is now more hope in President-Elect Trump that he might be able to be part of some sort of peace process.

[20:45:13] SCIUTTO: Well, certainly, many in the region wrote him off a long time ago. I supposed you could say. Muhammad Lila, thanks very much.

And joining me now Bobby Ghosh, he's Editor in Chief of the Hindustan Times, CNN Military Analyst and retired Army General Mark Hertling and CNN Intelligence and Security Analyst and former CIA Officer Bob Baer.

Bobby Ghosh, do you think this ceasefire because we've seen others come and go, sadly, do you think this one has a chance to hold? Because as Putin himself said, the deal is fragile, even he's granting the deal is fragile.

BOBBY GHOSH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE HINDUSTAN TIMES: Well, we have to hope that it holds just for the sake of the people who are caught in the middle of it. But history, recent history as any judge, there is not a lot of room for optimism. Even before Putin use those words, consider who are the brokerages here. None of them can realistically be described as independent, as an honest broker, as a neutral party.

You have Russia, Iran and of course Syria itself, the regime of Bashar Assad which is the sort of single most devastating force on the ground, the people responsible for overwhelmingly the largest proportion of the people dead and displaced there.

So it is not like you have an independent outside authority coming and bringing all the parties together and trying to broker a deal. You have the side that is making the biggest mayhem sitting at the table. The reason for optimism I can't find one to be honest.

SCIUTTO: Yeah. Not the most honest brokerage here. General Hertling, are there any circumstances with the U.S. could come on board with a deal like this because in effect, they would have to abandon their allies on the ground, will they not, the moderate rebels that they've been backing?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST (Ret.): Yeah, they were. Jim. And I got to tell you from a military perspective. I've been involved in ceasefires before. I'm not sure what the objective is. You know, suddenly this was announced by three nations who have been fighting side by side, Iran, Syria and Russia.

Turkey is an outsider to a degree but there's been a lot of coordination with Turkey by Russia. I'm not sure what's involved here. When you're talking about the opposing side that has do with many of the rebels. However, whenever you hear Russia or Syria or Iran talk about rebels, they use the word terrorists. There are no different words.

So when you are talking about the Kurdish rebels, the SDF in the north, all the people who are attempting to fight against Bashar al- Saad. They are considered terrorists and fall in the category of not being invited to the table.

So I'm just not sure what the objectives are other than stopping the fighting, which is great. But having been involved with Russia before to include recently in Ukraine, they tend to violate whatever treaties they want at any given time. So we're Russian bashing tonight, probably for a very good reason.

SCIUTTO: Right. As I mentioned, targeting civilians intentionally.

Bob Baer, do you see a fundamental change in U.S. policy towards Syria as the Obama administration ends and Donald Trump comes on board? I mean, he certainly has shown no enormous appetite for greatly expanding U.S. military involvement. In fact, he sends signal that he wants to perhaps withdraw even more.

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Jim, I think the important things is we were disinvited from the negotiations. These have been going on for several weeks. Russian's demands have been clear, Turkey's demand have been clear, so as Bashar al-Assad.

You know, in the Turkey, for instance, has to stop the fighting in order to stop the flow of refugees coming into Turkey. It's simply is overwhelmed. What Turkey was afraid that if the fighting continues, there wasn't a ceasefire that lotted the refugees from Idlib province would be driven into Turkey.

Turkey is absolutely furious about U.S. support to Syrian Kurds. Most recently they have accused the United States of supplying surface to air missiles to the Kurds. I don't think that is true. There are surface to air missiles showing up in the Kurdish areas but they were bought in Libya. But nonetheless, it just gives you an idea how far out of this solution we are.

Ultimately, we may see this work if -- and I've seen this for years, if Syria is divided up. Where you've got the Alawites the minority regime protected and you've got Sunnis protected in the north and Idlib. And the Kurdish state is not going to be part of this. And the Russians and the Iranians are on the same side. Just, it's too bad but it is truly a defeat for the Obama administration policies.

SCIUTTO: Bobby Ghosh, I see you shaking your head there.

GHOSH: No, I don't think people in the west should be talking about dividing up the Middle East anymore. I think we've tried that, didn't work out too well. Nobody on the ground is asking for it, none of the Syrians are asking for it. Let's not go there, that's not for us to decide. That's for Syrians to decide. Let's figure out if we can get the violence to stop, so that the Syrians can have that conversation in a legitimate and peaceful way.

[20:50:00] It's not for -- we heard this during Iraq, that Iraq should be split into three. Nobody on the ground really wants that, except, perhaps, the Kurds, nobody else. I mean, it's really not the place of westerners. I'm sorry, Bob, you know, I hold you in the highest esteem, but it is not for westerners to speculate about how things might be if countries in the middle east should be carved up, yet again.

SCIUTTO: Yeah, not a great track record there. You've got to admit. Bobby Ghosh, General Hertling and Bob Baer, thanks very much as always.

And coming up, Anderson and Kathy Griffin talk about what to expect on Saturday when they once again host CNN New Year's Eve coverage. You don't want to miss it.


[20:53:52] SCIUTTO: Well, a storm is coming and that storm is named Kathy Griffin. It happens every year, bringing a high pressure area of CNN's New Year's Eve coverage with Anderson Cooper in Times Square of course. More on that in a moment, first, an actual winter storm is hitting parts of the northeast tonight. And Meteorologist Tom Sater joins us now.

Tom, what's going on with the latest storm? How is it been moving in?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, looks like the storm center itself, Jim, has now made it into the harbor, offshore. But that means the rain that was in Boston is changing over to snowfall at the rate of two to three inches an hour in the northern suburbs.

Still, some light snow across the New Isle Valley (ph), Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Columbus, Buffalo. We'll see the lake-effect snow machine in full force, but what was a pretty good rain event in New York City moved out hours ago, wind gusts were up to 40 miles per hour. So we had up to two-hour delays at JFK.

Now, it's just 30 minutes. Passengers in Newark that were looking at an hour and a half delay is also 30 minutes. However, at Logan and international in Boston, one-hour delays, the rain has changed over, thunder and lightning causing it to really come down in the northern suburbs.

Here are the warnings. Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, where we're looking at Maine to possibly pick up a foot of snow to blanket the entire state.

[20:55:01] Some areas, Jim, I think we'll have twice that amount. So travel highly advised against there. Slowly, things just start to improve.

SCIUTTO: So, Tom, what about the weather on the night when you have a million people crowded in Times Square for New Year's Eve on Saturday? What are you expecting? SATER: It really looks pretty good. I mean, cloudy skies, there's

just a slight chance of rain. It's only a 20 percent chance. It may hold off till after midnight. Temperature around 37 degrees, but a little breezy, so it will feel like it's in the upper 20s. But as you know, Jim, if you've ever been there, you really don't feel it. It's quite a mass of humanity there, so the temperatures aren't going to be a bad thing and with the rain holding off, should be a good evening.

SCIUTTO: A lot of body heat in Times Square, million of people. Tom Sater, thanks very much.

Over the years, Anderson has weathered all kinds of surprises from Kathy Griffin on New Year's Eve. Just two nights from now, it is happening again, for the tenth time, if you can believe it. Here's a quick preview of what's to come.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: How has this year been for you? How has 2016 been for you?

KATHY GRIFFIN, CNN: Oh, awful. I'm super excited to say goodbye to it. And I can't tell you how many people have told me that they're very much looking forward to you and I kicking this year in the butt. It was turbulent, it's still turbulent. I don't know what's going to go on anymore. It's truly different this year. So I will warn you and the audience, I, personally, unlike other years, will not be holding back.

COOPER: Oh, God!

GRIFFIN: At all.

COOPER: Really?

GRIFFIN: Really. OK, so what is going through your mind --

COOPER: Have you signed --

GRIFFIN: No, I haven't signed the disclosure thing. What -- and I'm not doing it. Now, what -- when I say like this year, I don't hold back, what are the first three things that go into your mind?

COOPER: Well, I mean, I just think of all the things you've done, you handcuffed me, the spray tanning my face --

GRIFFIN: I can top it. I can top it.

COOPER: Painting my hair, walking nude.

GRIFFIN: I can top it.

COOPER: Basically, almost nude through Times Square just last year. Is there anything I should prepare for? Is there anything I can prepare for? Is there any, you know, armor I could wear or something to protect myself on New Year's Eve? GRIFFIN: Well, here's what I think you should think about. When you show up on the platform or frankly anywhere in our entire relationship, your emotional armor is so thick. And I don't want to use the word kryptonite, but it's more like, Kathy, like, what power tools are you going to bring to try to put some chink in that armor.

COOPER: You wear it on your sleeve, we put it all out there this year.

GRIFFIN: That's right. That's right.

COOPER: Tenth anniversary. No turning back.


COOPER: All right.

GRIFFIN: By the way, is that your idea of selling this evening? "All right." like, why don't you just say, "CNN, New Year's Eve, it's your funeral." No, this is the best show ever.

COOPER: It is the best show ever.

GRIFFIN: We will take an evening, give an actual alternative.


SCIUTTO: We will have more of Anderson and Kathy's conversation in the next hour of "360" and join them Saturday night starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern as they kick off the countdown to 2017.

Coming up next, tonight, more on our breaking news on Russia. President Obama expels dozens of Putin's diplomats and spies here in the U.S. the move is in retaliation for the election hacking. The question, what will Moscow do next and what will President-elect Donald Trump do when he's president?