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Winter Weather Intensifying; Interview With Congressman Adam Smith; President Obama Announces Sanctions Against Russia; Trump Statement on Russia Sanctions: Time "To Move On"; Debbie Reynolds Dies A Day After Daughter Carrie Fisher. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 29, 2016 - 17:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And not a big deal. Trump insists his future plans for his business aren't all that complicated, even as he continues to withhold any details -- tonight, widening concerns about conflicts of interests and a possible conflict with the small thing of the Constitution.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer, he is off today. I'm Jim Sciutto. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SCIUTTO: And our breaking news tonight, Vladimir Putin's government is vowing to respond in kind to dramatic new punishment by the United States for Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

President Obama ordering retaliation, including shutting down two Russian compounds here in the U.S., and expelling some 35 of Moscow's intelligence officers. For the first time, the names of Russian officials allegedly involved in the hacks were revealed in public, including two who were already wanted by the FBI.

The White House saying the cyber-crimes could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government. Tonight, the Kremlin is questioning whether president-elect Trump may try to reverse those sanctions.

And just last night, Trump once again brushed off calls within his own party to get tough on Russian hacking, saying -- quote -- "I think we ought to get on with our lives."

Also tonight, potential break in the hunt for the top terrorist in ISIS. CNN has learned that the U.S. has been aware of Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi's movements in just the last few weeks. There had been no sign of the ISIS leader for months before that. I will ask the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee what he's learning. Congressman Adam Smith is standing by, along with our correspondents and analysts, as we bring you full coverage of the day's top stories.

Right now, we're getting more details of the unprecedented action by the United States against its adversary, Russia.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, President Obama ordering strong and far-reaching retaliation against Russia for its unprecedented cyber- attack on the U.S. election system. The U.S. is imposing sanctions against nine Russian individuals and entities, including the Russian spy agency, the FSB, and the Russian military intelligence unit, the GRU, both believed to be behind the hack.

The U.S. is ordering 35 Russian intelligence operatives and their families in California and Washington, D.C., out of the country within 72 hours and shutting down two Russian government-owned compounds, one in Maryland and another in New York.

The president also declassifying intelligence on Russian cyber- activity to help networks in the U.S. and abroad "identify, detect and disrupt Russian cyber-attacks."

In spite of this, and the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russian ordered the election hacking, president-elect Trump, just last night, continued to dismiss both Moscow's involvement and the importance of the hacking at all.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole, you know, age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what's going on.

SCIUTTO: Senator John McCain traveling this week with other senators in the Baltic region, where countries are most worried about Russian aggression, responding today to Trump's nonchalant remarks with a sarcastic jab.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I agree with president-elect, we need to get on with our lives without having our elections being affected by any outside influence, especially Vladimir Putin, who is a thug.

SCIUTTO: In a statement before the announcement, Russian promised its own retaliation, saying: "If Washington takes new hostile steps, it will receive an answer. Any actions against Russian diplomatic missions in the United States will immediately backfire at U.S. diplomats in Russia."

The U.S. intelligence community concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally approved the hacking in part to hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign, this according to intelligence, congressional and other administration sources.

Earlier this week, Senator Lindsey Graham, who is traveling with McCain, told CNN in an interview that Congress is planning its own payback.

(on camera): What are you going to do, Senator Graham and Senator McCain, if he doesn't change his tune, in effect, on Russian? SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: There are a hundred United

States senators. I would say that 99 of us believe the Russians did this, and we're going to do something about it, along with Senator McCain. After this trip is over, we will have the hearings. And we're going to put sanctions together that hit Putin as an individual and his inner circle for interfering in our election. And they're doing it all over the world, not just in the United States.


SCIUTTO: Well, we just have a statement from Donald Trump on these steps taken by President Obama today against Russia. I'm going read it for you.

"It is time for our country to move on to bigger and better things. Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its people, its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation."


Let's talk more about the impact of this.

Evan, just listening to that right there, he began by saying it's time for our country to move on. But he says he will do the duty, the service perhaps of meeting with the I.C. to listen to what they have to say on this.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Let me just say one thing about that statement.

What's incredibly remarkable about this is that Donald Trump was elected on November 8 in the United States as president-elect, and he's yet to meet with the heads of all the intelligence agencies. That's something that Barack Obama, for instance, met with the top officials of all the intelligence agencies, they all went to Chicago to meet with him in the first two weeks after being elected. And this has yet to happen with Donald Trump.

It's been an interesting period where he's walled himself off essentially.

SCIUTTO: And in fact he's lobbed some criticism at...


PEREZ: And not only has he lobbed criticism, but he until recently was declining to get daily briefings from his intelligence professionals.

So that's kind of one of the more remarkable parts of what we have been dealing with in the last few years with the president-elect. But the timing of this is also interesting, obviously, Jim, because we're talking about just a few weeks before President Obama leaves office.

This is something that the Obama administration frankly and all of these agencies, the DNI, the FBI, CIA, everybody has been working on for months and months, and they have been debating about whether or not to do this. Now we finally see this. As you see some of the criticism, including from Democrats and Republicans, is that finally this is something they should have done a long time ago. That's a criticism.

SCIUTTO: One part of the many steps here was naming these two particular hackers. Why was that important?

PEREZ: What's interesting about that is that we're talking about Yevgeny Bogachev -- we have a couple of the pictures there -- Yevgeny Bogachev and Alexei Belan. These are two criminal hackers alleged by the FBI. These are guys who have been wanted for years now by the FBI.

SCIUTTO: For criminal or for national security?


PEREZ: These are criminal hackers. These are people who the FBI says broke into -- in the case of Bogachev, he's the overseeing of a bot called Gameover ZeuS which would infiltrate people's computers and would steal -- is thought to have stolen millions of dollars or to have overseen the stealing of millions of dollars.

The same thing with Belan, who apparently, according to the FBI, was behind cyber-hacks that stole personal information and financial information of millions of Americans.

SCIUTTO: But not specific to the DNC hacks?

PEREZ: What's interesting about this is that what we're hearing from this announcement here is that the FBI and the intelligence agencies are saying to the world now that the Russians have been employing criminal hackers to do some of their work. That's something spy agencies don't typically do.

We all spy on each other. The United States hacks into Russian entities. The Chinese do it. But they usually keep it within their agencies. What the United States is saying with this announcement today is that the Russians have been employing known criminal hackers, who are stealing on the side, while also doing the work of spies. And that's what is unusual here in this announcement.

SCIUTTO: No question. Interesting. One of many steps today. Thanks very much, Evan Perez.

We're also following new developments in the hunt for the top terrorist in ISIS. The movements of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are a little less of a mystery tonight.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has been working her sources.

What are you learning about how close the U.S. may be getting to him? BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, tonight, we are

learning that the U.S. military and the U.S. intelligence community may have a fresh tip about where one of the world's most wanted men may be.


STARR (voice-over): Fresh intelligence has emerged about ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi just days before President Obama leaves office.

A U.S. official tells CNN -- quote -- "In the last few weeks, we have been aware of some of Baghdadi's movements." The official would not offer additional details, due to the sensitivity of the intelligence.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: If there's a trail, it is at least possible to begin to pick up certain things. And when you pick up those certain indications of where a person has been, it becomes far more likely that you can actually find him.

STARR: No one is saying if the terrorist leader is in Iraq or hunkered down in Raqqa, Iraq. But several efforts are under way. U.S. officials tell CNN there are a number of buildings in central Raqqa under observation. The U.S. is looking for movement of any senior ISIS leaders.

Communications are being intercepted from raids in Mosul, Iraq, documents and data seized and reviewed for fresh tips. U.S. special operations forces on the ground talking to whomever may know something.


Last month, a rare audio recording encouraging his fighters to stand strong in Mosul. The U.S. just raised to $25 million the reward for his capture. The goal has been to take away his layers of protection and security.

LEIGHTON: These people have to communicate. Even if they don't communicate via the Internet or via phone, they have to communicate in one way or the other.

STARR: U.S. intelligence is focused on isolating Baghdadi by killing those close to him, nearly a dozen senior operatives so far.

ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: We took out three of ISIL's key leaders in the last couple of weeks.

STARR: One of the most important ISIS leaders, Abu Muhammad al- Adnani, chief of external plotting, also was killed in an airstrike in Syria, and this Kuwaiti-born operative killed just this week.


STARR: Now, what would happen if they did get Baghdadi, capture or kill him? Would it really change the course of the war in the opening weeks of a Trump administration? Well, U.S. officials believe that the ideology of ISIS still will live

on for some time, long beyond Baghdadi -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: A lot of precedent with that, when Zarqawi was killed, bin Laden, et cetera.

We're also learning of a cease-fire, a cease-fire that Russia has just announced in Syria. The U.S. military concerned about that.

STARR: Well, that cease-fire is in fact supposed to be going into effect really tonight as we stand here. They're going to be monitoring it very carefully.

The U.S. obviously saying if the cease-fire works, it's glad, because so many civilians have been killed and suffered under this war in Syria. But there are concerns. The Russian foreign minister saying that Trump should join these talks, but Iran is at the table with Russia.

Would Donald Trump really sit down with Iran at the very time he also says he wants to rip up the Iranian nuclear agreement? It's all backing Donald Trump potentially into a corner -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks very much.

I want to turn back now to the breaking news, the U.S. retaliation against Russia for election cyber-attacks. Donald Trump has just released a short two-sentence statement. I want to read it -- quote -- "It is time for our country to move on to bigger and better things. Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation."

We're joined now by the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Adam Smith.

Adam Smith, can I ask you to react to that statement?


No, I think the reaction of president-elect Trump is totally inappropriate. He's very cavalier about a foreign power hacking into U.S. computers and affecting our election. And I applaud Senator McCain and Senator Graham for recognizing the seriousness of this, and pledging congressional action.

And I think President Obama's action has been perfectly appropriate. And I hope the Republican Congress will continue to pursue this. We cannot allow a foreign power to impact our elections.

SCIUTTO: Do you find urgency in that statement, saying that he will take the step of sitting down with intelligence community leaders, though, next week on this?

SMITH: Well, I don't find hardly any urgency in it, when the first sentence is, ah, we really need to move on, but, look, whatever. I will sit down and talk to the I.C. if it makes people happy.

If the first sentence of his statement wasn't it's time for us to move on, maybe you could see some urgency in it. But certainly he's shown no urgency to this point, and I don't believe this statement changes that. And I think that's a real problem. President-elect Trump needs to take what the Russians are doing seriously.

And his own party, the leaders on national security in the Senate, are telling him exactly that.

SCIUTTO: Are you concerned that president-elect Donald Trump, when he takes the presidency, will reverse the steps taken today by President Obama?

SMITH: Yes. I think that's a distinct possibility.

And the thing is, look, I will say this. I agree with president-elect Trump that it would be a better world if we could get along with Russia. I think we have more in common than we have that differentiates us. But Putin's reactions have not reflected that.

His actions in the Ukraine, his actions with hacking, these are things that we have to respond to, because if he gets a blank check, if President Putin thinks that he can do these things and there are no consequences, he will keep doing them, and more likely he will ratchet it up even further.

We need to make sure that he doesn't think he can get away with something like this.

SCIUTTO: John McCain earlier this week on this program called Vladimir Putin, as he has been known to do, a murderer and a thug. He has said that he and Senator Lindsey Graham will lead an effort for even stiffer sanctions against Russia. Hard to find things that get bipartisan support like this has in the Senate, on the Hill.

Do senators, Democrat and Republican, have the power and the will do you believe to stand up to Donald Trump on Russia?

SMITH: Well, I'm quite confident that Senator McCain and Senator Graham have the will.


Whether or not Senator McConnell will follow suit is hard to say. I have my concerns about that. I think the other thing is, national security leaders on the Republican side in the House have been absolutely silent on this. And that is not a good sign, because anything that we do in Congress will be better if it's done, not just in a bipartisan way, but in a bicameral way, if the House and Senate are involved.

And I have not heard anything from the leaders in the House. And why would you be silent on such a belligerent act by Russia against the United States? SCIUTTO: I do want to hear a statement today from Republican speaker

of the House Paul Ryan. He said the following: "Russia does not share America's interests. In fact, it has consistently sought to undermine them, sowing dangerous instability around the world. While today's action by the administration is overdue, it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia and it serves as a prime example of this administration's ineffective foreign policy that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world."

I bring that up because there's been criticism of the Obama administration from Republicans certainly, but also from Democrats. Why did it take so long to take steps like this? The intelligence community announced with confidence October 7, a month before the election, that Russia was hacking U.S. political institutions. Why did it take so long to respond?

SMITH: Well, in general, I agree that it should have happened sooner. The only thing I can say is that they want to do, well, two things.

One, they wanted to make absolutely certain. Sounds to me like they were absolutely certain a couple of moments ago, and so it should have happened sooner. And, second, this is something that Senator McCain has really emphasized. We don't really have a national policy on how to respond to cyber-attacks.

It's something that has, you know, called into question a number of different aspects of national security, because it's such a new thing. There's been cyber-attacks going on for years. When does a cyber- attack cross over the line and become so aggressive that it requires a response and what should that response be?

People have sometimes said, well, it's like an act of war. I don't think we should go that far. It's not like if the Russians had bombed the DNC or something like that. But it is an aggressive action, and the cyber world is one we're just figuring out. In fact, I think this is something Congress ought to do.

Something I know that Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the Intel Committee, has talked a lot about in the House, is, we need a policy. What do we do when a cyber-attack happens? What are our options to respond? And we have not set that policy.


SCIUTTO: Because, on the policy, the Obama administration has tried this policy before. They have imposed sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea, for military action in Eastern Ukraine. Very similar pattern here against individuals and entities in Russia. Yes, it's imposed economic costs on Russia.

But Crimea is still annexed by Russia. There's still Russian military activity inside Eastern Ukraine. Why should you or I have any confidence that, this time, this response is going to work?

SMITH: Right. Well, there's two things about that.

Again, the specifics of the cyber-attack is what we need to develop a policy on. I still think we need to be clear on that.

Second, I would tend to agree, we have to continue to be concerned about Russia. But, look, those economic impacts were significant. And while Russia has continued to be a problem in Ukraine, they haven't taken any further steps than that. Economic sanctions do hurt and do have an impact in Russia's calculus in terms of how far they can go forward.

Personally, I and Chairman Mac Thornberry in the House Armed Services Committee, as well as others, including Senator McCain, have called for more aggressively helping the Ukrainians against the Russian intrusion, giving them more weapons, more support, more help in a variety of different ways than the Obama administration has called for.

So I would agree. I think the Obama administration should have done more. What I'm concerned about is that the Trump administration is going to do even less.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Adam -- Senator Smith, rather, please stand by. Congressman Smith -- I just promoted you. Please stand by.

We're getting new information. We're going to come back with you just after this.



SCIUTTO: And breaking news tonight, President-elect Trump responds to the U.S. sanctions against Russia for its election hacking.

He says it's time for the country to move on to "bigger and better things." But he does say he will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week to get an update on the facts of the situation.

I'll talk more with Democratic Congressman Adam Smith in just a moment.

Right now, we want to bring in CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux with more on Trump and his relationship with President Obama.


While Trump continues to praise Obama for his intellect, he clearly got angry over the president's hypothetical matchup with him, which he took personally.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: He called me. We have had a very, very good talk generally about things.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Donald Trump working to smooth over a public spat with President Obama over Obama's claim that he would have beaten Trump if he was allowed to run for a third term.

TRUMP: I'm getting along very well with him. He made a couple of statements and I responded to them. And we talked about it and smiled about it.

MALVEAUX: Emerging late Wednesday night after dinner boxing promoter Don king, Trump again took credit for boosting the economy and bringing jobs back to the U.S., this time from Sprint.

TRUMP: I just spoke with the head person. He said because of me, they're bringing back 5,000 jobs in this country.

MALVEAUX: But it turns out those 5,000 jobs had already been announced back in December, when the CEO of a Japanese company, SoftBank, stood next to Trump and vowed to invest billions in the U.S. and create 50,000 new jobs. He said the jobs at Sprint are part of that package.

Today, Sprint's CEO gave credit to Trump, but Trump spokesman Sean Spicer was pressed on whether Trump really deserved the praise.

SEAN SPICER, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are going to be more companies and organizations and business leaders and people who want to invest in America because they believe that this president, through his successful business acumen, really gets it.

MALVEAUX: And Trump still trying to squash discussions over a conflict of interests with his businesses once he takes office.

TRUMP: It's not a big deal. You people are making that a big deal, the business, because, look, number one, when I won, they all knew I had a big business all over the place.

MALVEAUX: His team promising more details to come in a press conference scheduled for mid-January.

TRUMP: It's a great business, but I'm going to have nothing to do with it. I don't have to, because, as you know, I wouldn't have to do that by law, but I want to do that, because I want to focus on the country.


MALVEAUX: But, tonight, Donald Trump is hunkered down at his Mar-a- Lago resort meeting with his senior team, prepping for his big inaugural speech, one he's determined to write himself, as he told presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, who visited with him on Wednesday.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: William Harry Harrison, who gave this long-winded inaugural and then he died of pneumonia a month later. And Donald Trump said, look, I am going to give a short inauguration. I don't want something long-winded. I don't like that. I'm going to get right to the point and I'm going to write it all myself. MALVEAUX: Trump also revealing the address will take on a tone

reminiscent of two presidents he admires, Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy. And despite the billionaire's lavish digs in New York, Trump divulged this secret.

BRINKLEY: He told me he was excited to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom.


MALVEAUX: Trump is also vetting candidates for the four remaining positions unfilled, most notably the secretary of veteran affairs.

This week, he hosted three CEOs of the country's top hospitals for their input. And Trump is considering a controversial model which partly privatizes veterans' health care. I am told that he will likely get a Cabinet announcement before the weekend and he will put that out. So stay tuned.

SCIUTTO: Suzanne Malveaux, thank you very much.

I want to bring back Representative Adam Smith.

On the issue of Donald Trump's potential conflicts of interest stemming from his business empire, which he still holds, he calls it not a big deal. From a national security perspective, the fact is, we don't know the extent of his dealings that he has with foreign governments. How much of a concern is that to you? And do you believe that the Congress will hold him accountable?

SMITH: Yes, I think it's a very big deal.

And I think, you know, the fact that president-elect Trump never released his tax returns, we don't really know what his business interests are, and we need to have 100 percent confidence that they have been severed and that as president he's not going to be doing things that are encouraging his business interests.

And I think the most concerning thing about it is his lack of transparency on the issue. He's not the first person elected to office who -- elected president even who had private interests. But most of -- or all of those others have been transparent about it and have very quickly severed those ties and made it clear how they were going to be separated.

And president-elect Trump continues to say, hey, no big deal, I got it. Don't worry about it. That's not an acceptable answer. And I hope Congress will hold him accountable if he doesn't give a better one.

SCIUTTO: Now, lawmakers have brought up that Trump could be in violation of the Constitution. What they cite specifically is the so- called Emoluments Clause -- don't want to dig too deeply here.

But I will at least quote it for the sake of our viewers. It prohibits presidents from accepting any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatsoever from any king, prince, or foreign state. Just for the sake of it, an emolument is a salary, fee or profit from employment or office.

You're a lawmaker. You're a member of the Congress. From your understanding of the Constitution, would holding businesses, even if you don't control them, if you are profiting from those businesses in foreign countries, would that fall under that Emoluments clause?

SMITH: Yes. Well, thank you for the definition of emoluments, first of all. That's something your viewers and I have not heard in a while.

Yes. That's why most people elected to this position put everything into a blind trust and they have nothing to do with it. If, in fact, the president-elect is still having some control over assets and he is in making a profit based on decisions that are made, it calls into question his credibility.

So, yes, he needs to be transparent about it and needs to sever those ties clearly in a way that we can all understand and all be very clear and very transparent on it. And this point, he has not done that.

SCIUTTO: What will Congress do if, on day one, he hasn't done that? Because people can talk on television all they want about an apparent violation of the Constitution. Is there a vote that takes place? Do you believe that there are the votes, Democrat and Republican, in the House and the Senate to hold the president-elect accountable on that constitutional clause?

SMITH: Well, I think the question is premature at this point, since he's not going to be sworn in until January 20 and he still has time to fix the problem.

If he doesn't, will the Republicans in the House and Senate be willing to uphold the Constitution? I know they have always said they're very, very fond of the Constitution. So, I would certainly hope so. But again hopefully this will be taken care of before January 20.

SCIUTTO: Time is running out.

Congressman Adam Smith, thanks very much for joining us today. We appreciate you taking the time.

SMITH: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up just ahead, more on the breaking news on U.S. retaliation for Russia's election-related cyber-attacks, 35 Russians now under order to get out of the country within 72 hours. What if they don't?

And we're tracking a winter storm that is intensifying tonight. Millions of Americans are in its path as they get ready to ring in the new year.


SCIUTTO: We're back now with the breaking news. President Obama hitting back at Vladimir Putin's regime for Russia's election related hacking. Moscow now weighing its own response. And President-elect Trump saying, it is time to move on.

Let's bring in our national security experts.

Phil Mudd, if I could start with you, just on some of the nitty gritty of this. Obama is expelling 35, quote unquote, "diplomats" we really believe to be intelligence operations operatives, rather, from the United States as part of this. How does that work? Do they walk out on their own, are they escorted out?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I guess President Obama just told 35 Russian families it's time to move on.

What's going to happen in this situation is a couple of things. The FBI has an entire component dedicated to following the Russians around. The White House will give them the directive to come up with that list, that list of top 35. That has to be coordinated within the government, because you've got to anticipate from State Department that the ambassador, the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, will be called in and from the CIA, that their officers will be expelled.

But once you have that internal coordination, the embassy, the Russian embassy in Washington will be advised that those families have 72 hours to leave. So by Monday morning, they ought to be out. I mean, theoretically, they could say no, but they're going to leave.

SCIUTTO: So Russia will, as you say, certainly respond. How big of a loss will that be to the U.S., to lose eyes and ears on the ground in Russia?

[18:35:05] MUDD: It's a significant loss, because it's a disruption in operations. You've got to anticipate that, when you lose that number of people, you can refill over time, but that's a lot of expertise and a lot of people.

Remember, compared to the U.S. military, for example, intelligence services are very small. And losing dozens of people at a time is a huge blow. But it's tit for tat that we've seen going back to the Cold War, and we'll move on from this, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Evelyn, the Obama administration, of course, taking action today, Donald Trump releasing the statement saying it's time to move on, though he does say he will sit down with his intelligence community.

How does Vladimir Putin -- I don't know if "enjoy" is too strong a word -- but how does he watch this moment, as this tremendous disagreement as one -- one administration leaves and another one, friendlier one, it appears, comes in?

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Yes. I mean, I think, as we discussed earlier, you know, basically where Putin can see a fissure, you know, a gap between and certainly among Republicans in their own party and then between Republicans and Democrats, he'll exploit that. He's doing it also in other countries, not just in our country. So I'm sure he's loving the fact that we're not united on the facts. And I can't understand why we're not. And when, you know, President-elect Trump says, "Well, we need to move

on," I actually think he should stop in his tracks rather than move on, you know, with the fear, you know, and the realization that, "Oh, my God, in a few days, you know, now I'm going to be responsible. He's going to be trying to hack me and my government, my intelligence community."

So it's interesting to me how much of a distance the president-elect is able to take to this actual challenge.

SCIUTTO: Peter, the Trump camp likes to call this a Democratic fixation and obsession, but the fact is, Trump himself and Trump supporters are becoming increasingly isolated on this.

Because today you had the Republican speaker of the House, the Republican Senate majority leader welcome these steps. At least -- they were late, they welcomed these steps. You have Republican senators saying the Senate is united, believing that Russia is behind these hacks.

So the fact is, Donald Trump is largely isolated on this. Have you, in your long experience of covering -- covering intelligence matters, in many countries, ever seen a division like this between the elected leader and his intelligence services and frankly, his legislative branch?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I mean, I can't think of an example. Nothing leaps to mind. And yes, this has been going on, Jim, as you know, for a long time. Because it was back in early October that the director of national intelligence, who represents all 16 intelligence agencies, and Jeh Johnson, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, jointly released a statement, saying that they believe that these hacks were perpetrated by the Russian government.

SCIUTTO: With confidence.

BERGEN: With confidence. So this is not a recent kind of assessment. This is an assessment that's gone on for months and is deepening with specificity.

SCIUTTO: No question. Mark Hertling, you spent a lot of time commanding U.S. forces in Europe. You're aware of and experienced with the Russia threat. How does Putin respond to these sanctions, and how does he prepare for what I imagine he expects to be a friendlier man in the White House?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET)., CNN MILITARY ANALYST: This has been war gamed, Jim, you can bet on that. There have been a lot of people on the National Security Council who have kind of taken a look at what could be the potential branches and sequels to this particular action. They would not have done this openly, had they not considered how Mr. Putin will respond.

But I've got to tell you, this is something that needed to be done. This has been going on for quite some time. It's gone beyond the typical cyber skirmishing, which is the term that many of us use, and into the framework of actually getting very close to cyber-attacks.

This is the cyber equivalent of rolling a tank division across the NATO border, if you will. You know, the only problem is, it's not only destructive but it sows mistrust. And this is a lot more than Hillary Clinton e-mail server or Podesta e-mail. This has to do with hacking into our institutions, our government bodies, as shown by the combined FBI/DHS report. There's a lot to this.

And I'm just confounded by the fact that there are many people on one side of the aisle saying this is no big deal, to include the president, who has to take an oath in about three saying he will protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies. It's amazing to me.

SCIUTTO: Evelyn, do you want to pipe in here? What happens...

FARKAS: What I want to say is...

SCIUTTO: Go ahead.

FARKAS: It's not just -- it's not just about the hacking. So this statement that the president put out, it also involves mistreatment of our diplomats over the last year. There's been unprecedented harassment. They follow them.

In one case -- they taped it this summer -- one of our diplomats was trying to get into the embassy compound. He was wrestled, and a Russian guard tried to pull him back. I mean, they've been playing, really, hardball physically and in the cyber world. And then there's also the criminal aspect.

The two of these guys who were targeted by the sanctions, they were criminals. They were hacking into U.S. businesses and taking information, which led to actual losses, financial losses.

[18:40:12] SCIUTTO: It's a good point you make, because it's a point I'll often make, too, to sort of skeptics on this, is put this in a larger context with Russia and how it's behaving with the U.S. I mean, you have the annexation of Crimea against international law, military action in Ukraine, the shooting down of a passenger jet over Europe.

You have Russian warplanes shadowing, buzzing U.S. warplanes in a dangerous fashion, life-threatening. You have a number of things here.

So I just wonder, Peter, and I want to ask you Phil Mudd, as well, what happens when a president ignores that judgment from his intelligence agencies and his military, to say Russia is a threat?

BERGEN: I'm going to leave that one to Phil.

SCIUTTO: Phil, tell me.

MUDD: Look, I don't think he can ignore it long-term. Remember one of the things that will happen during his first months and year in office. We're talking about the U.S. in isolation. European countries for a long time have been complaining about the same intervention in their own election.

So I think one of the things that will -- one of the things that will happen is traditional allies, including NATO allies, are going to walk in on introductory visits to the Oval Office and say, "We need your help." And at that point, it's not just President Trump saying, "We need to move on with the Russians." It's saying, "We need to move on," ignoring the fact that our closer allies have said, "They're violating our electoral process, as well."

I think it's going to get more difficult to move on once he gets into the Oval Office.

SCIUTTO: General Hertling, your thoughts before we go.

HERTLING: Yes. Phil's got it right. And I'll say the same thing, you know. We are now experiencing what many of our allies, not just NATO allies, but many of the countries in Europe have experienced over the last ten years, starting with Estonia in 2007; Poland, Latvia; Ukraine with attacks; Georgia, Montenegro. There are several countries who have experienced this kind of intimidation and have asked us for help in the past. We did not provide it in many cases, and I think that's what has gotten Mr. Putin to believe that he can do more of this. And I'm personally very glad that we finally have taken a stand, even though it's three weeks before a new president takes office.

SCIUTTO: And could be reversed by the new president.

Thanks to the panel, as always. Coming up, what can we expect from President-elect's -- elect Trump's inauguration speech, now that he says that he's going to write it himself?

And heavy snow and strong winds pushing into the northeast. We will have an up-to-the-minute forecast. That's just ahead.


[18:46:10] SCIUTTO: Breaking tonight: Donald Trump responding to new and unprecedented U.S. sanctions for Russian cyber attacks, saying it is time to, quote, "move on." This as Trump reveals that he's planning to write his own inauguration speech.

Let's discuss that with our political analyst.

So, David Swerdlick, Trump says he wants to write it himself. What should we expect?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, he's a good retail politician, proved that over the last year and a half, knows how to deliver a speech, and so understands brevity, something we didn't see yesterday from Secretary Kerry, could have shortened that speech a little bit yesterday. President Obama also tends to kind of go on and on. So, I think President Trump, if he realizes that he needs to make a

few core points, speak to both his supporters and people that are very skeptical of him, which could have the country at this point, he will be successful in that.

SCIUTTO: Rebecca Berg, does the word "Russia" come up in this speech?

REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: I doubt it. This is isn't necessarily something that Donald Trump politically wants to be talking about at this point. He said it's time to move on. But also because inaugural addresses tend to paint with broad brush strokes and not really focus in on the specifics, like you might expect in a State of the Union Address, which Trump will also have to give, and I think that will be a major test for him.

But really, he'll be laying out the broad themes of his presidency, the broad ambitions he has for the next four years. And so, I wouldn't expect to hear anything as specific as Russia, or really any other policies, except for maybe jobs and the economy as some of the major focuses --

SCIUTTO: We heard Douglas Brinkley saying that he -- Donald Trump admires Ronald Reagan's and John F. Kennedy's speeches. Are we going to hear "I want to put a man on the moon" by the end of this decade? Are we going to hear something in that category?

SWERDLICK: Trump likes to project himself as a big thinker, so I think there's a pretty good chance he will. I actually think this is one of his last opportunities, at least in the first 100 days, to really send a message that to the people who are skeptical of him, to diverse communities in the country that still treat him at arm's length, that he's going to turn the page on some of the rancor and division of the campaign. I mean, he doesn't have to do that, but this is an opportunity that he, you know, in my view, might not want to pass up.

SCIUTTO: During the campaign, we saw a lot of Donald Trump off script, of course, ad libbing. And then we saw those moments during the campaign when he was very much on script and there was a lot of praise for that, saying, you know, sticking to the point. Should we expect that he sticks to the script in this speech?

BERG: That's a great question. I think his team is probably hoping that he will stick to the script, and that's why they're going through the motions now of starting to actually write the speech. And he himself has said that this will be a shorter speech, so we shouldn't expect one of those hour-long rally diatribes that we saw during the campaign. This will be a little more measured. So at least that's the plan.

Donald Trump, when he gets in front of a crowd, we know that anything can happen. But I think we're going to try -- I think what this will be, it will be more like election night actually. His election night victory speech was delivered via teleprompter. People said it was very measured. It was very succinct. I would expect something quite like that actually. SCIUTTO: There was something about unity then and you would have to

expect unity now; his reference to divided country and bringing it together.

David, is there something that he could articulate for the Clinton supporters or others that are skeptical of him to if not bring them over in one speech, to open their minds?

SWERDLICK: You know, the problem for Trump, I would have to think about that one thing, but the problem for Trump, big picture, Jim, is that he has dropped little kernels of unity here and there but not followed up or been consistent about it.

If you go back to his Gettysburg speech from the fall, or little earlier in the summer, when he first gave that speech, where he said he was the law and order candidate, buried in the later parts of those speeches were words about wanting to threat all Americans fairly and have justice for all Americans.

[18:50:10] Words that could have been more encouraging if he had spoken about those day after day after day. But he didn't. He would throw those out there, think that was enough to cover the subject and move on. And back to his main themes that were more divisive, build the wall, et cetera. And so, he's got to shore that up or face a divided country.

SCIUTTO: David, Rebecca, thanks very much.

Just ahead, a winter storm is moving into the Northeast as the New Year approaches. We're tracking its path and the threat to millions of Americans.

And the complicated relationship between Debbie Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher and their love in the final days before the two of them just died so sadly just a day apart.


SCIUTTO: Breaking news: we're tracking an intensifying winter storm as it moves into the Northeast. Millions of Americans bracing for heavy snow and strong winds as they get ready to ring in the New Year.

CNN meteorologist Tom Sater joins us now form the Weather Center.

So, tell us what's in the forecast.

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's improving, Jim, for New York City. Rain has moved out but wind gusts are up to 40 miles per hour. So in Newark, passengers there at the airport are seeing hour and a half delays. JFK is up to two hours. The winds even stronger in Boston where they are up to 50 miles per hour. So, we got hour and a half delay at Logan.

Two areas of low pressure going to join to really kick in the snow machine, but it's going to be interior sections of New England. [18:55:05] Long Island still in the rain, but New York City, you're in

a clear. Boston, it's rain for you. Do not be surprised when it changes to snow on the back end, maybe dropping an inch.

But parts of central Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine under warnings, where Maine could see a blanket of snow at least a foot deep, most locations two foot deep.

Warnings down the Appalachians chain, there's light snow showers in the Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus. But here is where the rain changes over. Those strong winds are going to continue to push back fights, departures and arrivals, and this is where they are going to see the thick of it.

One quick mention on New Year's Eve and Times Square, cloudy skies, Jim. Twenty percent chance of rain, looking at temperatures in the upper 30s but it will feel upper 30s. Not that they'll know, but that's OK.

SCIUTTO: I'm sure both will be a little tough. Tom Sater, thanks very much.

Now to the heartbreak in Hollywood. After the death of movie legend Debbie Reynolds, only one day after she lost her daughter, Carrie Fisher, the "Singing in the Rain" star is being remembered for her talent, her wit, her strength and how proud she was to be Princess Leia's mother. Debbie Reynolds was 84 years old.

Let's talk about Reynolds and her legacy with "Washington Post" film critic Ann Hornaday, and Stephen Galloway, he's executive editor of "The Hollywood Reporter".

Stephen, to begin with you, this comes just one day after the death of her daughter. A broken heart it seems. What was their relationship like?

STEPHEN GALLOWAY, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Obviously, very complicated. I mean, for Carrie Fisher, you are the daughter of two celebrities, who go through the most public divorce in movie history. That makes the branch (INAUDIBLE) split up pale in comparison. And you are the collateral damage.

Plus, you have a mother who loves the limelight. I watched postcards last night, which is based on their relationship and you look at that Shirley MacLaine character, and you think, my God, this is her mother, you know? And yet later they became very close. And even lived in houses next to each other in Beverly Hills.

SCIUTTO: Incredible.

Ann, Debbie Reynolds, her first big break, of course, "Singing in the Rain." I remember seeing it as a kid with my father. It remains her most iconic role but she certainly had a long career after that.

GALLOWAY: She did. And I loved some of her later work.

SCIUTTO: Sorry, I was going to gave Ann a chance.

GALLOWAY: Oh I'm sorry. Go ahead.

SCIUTTO: Stephen, I do want to hear from you as well.

But, Ann, your thoughts?

ANN HORNADAY, FILM CRITIC, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. I mean, she did. She had an incredible ledger of film work. And she did Broadway relatively late. Her Broadway debut was in the '70s.

She went on to do television and kept right on trooping through with her cabaret show. I mean, she was a devoted cabaret performer and when I got a chance to meet Carrie Fisher at the Cannes Film Festival last May, she was talking about how her mom had experienced health issues in recent years. But the minute she felt better, she would jump out of bed and go play Vegas, you know, one more time.

SCIUTTO: And, Stephen, that as long career to be able to maintain. Difficult in Hollywood.

GALLOWAY: It's a very long career. She had a sort of break during one of her marriages. What I find fascinating is when you lookout at the young Debbie Reynolds who, by the way did singing in the rain at the age of 19, the same age that Carrie Fisher was when she did "Star Wars," two incredibly important films in film history.

But when you look at the later Debbie Reynolds she was a very different personality and had this amazing career revival in films like "Liberace" and Oliver Stone's "Heaven and Earth" and Albert Brooks' mother where you saw this personality with humor and wit and an acerbic quality who's a very gifted actress.

SCIUTTO: Ann, interesting that they both had very young starts. But they also had struggles in their career, personal struggles, and very public struggles that they had to contend with.

GALLOWAY: Well, Debbie Reynolds had --

HORNADAY: Definitely and --

SCIUTTO: Sorry, Steve. I want to give Ann a chance one more time.

HORNADAY: OK. Obviously, Carrie Fisher became an icon with "Star Wars" but then became a different kind of icon when she wrote "Postcards from the Edge", which was that sort of thinly, you know, (INAUDIBLE) about her struggles with the drug addiction. Although her mom did figure as largely in the book as she did in the movie. And I think later, Carrie Fisher would say that people kind of assume that the movie was based on Debbie Reynolds more than it really was.

But, yes, they did they sort of undergo this, again, this iconic struggles, you know, Debbie Reynolds with the break up of the marriage to Eddie Fisher and then subsequent marriages to men who didn't treat her very nicely.

SCIUTTO: Ann and Stephen, we are going to have to leave it there on those two remarkable careers. Thanks very much.

I'm Jim Sciutto. Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.