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Obama Retaliates against Russia Hacks; Nationwide Ceasefire Brokered in Syria; Trump's Response to Sanctions on Russia; Nationwide Ceasefire Brokered in Syria; Generation of Syrian Children Know Nothing but War; Obama Retaliates against Russian Hacks; Major Winter Storm Hits Canada, Northeastern U.S. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired December 30, 2016 - 02:00   ET




Ahead this hour --


HOWELL: Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell.


Russia is at the center of two major stories in the waning days of 2016.

HOWELL: It is presently 10:00 a.m. in Moscow. We are still monitoring for any new reaction. This, of course, after the United States slapped Russia with unprecedented new sanctions, punishment for its alleged interference in the 2016 election.

ALLEN: In Syria, it is 9:00 a.m. We are keeping an eye on a nationwide ceasefire. Russia and Turkey brokered the truce. So far it appears to be holding. More on that in a moment.

HOWELL: But first, the U.S. President Barack Obama promised he would respond to Russia about this alleged hacking in the election. He has done that, unveiling a range of new sanctions, which are partly requiring nearly three dozen diplomates to leave the United States.

ALLEN: The sanctions are punishment for Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election. U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia hacked in to computers at the Democratic National Committee. They released a trove of damaging information about Hillary Clinton and her top aides.

CNN's Jim Sciutto has more on how the United States is responding to this.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, President Obama ordering strong and far-reaching retaliation against Russia for its unprecedented cyberattack 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, quote, "identify, detect and disrupt Russian cyberattacks."

In spite of this and the assessment that Russia ordered the hacking, President-elect Trump continued to dismiss Senator John McCain traveling

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we need to get on with our lives. I think the computers have complicated our lives greatly. The whole, you know, age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on.

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

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

SCIUTTO: In a statement before the announcement, Russia 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 of 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's 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 McCain, if he doesn't change his tune, in effect, on Russia?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: There are 100 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 hearings and we will put sanctions together that hit Putin as an individual and his inner circle for interfering in our election. And they are doing it all over the world, not just in the United States.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: Thursday's executive actions will not be the end of Moscow's punishment. President Obama said, "These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia's aggressive activities. We'll continue to take a variety of actions at a time and a place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized."

HOWELL: Joining us more is Steven Fish, a political science professor at the University of California.

Steven, good to have you with us this hour.


HOWELL: When it comes to retaliation, a wide range of sanctions have been levied by the U.S. against Russia, but what may you expect to see from the kremlin in response?

FISH: It is hard to know. These sanctions are the kind of thing that countries do in these circumstances. They really aren't that big of a deal but what you would expect. I think the Russians will probably respond in kind with perhaps expelling some American diplomates from the country. I don't think it will be all that big an action on their part, though.

HOWELL: Safe to say the response from Russia so far hasn't been very diplomatic.

I want you to look at a portion of a statement released from the foreign ministry spokesperson, saying, quote, "It's over. The curtain is down, the bad play is over. The world, from first seat to the balcony, is witnessing a destructive blow on America's prestige and leadership that has been dealt by Barack Obama and his hardly literate foreign policy team that revealed its main secret to the world, it is exceptionally mass helplessness."

That doesn't seem that -- that doesn't seem that diplomatic.

FISH: It's not diplomatic. But it is what you expect under the circumstances. Look, what is really strange here is to have a president-elect whose loyalty to the United States is in question. This is what's odd. It wasn't President Obama who dealt a blow to American prestige. It is President-elect Trump who's doing that right now. President Obama finds himself in a very, very difficult position. Never before have we had a president-elect coming in to office that seemed to take more seriously and respect for a foreign dictator who regards the United States as his sworn enemy than he takes and respects that even more than the respects the American government and American intelligence agencies. This is a very strange circumstance. So, President Obama is trying to put in place some measures that will slow Trump's ability to sell the shop to the Russians. I think that is really what is going on here.

HOWELL: That question, so President-elect Trump has made it clear he would like to improve relations with Russia. Obviously, the world will be watching how this plays out when the president takes the oath of office. U.S. allies will be particularly concerned. The question, if the United States won't stand up for itself, would they stand up for us and these alliances?

FISH: Exactly. President-elect Trump has been very cavalier about his defense of NATO, American alliances. That gives our alliance cause for alarm, needless to say. So, this is a very unusual situation. President-elect Trump today was -- the way he dismissed this Russian cyberattack on the United States as says it's a problem of the computer age where we don't understand who is doing what to whom anymore. This is bizarre. American intelligence agencies know what is going on but President-elect Trump doesn't want to believe it. It puts the United States in a strange position. Now we will see if America has leadership, especially the Republican Party of the United States. Whether its Congressmen and foreign policy leaders will stand up to Trump and correct what looks like some bizarre policy decisions on his part.

HOWELL: Let's circle back to sanctions here in the final question for you this segment. But the idea of sanctions, do they really work? We saw the United States level sanctions against Russia before. Crimea was annexed. Did sanctions matter then? Will they matter now? Is it an effective tool?

FISH: Sanctions are partially effective tool. They do bite. Sanctions applied after the incursion in to Ukraine and after the annexation of Crimea have endured some pain. Of course, the Russians aren't going to withdraw from Crimea in response to this. The same thing will happen here. They are not going to stop the cyberattacks because of this.

Keep in mind, Obama is taking these measures, not thinking it will transform Russian behavior but hoping it will affect American behavior in the future. He is hoping it will be difficult for Trump to rescind these sanctions. If he comes to office and says as he said recently it is time to move on, what he will be doing is basically saying he continues to deny that Russia activities, which will be hard for him to do once he takes office, or he will say it is OK if the Russians do these kinds of things to us, which the Russians would never do if we do those things to them. So, I think Obama is trying to guard the United States against Trump, not against Putin.

[02:10:03] HOWELL: The big question is when the new president takes the oath of office, would he roll back these sanctions that had been put in place by the U.S. President Barack Obama.

Steven Fish, thank you so much for being with us for our insight.

FISH: My pleasure, George.

ALLEN: Russia is a major player in the next story. A nationwide ceasefire in Syria is in its first full day. A fragile peace deal appears to be holding in the early going.

HOWELL: Russia and Turkey helped to broker an agreement between the Syria regime and several rebel militias. But a number of groups were left out of those talks.

ALLEN: Our Ian Lee is monitoring the ceasefire from Turkey and is live with more about it.

Ian, could this be the one that works?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it could be the one that has the greatest chance of working, Natalie. You have Russia who's overseeing the Syrian regime, also Hezbollah, the Lebanese-backed militia and Iranian forces on the ground and on the other side you have Turkey which is overseeing the rebel side of the fighting. So for the most part, it does look like it could be the one that works. Although it is still very early and both sides have said this is very fragile. We are hearing it is holding, for the most part.

There are three steps to the ceasefire. The first is to just get the fighting to stop. The second step is to create a mechanism so that if there are violations, they will be able to hash them out through negotiations and dialogue. And the third step will be getting these sides together in Kazakhstan next month to try to figure out some sort of peace deal that ends this six-year civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

ALLEN: What would be the sticking points in turning the ceasefire into a peace deal, Ian?

LEE: The first sticking point will be making sure the fighting stops, that both the rebels and Syrian regime stop fighting between the two of them. Although, it's important to note that ISIS is not a part of this ceasefire, as well as the al Qaeda-affiliated rebel group. There's also the YPG, which are the Kurdish fighters. They are not a part of the ceasefire, as well. There are other elements on the ground that are not a part of this. The other one is the status of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Now, Turkey, for the longest time, has said Assad must go. But the question is now, with a peace deal, will they soften that stance?

ALLEN: Absolutely. That is a big one.

Ian Lee, following it for us. We will stay in contact with you. Ian, Thank you.

HOWELL: Again, Russia has been slapped with U.S. sanctions and Russia is not happy about that. Up next, what the incoming U.S. president could do, and if reversing the measures would be a good idea.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [02:16:58] HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. Dozens of Russian diplomates are expelled from the United States and it is part of sanctions that have been levied against that nation's involvement in the U.S. presidential election.

ALLEN: The Russian foreign ministry is angry about this, saying -- here's a quote -- "It's over. The curtain is down, the bad play is over. The world, from first seat to the balcony, is witnessing a destructive blow on America's prestige and leadership that has been dealt by Barack Obama and his hardly literate foreign policy team that revealed its main secret to the world, it is exceptionally mass helplessness. And no enemy could have caused more harm to the U.S."

Joining us to talk more about the sanctions against Russia and the presidential transition is Betsy Woodruff, a politics reporter for "The Daily Beast"; and Larry Sabato, director for the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

Thanks for joining us.

HOWELL: Good to have you guys with us.

Let's talk about Donald Trump's response to these sanctions. He says, quote, "It's 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 the leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation."

Larry, this first question to you.

Despite the fact the U.S. intelligence agencies, many agencies, with confidence, came together with this specific finding, Donald Trump still has doubts. What's at play here?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: It is an extraordinary statement by the president-elect. It is odd in a lot of ways because Donald Trump is in agreement not just with the intelligence community, not just with the Obama administration, but also with Republicans and the leadership of the GOP in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. They all think it is a big thing. This is just another indication of the massive change we are going to experience in the United States on January 20th.

HOWELL: Betsy, quickly to you, if Donald Trump were to accept the finding of the U.S. intelligence community, would that, in fact, be him accepting also the questions about his legitimacy with regards to his win for the presidency?

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICS REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: I don't think it would. That's because these Russian hacks that occurred didn't affect the way votes were cast. We know the intel community has said that Russian actors did not manipulate the number of votes cast. What they did was present information that otherwise would not have been available that may have influenced the way some people thought about the election but didn't change the way that voting. This is how democracy works. If people decided to vote based on the WikiLeaks e- mails or things John Podesta wrote, that is their decision, not Russia's decision.

[02:20:01] ALLEN: There's concerns the sanctions may only last until Trump gets sworn in.

Listen to a White House Homeland Security adviser, Lisa Monaco, told CNN.


LISA MONACO, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR: I will say the reversal of sanctions, such as what you described, would be highly unusual. Indeed, the sanctions usually remain in place until the activity, and the reasons for them being imposed in the first place, has been removed.


ALLEN: Of course, the Trump team doesn't seem to acknowledge fully that Russia is behind the hacking.

Betsy, do you expect that President Trump will undo this?

WOODRUFF: It is a good question and not easy to predict. There is a possibility. That said, Trump has failed a number of administrative jobs. So, that might potentially, or some folks are concerned it might inform the way Tillerson thinks of the Russia sanctions. That said, of course, it would be a whiplash change in American foreign policy for the sanctions to be in place for a few weeks and then immediately overturned. It is hard to game at. It is something we will be paying attention to.

HOWELL: Larry, the president has three weeks to go before Donald Trump takes the oath of office. The question many are asking, the Trump team is accusing the Obama administration of playing politics here.

Listen to how Kellyanne Conway, a senior Trump adviser, describes it.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR TRUMP ADVISOR: I will tell you even those sympathetic to President Obama on those 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 -- if politics were the motivating factor here. But we can't help to think that is often true. Even "The New York Times" saying it may be an attempt to box him in to see what he will do as president. That's not the way that peaceful transitions work in our great democracy.


HOWELL: The President Obama administration was criticized for not speaking up and doing more during the election itself when it had this information. You'll remember, that was back in October. So now the question, three weeks to go before President Obama is out, Donald Trump is in, is this a matter of playing politics? SABATO: Well, politics always enters in to these decisions. But

listen to the Republican leadership in the House and Senate. What did they say today? While they backed what President Obama was doing, they actually wanted stronger action and they criticized Obama for not doing this earlier. I think there's a better case to be made that Obama didn't take action in October because he thought that Hillary Clinton was going to win and that it might play in to Donald Trump's attempts to call the election rigged if he had taken action against Russia at that time. So, that's when the politics came in to play.

I don't think you can fault President Obama for taking some action against the Russians, assuming he has the information that proves Russia was responsible. And just about everybody in the intelligence community says that that's exactly what happened.

ALLEN: We know House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement that appears to be at odds with Donald Trump. And let's quote him here," 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." Speaking about the Obama administration.

Betsy, to you, Republicans are sending mixed messages. Some blame the DNC for lack of security, some deny Russia's involvement, some want to be tough on Russia. Where exactly does the party stand?

WOODRUFF: I think most of the criticism of the DNC and defense of Russia is coming from folks in Trump's immediate, very close circle, because they are trying to push this narrative that Russia may not necessarily be responsibility that we don't know enough, we don't have conclusive information. Outside of that insular campaign transition team sector of the Republican Party, which is quite powerful, of course, but outside of that, the general consensus, the mainstream view in the GOP is that Russia has overreached, that it has become much too militant, that its incursions into Crimea are troubling. That's why Paul Ryan, John McCain, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham are so inimical in supporting not just sanctions but also in gunning for more sanctions in the future. It's, of course, not just Republicans that believe that. Adam Schiff, one of the most influential members of the House and also a Democrat, who works on oversight of these intel issues, said it is likely he believes the U.S. should amp up its sanctions of Russia next year in Congress.

[02:25:14] HOWELL: Betsy Woodruff, Larry Sabato, we appreciate both of your insights. Thank you.

ALLEN: Thank you.

Much more on Russia's hacking still ahead this hour. We will show you how they did it and the e-mail this started it all.

HOWELL: Plus, Aleppo, Syria, at peace. It's not something we have seen very often. Why this newest ceasefire finally could make a lasting reality.

We're live from Atlanta, broadcasting across the U.S. and worldwide this hour. This is CNN NEWSROOM.


ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: I'm George Howell.

First, to Syria. People there are holding out hope the latest ceasefire will hold. This is Aleppo. More calm now than we have seen before. Some of the worst violence of the civil war has taken place right where you see it.

HOWELL: It was Russia and Turkey who orchestrated the new peace deal between thee Syrian regime and various rebel militias. But many were excluded from the talks. And notably, the U.S. had no part to play either.


ALLEN: Joining me via skype is analyst, CNN military analyst, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona.

Thanks for joining us, Colonel. And happy new Year to you.


ALLEN: This isn't the first time that parties have agreed to peace efforts in Syria. There were several reached in Geneva, there was a U.N. resolution last year. Any chance this agreement could hold?

[02:29:01] FRANCONA: Well, this is different this time. The conditions that led up to this agreement have changed. If you look at the situation on the ground in northern Syria, the rebels have been dealt severe blows, not the least of which, the loss of Aleppo.

With them willing to demonstrate whatever power it takes to subdue the rebels, I think they realize they better make whatever deal they can get. With the regime in control of Aleppo, they are in position to move south pretty much squeeze the rebels in that pocket between Hama and Aleppo. It looks grim for the rebels and I think they realize that and I think they realize maybe they need to sit down and talk to the other side. They are looking at the results of the U.S. election and know January 20th there will be a new administration. Mr. Trump has said he is not in favor of overthrowing regimes in the middle east so they are not sure what backing they will have when the new administration comes into power. They are more in a position to talk. On the other side of the equation you have a government feeling momentum. They have been successful. It is good everybody is willing to sit down and go to the table but the rebels are definitely in the lesser position here.

ALLEN: Right. You are right, Russia along with the regime, pounded Aleppo and you would think Russia may have the impetus to help make this stick. One of the challenges, though, of course, that always got in the way of earlier efforts is there are so many difference factions involved. Almost all of them are on board this time but how challenging it will be to hold the groups accountable and make sure they stick to the terms of this agreement.

FRANCONA: We run into the same problem we always have. It is a definition of who falls inside and outside of the agreement. This time they are being more inclusive with people inside the agreement. However, you have ISIS completely out of the agreement and you have the former al-Qaeda affiliate who are fair game for attacks. The other groups are inside the agreement. It may be a little better for holding this time, but you are still going to see a lot of Russian attacks. The definition is a terrorist, Syrian government believes anyone who has taken up arms is a terrorist. The Russians are in the same vain, as well. They are going to continue to mound the rebels and calling them terrorists. They only strike ISIS when there is a threat to the regime. Although I have some hope it may hold better the key is they agreed to meet at the table in Kazakhstan after 30 days. That could be a breakthrough. I think the rebels are in a weak position but they are sitting down and talking, and if we can stop this bloodbath that is Syria, that's a positive.

ALLEN: We're going to appreciate very much your hopeful note. Ad we will be following it as we push into the new year.

Thank you, military analyst, Colonel Rick Francona. Thanks, Rick.

FRANCONA: My pleasure.


GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: When you think of the global impact of Syria's conflict, it has been staggering. It has drawn in world powers, militias and jihadists, and triggered a massive refugee crisis. The incoming U.N. secretary-general calls it a cancer on a global scale. It is fast approaching the sixth year. That grim anniversary comes in March. United Nations envoy estimates 400,000 people lost their life and more than 11 million people forced from their homes because of the fighting there.

ALLEN: Amid the graphic images of death and destruction we have all seen, the most heart-wrenching scenes involving the most vulnerable, smallest victims.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, looks at a generation of children who have known nothing but war.



[02:34:36] CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You have seen so many images by now of children covered in dust, children's lifeless bodies being lifted from the rubble and occasionally even an image that gives hope, a moment of optimism, a baby rescued from deep in the rubble after a massive bombing. In March of 2011, a group of young boys in the city spray-painted

anti-government graffiti on a wall. They were arrested and disappeared for two weeks. When they returned home, their families found that their bodies were scarred from torture, allegedly at the hands of regime forces. And that really provided the spark that ignited a series of protests. Not just in the city but across the entire country.

About a year later, you had the Hula massacre, which was up with of the most horrific incidents in the Syrian civil war, when roughly 100 people were killed by government soldiers and half were believed to be children and those images served as a real rallying cry, not just citizens inside Syria, but to Muslims and people across the entire world.

In the summer of 2012, the rebels began their siege on the city of Aleppo. That's when you saw children get being victims of war, caught in the cross fire, killed by stray bullets, snipers, rockets and rebel and government forces continued to fight on an on for weeks, sometimes over a matter of a hundred feet.

But the real horrors came for children when the barrel bombs began. Conflict took an uglier turn in 2013 when the government used sarin gas. I don't think that anyone can forget seeing the images of the children's bodies wrapped in these white shrouds and since then it seems there's been no end to the depravity.

We have seen children who have been starved, who have been forced to eat grass because the sieges going on across the country. We have seen a young child beheaded by a rebel group in one of the more gruesome incidents this war. We see children now being groomed to be child soldiers, to be killers, to be suicide bombers by groups like is.

And we have seen millions of children, pouring across Syria's borders into neighboring countries, into Europe. And of course, we have seen the iconic image now of one boy who didn't make it, who speaks for so many other little boys and girls who have not made it.

Sometimes you have a photograph that will capture the world's imagination for a moment and everybody will suddenly feel the suffering of Syria for a moment, and then it passes, and then life goes on, as it always has.

I think, in many ways, children have come to symbolize the horrors of Syria, and also the impotence of the international community and the failure to stop it.



ALLEN: It's been difficult to watch. But we haven't gone through it. They have.

HOWELL: Yes. ALLEN: Can't imagine.

If you are interested in helping Syrian families that need food, shelter, medical assistance, there are several ways you can help. Go to our website We have a lot of information there.

HOWELL: Moving onto Germany now. Prosecutors there say they have released a Tunisian man detained on suspicion of links to this person, the person suspected in the Berlin market attack, Anis Amri. They say further investigation shows the 40-year-old man could not have been his contact.

ALLEN: Officials say the truck rampage that killed 12 people could have been worse had it not been for the automatic braking system on the truck that plowed into that crowd. They say the system sensed impact and applied the brakes.

The clock is ticking down on 2016, isn't it? New York is planning enhanced security measures for the traditional Time's Square New Year's Eve celebration. 7,000 officers will be deployed, multiple layers of screening. And for the first time, dozens of trucks will be posted around times square. They say there are no specific threats related to terrorism.

The preparations aren't all about security checks. Check this out. The planners ran a confetti test for the moment 2017 arrives. Looks like it is going to work.

HOWELL: So Russia asked for the evidence of hacking and the United States is giving it up. How Moscow managed to allegedly meddle in the 2016 election. Stay with us.


[02:43:03] ALLEN: Russia is vowing to respond to U.S. sanctions, punishment for allegedly interfering with the U.S. election. Barack Obama announced he will expel 35 Russian diplomates from the U.S. impose sanctions on Russian intelligence and on three Russian companies.

HOWELL: The United States will also close two Russian compounds in m more and in New York. The sanctions come by way of executive order. Though President-elect Trump says it's time for the United States to move on to bigger and better things.

ALLEN: President Obama's top Homeland Security adviser told CNN it would be unusual for Trump to reverse the sanctions.

HOWELL: Lisa Monaco talked about the report the U.S. released on Thursday, detailing how the intelligence community believes Russia hacked U.S. e-mails. Listen.


LISA MONACO, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR: We're disclosing today an exposing today a set of information from the department of Homeland Security and the FBI that will enable network defenders, people operating networks across our country and frankly internationally, to better defend themselves. We are exposing the tactics, the techniques, the procedures that the Russian intelligence services have used to interfere in our elections and to probe our systems.


HOWELL: So there are people asking where are the facts to show us what is happening. That is Lisa Monaco, the White House top Homeland Security adviser.

ALLEN: CNN's Brian Todd has more on how the U.S. says Russia breached U.S. e-mail systems.


[02:44:37] BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Moscow says the hacking allegations against Russia are groundless. Vladimir Putin's spokesman challenging America to prove them. But U.S. officials tell CNN the Russian hacks continue around the clock. Phishing attempts targeting private e-mail accounts associated with Hillary Clinton's campaign as recently as December 6th.

ADAM MEYERS, VICE PRESIDENT OF INTELLIGENCE, CROWDSTRIKE: It's a continuing effort to collect intelligence.

TODD: Adam Meyers specializes in cyber intelligence with the firm CrowdStrike, which investigated the Russian hacks for the Democratic Party. He and other experts have new information on operations in Putin's hacking teams, which they say are as talented as they come.

UNIDENTIFIED CYBER SECURITY EXPERT: When it comes to espionage and offense they are fantastic. They are close to the best in the world, probably right after our own here in the United States.

TODD: CrowdStrike discovered a Russian hacking team called Cozy Bear first penetrated the DNC in the summer of 2015. CrowdStrike says that team, also known as the Dukes or APT29, for advanced persistent threat, is tied to Russian intelligence.

In March of this year, CrowdStrike says, another Russian hacking team, Fancy Bear, started to target the Democratic Party. Fancy Bear is believed to be demanded by the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency.

TODD (on camera): What are the tools they use?

MEYERS: What the tools allow them to do is access the computer, to download and upload files and execute commands and take pictures of what is going on the screen.

TODD (voice-over): This is the bogus e-mail that opened Pandora's Box at the Clinton campaign, quote, "Someone has your password," says an e-mail to campaign chair, John Podesta, in March, posted online by WikiLeaks. It says to click on the link to reset the password. MEYERS: Once they go the that link, it will take them to what looks

like Google log-in and they will be asked for their user name and password. When they provide that, it will forward it to Google but the attacker now has a copy of the user name and password.

TODD (voice-over): A technique used by what's believed to be an army of at least 4,000 Russian cyberagents.

(on camera): Are these the hackers in military uniforms? Who are they?

MEYERS: I think there are people in military uniforms and people who are business focused and a technical cadre that may be more informal and more casual.

TODD: A key question now, who are the next targets of the Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear hacking teams? CrowdStrike says NATO should have its guard up. Any company with deals going in Russia and political leaders in France and Germany should have their defenses ready. Those are countries having political elections next year, countries where Russia cares a lot about the outcome of the elections.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: Parts of this United States are bracing for a major snowstorm. Pedram will be telling us who might be getting hit hard.

Stay with us.





[02:51:21] JOHN SUTTER, CNN CORRESPODNENT: In 2016, it became suddenly clear that we are warming the climate and there are dire consequences.

I'm in a tiny village in Alaska about 30 miles from the Arctic Circle. I'm sure it looks cold out here but locals are complaining about the heat. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. In mid november, the region was 35 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

It's not just here. This is happening around the world. 2016 is expected to be the hottest year on record. This spring, a drought in India was so intense it reportedly led some farmers to commit suicide. In May, monster wildfires forced 88,000 people in Canada to flee. In July, in Kuwait, 129 degrees Fahrenheit or 54 Celsius.

Scientists are getting better at tying these events to us. A flood in Louisiana killed 13 people in august. Scientists say it was 40 percent more likely because of climate change.

Here, locals voted the same months to abandon their village, which ancestors lived in for 400 years. The permafrost is melting and the coast is crumbling.

Are we causing all of the bad weather? No. But we are burning fossil fuels, which is heating up the planet, and that puts our fingerprints on the extreme weather more than ever before.


HOWELL: That is a real problem that is happening.

ALLEN: Yeah. Spring weather on the other side.

HOWELL: In fact, parts of Canada and the northeastern United States are getting hit hard by a major winter storm. Portland, Maine, seeing heavy snow on the streets. Cold winds there. By the time it is over, some places could have a foot of snow.

ALLEN: Pedram Javaheri is here with us now.

We were talking about the hottest record in a year, and now this.


ALLEN: This is connected, extreme cold, extreme heat.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. What we are seeing right now take place in Canada, as you said, George, and the northeastern United States. Think of Montreal in particular and also Toronto, the airport, 500 flights delayed or cancelled in the past 24 hours. The single largest airport impacted, from the storm battering the United States.

This is what it looked like across Montreal with heavy snowfall. A lot of cities getting ready for new year's festivities. This is not what you want to see if you are one of the city officials across this region. They say they will put 2200 cars and people on the roads to try to clear the snow there and the sidewalks. Think of the city itself, Montreal. 6200 miles of roadway. The officials say they have to try to clear it as we get in through Saturday night. Think of that expansive area and you are talking about a distance of New York City to Los Angeles back to New York City that has to be plowed in the snow and a little more than that in the past 24 hours to have a transportation scenario set up where you can travel over the next couple of days.

Here go. 179 flights were cancelled in and out the United States on Thursday. 2400 flights delayed. A lot of them centered across the northeastern portion. Snow showers streaming in the great lakes. Accumulation as much as two feet have come down, incredibly. Look at the date and time stamp. That's 12 hours of snow accumulation of 24 inches and still snowing in some areas. The temperature contrast is rather large. The northeastern corner is getting plenty of snow but to the mayor cities it is all rain. New York, Boston staving off the majority of this, which is good news if you are going to be out on Time's Square the next couple of days when it comes to celebrating. Very cold days before and snowy days for this time of the year. Not going to be the case this go around.

[02:55:12] ALLEN: All right.

HOWELL: A lot of people will be out there and still cold.

JAVAHERI: Absolutely.

HOWELL: Pedram, thank you.

ALLEN: Thanks, Pedram.

JAVAHERI: Thanks, guys.

ALLEN: A tennis superstar is getting married. So, proud. So happy for her. Serena Williams is engaged to Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of the social website, Reddit. He popped the question while vacationing in Rome. She posted her answer cartoon on Reddit saying, "I said yes."

HOWELL: She has dated him since the fall of 2015. No word yet on the wedding date.

ALLEN: Congratulations to Serena.

HOWELL: Absolutely.


HOWELL: Thank you for being with us for this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen.

We will be back with another hour. Hope you join us.


[03:00:06] ALLEN: Barack Obama retaliates against Russia. Sanctions issued. Diplomats ejected. While Donald Trump says it's time to move on.

HOWELL: Plus, in Syria --