Return to Transcripts main page


Russia Expected to Announce Retaliation; Ceasefire Begins Across War-Torn Syria; New Year's Eve Security. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired December 30, 2016 - 04:30   ET


JOE JOHNS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Russia is putting together a retaliatory response to new sanctions leveled by the White House over this year's election hacking. What does Moscow have in mind? We're live in Russia.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: In Syria, the early hours of a new cease- fire between the Assad regime and rebel groups.

[04:30:05] After more than five years of bloodshed, is it enough to get the two sides talking about a permanent solution? We're live in the Middle East.

JOHNS: And security is being stepped at the crossroads of the world. Less than 24 hours to the big ball drop, how authorities are keeping Times Square a safe zone. We'll tell you what steps are being taken.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Joe Johns.

KOSIK: And I'm Alison Kosik. Good morning. It's 30 minutes past the hour. John and Christine are off.

And this morning, we are waiting to see the steps Russia plans to take. They're vowing to retaliate likely today for the sanctions President Obama has just laid down, punishing Russia for election hacking. The White House announcing punitive measures against four individuals and five entities, all connected to a Russian intelligence, and also expelling dozens of diplomats. The U.S. sanctions drawing condemnation both from the Russian government and the president-elect.

Donald Trump again downplaying the election hack, but with a new twist. This is his statement of late, "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 leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of the situation."

A top Trump aide is dismissing the sanctions as toothless and aimed at limiting the president-elect's options as much as punishing Russia. Here is Kellyanne Conway on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR TRUMP ADVISER: These retaliations, these sanctions put forward by President Obama and his administration, some of them seem largely symbolic. Even on those who are 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 motivating -- if politics were the motivating factor here. But we can't help but think that that's often true.


KOSIK: CNN's Athena Jones is with the President Obama in Hawaii. And she has more on the sanctions.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Joe and Alison. The president is calling these steps necessary and appropriate and said they are coming after repeated private and public warnings to the Russian government.

He said all Americans should be alarmed by Russia's actions and he repeated his previous assertion that these activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government. Now, what are the steps the U.S. has taken?

The Treasury Department has named nine entities and individuals who are now going to be subject to expanded sanctions. Those include Russia's military intelligence unit and its chief, as well as the domestic security service. The State Department is declaring 35 Russian intelligence operatives persona non grata and giving these spies 72 hours to leave the country.

The government is also shutting down two Russian government-owned compounds. One in New York and another on the eastern shore of Maryland not far from Washington, D.C. The White House says that Russia should not be surprised by these actions and they're stressing that the announced moves are not, quote, "the sum total of our response."

The U.S. is also taking covert measures, all of this aimed at delivering one message to Russia, that there are consequences to the actions. Russia has vowed to take reciprocal measures. And these measures could be coming very soon.

Russia's foreign ministry spokesman saying in a statement on Facebook that Russia will announce retaliation measures on Friday, saying, quote, "Tomorrow will be the official statements counter measures and a lot of other things." Tomorrow, of course, being today.

Back to you, guys.


JOHNS: Thanks for that, Athena Jones in Hawaii. The U.S. sanctions also include two Russian hackers who have been on

the FBI's most wanted list for years. Evgeniy Bogachev and Aleksey Belan are both wanted for large scale theft of money and personal identifying information. Both men are fugitives. Whereabouts unknown.

The administration backing up the sanctions with the release of a report from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. It lays out unclassified technical details explains how federal investigators linked Russian intelligence agencies to the hack of the DNC and Clinton campaign manager John Podesta. The report says the Russian cyber attacks have been code named Grizzly Steppe.

Meantime, as we wait for word of Moscow's retaliation for the U.S. sanctions, Russia has already launched a few early actions, including this insult via Twitter from the Russian embassy in London. "President Obama expels 35 Russian diplomats in Cold War deja vu as everybody, including the American people, will be glad to see the last of this hapless administration." You can see there, the cute picture of a lame duck or a duckling, or what have you.

All right. For the latest from Moscow, let's bring in CNN's Matthew Chance.

Good morning.


That's right. There's been a scathing verbal reaction from Russian officials following these latest U.S. sanctions against Russia. You saw that lame duck tweet from the Russian embassy. Well, that's very much in the tone of the kind of venom that's been poured on the Obama administration from Russian officials right way across.

[04:35:04] I mean, particularly, in the foreign ministry. The foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying shortly after sanctions were announced and expulsions announced. The Obama administration is a, quote, "a group of vindictive, unimaginative foreign policy failures with the exception, she says, of Secretary of State John Kerry whom she worked with over the last couple years."

In terms of the concrete response going to be by the Russians, it is not entirely clear yet. Kremlin told us yesterday there will be reciprocal response, implying there was going to be a tit-for-tat expulsion of U.S. diplomat that are here to follow on from the 35 Russian diplomats who are expelled from the United States. But it's up to Vladimir Putin to decide, the Kremlin says, and he is in no hurry to make a decision, according to the Kremlin.

Now, that may be a reference to the idea that Putin is waiting for Donald Trump in three weeks to take over the White House before launching into any kind of response. In fact, that prospect of a Donald Trump, of a U.S. president who is more sympathetic perhaps to the Russian point of view may actually act as a restraint and prevent the Russians or deter the Russians from reacting so strongly as they would do otherwise -- Joe.

JOHNS: So, potential actually for no response at all?

CHANCE: Well, there's that potential, of course. Although the Kremlin was pretty clear that there is going to be some kind of response and the Russian foreign ministry says they may able to give us some details on what those responses maybe over the course of the day. It is early morning here, of course, local time.

It is a highly unusual position that the Kremlin finds itself in. It's something of a dilemma. You know, does it go in strong or respond in kind and expel, you know, 50 or 35 U.S. diplomats here, does it just hold back a little bit, knowing that Trump is gong to be in office in three weeks and hoping to improve the relationship with that new administration?

JOHNS: Thanks for that, Matthew Chance in Moscow.

KOSIK: So, the big question now, could President-elect Trump reverse the sanctions imposed by Russia yesterday? Here is what homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco said on "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER."


LISA MONACO, OBAMA HOMELAND SECURITY & COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER: A reversal of sanctions such as what you've 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.


KOSIK: Meanwhile, a senior Obama administration official tells CNN, "If a future president decided that he wanted to allow in a large tranche of Russian intelligence agents, presumably a future president could invite that action. We think it would be inadvisable."

JOHNS: The sanctions are being met with a mixed response. Most lawmakers are happy to see some action, while some Republicans say it doesn't go far enough.

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both on an overseas trip visiting Russia's Baltic neighbors, they put a joint statement on the threat posed by Moscow's hack, "The retaliatory measures by the Obama administration today are long overdue, but ultimately, they are a small price for Russia to pay for its brazen on American democracy. We intend to lead the efforts in the new Congress to impose stronger sanctions on Russia."

Meantime, House Speaker Paul Ryan says, "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 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." Incoming Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer offering unqualified backing in a tweet, "Strongly supports the Obama administration's work to fight back against Russia's interference in our election. We need to punch back and punch back hard."

KOSIK: Turning to domestic politics. A buffalo, New York school board looking to oust Donald Trump's New York state campaign co- chairman Carl Paladino from his post on the school board after he made offensive remarks about the Obamas. Paladino, a millionaire developer, told a newspaper he wanted to see the president die from mad cow disease and the first lady living with a gorilla in Africa.

The school board Thursday approved a resolution giving him 24 hours to resign. If he doesn't, the board says it will ask the state education commissioner to remove him. Paladino is refusing to go, vowing not to give in to what he called vanquished progressive haters.

JOHNS: After five years of war, a new cease-fire in effect in Syria this morning. Can the Assad regime and rebel groups build any real hope for peace?

[04:40:01] More live from the Middle East coming up next.


KOSIK: A new cease-fire now under way in Syria.

You are looking at live pictures right now from Aleppo. You see it foggy but peaceful, something we have not seen in a long, long time.

The new cease-fire part of the deal brokered by Turkey and Russia, including a return to peace talks after more than five years of war. Turkey's president calling the deal an historic opportunity that shouldn't be squandered. But Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledging the path is fragile.

So, what's the latest on the ground in Syria?

CNN's Ian Lee joins us live now for more.

Good morning, Ian.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alison.

We have been talking to people on the ground in Syria. So far, the cease-fire seems to be holding. There have been reports of some sporadic fighting, but by and large, it is quiet today.

The cease-fire is three parts. First, the cessation of hostilities between both sides, Turkey and their allies, Russia and Syria regime and their allies. The second part is creating a way for dialogue, so if there are any violations, they can be taken care of without the collapse of the ceasefire. The third part is negotiation. They hope in a month's time, they'll be able to go to the negotiating table and hash out some sort of a peace deal and put an end to this war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. [04:45:01] But most noticeably missing from this is ISIS, Jabhat Fateh

al-Sham, which is the al Qaeda affiliate, formally known as Jabhat al Nusra, and also the YPG, which are Kurdish fighters who are part of the Syrian democratic force, which is backed by the United States.

KOSIK: You know, Ian, President Assad did make some news yesterday. He talked about President-elect Donald Trump saying there is optimism on his end about a Trump presidency. Talk to me more about that.

LEE: Let me read you that statement of what he said. He said, "Part of the optimism could be related to the better relations between with the United States and Russia. If there's good relations between these two great powers, most of the world, including small countries like Syria will be the beneficiaries of this relationship."

Basically, up until this point, the United (VIDEO GAP) has a firm position when it comes to Syria and also when it comes to President Bashar al-Assad. Russia and Syria are hoping under a Trump administration, there will be more wiggle room, more flexibility. Also with Trump signaling that he will have warmer, closer relations with Russia, they're hoping that can help as well.

Russia has even said that once Donald Trump does become president, he is welcome to be a part of this negotiating process. But until then, the United States and Barack Obama have been sidelined.

KOSIK: All right. CNN's Ian Lee, thanks so much.

JOHNS: Alison, new this morning, the United Kingdom criticizing Secretary of State John Kerry for his comments on Israel earlier this week. A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister Theresa May says it is not appropriate to go after the political composition of the democratically elected government of an ally. May's office goes on to say, "While it considers the settlements construction illegal, they are far from the only problem in the conflict with the Palestinians."

Kerry on Wednesday went after Israel's government as the most right wing in the state's history and portrayed the settlements as the biggest obstacle standing in the way of peace.

KOSIK: France is raising its so-called terror tax to help support victims. Citizens will pay almost $1.70 more on their property insurance policies. The cash goes directly to a fund set up for victims of terror attacks that recently hit the country. More than 200 people have died in France in attacks over the last 20 months. Eighty-six people died this summer in an attack in Nice, while 130 people were killed there in November 2015 attacks in Paris.

JOHNS: A record-breaking drug bust in Australia. Take a look at this. Authorities seized over 1,000 pounds of cocaine. It happened as police tracked a local fishing boat from central Sydney en route to Parsley Bay eight miles away. Officers moved in, when the drugs were being loaded off of the boat.

The raid is a result of a two and a half years investigation. Police say the cartel was local, but had international connections. Fifteen men were arrested in that operation.

KOSIK: All right. Time for an early start on your money. Global stocks are mixed this morning as markets enter the last trading day of 2016. And before you ask, I'm going to tell you, the Dow will not hit that elusive 20,000 mark today.

U.S. futures are higher after closing lower yesterday. Despite some of a lack luster end to the year, stocks, though, have enjoyed a great run in 2016. The Dow, the NASDAQ and S&P, they're all on track for solid annual gains. You look at the Dow now, it's up about 14 percent this year.

Mortgage rates rose for the ninth straight week yesterday. Now, the steepest increase in three years. That's according to mortgage provider Freddie Mac. So, why the hype? Well, mortgages are tied to bond market rates which have spiked since Donald Trump got elected.

But I'm going to give you a little perspective here. Even with the jump, the average rate in 2016 was the lowest on record for the past 45 years. So, keep in mind the Fed is on a trend to raise interest rates incrementally.

But even before the Fed went ahead and raised rates this month, interest rates were going up a little bit.

JOHNS: Yes, the 20,000 mark looks like it's not happen this year anyway.

KOSIK: Well, probably not this year. But never say never for next year.

JOHNS: You got it.

Security being stepped up in a big way right here in New York ahead of the big New Year's eve festivities in times square. New steps taken to protect millions ringing in 2017.


[04:52:37] KOSIK: Welcome back.

The New York City Police Department ramping up security in Times Square for New Year's Eve. At least 2 million people are expected to pack the crossroads of the world and authorities say they are pulling out all the stops in order to keep revelers safe.

CNN's Brynn Gingras has a preview of what to expect.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe and Alison, 2 million people are expected to ring in the New Year here in Times Square on New Year's Eve. And you can imagine it basically takes an army to protect the city against any possible threat.

Now, no credible threats against the ball drop at this point, according to the NYPD, but every precaution is taking place. We are told by the NYPD, they are actually preparing for this once the ball drops earlier this year. It is a multilayer level of security.

Two things to note, though, that we haven't seen in previous years at this particular event, and that is 65 sand trucks and 100 barrier trucks which are basically department vehicles, they are going to form a perimeter around this Times Square area. That is in direct response to the truck-style attacks that we saw in both Nice and in Berlin.

We also know, just within the last few weeks, authorities with the NYPD have been visiting truck rental centers. They've been visiting parking garages. They've been talking to hotel owners just to make sure keeping every precaution for the security again is going to track millions as they ring in this New Year -- Joe and Alison.


JOHNS: Or you can just watch Anderson Cooper.

KOSIK: There you go. That's a nice plug.

JOHNS: Right. And it won't be cold, I know.


JOHNS: Mild temperatures for the festivities in Times Square. But it's going to be a snowy white New Year for many in New England.

Let's get to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Joe and Alison, what a blustery Friday shaping up across portions of the Northeast, and 40 miles, that was the magical number away from the metro cities where it transitions out of rain and into snow. And it looks like it will remain that way through much of Friday morning.

There is the center of the storm system again keeping it blustery for Friday afternoon. But look at these accumulations in just 12 hours. Up to 2 feet across portions of Maine on into Vermont as well. The center of circulation exits out of Maine. We do have some lake- enhanced snow showers left in place back behind it.

But notice the heaviest in which in northern Maine where it is left in place. Still could see upwards to six to 10 inches potentially through this morning into the early afternoon hours.

[04:55:04] The good news is temps moderate back out a bit as we go to the first few days of 2017.

Look at this, temps in Orlando from the 60s to the 70s to the 80s over the next several days. Even Atlanta wants to warm up into the mid-60s over the next few days and just first week of 2017 looks like by the middle of next week, potentially coming back down into the freezing mark -- guys. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSIK: OK, Pedram, thanks very much.

A South Carolina judge ordering Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof to undergo a second competency evaluation before his sentencing. It comes a day after Roof who represents himself in the trial's penalty phase said he would give an opening statement, but not call witnesses or submit any evidence. The competency hearing is scheduled for Monday. Roof facing the death penalty for killing nine black parishioners at a Charleston church last year.

JOHNS: North Charleston police officer Michael Slager facing a retrial in March in the murder of Walter Scott. A mistrial was declared earlier this month after jurors said they were unable to come to a unanimous decision. Slager is accused of gunning down Scott, who is unarmed, during a traffic stop last April. Video of the incident appears to show the moment Slager killed Scott as he ran away. That footage has garnered national attention.

KOSIK: 2016 was the deadliest year for police officers nationwide since 2011. A report by the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund finds this: 135 officers died in 2016. Some died in traffic accidents, but nearly half were shot to death. That is a 56 percent increase in shooting deaths over the previous year. Of the 64 officers shot and killed in the line of duty, 21 were killed in ambush attacks.

JOHNS: A mother/daughter funeral is reportedly being planned for Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. ABC News is reporting that Todd Fisher, that's Reynolds' son and Fisher's brother, says a joint funeral is in the works, where the two screen legends will be honored side by side. He says, at the moment, there is no set date or location for memorial service. The 84-year-old Reynolds died Wednesday, one day after Fisher passed away at the age of 60.

KOSIK: All right. Let's get an early start on your money. Global stocks are mixed this morning, as markets get into the last trading day of 2016. The Dow, it's not going to hit that elusive 20,000 mark. That's what I'm guessing today.

But U.S. futures are higher after closing lower yesterday. Now, analysts expect another day of light trading. Stocks have enjoyed a great run in 2016.

Markets recovered from one of the worst ever beginnings of the year to hit a series of record highs. The Dow, the NASDAQ and S&P, they're all on track for solid annual gains.

Run DMC is bringing Amazon and Walmart to court. Darryl DMC McDaniels of the iconic rap group filed a $50 million lawsuit against the retailers on Thursday for selling products that use the group's name without permission. The lawsuit alleges the retailers have profited from and harmed the Run DMC brand which generated more than $100 million since the 1980s.

And speaking of Amazon, it may soon have floating warehouses? Uh-huh. That is according to a recent patent filed by the company.

So, stay with me here. The airborne fulfillment centers would use blimps at 45,000 feet. So, these Blimps would store products and send out delivery drones to fulfill actually the blimps would have the drones. They will send out these drones to get orders and deliver these orders in minutes.

And now, possibly the regulatory issues aside, this is years away from happening. But drone delivery may begin in the near future. The company laid out plans to start using them next year. Imagine the blimps. It will be crowded out there.

JOHNS: It sounds like "Independence Day." You know, the movie where the big thing --

KOSIK: The future is here now.

JOHNS: I don't want to think about that.

EARLY START continues right now.


JOHNS: Happening now, the Russians finalizing response to unprecedented sanctions leveled by the White House over the election hack. How will Moscow fight back? We're live in Russia.

KOSIK: A new cease-fire finally taking effect in Syria after more than five years of bloodshed. Is the pause enough to get the sides talking about a lasting peace? We're live in the Middle East.

JOHNS: And they are getting ready to party in Times Square. Less than 48 hours to the big ball drop, security is being stepped up ahead of the New Year's Eve celebration. We will tell you what steps are taken.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Joe Johns.

KOSIK: Good morning. I'm Alison Kosik. It's Friday, December the 30th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East. John and Christine are off.

And this morning, we are waiting to see what steps the Russians plan to take. They are vowing to retaliate likely today for the sanctions President Obama has just laid down, punishing Russia for election hacking.