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McCain Calls For Senate Hearing On Russian Cyber Threats; Putin Declines To Retaliate Against Us With Sanctions; State Department "Surprised" By U.K. Backlash To Kerry Speech; The Year's Top Media Stories; Ivanka's Role In Trump's White House. Aired 11-12p ET

Aired December 31, 2016 - 11:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone, thank you so much for joining me I'm Fredricka Whitfield in New York this holiday weekend. Take a look right now, live pictures right now, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines, all ringing in 2017 just a few moments ago. It's a beautiful celebration there. Fireworks, take a closer look at Hong Kong.

Spectacular or what? That was Hong Kong, Manila, Philippines, and Taipei, Taiwan where they are all going into 2017 with an incredible beautiful bang. And of course, we'll bring you all the New Year celebrations as they happen.

All right, but first we are following two major stories. A Vermont Electric Company says it has found malware linked to Russian hackers on a company laptop. It's the same malicious code that government officials believe was used by hackers to meddle in the U.S. elections. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, lashing out at Russian President Vladimir Putin saying, "Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world's leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality of life, economy, health and safety."

The criticism is not hurting the relationship between Putin and President-elect Donald Trump. Putin congratulating Trump in his annual New Year's statement, and Trump tweeting Putin was a "very smart man" for not retaliating against the U.S. for imposing sweeping sanctions on Russia for the election hack which included expelling about three dozen Russian diplomats.

So these are new pictures now from Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C. A plane which we believe will be carrying the expelled Russian officials back to Moscow. The officials have to leave by noon Sunday. Our team is covering this story from all angles. We begin with CNN's Polo Sandoval. So, Polo, a spokesman, for that utility company in Vermont, calling this an attempt to infiltrate utility systems, what more do we know about this intrusion?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, we that we would be dealing with a much different outcome had the power grid, that's run by this utility company been compromised. Which we're told according to this company, Burlington Electric, did not happen. Here's what we understand did happen yesterday. We're told that that utility company was told by the U.S.

government, by the Department of Homeland Security to basically, take a closer look at some of their network security. They did in fact notice grisly step, which is some malicious software. Now, that sounds familiar, that's because that's the same software that was reportedly used by Russian hackers to try, or at least to attempt, to influence November's elections. Well, what's important to keep in mind here, is that the laptop that reportedly contained this malicious software was not actually hooked into the system that services close to 20,000 people there, in that utility system - or in the utility company.

[11:05:00] So, it's very important to keep in mind here, because according to some lawmakers who are definitely sounding the alarm, including at least one Vermont senator, things could have been much worse. I want to read you a very small portion of a statement that was released by Vermont's Senator Patrick Leahy, we do have that, we can bring that out for you, saying, "This is beyond hackers having electronic joy rides, this is now about trying to access utilities to potentially manipulate the grid and shut it down in the middle of winter. This is a direct threat to Vermont and we do not take it lightly."

So, again, while the situation could have been worse, this is still, also a very eye opening experience for officials here in the U.S. They have known that the potential of a cyberattack on some of the critical infrastructure here in the United States. In fact, a year ago in Ukraine, there was a massive cyberattack that this could cripple the power grid system and left so many people, hundreds of people in the dark.

So, as a result, officials here in the U.S. have been advising some of these companies, Fred, to take a closer look at some of the networking systems and that's what they did this week and that's what they noticed.

WHITFIELD: All right, Polo Sandoval, keep us posted. Thank you so much. All right, so far, Russia has not responded to the Vermont hacking allegations. But Vladimir Putin did personally congratulate President-elect Trump, not President Obama, in a statement to foreign heads of state yesterday. Looking ahead to after Trump takes office, Putin writing this, "-- acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner, will be able to take real steps to restore the mechanisms of bilateral cooperation in various areas and take their interaction in the international arena to a whole new level." Putin also released his annual New Year's message to the nation today, in which he called 2016, "a difficult year." CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance has more now from Moscow.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, Vladimir Putin's New Year address has already been broadcast in the Far East of Russia where it's of course, already 2017. I've got the text right here. It's a pretty general congratulations to the people across this vast country after what Putin said, had been "a very difficult year."

No mention though of Donald Trump or President Obama this time, just a call on Russians to be truthful and merciful. And it is as Vladimir, the merciful, that the Russian president cast himself yesterday with this dramatic refusal to respond in kind to the U.S. expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats over allegations of election hacking. In a classic political theater, Putin publicly rejected the advice of his own foreign ministry and said that no one would be expelled over this holiday period. He even invited the children of U.S. diplomats based in Moscow to watch New Year performances at the Kremlin.

He also made a direct appeal to Donald Trump, sidestepping the Obama administration and saying that the future of U.S./Russian relations would depend entirely on the policies of the incoming Trump administration. Well, President-elect Trump at least appreciated that, sending his own tweets, applauding Putin's decision not to respond to the expulsions of the Russian diplomats. Saying, "I always knew he was very smart." Putin will doubtlessly be very happy with that. Back to you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Matthew Chance, thank you so much.

All right, Donald Trump is returning that praise from the Russian president, applauding Putin's decision to not expel American diplomats in response to U.S. sanctions against Russia. Trump tweeting, "Great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart." CNN's Ryan Nobles joins me now from Washington with more on this. So Ryan, how is this tweet being received?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, it is shaping up to be a pretty big showdown for Donald Trump when he takes office here in the next couple of weeks because there are several Republican senators who seem to be concerned with this warm relationship that the president-elect has with Russia. And the fact that he seems not willing to take a hard look at this evidence that the Intelligence Community has put forward, in which they believe pretty definitively that Russia actively tried to get involved in the United States' election through the hacking of DNC computers and some Hillary Clinton official e-mails.

Now, Donald Trump has said that he'd like to move on. In fact, he said that in a statement from a couple of days ago. He does not believe this evidence and as for the most part, rejected it. This morning he put out a tweet talking about the New Year, and specifically calling out some of his enemies in that tweet. Let's show it to you now. It says, "Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly. They just don't know what to do." And he finishes it off with "Love!"

And Donald Trump will be celebrating New Year's Eve at his resort in Mar-a-Lago in South Florida. Some 800 people are expected to be in attendance at this party, which does require admission. Tickets are more than $500. There will be some celebrities in attendance, including Sylvester Stallone. Now, initially the transition had told us that, Quincy Jones, the recording artist and producer was going to be there.

[11:10:15] Jones, tweeting this morning, that he'll be in Los Angeles. So, he won't be in Florida. And Fred, Donald Trump expected to return back to New York tomorrow evening.

WHITFIELD: All right, Ryan Nobles, thank you so much in Washington.

All right, straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM, Republican John McCain says, Russia must pay for hacking the U.S. election.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: When you attack a country, it's an act of war.


WHITFIELD: The political fallout and Vladimir Putin's message to the U.S. Then, in New York, tight security for tonight's Times Square New Year's Eve celebration, a live report.


BILL DE BLASIO, (D) NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: A lot you will see and as per usual, a lot you will not see.



WHITFIELD: Welcome back. While Russian President Vladimir Putin and President-elect Donald Trump both dismissed accusations that Russia interfered in U.S. elections. U.S. officials say evidence of an entirely new intrusion is surfacing. A Vermont utility company says one of its laptops contain the same malware Russian hackers used to meddle in U.S. elections. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy says the state is taking this very seriously, telling CNN, "This is beyond hackers having electronic joy rides" and calling this incident "a direct threat to Vermont." This comes as many Republicans are backing President Obama's sanctions against Russia. Some lawmakers, including Republican Senator John McCain, don't feel the sanctions go far enough.


MCCAIN: When you attack a country, it's an act of war. And so, we have to make sure that there is a price to pay. So that we can perhaps persuade the Russians to stop these kind of attacks on our very fundamentals of democracy.


WHITFIELD: All right, so much to talk about here. I want to bring in Larry Sabato. He is the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and a CNN political commentator, Ryan Lizza. He is also a Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker." Good to see both of you. - All right. So Larry, you first, do you agree with McCain, that this is an act of war. This should be treated as such. The sanctions don't go far enough and more needs to be done. He's going to be having hearings this coming week.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: This is a warning to President Trump. And I think John McCain actually is reflecting the views of a large majority of Republicans in both the House and the Senate.

[11:15:16] And when you look at the Democratic side, they strongly support for the most part, what President Obama has done with regard to Russia's sanctions. You can actually see a veto-proof majority for any legislation that would pass regarding Russian sanctions that President Trump might veto.

So I think, you know, the fact that this Vermont utility now has been included, there by proving the warnings of many of our intelligence officials going back years. It makes it much more difficult for President Trump once he gets into office to reverse any of the sanctions that President Obama has levied.

WHITFIELD: House Intel Committee member Adam Schiff, you know, talked to Jim Sciutto just yesterday. This is what he said.



REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: I think he did. I think this would have been more powerful had it come earlier, had it been in combination with our allies. That would be very tough to put together in the last couple of weeks of your office. But I think these are significant steps, nonetheless. I don't think this is superficial. And I'm hoping that what the administration is doing covertly is even more significant than what it is doing overtly.


WHITFIELD: So, Ryan, is that the issue here? Should it have taken place earlier for the Obama administration when we know from the White House, they said, they didn't do it just leading up to the election because it would appear, as though, it was putting the thumb on the scale for Hillary Clinton win.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT "THE NEW YORKER": Yes. I think they were in a bit of a bind before the election. Knowing from the Intelligence Community, at least as far back as October, that this was Russian state sponsored hacking, that was according to the Intelligence Community, authorized by Putin. They were in a bind because if they acted overtly, which is the only way to deter this kind of activity, you have to do it -- you have to respond publicly, otherwise, you're not going to deter it. It can't just be covert.

If they had done that, I think their argument is that that would have looked like they were meddling in the election, that they were taking a very provocative action in the middle of a close election between Hillary Clinton and Trump. And I think, frankly, their calculation was partly based on the fact that they thought Hillary Clinton would win and they could figure out what to do after the election was over. That in hind sight looks like a mistake and you have a bipartisan chorus put aside Donald Trump for a second. But you have a bipartisan chorus of Democrats and Republicans now in Congress who are saying, this is a little bit too little, too late.

I think we have to see what the full -- you know, we know what the administration did publicly. We don't -- and may never know what they're doing privately. And, you know, that's one way to judge if this is enough.

WHITFIELD: So, Larry, so much at stake for so many, you know, different entities here. And now you have Donald Trump who is tweeting yesterday, praising Putin for reacting to, you know, Obama's sanctions saying "Great move on the delay. I always knew he was very smart." Is it your feeling, Larry, that Donald Trump might regret all of this praise just now 20 days ahead of swearing in. First order of business just might be what more sanctions, what more penalties to impose on Russia?

SABATO: My sense of Donald Trump is he doesn't go through life regretting very much. So I don't know. But I do think that if he cozies up to Vladimir Putin too much, he is going to risk rebuke, not by the Democrats because they don't have the power to rebuke him in Congress. He risks a rebuke from his own party that's the real risk to Trump. And just to add a note --

WHITFIELD: Does it seem the stage is already set for that?

SABATO: Well, the stage may be set, but of course he takes office January 20th and for all we know, he may change his tune. You know, he's done that on a lot of issues -- over these many years. If I can add just one thing to what Ryan said -- about the election. Believe me, the Clinton high command wishes bitterly that Barack Obama had taken those actions against Putin prior to the election. They needed that roll of the dice. Maybe it wouldn't have changed anything, but they would certainly have liked to have seen it.

WHITFIELD: All right. Larry Sabato, Ryan Lizza, thanks to both of you, appreciate it.

LIZZA: Thanks Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, also coming up, security and terrorism concerns making for a rather jittery backdrop to New Year's Eve celebrations here in this city and beyond. CNN's Jessica Schneider is covering this for us, right down the street, Times Square. What's going on?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, Fred, the barricades are up. Police are in place. This is New Year's Eve in New York City. Coming up, I'll tell you about those enhanced security measures this year and why they're necessary.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:22:48] WHITFIELD: Another gorgeous display, bringing in the

New Year, this time from Sydney, Australia, stunning celebration there on the Harbour to welcome in 2017. All right, New York City is also very busy preparing for its New Year's celebration. As many as 7,000 police officers will be patrolling Times Square tonight. The city is ramping up security after recent terror attacks in France and Germany. CNN's Jessica Schneider is in Times Square now where right now, there's not a whole lot of people, but you know, a few hundred there with you, Jessica. So what more do we know about the extra precautions being taken?

SCHNEIDER: They're trickling in, Fred. It's a bit chilly out here. So, they're saving up their energy for that big ball drop at midnight. But you know this is really the magic of the NYPD. This is all a carefully coordinated and choreographed endeavor. I'm going to step back here and you can the crowds but you can also see the barricades here and you can see the police presence back there and all around here. This is just one of the many security measures.

They've upped the ante this year. They've actually put out 65 sanitation trucks filled with sand. They're all on the perimeter here of Times Square, ranging from down below 42nd Street up to 59th Street. They're also putting in 1,000 block vehicles to protect this area as well. Of course, there's concern, no credible threat, however, about some of those ISIS inspired attacks that we've seen over in Europe. So they're putting up every precaution. They've also got 7,000 officers stationed all over the city, including 550 new graduates from the police academy.

And when it comes to these pens right here, there will be 65 of them set up here in Times Square. Each of them filled with upwards of 3,000 people. And I've already talked with some of those people here, some of them arriving as early as 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. to wait a number of hours until that ball drop. I talked to a few young ones from Florida. Take a listen.


BRIANNA BORSHEIM, STUDENT UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA: We all left together at like USF and so, we planned this trip out a year ago. And so, we're really excited. We've been looking forward to the ball drop since last New Year's. I'm really looking forward to watching the ball drop with five of my really good friends.


SCHNEIDER: Some very hardy spectators here. They've been planning for an entire year,

[11:25:16] here in Times Square. But you know Fred, my favorite part of New Year's Eve here in Times Square, the glasses. I get them every year. I'm ready for 2017, Happy New Year.

WHITFIELD: I like those, too. I nearly picked up the blinking pair last night. I think I'm going to have to go back and swap some up. All right, thank you so much. I'll be out there with you. -- SCHNEIDER: Great.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much. Jessica Schneider, appreciate it. All right, we'll be right back.


[11:28:47] WHITFIELD: Good morning, again, everyone I'm Fredricka Whitfield in New York. Thank you so much for joining me this New Year's Eve. All right, the U.S. Senate is moving to take action against Russia for election year hacking. The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain will now hold a hearing on cyber threats, Thursday. And Russian hacking is likely to dominate this discussion.


MCCAIN: When you attack a country, it's an act of war. And so, we have to make sure that there is a price to pay. So that we can perhaps persuade the Russians to stop these kind of attacks on our very fundamentals of democracy.


WHITFIELD: The news comes as the clock ticks for Russian diplomats, suspected spies and their families to get out of the U.S. CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto has more.

SCIUTTO: Fred, Vladimir Putin perhaps, sensing there will be a friendlier administration in the White House under Donald Trump, as well as putting together a little bit of political theater here, avoiding responding to the hard U.S. sanctions for Russia's meddling in the U.S. election.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Russians vacating compounds shut down by the U.S. Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, dismissing Washington's payback, instead, wishing President Obama and his family a happy New Year saying in a statement, quote, "We will not stoop to the level of irresponsible diplomacy. It is a pity the President Obama administration finishes its work this way. But nevertheless, I congratulate him and his family a Happy New Year."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recommended Putin expel 35 American diplomats from Russian after the U.S. ordered 35 alleged Russian spies to leave the U.S. by this weekend.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): We cannot let such escapades happen without a response. The Russian Foreign Ministry together with our colleagues from other departments have made a proposal to declare 31 staff from the Embassy of Moscow and four diplomats from the General Consulate at St. Petersburg as persona nongrata.

SCIUTTO: President Putin likely waiting for a far friendlier administration under Donald Trump did not take that advice saying in a statement, "We will not create problems for American diplomats. We will not send anyone away."

With a stroke of drama, Putin even issued this invitation to American children "In response to the new U.S. sanctions, I invite all children of the U.S. diplomats to the New Year and Christmas children's show at the Kremlin. Signed yours sincerely, Vladimir Putin."

The U.S. shut down two Russian government-owned compounds, one in New York where law enforcement was seen outside, and another in Maryland, a 45-acre property purchased by the Soviet government in 1972.

Vehicles were seen leaving the Maryland estate and returning to the Russian Embassy in Washington. The White House says the Russians working at the compounds were spying on the U.S.

LISA MONACO, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: What these individuals were doing were basically collecting intelligence. They were intelligence officers operating here and using these compounds, one in New York, one in Maryland, for intelligence collection purposes.

SCIUTTO: Russia refutes that the estates were being used for espionage.

VITALY CHURKIN, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I think it's quite scandalous that they chose to go after our kids, you know. They know full well that those two facilities, which they mentioned in their notes, they are vacation facilities for our kids. This is Christmastime.

SCIUTTO: Four of the Russians sanctioned by the U.S. are part of the Russian military intelligence unit known as the GRU. One of them is the unit's chief.

MICHAEL WEISS, CNN COMMENTATOR: It's assigning blame to Russia's military intelligence service, but the actual perpetrators of these hacks are contractors if you like. People who have been found by the Russian government to do their dirty work for them.


SCIUTTO: Keep in mind that election hacking is not the only disagreement between the U.S. and Russia, you have the annexation of Crimea, invasion of Ukraine, bombing of civilian in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria. All those issues are one that Donald Trump will have to face as president as well -- Fred.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

All right, let's talk more about this diplomatic duel between the U.S. and Russia. I'm joined now by CNN contributor and editor emeritus of "World Policy Journal," David Andelman. Good to see you again in what appears to be a very nice snowy Pennsylvania. Happy New Year. Perfect for the topic.

All right. So, David, this latest exchange involving Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin and really kind of solidifying this envy of one another. You have John McCain who says this is an act of war and now the latest news this morning that a Vermont utility laptop may have been infiltrated by Russian hackers.

How do you assess all of this and how does this heightened the stakes in terms of these Russian/U.S. relations as a new president is set to get underway in 20 days?

DAVID ANDELMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The most troubling aspect is without question the electrical grid and this laptop in Vermont. You'll recall when I was in Estonia and Latvia, the headquarters at Cyber- command last October.

I asked them what constitutes an act of war when it comes to cyber terrorism. They said somebody would have to die and be hurt as a result of this. Now attacking our way of life is certainly a terrible operation, no doubt about that.

But attacking the electrical grid itself that could be considered an act of war because especially in a place like Vermont, taking down the electrical grid in the middle of the winter means people are left without heat, light or any ability to warm themselves. People can die in that situation.

That would be considered a real act of war and perhaps ultimately a concrete retaliation. So that's what is very important about this and going forward, I think that's what Congress and the Trump administration have to examine. What is the ultimate end of Russia in all of this?

[11:35:03]Is it to actually provoke something that could be considered an act of war or is it simply a matter of, you know -- it's the matter of manipulating our elections and other elections. That might not be considered an act of war, believe it or not.

WHITFIELD: So by noon tomorrow, 35 of these Russians who have been enjoying the United States now have to leave. They are among those being expelled by the U.S. Is it your feeling that that gets to the heart of the matter of who may be facilitating or helping to orchestrate this Russian hacking?

Or is it your belief that there are contractors that, perhaps, may be receiving the directive from any number of these diplomats, who still will have the means in which to do or continue on with this business?

ANDELMAN: Oh, I think the business will continue more without any of these 35 people. I suspect a lot of the 35 people are people that the FBI was watching. The FBI is really responsible for identifying Russian spy and other spies.

These are the 35 people they've identified as being perhaps the most plugged in, most pernicious individuals and ones they'd like to get rid of. Are they responsible for this hacking? I seriously doubt that, but that can be traced by the kremlin and the GRU, the military intelligence agency of Vladimir Putin.

WHITFIELD: David Andelman, thank you so much. Happy New Year.

ANDELMAN: Happy New Year, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead, an extraordinary rebuke from the British prime minister to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over his speech criticizing Israel. Details on the diplomatic fallout next.


WHITFIELD: More diplomatic fallout after a U.N. Security Council vote condemning Israel for settlement activity in the West Bank. [11:40:02]The U.S. State Department now saying it is surprised by the criticism of U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's office regarding U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's speech this week criticizing Israel.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution, but his current coalition is the most right wing in Israeli history with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements.

The result is that policies of this government, which the prime minister himself just described, has more committed to settlements than any in Israel's history, are leading in the opposite direction, they're leaning towards one state.


WHITFIELD: British Prime Minister Theresa May released a response, a chiding Kerry saying, quote, "It's not appropriate to attack the composition of a democratically elected ally."

CNN international correspondent, Phil Black, has more now from London on this. Phil, what is this statement symbolic of?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's really quite extraordinary, Fredricka, the tone, the language, the pointed criticism because this is not how these two countries, America and Britain, traditionally speak to one another. They're usually incredibly supportive and talk about what they described time and again as their special relationship.

Instead, you have this statement from the British prime minister making very pointed criticisms, as you just saw there, against the Obama administration and Secretary Kerry and his comments in particular.

We heard a response from the U.S. State Department, which basically says where did this come from? Let's look at the language here more closely. This is what the State Department says, "We are surprised by the U.K. prime minister's office statement given that Secretary Kerry's remarks, which covered the full range of threats to a two-state solution including terrorism, violence, incitement and settlements were in line with the U.K.'s own long-standing policy and its vote at the United Nations last week."

What the State Department is saying there is, Secretary Kerry has not said or done anything that is in any way a significant departure from Britain's own policies, long-standing policies on this issue. And more than, Britain went ahead of the United States by voting in favor of the resolution at the Security Council criticizing Israel's settlement activity.

Because remember the United States merely abstained from the vote there. There is an inconsistency between Theresa May's criticism and British policy for some time now. This is being noted by the State Department. It's being noted by commentators here as well, which leads everyone to ask why, what is behind this?

I think the best guess is that this is an attempt by the British prime minister to ingratiate herself with the incoming American presidential administration, President-elect Trump. Perhaps also an attempt to smooth things over with the Israelis after voting in favor of that resolution.

But whatever the motivation, you can't emphasize how extraordinary this is. It is a major departure from the way that Britain and the United States normally talk to each other publicly.

WHITFIELD: All right. Phil Black in London thanks so much.

All right, coming up, one of Trump's targets in 2016, the press. Up next, CNN's run down of the top ten media moments of the year.



WHITFIELD: All right. Fake news, Twitter wars, mega mergers and an unprecedented election campaign. CNN's senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter counts down the top ten media moments that we will not forget from 2016.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Debates, downfalls feuds and failures. A presidential election that challenged the media like never before culminating in an unprecedented outcome. Here are the top ten media stories of 2016.

(voice-over): Number ten, an emotional homecoming, "Washington Post" reporter, Jason Rezaian freed in January after 545 days in an Iranian prison.

JASON REZAIAN, REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": To my colleagues at "The Post," you guys are awesome.

STELTER: His imprisonment, a stark reminder of the dangers journalists face every day around the globe.

Number nine, the Kelly Ripa, Michael Strahan feud. Blindsided by news her live co-host was leaving for GMA, Ripa skipped work for four days.

KELLY RIPA: Guys, our long national nightmare is over.

STELTER: She returned after a personal apology from Disney and ABC execs and Strahan left the show weeks earlier than planned.

(on camera): Number eight, corporate media maneuvers. Longtime Viacom CEO, Philip Demond squeezed out by Sheri Redsville, the daughter of 93-year-old Somner, the (inaudible) patriarch and controlling shareholder.

(voice-over): The two were estranged for a while but Sherry is heir to the corporate throne. The biggest media merger of the decade, AT&T seeking to buy Time Warner, the parents of CNN in an $85 billion marriage of content and distribution. Donald Trump slammed the deal while on the campaign trail. Whether he tries to block it now remains to be seen.

Number seven, the role of leaks. From Wikileaks exposing hacked Clinton campaign e-mails to the bombshell "Access Hollywood" tape, secret scoops rocked political journalism this year. Someone even mailed Trump's 1995 tax return to "The New York Times." But what never leaked, raw footage from "The Apprentice."

Number six, good bye Gawker, a jury ruling the gossip site invaded Hulk Hogan's privacy when it published parts of a sex tape featuring the former wrestler.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: The $140 million sex tape.

STELTER: A multi-million dollar judgment forced Gawker into bankruptcy and the flagship site was later shut down. A warning to journalist everywhere. In a surprise twist, Silicon Valley billionaire, Peter Teal, revealed he had been secretly banK rolling the lawsuits. His revenge for what he believed was Gawker outing him in 2007.

Number five, fake news stories, hoaxes on the web, polluting Facebook timelines and Twitter streams. Some now wondering if it helped tilt the election for Trump although Facebook says no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't think it swayed the election, but we take that responsibility really seriously.

STELTER: Facebook and Google did announce steps to halt the flow of ad dollars to the creators of these totally fake sites. The new age of information warfare is just beginning.

Number four, Alt-Right media out of the shadows. When Trump named Steve Bannon, the head of Breitbart News as his campaign CEO, critics say it brought fringe conspiracy ideas into the mainstream of politics. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bannon and Breitbart were real champions of Trump.

STELTER: Bannon once called Breitbart the platform for the Alt Right, a movement linked to white nationalism, racism and misogynic. Now, Bannon will be the president's chief strategist. Stoking fears the Alt-Right will have a more powerful platform right inside the White House, a charge Bannon denies.

[11:50:08]Number three, the stunning down fall of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with some breaking news, a media bombshell.

STELTER: In July, former Fox host, Gretchen Carlson, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes. Two weeks later, he was out. Although he strongly denied the allegations, multiple women inside Fox including Megyn Kelly, came forward with similar stories. It was a shocking end for the controversial GOP king maker and mastermind of the country's highest rated cable news channel.

Number two, one of the biggest media miscues in decades, Donald Trump winning the presidency, something most of the press never believed would actually happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't do our job as well as we should have and could have.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a complete failure at every step of the process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think polling has to get better about describing the uncertainties.

STELTER: Trump's win was a thundering wake up call. The limits of polling and limits of data and reminder that national news outlets need to do a better job covering race, class and inequality or else risked losing even more public confidence.

Number one, running against the press. The most anti-media campaign in modern history. It started in 2015, but Trump doubled down in 2016.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: I'm running against the crooked media. We have to put up with some of the most dishonest people in the world the media.

STELTER: His very personal feud with Megyn Kelly simmered down by mid-year, but Trump still called out other journalists by name.

TRUMP: Katey, you are not reporting it, Katey, there is something happening, Katey. This sleazy guy from ABC, he's a sleaze, in my book.

STELTER: He fired off angry tweets at news outlets treating them like enemies and got his crowds chanting. Trump declared war on the press and the campaign was just the first battle.

(on camera): It sets up a colossal challenge for the media in 2017, covering President Trump. Brian Stelter, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: All right, with today being New Year's Eve, we're taking a look at celebrations around the world. Let's be uplifted now. Apple partnered with Instagrammers to capture the fireworks and key moments such as these. These imagines from Australia, taken on the brand new iPhone 7. Wow. Happy New Year.



WHITFIELD: Welcome back. In just 20 days, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Donald Trump moves into the White House, but he will be moving without Melania Trump at first. She says she will join him later after their son's school year ends.

Meantime, still at his side throughout, Ivanka Trump. She's been a powerful force in her father's campaign and on the transition team. We've learned Trump aides are planning for a first family's office with Ivanka assuming a very prominent role. So would she act as the official White House hostess?

Joining me now is Kate Anderson Brower, the author of "First Women, The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies." Good to see you, Kate.

So it's kind of awkward and strange and weird, but maybe it's kind of the new things that we're referring to first lady roles, but we're talking about his daughter, Ivanka Trump. So how will she kind of assume some of those roles or will she be, you know, a more powerful force in terms of policy making or influence?

KATE ANDERSON BROWER, AUTHOR, "FIRST WOMEN": I think she will be a more powerful force, you know, as sort of senior adviser, aide, kind of beyond what we've seen with first ladies who are typically, even someone like Michelle Obama, very highly educated woman who was a real mom and she took on very traditional issues, was very effective doing that.

But I think this is kind of redefining how we see a first lady, do we need a first lady to live in the White House. I mean, it's pretty incredible that Melania will be spending the first few months in New York. But people in Trump world have told me that Melania will still be involved and active first lady from New York.

WHITFIELD: And she has said that cyberbullying is going to be something she wants to really spearhead which is interesting in this age right now, the whole Russian cyber war on going. That's another topic. Back to this role of being a hostess, what does that mean, really? BROWER: I don't know if we really need someone to fulfill that duty necessarily. If you look back at history, we've had first ladies who have not been the life of the president, when life expectancies were shorter. You had Martha Jefferson who filled in for her mother who passed away, you know, 20 years before President Jefferson was sworn in.

So this is something that we've seen before. I do think it's important to at least have somebody there for the beginning, you know, to give -- during state dinners and events like that. I think we will see Melania Trump coming to Washington and fulfilling some of those roles.

It's going to take some getting used to I think for the American public to see this position change a little bit and see a daughter who is as involved as Ivanka Trump is at this point.

WHITFIELD: You know, oftentimes I think this nation is very forgiving and allowing a first lady to kind of take their time getting used to a huge role, nobody really can understand it or know it unless you've been in it yourself and we've heard from many first ladies who talk about how gratuitous, you know, their predecessors have been in helping them make the transition.

So do you see anyone that would try to help Ivanka, you know, make this kind of transition? Would she be receiving advice from other first ladies or is there somebody else who would be reaching out to her because of this role hostess?

BROWER: Well, I know that Trumps and her folks were working with Melania are talking to former aides to Laura Bush, so they are reaching out to other people who have worked in the east wing before. So I think that even though this was a really bitter, divisive campaign, there is going to be, as you say, an effort for, you know, Republican administrations before them, like the Bushes.

We see with the Obamas, they've said that they will do whatever it takes to help the Trumps. There is this great spirit of peaceful transition in this country and I think we'll continue to see that.

It is just fascinating, given what we've seen in this election, to watch them move beyond some of that language and to really help each other, like you said, no one knows what it is like until you have done it. First ladies in particular have a lot of empathy for one another.

WHITFIELD: Yes. All right, Kate Anderson Brower, it really is a very special sorority of sorts over that. All right, thank you so much.

BROWER: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: All right, the next hour of the NEWSROOM starts right now --