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Potential New Hacking Attempt From Russia; New Year's Eve Crowd Expected in the Times Square; Parents of American Journalist Missing in Syria Speaking Out; President-Elect Donald Trump's Enthusiastic Praise for Russia's president Vladimir Putin. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired December 31, 2016 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. I'm Suzanne Malveaux in Washington in for Poppy Harlow. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. Welcome.

We begin with a potential new hacking attempt from Russia, this time against an electric company in Vermont. Burlington Electric says that malicious malware has been discord on one of its laptops and U.S. authorities believe that it is the same malware Russian hackers used to meddle in the presidential election.

Vermont's Governor Peter Shumlin already taking a hardline stand saying in a statement quote "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. This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling."

The strong condemnation comes as the president elect offers anything but. Instead Donald Trump's relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin appears to only be growing friendlier with Trump praising Putin's response to new U.S. sanctions. Trump tweeting this saying, great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart.

I want to bring in our Polo Sandoval who is following the quickly developing story.

And Polo, let's start first with potential U.S. reaction here. Do U.S. officials believe that Russia is now behind this new intrusion?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's a great question, Suzanne. And there is at least one reason for U.S. officials to believe that there could, and I say could, be potential Russian vomit in this latest cyber threat. And will explain on that in just a few seconds.

But first that company that you mentioned a few moments ago, Burlington Electric just releasing a fresh new statement about 20 minutes ago. In it they reiterate what we have been reporting much of today that company officials there have no reason to believe -- or at least no indication that the electrical grid that serves about 20,000 people there in Vermont and also that their customer information they have no reason to believe that both were compromised as a result of this malware that was located on one of their laptop computers. This all goes down or it all goes back to that initial discovery that was made of this possible malware -- malicious software, if you will, that was located and discovered on that laptop computer often referred to by officials in the United States as grizzly steppe. That's sounds familiar. That is because the same malicious code that was used for that DNC hacking during November's election. So that by -- by Russian hackers. That is why officials have reason to believe there could be a potential Russian link.

But again, they are still investigating all of this. Jim Sciutto, one of our colleagues was told by a U.S. government official that they are still trying to determine the scope, the intent, and also whether or not this was an isolated incident. But again some news that just coming up a few moments ago here that company in Vermont that has found themselves in this malware mess now coming forward again and reiterating that they don't have any reason to believe that any of their major components of their company were compromised as a result of this possible cyber security threat.

MALVEAUX: All right. Excellent reporting there. Polo Sandoval, I appreciate the update there.

Of course, what is Russia saying about all of this? To answer that we are joined by Matthew Chance from Moscow.

And Matthew, first of all, has the Kremlin responded to these latest allegations and do they -- are they defending themselves? Are they saying that, in fact, that there is any kind of responsibility or link?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As a matter of fact, Suzanne, they haven't responded to these latest allegations. But I can pretty much guess what they would say if they were to respond. Because since these allegations first floated or first came to the fore several months ago at the height of the presidential campaign when they were talking about political hacking.

The Kremlin have always flatly rejected any suggestion that they had anything to do whatsoever with any hacking of political institutions in the United States or anything else. And I expect that they would say the same thing when they -- and they will say the same thing when they eventually do respond to these latest suggestions and allegations that have come out.

Again, you know, flat denial in the face of the assessments by the U.S. intelligence services that it was, you know, Russian-you linked hackers or Russian hackers linked with the security services here that were involved in this. So this is the same allegation again as we have seen in the presidential campaign. And again my expectation is that the Russians will categorically reject it.

MALVEAUX: As predicted, of course, as you mentioned, Matthew, because you know the Kremlin very well and understand how it works and it's pretty common knowledge that Russians, the United States, they both spy on each other but the issue being of course how they use and implement the information. That is why it's so important, so serious with the election, and now here with the electrical grid. Is there any concern from the officials who are there where you are

about further sanctions as we look to next -- next week and Republican senators who certainly are going to make it very clear that that's what they're present to go members of Congress?

CHANCE: Well, it certainly should be a concern, shouldn't it, because with that meeting taking place there's every chance that a recommendation like that can be made. And if we were in a normal situation I think the Kremlin would be very concerned about the possibility of more sanctions. There already are tight sanctions on Russia, they could be tightened further.

But of course, we are not in a normal situation. In three weeks from now or less than that Donald Trump is going to be taking over at the White House and he has been very sympathetic to the Russian point of view on a whole range of issues, particularly this issue of hacking saying he hasn't seen any evidence that Russians are involved at all. That may change when he has his briefing from intelligence services in a few days from now.

Although the Russians still believe that Donald Trump is someone who wants to do a deal with them, they are reaching across the Obama administration ignoring what they are doing right now and saying, look, the future of U.S. policy with Russia, U.S. relationship with Russia is going to be purely about how Donald Trump acts, what his policies are. And the expectation in Russia is that Trump is going to want to put this to one side like he always has and continues to do that and try to build bridges with Moscow.

[16:05:43] MALVEAUX: All right. Matthew, thank you so much. We appreciate the big picture perspective there out of Russia.

Now that we have gone through the facts here, I want to talk about what this means or what it could mean. I'm joined now by Michael Sulmeyer. He is the director of cybersecurity project to Harvard University.

Michael, thank you so much for joining us here. First of all, I understand that you believe that this entire situation potentially is overblown. Explain why.

MICHAEL SULMEYER, DIRECTOR, CYBER SECURITY PROJECT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Thanks for having me. The issue of why this particular incident may be overblown is it's still very early in the investigation. And as the update that was just provided 20 minutes ago indicated, it does not appear that the computer that was affected was connected to the operational grid, but it still represents a very serious case of a much larger problem for cyber security in the future, which is the security of our electric grid and the rest of our critical infrastructure.

MALVEAUX: So let's talk about that statement that was put out just moments ago. This is Burlington Electric releasing the statement saying that it's their understanding that the malware has been observed elsewhere, not just at this one utility company. Does that give you pause? SULMEYER: It does but it's not terribly surprising. After the

administration announced the sanctions and other measures to retaliate against Russia they also released technical signatures, other kinds of information, to help companies determine if their computers were affected. So it's likely that we are going to see in the days and weeks ahead more positive signs that Russian-related malware has been put on a number of other systems across the country. The trick will be going forward first how do we deter Russia and other states from doing this, and then how do we continue to improve the cyber security for our country going ahead.

MALVEAUX: And I spoke the last hour with a former CIA director, James Woolsey. And he said that it really is these companies, that there's been a lot of resistance from these particular companies in setting up what is important to protect them here. Do you think that's where the fault lies? Is that where the danger lies here, the disconnect?

SULMEYER: It certainly is a danger. I'm not sure if I'm ready to assign fault. I think most companies and industries are still grappling with how best to address the cyber security threats that each of them faces. It's not a single problem. Each industry and indeed different companies within an industry can face different threats, but I'm hopeful that the incoming administration will continue the efforts and the resources that the Obama administration has put in to helping the private sector better secure its own infrastructure.

MALVEAUX: And explain for those who are not like cyber security experts here, we do know that this malware has on the laptops, right, of this particular company and potentially other utility companies, but it didn't make it on to the electrical grid. How difficult would that have been to get it on the electrical grid to make a real impact when it comes to Vermont and potentially other states in the United States?

SULMEYER: That's a great question. And I think the investigation going forward will determine how difficult it would have been in this particular situation. But in general, we have seen this type of activity before where foreign entities seek to gain unauthorized access to a computer that controls physical processes or physical systems like in a water dam or indeed on the electrical grid. It's not something that every single kid in a basement or anything like that could achieve with only a little bit of effort, but nor is it particularly difficult to accomplish, either.

MALVEAUX: And finally, what do you make of Donald Trump's response so far to the allegations of Russian hacking, to what we have seen so far and how that was manipulating our own election or at least an attempt to? Do you think that we need to move on as he suggests?

[16:10:04] SULMEYER: It's been extremely concerning as someone who has studied Russia, who has lived in Moscow and now works in cyber security, it's been extremely concerning to see the incoming administration be so blah say about what is pretty clearly a very significant threat to the country. Russia continues to undertake activities that show that it's not a

friend of the United States right now. It doesn't have to be that way. So my hope going forward is that the Russians stop the behavior that they have been undertaking not just in cyberspace but that's what we are talking about here today. And that we can eventually build towards a better Russia relationship with Russia. But I'm skeptical right now that the current tone that the Trump administration is taking that it's going to get us there.

MALVEAUX: All right. Michael Sulmeyer, thank you so much. Happy holidays to you. Thank you. Appreciate it.

SULMEYER: Thanks. To you as well.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

Up next, live to Times Square, New York, where they're being called the guardians of New Year's. We are talking about 16 ton garbage trucks to help keep people safe. We're going to explain.

But first let's bring you live pictures of Moscow, that is where fireworks -- ringing in the New Year, you can hear them. We are back in a moment.


[16:14:07] MALVEAUX: More than a million New Year's Eve party people are expected the crowd in the Times Square of today's countdown to midnight. Police in New York City now stepping up security efforts to keep them safe, of course. And it learned some lessons from terrorist attacks in Europe where a large trucks were used. But officials stress that this is all precautionary. They don't have any credible threats.

I want to bring in our Jessica Schneider. She is at the site of tonight's ball drop joining us now from Times Square.

Jessica, great to see you here. Obviously there's a lot of excitement where you are. But give us a sense of what law enforcement is trying to do this year that is something new that they have learned from the attacks that they saw in Germany and France.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right, Suzanne. The security is very tight here. In fact, enhanced security measures. But the excitement out in the crowd is very strong, these people have been out here for a long time.

And I will tell you something. You know, being out here it's a very exciting event and it also shows you and gives you a glimpse of some of the magic of the NYPD and all of their coordination and choreography for this event to get all of these people in here approaching two million people at the height of this event. And like I said, enhanced security measures this year.

There are 65 sanitation trucks with sand that line this perimeter in Times Square. They are over on 8th avenue, that surround this entire event and that's to stop any sort of threat, this is just a precaution. There is no threat, credible threat, against New York City or Times Square.

There are also other precautions as well. There are about 100 other secondary vehicles that will be marked around as protective barriers. And then of course you have the NYPD itself, 7,000 officers will be throughout the city including 550 of them that just graduated from the police academy.

But the pens and the crowds, there are 65 of these pens all around Times Square, they are filled each of these with about 3,000 people. And these people out here, they have been out here for quite some time. A lot of people I spoke with out here at 7:00 a.m. to get the best spots up here. But I talked to Stefania. She is from Mexico. She is breathing this cold.

Stefania, what time did you get out here today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got out like 9:30 a.m.

SCHNEIDER: And are you a little bit chilly?


SCHNEIDER: Especially from Mexico this is quite a change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It's a lot of change. We have never seen snow in Mexico. So it's -- this cold is horrible.

SCHNEIDER: Well, luckily it's not snowing today?

Is this your first time out? Why did you decide to come to Times Square?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like my must do dream. So right now I'm here.

SCHNEIDER: And you are here. What do you think about the security? Do you feel safe here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I totally feel safe. Yes. Like the security and the checking things, no bags, that's perfect.

SCHNEIDER: And the amazing thing about this, thank you so much, Stefania. The amazing thing is despite this huge crowd it feels peaceful and calm and serene. Of course, the party really hasn't gotten started yet but it will, soon. All of these people go through bag checks and metal detectors and also radiation detectors. And in addition there are 14 different access points for the counterterrorism teams to be checking. And just downtown at One Police Plaza, there are about 30 representatives from city, state and federal agencies that will be monitoring the video feeds from the cameras all around here.

So a very safe event. And, Suzanne, the NYPD even stressing that this is probably the safest place to be in the city tonight. Back to you. MALVEAUX: Wow. Jessica, from my point there's seven hours and 43

minutes left before midnight. When is the last time the latest time that folks can show up there and get in?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I actually just talked to some folks over at the NYPD. They say that they will continue filling all of these pens up until it's full. They're expecting about two million people.

Just to give you an idea of how much this stretches, we have got blocks and blocks. We are only at 47th street. This goes all the way to 59th street. They will be filling these pens just like this so we can see as far as the eye can go it looks pretty full but they will keep filling this until they reach that capacity. So maybe you have a little bit more time, but these folks have already been out for hours and there are still hours to go -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Yes. It's amazing. They are the die hard in all this. Have a great time. We will check back with you later.

Don't forget this New Year's Eve expect the unexpected with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin. That's right, New Year's Eve beginning live tonight 8:00 eastern on CNN.

And straight ahead parents of an American journalist who went missing in Syria, they are now speaking out. What they hope the incoming Trump administration is going to do to help find their son. This is a CNN exclusive up next.

You're live on CNN NEWSROOM.


[16:21:22] MALVEAUX: In Syria as the ceasefire there holds parents of a journalist who went missing during the war in that country they are now speaking out. They haven't heard from their son but the U.S. government has said there is reason to believe that he's still alive.

Our CNN's Brian Stelter, he sat down with Austin Tice's mother and father.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Reporters in Syria have been killed in some cases. They have been kidnapped in other cases and they have just vanished. That's what happened to Austin Tice, an American journalist who was in Syria reporting on the conflict in 2012. One day he disappeared and his parents have never heard from any captors, any group holding him, any group demanding ransom.

But Debra and Marc Tice remain optimistic that they will be reunited with their son. And earlier in December the U.S. government says it has high confidence that Austin Tice still alive in Syria.

I spoke with his parents about what this means to see the end of another year without their son and why they are hopeful that the incoming Trump administration will continue to work as the Obama administration has, trying to find Tice and be able to bring him home to the U.S.

DEBRA TICE, MOTHER OF MISSING JOURNALIST, AUSTIN TICE: We have had credible reports ever since Austin was taken that he is alive and so we have hung on to those messages without doubt, without any doubt.

MARC TICE, FATHER OF MISSING JOURNALIST, AUSTIN TICE: His captors have not reached out to us, you know. We don't have any way of, you know, completing this solution to bring him home because only -- only half of the equation is working here and that half is, you know, the efforts that we've done, the efforts of the United States government and all those people and organizations that have been supporting us. But, yes, it was extremely comforting and --

D. TICE: Uplifting.

M. TICE: -- uplifting to hear and for the office of the special presidential envoy and the United States government to say that their assessment is he is alive. We have every reason to believe he's reasonably well. And so, you know, we continue to, you know, press that there's every reason to do everything possible. Keep doing everything possible to bring him home.

STELTER: So hard to imagine what these past four-plus years have been like for those parents. They know the statistics all too well. According to the committee to protect journalists in 2016 Syria was the deadliest place in the world for reporters. That's been true for five years in a row. Now, these parents hoping for a much happier outcome for their son, hoping 2017 can be the year they will be reunited.


MALVEAUX: And did Russians plant malware found in a Burlington Electric laptop and could it be an attempt to disrupt the nation's power grid? Well, up ahead we are going to talk with the company's general manager live about what they found.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[16:27:37] MALVEAUX: Most of the recent attention on Russian hacking has been focused on U.S. politics. But now authorities say that Russian malware has been found on a laptop of a Vermont electric company.

Burlington Electric department general manager Neale Lunderville, he is joining us now from Burlington, Vermont.

Thank you so much for being here. First of all, authorities tell us that the malware appears to be the same type that U.S. intelligence agencies say that Russia used to hack the DNC before the election but your company just put out a statement saying this is not unique. So what have you learned about the malware. NEALE LUNDERVILLE, GENERAL MANAGER, BURLINGTON ELECTRIC DEPARTMENT:

So what we learned is first we take cyber security very seriously, like all U.S. utilities, whether they're large or small, something we look at every day. And in fact what we found was the result of the department of homeland security issuing some new codes that they wanted us to look for. We found an IP address that is tied back to some of the recent malicious cyber activity that was communicating with one of our computers.

Let me be very clear. That computer was not connected to our grid control systems, our grid was not penetrated, it was not breached and we have no indication of compromise of any of our systems or any of our customer data. But what we did is when we saw that traffic we immediately isolated the machine, pulled it off the network, alerted federal authorities and began to work with them so we could help phrase that back to further their investigation.

MALVEAUX: And Neale, just to be clear here. You are speaking with authorities, are you talking with authorities from the homeland security department and have they told you that they believe that Russia is behind this?

LUNDERVILLE: You know, we have -- we haven't really focused on that, we've been focused on over the last 24 hours just reporting this. Our job as a utility is to make sure that we're protecting the reliability of the grid and our customers' data. And when we found this information we reported it to the federal government and have been working with them.

You know, there are -- there are bad actors all around the country, domestic and around the world, domestic and abroad. From our perspective we want to make sure none of them get into our network and are able to disrupt operations, which they did not here.

MALVEAUX: Sure. I understand your focus of course would be with your customers and making sure that your system is safe, but did you get any information from federal authorities that Russia was behind this?

[16:30:06] LUNDERVILLE: You know, we really didn't. We didn't -- we didn't ask. We were focused on more pressing matters right here in Burlington.

MALVEAUX: Tell us about how the malware did not infect the devices systems of your utility here. Does that mean that these systems have already been cleared and are you confident here that this is not something in the future that will impact service?

LUNDERVILLE: Well, let's put cyber security in the context of a lot of global threats. I mean, there's -- like I said before, there are bad actors all over the place looking to disrupt not just utility systems but other corporate systems, government systems, et cetera. This is a full-time job for some people. And that's why we have to stand vigilant in all of our companies here in the U.S. to make sure that they are not able to get into our systems.

What we found here we were able to intercept that traffic as soon as it hit our network because of our real-time scanning and able to pull the computer off before we believe that it was able to do any -- any other activity on our system. Ultimately a further investigation will look into that, but we have no indication that there was any -- any compromise.

So going forward we are confident that we have the systems in place to continue to monitor this and we will continue to do that. But as the actors get more sophisticated out there we are going to have to stay in touch. That's why we work so closely with federal officials and our partners that are the utilities to keep our cyber security practices strong.

MALVEAUX: All right. Neale Lunderville, thank you so much. We appreciate your time. And obviously, we are pleased that the outcome was such that was it was it was not impacted. That there are further actions that you and other utilities companies are now aware of and are taking. Thank you very much. Have a good holiday.

Next, of course, this cat and mouse game between Russia and the United States. But will things change when Trump becomes president? We are going to discuss that live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[16:35:12] MALVEAUX: So far president-elect Donald Trump has not responded specifically to a potential new hacking threat implicating Russia. The target this time is an electric company in Vermont. Burlington Electric says malicious malware was discovered on one of its laptops and authorities believe that it is the same malware that Russian hackers used to meddle in the presidential election. Trump has been dismissive of previous reports on Russian hacking insisting just this week that the U.S. should quote "move on."

Our CNN's Ryan Nobles, he is in Washington.

And Ryan, the latest threat has nothing to do with this election but instead this is a U.S. infrastructure and I just spoke with the former CIA director James Woolsey the last hour who said this is more serious. It's more dangerous. So do Washington officials expect that Trump is going to take this more seriously and consider making a tougher stand on this?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, there are clearly many Republicans and Democrats that hope that the incoming Trump administration takes a closer look at this than they already have, but there is no indication right now that the president-elect is prepared to take that step. He has been very dismissive up until this point of the evidence and the calls from the intelligence community that Russia was actively attempting to hack a U.S. interest.

Now, of course, we were talking about an election, an election that Donald Trump won and he did not want to taint in any way. Perhaps the situation changes now that we are talking about the potential of hacking public utilities which obviously has a lot to do with the overall United States infrastructure. But at this point the Trump administration and their transition in general has tried to put aside these calls of a closer investigation into Russia's efforts.

Perhaps that will change now that we have this new development and of course Donald Trump this week will meet with the heads of the intelligence agencies where he is going to have that opportunity to ask more pointed questions about just how serious this overall threat will be and whether or not that changes his mind. We will have to wait a see.

Of course, Suzanne, he has been very kind to Russia and in particular president Vladimir Putin. If he were to change his tone it would be pretty dramatic from where it's been up until this point.

MALVEAUX: It certainly would be. A lot of people waiting to see what he's going to say after that intelligence briefing. We also know this week that Senator John McCain is going to be holding hearings over the Russia hacking meddling in the election here and cyber security in general. What can we expect to come out of this?

NOBLES: Well, this will be a pretty anticipated hearing on Capitol Hill when John McCain calls together the members of the Senate armed services committee. This will be important because these will be the sitting members of the new congress. This will not be a lame duck committee. And this will be an opportunity for some of these high level intelligence officials, including James Clapper who is the director of national intelligence and also Mike Rogers the director of the national security agency to get very pointed questions from these senators about this alleged Russian hack.

You may remember that one of the big criticisms from Donald Trump and members of his transition is that a lot of this news has been leaked out to media outlets. We haven't gotten specific reports from the intelligence community, and many members of his staff have called for the intelligence community to come forward and present the evidence. Perhaps that evidence is outlined during this hearing, but of course the intelligence community not always as forthcoming, particularly when there's issues that they are continuing to investigate -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Of course. And certainly trying to protect their sources and methods at the same time.

Ryan, thank you. I appreciate that.

President-elect Donald Trump's enthusiastic praise for Russia's president Vladimir Putin a long time U.S. adversary, of course, is raising some questions about Trump's game plan. Trump's latest shout out came after Putin decided not to retaliate against the U.S. for sanctions that Obama unveiled to punish Russia for the meddling in the U.S. election. Trump tweeting this, great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart.

So let's talk it over with political commentator Ben Ferguson, host of the "Ben Ferguson show" and Lauren Duca, weekend editor of "Teen Vogue."

Great to see you both. Really appreciate it here. So, Lauren, these are your words from the op-ed titled "Donald Trump

is gas lighting America." Let's just read a bit of it.

It says that the CIA officially determined that Russia intervened in our election and president-elect Donald Trump dismissed the story as if it were a piece of fake news. At the hands of Trump, facts have become interchangeable with opinions, blinding us into arguing amongst ourselves as our very reality is called into question.

I will start off with you, Ben, you know, reaction to that assessment here that our reality is being called into question.

[16:40:02] BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think reality is being called into question here. I think the reality is Barack Obama has done nothing for the last eight years to stop Russia when they were doing things far worse than hacking. When it comes to the genocide that was happening in Syria, when it comes to the gassing of the people this Syria and Russia helping them do this.

We also know that Russia has been hacking into and trying to hack into our systems for multiple elections and we have a president that has done absolutely nothing. So the big question now is why is he doing this? Is he doing this to box Donald Trump into a corner? You know, if you can allow Russia to go into Crimea and put at risk Latvia, Lithonia, Estonia and our allies that are right there having to deal with Russia year after year and the confrontations coming at Putin you do nothing at all when that was going all. And now all of a sudden you throw out diplomats days before you are to leave office. I'm wondering if this is actually done more to hurt Donald Trump than it was to affect Vladimir Putin or Russia at all because this is more than he's done the last eight years and it's kind of questionable and embarrassing.

MALVEAUX: Ben, in light of the horrible things that you say that Putin has done, what do you make of Trump and all this praise that he's lavished on him in the weeks prior?

FERGUSON: Well, I think his praise is a point that he wants to come in here and maybe have an actual reset that is successful with Russia. We had a failed reset under Obama --

MALVEAUX: You think he's being sincere? I mean, are you saying this is just flattery?

FERGUSON: I think you have two master chess players here. And they are going to try to figure each other out. But the fact is Donald Trump is going to come in and have a reset with Russia and have a real conversation. And I think there's nothing wrong with him coming in, looking at the facts and then saying this is a new day with America. I'm now the president. It's going to be very different. But to say that it's smart for Vladimir Putin to not just go tit for tat with Obama while you're counting down a 20-day countdown clock I think is actually inappropriate statement to make. Start anew January 20th and then let's see where we go from there.

MALVEAUX: Lauren, let's talk about Trump's dismissal of the CIA report on Russian meddling turning it into a partisan issue as you believed. Do you believe that the Russian hacking in some ways played a part in Hillary Clinton losing the election?

LAUREN DUCA, WASHINGTON EDITOR, TEEN VOGUE: Well, I think what I would like to address first if it's all right is what I mean by our reality being called into question is his outright dismissal of the CIA assessment. I don't think we have the full story there. My personal hope is that there will be a congressional probe. And I think that we need to treat the story with intense skepticism.

That said, for any American leader Russian interference with the bedrock of our democracy should be unacceptable and the cavelarity (ph) with which he dismissed the allegations based on his own assumptions is upsetting to me and I think should be upsetting to the American people regardless of what side you're on. I don't know that --

MALVEAUX: Lauren --

DUCA: I don't know that I will speculate on whether Russia interfered enough to swing the election to Trump. That is, you know, something that has been floated by the press. But before -- while we're still accruing the full details of this story it's something that needs to be taken very seriously on both sides of the aisles and shouldn't be treated as a partisan issue.

MALVEAUX: And Lauren, do you think that part -- excuse me. Lauren, just to follow up on that, do you think that part of the not seeing the reality or not acknowledging the reality is Trump's praise for Putin? Do you think that is something strategic or do you think that is something sincere that he truly believes about the Russian leader?

DUCA: Sure. I think his praise for Putin certainly complicates the issue. And then also the proposed idea that he is the beneficiary of their interference sort of calls into question his rejection of this. Where it seems as though he -- with his statement in response to the CIA assessment he is protecting himself before he is protecting the American people.

The CIA works for the American people and Donald Trump is about to work for the American people. So you know, we could sit here and talk about whether that's the reason Hillary lost or what Obama has done wrong, but regardless this is something that Donald Trump and his team should be taking extremely, extremely seriously.

MALVEAUX: I want to read -- president Trump's New Year's Eve greeting here. It says Happy New Year to all including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly that they just don't know what to do. Love.

Ben, what does this mean?

FERGUSON: Well, I think his point is it's a new year and we are going to have a new year and hope it's a happy one. And for all the people that are trying to tear me down, guess what, still love you anyway, let's move forward. But let me say one other thing real quick that was just said by your

guest there about him being skeptical of the information. The biggest part that Donald Trump was skeptical about in the information that was coming out was the intent of the hack. There have been many that have been pontificating on this issue saying that somehow that this hack was going to happen so they could sway the election towards Donald Trump. There is no information to become back that up at this point.

[16:45:10] DUCA: Donald Trump teams directly undermined the CIA.

FERGUSON: No, let me finish. What he said was the CIA has also not said that Vladimir Putin and Russia was trying to swing the election one way or the other. What we know is that they very well they were hacking into find out information. There is a good chance that Russia was hacking into Hillary Clinton and the DNC because she was leading in the polls and they were trying to hedge their bets to find out information about Hillary Clinton. And so when he says he was skeptical about the reason they were hacking, that is his point that he was making there. And I think the raiders of "Teen Vogue" should actually hear that side of the conversation.

MALVEAUX: Lauren, go ahead.

DUCA: I guess I don't understand what you think I'm missing. Do you not think that Donald Trump should take the potential of Russian interference and the bedrock of American democracy seriously?

FERGUSON: I think he does take it seriously and I think the point is here --

DUCA: His statement outright undermined the assessment.

FERGUSON: No, it did not undermine the assessment. What it did was it said that the false pretense that Russia's hack was deliberately done to sway the election is absolutely false. You don't know why Russia was hacking and also when Russia --

DUCA: He dismissed the CIA's ability to make the statement. He in fact said these are the same people that accused Saddam Hussein of having weapons of mass destruction. I don't know if you are familiar with that statement. But he did undermine the CIA.

FERGUSON: I'm very familiar with that first off. And second off, I think what you need to understand is the context of what this conversation was about. And what Donald Trump was saying about this hack is everyone that puts out there the information that there was somehow hacking going on solely to sway the election has not been backed up or corroborated by the CIA and/or FBI. So when he says I'm going to look at my assessment, get my team around it and see what their intent may have been, I think that's actually a smart response instead of a knee-jerk reaction implying that you know something that is in fact not true.

MALVEAUX: Go ahead, Lauren, you can wrap it up here.

DUCA: Yes, I just -- it seems to me that it's based in a mode of self-preservation that we are even seeing the tweet completely just showed of the idea of enemies, of people who are against Donald Trump. I think he needs to reorient himself to realize he is now going to be working for the American people, the CIA works for the American people and this is not --

FERGUSON: Who says he's not.

MALVEAUX: I want to wrap it there. We will get more information. We will learn more from these hearings. Senator McCain has called for in the coming weeks. And of course, they are looking at the bigger picture here, not whether or not this impacted the election. But the mere fact that the intelligence has revealed that certainly they are confident that intelligence has revealed that Russia was in fact behind that hacking.

Lauren Duca, Ben Ferguson, thank you so much. Have a good holiday.

FERGUSON: Thanks. Happy New Year.

MALVEAUX: Happy New Year.

New York's midnight festivities just don't cut it for some people on New Year's Eve and besides, well, who wants to hail a taxi when the ride you have got comes with a casino, a theater and warm weather. Ahead how some people just cruise into the New Year.

You're live on the CNN NEWSROOM.


[16:50:58] MALVEAUX: New York's Time Square is going to be literally packed with people ringing in the new year tonight. But some people don't like to be crowded like sardines on the city streets so they pack into a ship instead.

Our Randi Kaye, she is joining us now from aboard the largest cruise ship in the world.

I am so jealous of this assignment. I don't know how you get these but, what, you are about to leave port everglades. This is in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You bet. We are on board here and we are getting ready to leave with the harmony of the seas. We are in Ft. Lauderdale. And this is going to be quite a cruise. We are going to be cruising along on this New Year's Eve. We are going to be heading into the Caribbean. And at midnight, Suzanne, we are going to be just off the coast of Cuba.

So it's pretty exciting. I could show you a brief tour around here. If you take a look those are some of the state rooms just so give you an idea of how big this cruise ship is. As you said it's the largest cruise ship in the world.

If you turn it on its tail which is considered the aft it's actually taller than the Eiffel tower just so give you an idea how amazing this ship is. It's going to be a seven-day cruise. Walk with me here for a second. We are going to be to Labadie, and then we are just going to go to private island for the world Caribbean then we are going to go to Jamaica and then to Cozumel and eventually work our way back all the way through the Caribbean back to here to Ft. Lauderdale.

But this is going to be one heck of a party tonight. Let me show you around here a little bit more. There are 6,000 people aboard this ship plus 2,500 crew. So we are going to be up on the bridge at some point tonight with the captain and we are going to talk to him. He says he is going to let me actually steer the ship. I don't know.


KAYE: It should be fun. And until the part gets started, check this out.

MALVEAUX: Check out the guy surfing behind you.

KAYE: Look at this. Yes. You can go surfing on this ship. It's got everything. It's got it all. So that's going to keep everybody busy here for a little while until the parties start a little later tonight. And we will be of course live with Anderson in Times Square, with Cathy as well. So it's going to be lots of fun.

MALVEAUX: I can only imagine, I mean. So you stop at all these different places and at midnight do you get to see fireworks? Are there fireworks that happen somewhere out there or do they do their own on the ship? I don't know, what do they have sparkles?

KAYE: I think at midnight tonight there's going to be a lot of champagne. They have like 3,100 bottles of champagne for all of the passengers aboard this ship. So there's going to be a giant champagne toast. There's something like, wait, I have it here, 42 bars and lounges on board this ship. And everybody is going to be celebrating somewhere in the high seas along this ship. It's going to be a lot of fun.

MALVEAUX: Now, it's so big I imagine like sea sickness is not really an issue, right, because it's just like a huge city that's just sitting there that's moving.

KAYE: Yes, it is a moving city. I mean, just let me show you one other thing here. Take a look at this. This is called the abyss. This is a giant slide that you go down. It's a dry slide. And you go down there. You just climb up the front and get a little mat and go down there.

So there's all kind of stuff to do. And all of this will be lit and open tonight. And even just getting from, you know, one end of the ship as you said it's so big, one end of the ship to the other is just a workout on its own. So we are going to make take the slide. There's a zip line tonight that we make take as well. I'm going to see if I can convince the cruise director, maybe, to do the zip line if I don't do it. It's going to be a lot to see. So I know you will be tuning in. MALVEAUX: Absolutely. I mean, every moment of it. Now, did the ship

just take off? Are you guys starting to move now? Is that what's happening?

KAYE: We are, actually. We are just getting ready to move. I just heard the horn and -- oh, we are actually moving, yes. It's hard to tell when you are on here, because even though, you know, we are moving it's such a big city. But it feels like a big city, but we are actually just pulling out of the port. And we are going to just stay straight through and hopefully get pretty close to Cuba by midnight tonight. So that's where we will be ringing in the New Year.

[16:55:07] MALVEAUX: I imagine if you are on a ship the party just doesn't stop. It just keeps going. You can't like, you know, jump off or anything. You just keep partying. I mean, how long have you going to be on that ship -- on that boat, by the way, Randi? How long is this cruise?

KAYE: The cruise is a seven-day cruise, but you know, the boss says I have to get back to work after this. But unfortunately the first port I can get to is another two days after New Year's Eve. So I actually can't get off the boat -- the ship for a few days.


KAYE: So I will have to deal with it and finally get off in Jamaica and work my way back to work soon enough.

MALVEAUX: So tough. Jamaica. Oh, Randi. Yes, I won't tell. Maybe the bosses aren't touching. I won't tell.

KAYE: It's tough.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Randi.

KAYE: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Have a good new year.

KAYE: I'm going to get a quick surf in before the big show tonight.

MALVEAUX: Sweet. All right. Take care.

Of course don't forget this New Year's Eve expect the unexpected with Anderson Cooper and Cathy Griffin. That is the New Year's live beginning tonight 8:00 eastern on CNN.

Much more ahead. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


[16:59:12] MALVEAUX: We said good-bye to so many music icons this year, George Michael and Prince and David Bowie and a handful of other legend. Here is a look at the stunning music that they left behind.