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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Trump Promises New Revelations On Hacking; Democrats Targeting Eight Cabinet Picks; Battle Brewing Over Trump Cabinet Confirmations; ISIS Claims Responsibility For Istanbul Attack; Manhunt Intensifies For Istanbul Club Attacker. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 2, 2017 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:04] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman. Kate is off today.

President-elect Donald Trump has a secret. He's back in New York City this morning after kicking off the New Year with a promise of a big reveal, information other people don't know on allegations that Russia hacked into the U.S. political process. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: I know a lot about hacking and hacking is a very hard thing to prove. It could be somebody else and I also know things that other people don't know. So they cannot be sure of the situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you know that other people don't know?

TRUMP: You'll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: You'll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday. So should you mark your daybooks for a big news conference on Russian intelligence in the next two days? What is it exactly that the president-elect knows? His pick for press secretary, Sean Spicer, was asked this morning on "NEW DAY." This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He's going to talk about his conclusions and where he thinks things stand. So he's not going to reveal anything that was classified. But I think he can share with people his conclusions of the report and his understanding of the situation to make sure that people understand that there is a lot of questions out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is live in Washington for us. Donald Trump, the president-elect, will meet with some intelligence officials this week, Sunlen, and perhaps find out more. SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONENT: That's right, John. As he heads into that meeting mid-week that we believe will take place in New York City with intel officials, he's being, again, openly skeptical of their conclusions that they've reached, which points a finger at Russia, really doubling down publicly on his doubts.

It was interesting that he's promising or making claims that he's going to reveal some information that he knows that other people don't know Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, still very unclear what exactly Donald Trump is talking about there.

I think it is notable that you saw seen Spicer, as you just played that sound bite of him this morning, attempting to clean up Donald Trump's words a bit, downplaying that he's going to reveal anything specific, talk about more just the broader conclusions of why he's reaching his own conclusion.

In advance of that meeting with the intel community, many members of his transition team are debuting a new line of argument against those sanctions, the size and scope of sanctions that were slapped on Russia by the Obama administration last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: The question is, is the response of this administration, the sanctions they put on, proportional with the activities that have happened? And number two, is it a political response to Russia or is it a diplomatic response? Because we haven't seen these kind of sanctions in peacetime in our history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SERFATY: And Spicer later went on to argue, he compared this to the 2015 OPM hack. He said, look, that was by alleged Chinese hackers. He said, look, they potentially hacked over a million records and nothing happened to them. A new line of argument here arguing against the size and scope of these specific sanctions against Russia.

BERMAN: Of course, Democrats would argue that Russia used that intelligence, which the Chinese, it's unclear whether they ever did, but that's a separate argument. Sunlen, Sean Spicer on "NEW DAY" this morning was asked which regulations, which Obama measures and executive actions that Donald Trump as president would target immediately. So what we can expect?

SERFATY: Yes, really interesting here. Sean Spicer kind of outlining a few topics that Donald Trump will focus on, on day one. No surprise, a lot of overruling of Obama regulations, executive orders, cleaning up what they think are mistakes of the Obama administration.

Of course, if you're listening to Donald Trump at all over the last year and a half, you know that Obamacare is first and foremost on that list. Spicer this morning also mentioned a lobbying ban that they want to put in place, which they talked about extensively for quite some time.

Also he mentioned withdrawing from TPP, the Transpacific Partnership which Trump as a candidate called a job killing measure.

BERMAN: All right, Sunlen Serfaty for us in Washington. Thanks so much, Sunlen. Happy New Year.

All right, now to the confirmation battles that may be brewing, maybe eight confirmation battles that might brewing over some of Donald Trump's picks for his cabinet.

CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash joins us now. Dana, we understand the Democrats are looking at a list maybe of eight people, eight nominations that they want to mix it up in.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I'm looking at the list right here that Ted Barrett and I got from a senior Democratic source. You have them up there. It ranges from nominees like Jeff Sessions, one of their own, to Rex Tillerson, who is the nominee to be secretary of state, and others, the secretary of treasury, Steve Mnuchin.

[11:05:01]These are important cabinet picks. And what Democrats are saying, John, and this is important, they're not going to try to block them right now. I mean, I can't imagine many of them voting for them in the end.

But what they are saying is that at this point in time, they don't have enough information on a lot of these nominees. Some of them, like Jeff Sessions for attorney general or Tom Price for HHS secretary, they have been vetted in public because they are already public figures.

But people like Rex Tillerson, for example, who is the CEO of Exxon currently, and a few others, are -- Wilbur Ross, for example, for commerce, these are people who are millionaires/billionaires, who according to the Democrats have not given over the basic information that nominees need to give to the Office of Government Ethics, FBI background checks and others.

Therefore that is why they are saying they need that basic information that they say they had not just from Obama nominees, but from Bush nominees, talking about recent history, and they need that before they can start with hearings and committee votes, never mind full Senate votes.

BERMAN: You know, this is like having kids, the need versus want. They say they need that information or is it just that they want that information and the Republicans on Capitol Hill, the Senate will say, no, you're not going to get it? I mean, what power do the Democrats have to force this issue, to delay these votes or these hearings?

BASH: That's a great question. I mean, there are certainly some procedural tools that they can use, each committee that has oversight over, you know, various nominees, has different rules and regulations.

But look, the bottom line is that they -- I think at this point are trying to make a public show of the fact that a lot of these nominees do have, you know, not unlike the president-elect, kind of opaque backgrounds and really deep and wide business holdings.

One example that a source said to me, Penny Pritzker, who, of course, is from a very wealthy family, she according to this Democrat told me that she took six months to unravel her business ties before they even put her name up for nomination.

So what they're saying is that certainly the Trump administration has moved very fast to put his cabinet together, but perhaps so fast that they don't have the basic background they generally need and that it is tradition to give to Congress along with that nomination.

BERMAN: All right, Dana Bash, thanks so much. Joining me now to discuss, Jackie Kucinich, CNN political analyst, Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast, Phil Mudd, CNN counterterrorism analyst and a former CIA counterterrorism official, Lanhee Chen, a CNN political commentator and former public policy director for Mitt Romney, Steve Cortes, a former campaign adviser for Donald Trump, and Symone Sanders, a CNN political commentator, former Bernie Sanders press secretary. Thank you all for joining me this morning.

Symone, let me start with you. You just heard Dana reporting that the Democrats in the Senate have this list of eight Donald Trump nominees. They're not going to seek to block them, Dana is reporting, just maybe delay them, drag them out, is this what you want to see? What effect does that have?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it has a very chilling effect, actually. Republicans will tell you in 2008 they moved very swiftly to confirm all of President Obama's nominees, and that this delay, if you will, by the Democrats is just political posturing.

But I think it's really important that Democrats come out in this new Congress and demonstrate that they're not just going to go along with the Trump get-along. So these delays I think will be effective.

Perhaps we'll get some information that we don't currently have right now because we don't know much about Mr. Trump himself and his business dealings, let alone folks such as Tillerson. This will be really important. Democrats are only going to be as good as the information that they have. Research will be very, very key here.

BERMAN: So Steve Cortes, you know, Symone just gave you your argument, that under President Obama the Republicans confirmed those nominations much more quickly. That was eight years ago. I'll give you another name, Merritt Garland, who will not be heading to the Supreme Court any time soon. Is this an issue maybe of Republicans beginning to re-put they sowed here in the past tense in terms of nominees?

STEVE CORTES, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Well, no, I think, John, in fact, we are going to reap what we've sown, which is victory. The fact that we control both houses of Congress and now the presidency. Not to mention the victories in state legislations.

But you know, John, when I look at the team that Donald Trump is assembling, I'm a child of the '80s, one of my favorite shows was "The A Team." We have assembled the political "A Team." This is a group of the best and brightest. Many of them from outside of government, which I think is wonderful.

This was always a movement of outsiders and his cabinet will be that as well. So look some of these people, you're right, and the report don't have public profiles necessarily, people like Rex Tillerson, Betsy Devos.

[11:10:03]I think that's a good thing, but clearly there will have to be more forthcoming from them than people who have been in public life previously regarding the confirmation process. I'm confident that in the end, though, they'll all going to be confirmed.

BERMAN: I know you love it when a plan comes together, Steve Cortes. Jackie Kucinich, you know, you're listening to Symone Sanders and Steve talked about it and Symone raises a question about Democrats essentially having steel in their spine. That is a consistent question. It's not a new question either, right?

I mean, I think the stereotype of Democrats on Capitol Hill for a long, long time is that they may not fight the fight until the end or that Republicans are willing to fight longer and harder on certain things. Do you think Democrats will find the fight here and let it last?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they definitely need to unite because right now they're not united. One of the things about when Republicans were in the minority after Democrats took over, was that they very quickly became a force to be reckoned with. They couldn't be ignored. They pushed procedural things through in the House.

I won't bore you with all of that, but they did become a real political force and it helped propel them back into the majority in the House and of course, later the Senate. Democrats, we have to see who is going to lead this effort and how much fight they're willing to give and also picking their battles.

You can't go after every single one of Trump's cabinet picks or they won't be taken seriously. It's going to look nakedly political if they don't choose their battles.

BERMAN: Eight is a pretty long list, we will see how many of them they fight on and for how long. Phil, I want to shift gears now to this issue of the Russian intelligence. We heard President-elect Donald Trump say that he knows things that other people don't know and that he'll tell us Tuesday or Wednesday.

We'll leave that aside, when and if he'll ever tell us. But when he says he knows things that other people don't know, would that be information that he's getting from his daily intelligence briefings?

And if so, would that be different than the information that has been made public, in the release on October 7th, saying that Russians hacked into the political system or different than the information the White House has on sanctions or different than information that the Senate has, people like John McCain or Lindsey Graham who want to hold hearings on this?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALSYT: Look, I think we're reading tea leaves here, but let me read a few for you, John. The first is, I don't think he's referring to intelligence information that he's gotten in secret briefings. I think he's referring to the variety of people he talks to around his inner circle who don't come from the world of government, who have interaction, for example, the nominee to be secretary of state with the Russians.

He may have a perspective on Russian involvement that's very different from the intelligence community. I don't think it matters. The bottom line here in my judgment as a nonpolitical person is the intel guys will come in and offer perspective based on what they see for years from the Russian intelligence services.

And the president-elect will then come out and say what they said is fine, I have a broader view that includes other perspectives so I'm going to put aside what the intel guys say and I'm going to proceed with my warming relationship with Vladimir Putin. He's setting up the intel community.

BERMAN: Lanhee Chen, you know, Phil there is saying he's not going to play politics or he's going to talk about the intelligence aspect. You've played a little politics in your time here and I'm just curious, long term here, and I've been asking this for weeks now, what's the political impact of Donald Trump continuing to be part of this fight, continuing not to accept what the intelligence community says about Russian hacking, continuing to fight with members of his own party, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who want to hold hearings on this?

LANHEE CHEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: John, I think part of this is Donald Trump showing he's not afraid to go against folks from his own party, even people like John McCain and Lindsey Graham who have very definitive points of view on this. Part of it is also he's setting down a marker regarding how he's going to deal with the intelligence community, how he's going to deal with senior advisors around him.

But more broadly I think what he's trying to do is to set policy on Russia that may be different from certainly President Obama or other Republicans. Now the wisdom of that we'll have to see as we go forward.

Because the reality is that the Obama administration sanctions are in response, yes, to the Russian hacking, but also to all of the activities that the Russians have engaged in over the years with respect to collaborating with the Iranians on Syria or with respect to the annexation of Crimea.

Those are the sorts of things that Republicans have traditionally opposed. So we'll have to see how this intraparty fight sorts out over the coming weeks and months.

BERMAN: So Lanhee, you know, you were not highly supportive of Donald Trump during the election. However, you know, you're going to go to bed tonight and tomorrow you're almost literally going to wake up in Republican heaven, right, tomorrow, the 115th Congress will be sworn in and Republicans will begin this process.

We really haven't seen anything like this in a long, long time where they control both Houses of the legislature, and on January 20th, the White House as well. You as a Republican, who's worked, you know, from members before, you are going to get a lot of what you want starting tomorrow.

CHEN: Yes, that's right. I mean, tomorrow is really a remarkable day because you're going to have the beginning of this unified control of government. And frankly a lot of the policy agenda that we're going to see here over the next hundred days will run through the Congress.

[11:15:05]Whether it's Obamacare repeal, regulatory reform, issues involving energy exploration as well, all those things are going to run through the Congress.

So we'll have to see kind of the pathway that's taken and whether the nomination fights you talked about earlier stand in the way of Republican progress on some really important issues.

BERMAN: You know, Symone Sanders, one of the things that we have heard from Donald Trump is some of the first things he's going to on trade. He's going to sign executive actions, he says, on TPP. He wants to explore NAFTA. This is an area where he could get some agreement with Democrats here.

Do you think that the Democratic Party and some Democratic members, people like Bernie Sanders who campaigned largely on trade issues and in some ways sounded similar to Donald Trump, should reach out to the White House, the incoming White House, try to find common ground?

SANDERS: Personally, I don't think they should. But unfortunately, I think there are going to be some Democrats in Congress both in the House and the Senate that look to find some common ground with the president-elect to get things like infrastructure or on trade, if you will. I think that's dangerous.

I think we are in unprecedented times and you can't trust the president-elect and his team. I think he's demonstrated that he will say one thing today and another thing tomorrow, do a whole another thing on Thursday.

So my advice to Democrats, and I have been beating the drum, I've sent out so many e-mails saying these things, I'll say it again. We should not budge. Now is not the time to try and make alliances with the president-elect because he cannot be trusted.

BERMAN: Jackie Kucinich, when will we see the Donald Trump news conference?

KUCINICH: Oh, gosh, I hope soon. You know, with any luck before the inauguration, they've said that they would do that. But it's when Donald Trump wants it. He has been taking questions from the press pool. But as we both know that is very different from a full scale kind of free for all, which these press conferences tend to be. So I have to remind everybody, it's not for the media, it's for the American public, who has a lot of questions.

BERMAN: All right, guys, thanks so much. I'll see a few of you coming up. Any minute now, President Obama -- actually I just got word he just arrived back in Washington, D.C. As that happens, the White House this morning announced a farewell address from the president. Goodbyes are hard, but what might be even harder, saving Obamacare. New information on what the president intends to do on that, coming up.

And breaking right now, a huge manhunt under way for the Turkish nightclub attacker. ISIS now claims responsibility for this attack. We have new details on the search for the killer, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:20:51]

BERMAN: New this morning, ISIS is claiming responsibility for the attack on a nightclub in Istanbul that killed 39 people and injured dozens more. The gunman is still on the run this morning. But state news agencies report police has detained eight people in connection with the attack.

Joining me now from Istanbul, CNN's Ian Lee. Ian, a claim of responsibility and a manhunt under way.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. We're also hearing from the deputy prime minister saying that they have hundreds of officers on this case, searching for the suspect. We're also hearing some more information saying that they now have the look and the fingerprint of the suspect.

They say they hope that they hope that will lead to figuring out who he is and also if there was a network of people helping him. We do also have a new picture, although, it isn't very clear, it doesn't very clearly identify who that person is.

But one thing they also noted a bit, defending their procedures, defending their security here, they said they foiled 248 previous attacks, just showing how much ISIS is targeting Turkey.

In the meantime, people are still mourning here in Istanbul. Family members are going to the morgue to collect their bodies. Some people have been released from the hospital. One American was released. This is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACOB RAAK, U.S. CITIZEN INJURED IN ISTANBUL TERROR ATTACK: I don't want to talk about what happened inside the club. But, you know, I want to say this is a very good country, and it's so unfortunate that that is happening to you guys. I really feel for everybody here. For me, I wake up in the United States, I eat breakfast. You guys wake up and have to think of this. It's so sad. I wish everybody here the best. I've only met very good people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEE: He said they had to wake up and think about this. This is something that a lot of Turks over the past year have woken up to, the constant terror attacks. Even on New Year's Eve, there was stepped-up security trying to prevent anything like this from happening.

This gunman was still able to slip into that club, kill 39 people and slip away. That's 36 hours is over now. There is still that massive manhunt going on. Authorities hoping to catch him before he slips away, possibly into Syria.

BERMAN: All right, Ian Lee for us in Istanbul this morning, thanks so much. Ian just mentioned the repeated attacks in Turkey over the last year, one after another, including the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey just a few weeks ago.

Joining us now to talk about all of this is CNN counterterrorism analyst and former CIA counterterror official, Phil Mudd, back with us again. Phil, it was interesting, ISIS claimed responsibility for this attack in Istanbul on the nightclub.

It's rare. In fact in some ways unprecedented for ISIS to claim attacks inside Turkey. Why has that been the case up until now and why do you think they went public this time?

MUDD: A couple of things happening I think, John. ISIS was reluctant to claim responsibility before because I think they hope they could avoid an open war with the Turks. As the Turks have continued military operations in Syria, as the Turkish relationship with ISIS's enemy that is Russia, has tightened.

I think that ISIS guys have said what's the point of withholding claims of responsibility anymore? It's clear that the Turks are our enemies for life. Look at it from the other angle as well, though.

ISIS is under a tremendous amount of pressure, geographically losing space, losing leadership, losing recruits, losing money. They want to stay out ahead of the propaganda game by claiming to potential recruits and donors that they still are big players. That they can still conduct big attacks. So I think there's multiple reasons, John, for them to make an open claim now.

BERMAN: I want to get back to ISIS and what they're doing in just a moment, but let's talk about Turkey, if we can. This is the second attack in the last few weeks. We don't know if ISIS was behind the assassination of the Russian ambassador, but there was that. There was the attempted coup over the summer.

There have been other bombings all over the nation. There is a lot going on there right now, Phil. This is a country which the U.S. has looked to historically for stability in the region.

[11:25:06]MUDD: I think that's right. I think that's why you see the Turks moving in a different direction in this war. They've tried to stay on the sidelines for exactly the reasons you've seen over the past 24 hours. They knew that once they got into this war, I think the attacks from ISIS would come fast and furious.

But as the U.S. withdrew, the U.S.-Turkish traditional allies withdrew, the Turks said there's only one game in town anymore to close down this fight and that's the Russians. The Russians came in. They filled the vacuum and started bombing ISIS.

And more important some of the American-supported militias in Syria, and the Turks said if we have to find somebody to side with, we'll find somebody who is on the battlefield in Syria. That's why where we end up today.

BERMAN: So Phil, you mentioned before that you think one of the things that's happening here is ISIS is losing ground in certain areas, so they're staging attacks like this in Istanbul as a PR offensive. I feel like that's the same thing we heard more than a year ago in the Paris attacks.

And the year before there was a different attack that we heard about and that's what was said then. I mean, ISIS keeps on losing territory as it were and keeps on having the capabilities to carry out these attacks. Do they need the territory to be a viable and lethal terror organization?

MUDD: Over the long term they do and by that I mean in my world as a counterterrorism guy, five years, ten years, or 20 years. Over the short term, they do not. Clear distinction here, John. People rarely speak about this. The distinction between owning territory as a terror group.

ISIS clearly is losing territory and now in the age of social media, the second issue owning ideology in cyberspace as a bunch of kids out there who watch YouTube videos, they see ISIS posting stuff on Twitter.

That tale to the ISIS phenomenon in cyber space, the tale where a kid in France or Germany reads stuff online, a kid in America or Canada. I think even as ISIS loses ground geographically, the ISIS phenomenon, the idea, will remain in Europe and the United States because of the power of the internet.

BERMAN: We should note there was another car bombing in Baghdad today, perhaps dozens killed there. That reminds me, Phil, I know you're an intel guy, not a military guy, but this assault on Mosul we haven't heard about in a while. How significant is the battle for Mosul?

MUDD: The battle is critical. They're two critical places we're talking about. Raqqah, where the coalition forces have expanded air operations in the past few weeks, and Mosul, where the Iraqi military, but especially Iraqi militias, are moving in.

If you see those as the twin heartbeats for ISIS, there's progress on both fronts. Remember 2014, John, two and a half years ago, which is a blink of an eye for counterterrorism stuff. Two and a half years ago, we were talking about ISIS moving across Western Iraq with very little opposition from the Iraqi military.

So you can see maybe fits and starts in the offensive against them. I think it's inevitable, whether it's Mosul or Raqqah, that ISIS will lose. The question is where they go after, and whether they maintain that social media foothold I mentioned earlier in America and Western Europe.

BERMAN: Phil Mudd, always great to get your expertise. Thanks so much, Phil.

MUDD: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, I want to show you live pictures of Joint Base Andrews. That is Air Force One. That is also a man wiping a camera lens to get a picture of Air Force One, obviously not the nicest weather. President Obama returning from Hawaii where he had much nicer weather.

Hawaii, of course, was the last time that the president went there as president of the United States. He's back with a very busy agenda coming up over the next 18 days. He's got 18 days left.

First up for him, he'll head to Capitol Hill on Wednesday where he'll meet with Senate Democrats and House members, we're told, to try to figure out a way to save parts of Obamacare. It will be interesting to see what that meeting is like.

Are we going to stay with this, guys? All right. We're going to come back to this when the president walks up and get a look at that. In the meantime, Donald Trump says he has inside information on the Russian hacking into the U.S. election, information that others don't have.

Despite what Democrats, Republicans, and even the intelligence community says. So how will this affect the president-elect's relationship with the intel community? Ahead, we'll speak to a former CIA agent who actually ran against Donald Trump for president.

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