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Protecting Obamacare; Manhunt in Turkey; Trump Expresses Doubt Over U.S. Intelligence on Russia. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 2, 2017 - 15:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: And he is setting up for a big reveal either today, tomorrow, or Wednesday, when he says he will offer some details not yet released on why he continues to question intelligence experts' assessments that the Russians hacked into this 2016 election.

Meantime, all 35 diplomats President Obama expelled from the U.S. as payback for this interference, they are out of the country. Listen to what Trump said at his New Year's Eve celebration.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Well, I just want them to be sure, because it is a pretty serious charge. And I want them to be sure. And if you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster. And they were wrong.

And so I want them to be sure. I think it's unfair if they don't know. And I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don't know. And so they cannot be sure of the situation.

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

TRUMP: You will find out on Tuesday or Wednesday.


CABRERA: Let me turn now to CNN's Jessica Schneider. She is outside Trump Tower.

So, Jessica, Trump's incoming press secretary spoke this morning saying Trump won't be revealing anything that's classified or privileged information. What more are you hearing?


After the president-elect revealed he might have this insider intelligence information, but refusing to say exactly what it was, incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer sort of tempered the public's expectations about what exactly the president-elect might make public. He stressed that Donald Trump will not reveal any classified

information. He will only talk about his conclusions from that intelligence briefing, sort of his understanding about what he will learn from intelligence officials when he meets with them on either Tuesday or Wednesday.

And then Sean Spicer also talked about those sanctions that were imposed by President Obama against Russia, saying that some of those sanctions may have been overblown.


SEAN SPICER, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The question is, is the response this administration and 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.


SCHNEIDER: And Trump's advisers are not revealing whether or not Donald Trump's might be rolling back some of those sanctions once he takes to the White House as of January 20.

Of course, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he will not take any reciprocal sanctions against the United States, saying that he will merely wait until Donald Trump takes office. But of course Donald Trump continues to double down on his criticism, his skepticism of that U.S. intelligence that Russians were in fact behind the hacks during the election season -- Ana.

CABRERA: Yes, reminding people of the weapons of mass destruction intelligence failure.

Let's move on now to the vacancies we still have left in Trump's Cabinet. What are you learning now about the two big spots left to still, Agriculture and veteran affairs secretary?

SCHNEIDER: That's right. We are learning the list did get a little bit shorter when it comes to veterans affairs secretary.

In fact, the Cleveland Clinic CEO and president, Dr. Cosgrove, actually withdrew his name from consideration over the weekend. A spokesperson saying that Dr. Cosgrove, while he was honored and would potentially entertain this, he actually wants to focus in on some of the big high-profile projects that the Cleveland Clinic is still completing.

And when it comes to agriculture secretary, we are learning that one of the leading contenders might be Sonny Perdue, the former Georgia governor. And also two other key positions that need to be filled, U.S. trade representative, also solicitor general. The name that we are hearing come to the forefront as to solicitor general, actually George Conway. He is the husband of top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway -- Ana. CABRERA: Lots of moving parts here. Jessica Schneider, thank you for updating us.

Let's dig a little bit deeper now.

With me to discuss, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson.

Nia, Senator Lindsey Graham has spoken out. We have heard from Senator McCain about this Russian hacking, the intelligence reports that they're hearing. Lindsey Graham says 99 of 100 senators do believe the Russians are behind the hacking of the presidential election. So it begs the question, what does Donald Trump know, what is he getting from his intelligence briefings that these senators are not?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, at some point, he will get additional intelligence briefings this week as early as today. And then he has promised this big reveal, right, almost like a cliffhanger style of sort of divulging information in terms of how he thinks about this.

I think the key difference here in terms of where those senators are and where Donald Trump is that he feels differently about America's relationship to Russia. He sees in the offing a sort of reset in terms of where American policy is towards Russia.

And we have seen throughout these last many months the things he has said about Vladimir Putin, the most recent being that he thinks he is very smart.


Remarkable, right, to have an incoming Republican president seem to be softer in terms of Russia and Vladimir Putin than the Democratic president. And you, of course, heard from Republican senators saying that they want to be tougher on Russia. And we know that Trump obviously wants to do something differently.

CABRERA: Dana, talk to us about the fight ahead for some of Trump's Cabinet nominees. We know Democrats are trying to draw out the process.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are going to try. The reality is that thanks to changes that Democrats made when they were in the majority in the process, the Democrats can't filibuster, meaning they can't completely delay indefinitely unless they have some Republicans, a lot of Republicans on board to do that.

So what Democrats, being led, of course, by the Democratic leader, the minority leader, Chuck Schumer, said that they are going to do is effectively slow-walk. What they said today is that the eight that you just put on the screen need to provide more information to the Senate committees that have jurisdiction over their nominations, to the Office of Government Ethics, and even in some cases the FBI for various reasons, because in some cases like Rex Tillerson, who you see there on the upper left of your screen, he is somebody who has never been in public office.

He is the CEO of Exxon. They want to know about his business dealings. He has given over summaries of his tax returns, which is, I should say, all that is required by the committee that is overseeing his nomination. But Democrats say, no, we want to see the actual returns to make sure there is no conflict of interest.

What they can do is -- when I say slow-walk, is use the rules that they have in the Senate to delay, which could take weeks, which could take even months. So they can't probably ultimately stop these nominations, but if they decided to use the tools that they have, they could do that and therefore try to gum up the works for the incoming Republican president, the Republican Congress on their legislative agenda, which they really want to get started. Of course, day one is repealing Obamacare.

CABRERA: So, kicking the can down the road.

If you look at some of President Obama's major appointments in his first term, Hillary Clinton, Timothy Geithner, Janet Napolitano, others, were all confirmed by the end of January 2009.

Nia, do you think an end-of-January confirmation could still happen even if Democrats delay this process? And if they are successful, I guess the flip said is what happens if come Inauguration Day Trump's people aren't in place?

HENDERSON: Possibly. He could make the sort of deadline or time frame that was Obama's back in January, the end of January 2009.

But I think what Dana said I think is key is that ultimately Democrats aren't going to be able to stop these nominees from getting in place and assuming their roles.

I think what will be interesting to see from Democrats is the way they use these nomination fights really to define their party, right, that is very much in disarray, that is very much in the wilderness in terms of their direction, in terms of the future of the party, how they use these various nominees to really make a case about where their party is, where their party would be and where they think the country should be, although, ultimately, I think we are going to see Donald Trump have a full Cabinet, when he is obviously going to appoint thousands of people to other positions too throughout the agencies in the federal government.

But it will interesting to see Democrats put up something of a fight, because of course the rank and file of Democrats very dispirited at this point.

BASH: And can I just add one thing to that, Ana, something that Ted Barrett, our stellar Senate producer, just mentioned to me, which is so true, which is they picked eight. The Democrats picked eight.

So, they're trying to pick their battles. It is a very large one, but not on the list is somebody who is quite popular and would really hurt Democrats if they delayed, which is General Mattis, who is Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of defense. He is somebody that is, in a bipartisan way, he is liked. It is just kind of an unspoken rule, unless you really have to, you don't mess with the Pentagon.

When -- as Nia was saying, as Democrats are trying to kind of find their footing politically, this is their first attempt to try to get out there and challenge Donald Trump and use the rules that they have to do that, they want to try to pick their battles and not mess with people who, you know, in which case there would be a backlash.

CABRERA: It would seem that Republicans, too, are trying to pick their points of prioritizing.

We heard Trump's incoming White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, saying recently that Trump will -- quote -- "immediately repeal a lot of regulations that have hampered the economy and job growth."


So, Nia, what do you think will be on that initial chopping block?

HENDERSON: I mean, so many things, environmental regulations probably at the top of the list. We know that this incoming administration very much bullish on fossil fuels.

And so some of the regulations involving fracking, involving carbon emissions, I think you will see immediate rollbacks in terms of those. And even smaller things. I mean, you think about regulating, for instance, electronic cigarettes, those are the kinds of regulations that I think, for years, Republicans have talked about regulation squelching the economy, squelching businesses, particularly small businesses.

I think you are going see any number of things, a lot of things put in place by the Consumer Protection Board as well. Some of those have already gone into place. But ones that are in the pipeline now, I'm sure they will look to just squelch those and they won't even go into effect.

This is really a dream I think for Republicans. It's like Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa rolled up into one, something they have wanted to do for decades and they will finally get to do it.

CABRERA: Ladies, I want to play one more piece of sound from Donald Trump this weekend, talking about computers.


TRUMP: It's very important. You know, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old- fashioned way, because I will tell you what, no computer is safe. I don't care what they say. No computer is safe.


CABRERA: It's no secret Trump really doesn't like technology, although he loves Twitter. So he has embraced that aspect of the technological age.

But, Dana, do you anticipate a totally different way the White House will operate if we get rid of using computers for communication?

BASH: Yes. But we are not going back to 1970. It's just not happening.

And the Trump White House is not going to be a computer-free White House. What he is saying -- and he is, of course, absolutely right -- and we have seen example after example after example of this -- is that people, all of us, in our society, have this sense that, you know, we can do online banking and just regular e-mailing and feel like no one is going to see it, and then that's just wrong.

And he is correct about that. And whether or not that's the reason why he personally doesn't use a computer, you know, who knows? It is possible. But, as I said earlier, the couriers of America and the U.S. Postal Service, they are going to be very happy with Donald Trump's statement.

CABRERA: Buy stamps.

BASH: Yes, exactly.

CABRERA: Exactly.

I always ask myself, too, does technology really make my life simpler or more complicated?


BASH: Yes and yes.


CABRERA: Yes, I know. Love it and hate it at the same time. Dana, Nia-Malika Henderson, thanks to both of you.

HENDERSON: Thank you.

CABRERA: Up next, we have some breaking news right now, new details in the manhunt for the Turkey nightclub attacker. Investigators now have his photo, his fingerprints, and we will have more from Istanbul. Also, why do these attacks keep happening in Turkey? We will have analysis of that.

And not leaving quietly. President Obama defends his legacy on Twitter. Can he protect his signature legislation, Obamacare? With millions of Americans currently signed up, what are Republicans going to do about it?



CABRERA: A massive manhunt intensifying right now for a terrorist who shot and killed 39 people at a New Year's Eve celebration. ISIS is now claiming responsibility for this attack at the Istanbul nightclub.

You see in the surveillance video there on the right video people ducking for cover as the shooting was beginning. One American was shot in the leg. He says he survived by playing dead.


WILLIAM JACOB RAAK, SURVIVOR: I don't want to talk about what happened inside the club. But you know I want to say that, you know, this is a very good country. And it's so unfortunate that this is happening to you guys. And 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 is so, so sad. And I really wish everybody here the best. I have only met very good people.


CABRERA: What a humble guy.

Now CNN's Ian Lee is live in Istanbul covering the investigation.

Ian, investigators say they have a couple of leads, right, as they hunt for this killer?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We heard this from the deputy prime minister, saying they have detained at least eight people who are being interrogated now, finding out if they have any connection to this killing.

We are also hearing that they have the picture of the suspect, as well as the fingerprints. And they are going to be using that to try to find out where he may have gone afterwards. But also they said, as important is finding out what network he had that supported him, if there was a network supporting him or if he -- however he was able to get into Turkey, if he was Turkish, if he was a foreigner.

These are things, clues that are going to help them with this investigation. We also heard the deputy prime minister be a bit defensive today with the accusations that Turkey just didn't have enough security. He said that there have been 248 terrorist attacks thwarted in this country. He said these are attacks that would be suicide bombings or car bombs. He said at times they do slip through.

But New Year's Eve, one did slip through, 39 people killed, dozens injured in that attack.

CABRERA: All right. Ian Lee, thank you for the update.

Let's talk more about this with Retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona. He's a CNN military analyst and a former U.S. military attache in Syria.

There have been four attacks in the last month, Colonel. Why Turkey? Why now? LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, if you

read the statement from ISIS, they detail it. They say Turkey has entered the fight against ISIS and we are calling on our supporters to make attacks against Turkey.

And I think that's just what happened. They claimed responsibility for it. And they generally don't claim responsibility unless they have actually had some role in it, because that's so easy to disprove. So why Turkey?


FRANCONA: Because the Turks are doing serious damage to ISIS in Northern Syria. They have got armor, artillery, special forces, airstrikes.

So, they have gone all in, in Syria. So, ISIS is trying to make it as painful as they can for the Turks. They also want to cause a lot of public backlash, because, if they can get the Turkish population to demand that their government get out of Syria, then ISIS might be able to survive in Syria.


We see what's going on, the same thing, in Iraq. We see this spate of car bombings in Baghdad, again trying to convince the Iraqi government to stop its operations in Mosul. That's not going to happen.

But, in Syria, it makes much more sense that the Turks are up -- that the ISIS is going after the Turks. They may have some success there, although that remains to be seen.

CABRERA: It is rare to see an ISIS attack in Turkey. As you mentioned, they like to claim responsible when they are responsible for something. Do you see this move by them as an act of desperation or strength?

FRANCONA: Well, it could be a combination of both.

I mean, it is desperation. They are suffering tremendously at the hands of the Turks and the U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi forces in Iraq. What we are calling the Islamic State may be a terrorist organization no longer with a state.

They are going to lose Mosul. I think that's preordained. The fighting in Syria is not quite as positive. But eventually ISIS will be defeated as a state. But that doesn't mean the ideology goes away. It doesn't mean that the organization goes away. It will morph into more of a terrorist group.

So, what we are seeing happening in Baghdad, what we are seeing happening in Istanbul, Ankara, other places is going to continue. So it could be considered an act of desperation, but I think it's key to understand that the Turks are very good at getting -- at finding out these plots before, as the deputy prime minister said. But you only have to be right one time. And, unfortunately, ISIS got through on New Year's Eve.

CABRERA: All right, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, thank you.

FRANCONA: Good to be with you, Ana.

CABRERA: Up next: One day before the penalty phase of his trial begins, the convicted killer that opened fire inside a Charleston church is back in court for a mental competency hearing. We will take you live to Charleston, where his lawyers claim new facts have come to light since the guilty verdict came in.



CABRERA: Right now, behind closed doors in Charleston, North Carolina, a second competency hearing is under way for the convicted gunman who killed nine black worshipers.

We are expecting a decision at any moment whether Dylann Roof is fit to proceed to the sentencing phase. If he is found competent, that phase begins tomorrow. If Roof isn't, well, then we will go back to the drawing board and we will discuss what happens next.

Roof is facing the death penalty here.

Let's bring in CNN's Martin Savidge, who is covering this for us in Charleston, and CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson, who is also a criminal defense attorney.

Martin, to you first. What's the latest from the courtroom?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that competency hearing is still going on. It started at 9:00 this morning. They took an hour- and-a-half break for lunch. But they are still talking now.

Clearly, that gives you an indication of just how serious this is. And it is serious. It's life and death. That's the argument that's being put forward here by the standby attorneys. These are the defense counsel, but, of course, Dylann Roof is now saying that he wants to represent himself during the penalty phase here.

And essentially what the defense attorneys are trying to say, that's insane. And they mean that quite literally. They believe that this man is suffering from mental issues. That's why they had a second competency hearing request. That evaluation was done over the weekend while most people were ringing in the new year.

And when the judge got the readout, it took five hours to brief the judge, and the judge is indicating there is something very surprising about the strategy that Dylann Roof has planned. But he wouldn't go into any detail.

So, is there going to be a change? We don't know yet. Of course, the trial went through. That competency hearing was deemed that he was fit to stand trial. We will have to wait and see, Ana. CABRERA: What happens tomorrow if he is indeed found competent for the proceedings to go on?

SAVIDGE: Well, then what begins at 9:00 in the morning is that Dylann Roof will act as his own attorney. Now, he has said he will have an opening statement, he will have a closing statements, but he will not call any witnesses on his behalf. He won't bring forward what might be considered mitigating circumstances.

That would be one of the things that a defense attorney, I would imagine, would argue, that he is not mentally in the right mind. He might be able to be found guilty. But now we're talking about defending his life. They say he can't do it. But he would. We would just find it remarkable to witness in the courtroom.

CABRERA: And, Joey, I see you shaking your head. All of this seems surprising to me. But you are the expert here. How surprising is it to have another competency hearing at this stage?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I think what the judge is doing in an abundance of caution is going and saying, look, are you competent?

And, remember, his own attorneys have raised the issue of competence. And so at the actual other phase, which was the phase to determine guilt, that was a competency hearing then. He was found to be responsible. It doesn't hurt the court to appoint other psychiatrists to examine him, to evaluate him for this proceeding, because you know there are going to be appeals. This is someone's life we are talking about.

And so the judge is saying, let's be sure. And in the event that we are sure, you have a constitutional right to have at that and represent yourself if found competent to do so. And that's what the judge is doing here.

CABRERA: And yet he is saying, I don't plan to call any witnesses.


CABRERA: It doesn't really sound like he is trying to fight for his life, per se.

But we do know he has submitted some letters that were at least part of the trial to this point. We know there is one to his mom in which it reads: "I'm sorry for what I did, but I had to do it. I know that what I did will have repercussions on my whole family, and for this, I truly am sorry. At this moment, I miss you very much. And as childish as it sounds, I wish I was in your arms."

I mean, does that humanize him to this group and could it have an impact on the sentence?

JACKSON: Well, here is how I read that. I don't think it does, because, remember, Ana, he is being remorseful to his family. He is expressing concern about the impact that his actions caused to his family. What about the victims? And moreover than that, I see this as a twofold letter. Number one, I see it showing intent. He had to do it. He was intent upon doing what he did, which is to engage in a horrific act predicated upon hate.

The other thing I see with regard to this letter is, he seems perfectly competent and lucid and logical and rational in giving the explanation to his parents.

And so I think this hurts him in terms of any mitigation, because, remember, Ana, at the mitigation phase, he is going to give an opening statement, he will give a closing statement, not presenting any evidence, but part of mitigation is your psychiatric history.


JACKSON: It could be any duress you were under, any type of -- you know, any type of debilitating ailment that you may have.

And this letter seems that he knew what he was doing, he had to do it, and "I'm sorry, family," because of its impact upon you, not the nine victims.

CABRERA: Interesting.