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Trump Says He Has Secret Information Regarding Russian Hacking; Obama Defends His Legacy; Congressman: Putin Outsmarted Obama on Sanctions. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired January 2, 2017 - 07:00   ET

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


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And he heads into this briefing with intelligence officials this week, skeptical of their conclusions that Russia was behind the hacks and insisting that he knows some secret information about this that many people don't.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[07:00:15] SERFATY (voice-over): Donald Trump back in New York City this morning and gearing up for a busy week ahead. The president- elect meeting with intelligence officials for a briefing about Russian hacking just days after again expressing doubt about the intelligence community's conclusions about the Kremlin's interference in the U.S. election.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want them to be sure. Because it's 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.

SERFATY: Trump referencing intelligence failures in the lead-up to the Iraq War to bolster his points and claiming to have inside information about the hacking that he says he will reveal this week.

TRUMP: I also know things that other people don't know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.

SERFATY: Trump's defiance pitting him against the Obama administration and many of his fellow Republicans.

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

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: If he's going to have any credibility as president, he needs to stop talking this way. He needs to stop denigrating the intelligence community.

SERFATY: While speaking to reporters outside of his New Year's Eve party at Mar-a-Lago, Trump, a long time skeptic of e-mail, offered this advice.

TRUMP: You know, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way, because I'll tell you what: no computer is safe. SERFATY: Also on the president-elect's "to do" list this week:

filling several open cabinet spots, including the secretaries of veterans affairs and agriculture, and giving a deposition related to his legal battle with Chef Jose Andres.

JOSE ANDRES, CHEF: Apologize to every Latino, to every Mexican.

SERFATY: Trump is suing Andres after he pulled the plug on a restaurant at Trump's new hotel in Washington after the president- elect repeatedly insulted Mexicans during the campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY: And as the president elect works to fill out his cabinet, Democrats on Capitol Hill are threatening to drag out votes on Trump's nominees, claiming they've been slow in providing information to the committees ahead of those upcoming hearings. And already, three liberal groups are calling for a delay in Senator Jeff Sessions's confirmation hearing for attorney general. That hearing, Alisyn, is supposed to start next week.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Sunlen. Thanks so much for all of that.

This morning, the White House announcing that President Obama will make a farewell speech next week in Chicago. This as Mr. Obama plans to meet with Democrats on the Hill this week in an effort to save Obamacare.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns is live at the White House with details. Good morning, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

President Obama and the administration saying that farewell speech will be on January 10, next week, in his adopted hometown of Chicago, the place where he got his start in politics.

The president putting out a statement over the weekend, saying his farewell dates back to the tradition started by George Washington in 1796. An opportunity for the outgoing president to thank his supporters for the journey of the last 8 years.

He also put out a series of tweets over the weekend, lauding his accomplishments while in office, including the Affordable Care Act, clean energy, the tackling of the financial crisis.

All of this as the president continues to try to seal his legacy; expected to meet with congressional Democrats in an effort to push back at efforts by Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

All of this, the importance of it, really underscored by the incoming press secretary, who said over the weekend that Donald Trump, as expected, will sign a series of executive orders to try to get rid of many of the regulations that President Obama put into place.

John and Alisyn, back to you.

JOHNS: All right. Joe Johns at the White House. Thanks so much.

Lots to discuss now. Let's bring in CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" reporter Abbi Phillip; and senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner," host of the "Examining Politics" podcast, David Drucker.

David, we just heard Joe Johns talking about Sean Spicer, what he had to say over the weekend, essentially saying the Trump administration is going to get busy getting busy on day one, overturning as much as it can when it comes to President Obama's executive orders.

Listen to what Sean said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's going to be many big things. On day one, he's going to sign a series of executive orders to do two things. One is to repeal a lot of the regulations and actions that have been taken by this administration over the last eight years that have hampered both economic growth and job creation.

And then secondly, do the same on a forward thinking thing. He's going to start implementing things. He's going to bring a new brand to Washington. He's going to institute a lobbying ban, five years. If you want to serve in a Trump administration, you're going to serve this country, not yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What do you think the priorities are here? Because Sean didn't lay out exactly what will be repealed when. Are we talking about an environmental regulations? Are we talking about consumer protections? Or a lot of people want to know the immigration executive actions that President Obama took. Will those be on the chopping block quickly?

[07:05:08] DAVID DRUCKER, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Well, look, I think they're all on the chopping block. The question is what does he get to first? And what can he get to with the stroke of a pen versus regulations that, even though they are executive based, are going to have to go through some regulation review process.

So we know that he wants to do away with anything that gets in the way, as he sees it, of business growth and job growth. That can be EPA based. It can be other things.

And look, this is -- one of the things that happens when you govern by executive order, which President Obama has done to get around a Republican Congress, is it gives President-elect Trump, once he takes office, the ability to undo a lot of what Obama did through executive, rescinding executive orders.

So I think you're going to see a flurry of things on day one. You'll see more things put in motion, but obviously, the real work is going to be what can he get through Congress and how fast?

CAMEROTA: Abbi, is immigration the big question mark? Because obviously, he ran on being very tough on illegal immigration, and yet he may govern differently. So what do we accept?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is very much one of the most important pieces of Obama's legacy that carries over into the Trump administration only for as long as Trump wants it to be there. And we're talking about millions of undocumented minors and in some cases their parents, who have received protections under the Obama administration.

And this is something that I think a lot of immigration hardliners want Trump to roll back, because they don't like the precedent that Obama set by extending these protections without the help of Congress.

But the problem is that I think Trump has said in the past, in the weeks after the election, that he thought that -- that the children who had been brought here undocumented by their parents of no fault of their own maybe shouldn't be penalized or punished for that. So we'll see. I mean, I think it's still very much up in the air how Trump actually feels about that policy and whether some of the more hardline immigration folks, including his new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and some of the aides that he's brought in along with that will -- will push him to go further on some of those issues.

BERMAN: You know, David, we just learned that President Obama is going to deliver his farewell address on January 10. That's going to happen in Chicago right now.

It's all part of what is a pretty serious rear-guard action, in a way, being fought by this White House as it exits. Right? I mean, President Obama giving this speech, which is tradition. It's gone back to George Washington, who submitted his to a newspaper. But presidents give speeches on their way out the door. But he's signing things. He' going to Congress this week to try to meet with Democrats to figure out a way to protect what he can in Obamacare. He's fighting to frame his legacy right now.

DRUCKER: Right. But I think you hit the nail on the head there. He's fighting to frame the legacy. He's really fighting to save his legacy, in many ways. Eight years after Obamacare passed. About six years or so after Obamacare passed, he's going to the Hill to try and work with Democrats to preserve it.

Look, there are things you can say this president did well. He came into office, the economy was a mess. It's clearly on a stronger footing than it was. He found and he brought to justice Osama bin Laden. That's an achievement nobody can take away from him.

But you look at his signature legislative achievement, what cost the Democratic Party more politically than anything we can remember, and it's the Affordable Care Act. And Republicans are going, most likely, to repeal and replace it. He's fighting to try and keep it in place. And there's not much he can do about that. And if you look at the state of the Democratic Party, I man, he came in with historic majorities that began in 2006, continued with him; and the state of the party, on down to the state legislative level, is a mess. It's decimated.

And so it's definitely a mixed legacy. Some of it is extremely -- I wouldn't give it a very good grade. Others -- you know, other things that he achieved obviously, you know, we can look back and say he did a good job.

But it's definitely mixed. I think he knows it, and that's why he's fighting so hard to frame it in a positive fashion.

CAMEROTA: Also, as we've discussed, he doesn't want Donald Trump to be able to take credit for things that happened on his watch.

So first, let me just show a graphic illustrating what David just said about the losses on President Obama's watch for Democrats in power. House Democrats down 70 -- 70 seats. Senate Democrats down 11 seats. Democratic governors have also lost by ten.

But Abbi, here is how President Obama is trying to frame his successes. He talks about job growth, health care and diplomacy. We'll start with job growth.

"Facing the worst financial crisis in 80 years, you delivered the longest streak of job growth in our history." He's taking credit for it but using the sort of country "you all."

On health care -- Obamacare, as David was just alluding to -- "After decades of rising healthcare costs today, nearly every American now has access to the financial security of affordable health care."

On diplomacy, "We brought home more of our troops and strengthened U.S. leadership, leading with democracy" -- I mean, sorry -- "with diplomacy and partnering with nations to meet global problems."

[07:10:04] I mean, it really is a window into the things that he's feeling -- I don't know -- defensive about or that he feels needs shoring up in his legacy.

PHILLIP: Right. Democrats have had this problem for so long. They're always trying to convince the American people to buy into this progress or to look at it as progress.

I mean, the Affordable Care Act is there. There are many more covered people who have insurance who wouldn't have had insurance before.

But in this election, the Affordable Care Act is one of those lightning-rod issues that voters said, "This isn't working for me." So it's really a difficult line that they're trying to walk here, where they have to actually kind of bring the American people along with them on this -- on this, like, journey toward saying that, "Hey, this is actual progress," and it's difficult.

And that's one of the reasons why he's doing it, is because it isn't just to give him that the unemployment rate is low and people feel like it's low and that the economy is doing well. People actually have to be convinced of that.

And for Democrats going forward, that's going to be a real challenge, getting Americans to believe that -- that what they're experiencing is actually progress.

BERMAN: David, one quick question on Russia.

President-elect Trump over the weekend said he's got information that the rest of us don't have about the alleged Russian hacking of the U.S. election system. He still does not think or hasn't stated that he thinks Russia did hack into the U.S. election system. He tells us he may tell us what he knows on Tuesday or Wednesday.

My question for you is, is there any political risk? Or what is the political risk here for him going forward?

DRUCKER: Well, look, I think the political risk is that his Russian reset fails the same way President Obama's did. And President Obama's reset failed with Russia. George W. Bush failed when it came to Putin and Russia.

This sounds a lot to me like Donald Trump's secret plan to defeat ISIS. If there are things he knows that he doesn't have to meet with our intelligence officials to be briefed on what may or may not have happened. So this is -- this is sort of typical of the president- elect: kind of talk in circles and have us running around, trying to chase his tail

But, you know, eventually Russia will either, if Trump is successful, start to act in ways that benefit the U.S. and our national security; and we will reassert our influence around the world. It's one of the areas where President Obama leaves a poor legacy.

Or Putin will have his way, and the American people will know it, and President Trump is going to have to answer for that the same way his predecessor has to answer for that.

BERMAN: All right. David, Abbi, thanks so much.

DRUCKER: Thank you.

BERMAN: ISIS is claiming responsibility for the deadly New Year's attack at an Istanbul night club. This left 39 people dead, dozens others hurt, including one American, now identified as [SIC] U.S. officials, William Jacob Raak.

New video shows the attacker opening fire at the club and then fleeing the scene. That gunman remains on the loose.

President Obama -- we were just talking about it -- expelling dozens of Russian Democrats linked to cyberattacks. Vladimir Putin not responding in kind. So did the Russian president outsmart the U.S. president? A New York congressman thinks so. He joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:17:07] CAMEROTA: Thirty-five Russian diplomats are back in Moscow this morning after being expelled from the United States by President Obama. Russian President Vladimir Putin did not respond in kind. And that drew praise from President-elect Donald Trump.

Our next guest says Mr. Putin outsmarted President Obama. He is New York Republican congressman Lee Zeldin, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He joins us now.

Great to have you here in studio.

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK: Good to be on with you.

CAMEROTA: How did Putin outsmart President Obama?

ZELDIN: Well, first, let me say, one, Putin's a bad dude. He's an aggressor. He's a provocateur. He is an adversary to the United States.

In his response to the sanctions, he was calm and collected. He created a perception of being cool as a cucumber in his response. The international perception of what would have happened, could have been if President Obama was escalating a conflict with his imposition of sanctions.

CAMEROTA: For retaliating.

ZELDIN: Totally. I'm just saying, you know, international perspective, there might be other countries and people around the world who may view Vladimir Putin's response as deescalating the conflict between the two countries.

So it's a perception from other people around the country that Vladimir Putin's response might have been the best -- the better response for him.

CAMEROTA: Do you worry that Vladimir Putin will outsmart Donald Trump?

ZELDIN: I fear that, whoever our president is -- the president is now, is next, was in the past -- that the Russians, and specifically Vladimir Putin -- KGB, and as I said a really bad guy -- that he thinks five, ten steps ahead. It's a chessboard for him. When he is making a decision and pursuing a policy and making a statement today, he knows what his next move is. So you know, there are -- there are literally a million different paths to pursue as far as policy with Russia.

CAMEROTA: Right. So what do you think about the path that Donald Trump has thus far pursued, which sounds complimentary, conciliatory? Are you comfort with that?

ZELDIN: It needs to be part of a long game. Not of just, you know, playing nice out of the box and let's see where this takes us. If you want to -- you could pursue the path of being the complete opposite. And...

CAMEROTA: You mean being hostile?

ZELDIN: You could be hostile or friendly. You need to have a long game where you are doing it with a -- in the best interests of American foreign policy, that you are predicting how Vladimir Putin in Russia is going to respond. This is a guy who looks in the mirror. He thinks he's eight feet tall. He's -- you have to play with what Vladimir Putin thinks are his own strengths, as well as what are his nation's weaknesses.

CAMEROTA: What do you think Vladimir Putin's long game is?

ZELDIN: He -- he would love to put the Soviet Union back together again. He would love the legacy of being Vladimir the Great. He is now in Syria in a way that he wasn't a year ago. The way that he's now -- he's aligned with the Taliban with intelligence sharing, in ways that not too long ago Russia wasn't involved in different areas of the world he is more involved today.

[07:20:18] CAMEROTA: Very quickly, do you doubt the U.S. intelligence agencies that say that Vladimir Putin and Russia were behind the DNC attacks?

ZELDIN: I don't doubt. Our intelligence community is amazing. I mean, they're great. They're very good at what they do.

Now, what I would like to see more of is that hopefully it's this week. But a few days ago, when President Obama released the sanctions, he said that, in the coming few days, he was going to be providing a more detailed report to Congress. So I'm looking forward to seeing that, because what was released publicly with the FBI, DHS report was -- it was brief.

CAMEROTA: It wasn't enough for you.

ZELDIN: There were a lot of unanswered questions. It was a very short report that was provided publicly.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about Israel. And what President Trump -- President-elect Trump plan seems to be. You have not been -- you're not satisfied with President Obama's relationship with Israel. What do you think is about to change?

ZELDIN: Well, Israel is our nation's greatest ally, in my opinion, and we should be standing shoulder to shoulder with them when they're being tested. And they're being tested in many different ways.

So right now, and for a long time, American foreign policy has been one where we have not been favored. We haven't approved of the settlement activity by Israel. But we've never allowed the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution declaring it a violation of international law.

We have our foreign aid going to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority provides financial rewards to their terrorists when they murder Israelis.

CAMEROTA: So you say stop the financial aid?

ZELDIN: I have -- yes. Absolutely. We had -- Taylor Force (ph) was a United States military academy graduate who was killed in Israel. And the Palestinian Authority was praising that murder of an American service member. They'd provide financial rewards to those families.

You have -- if they had an election right now, Hamas would win an election within the Palestinian Authority. There are a lot of challenges that are faced right there in that region -- rocket threats from Hamas and Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon, as I mentioned. Innocent Israelis being murdered by Palestinian terrorists. The BDS movement on college campuses in the U.S. But also internationally, with foreign countries and foreign companies targeting the Israeli economy today.

CAMEROTA: What is your plan starting tomorrow? And by "you," I mean all the Republicans in Congress. What are you going to do about Obamacare?

ZELDIN: Repealing and replacing Obamacare.

CAMEROTA: But specifically. Like starting tomorrow, what's the first -- what's your first move?

ZELDIN: I think that there is -- I think it's a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. In last January, there was legislation passed that the president vetoed. A year ago, January of 2015.

Now you have a president who would be willing to sign that legislation. The key is that, you know, we talk about the -- from a 30,000-foot level, Americans talk about certain aspects of Obamacare.

CAMEROTA: Right.

ZELDIN: Like, continuing to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

CAMEROTA: Right.

ZELDIN: A lot of people will stay on their parents' policies until they're 26. Where there is strong bipartisan support.

CAMEROTA: Right.

ZELDIN: Conservatives and liberals.

CAMEROTA: But if you repeal it first -- if your first move is to repeal, don't those go away?

ZELDIN: Well, actually, the position is in favor of keeping those parts of Obamacare where -- what is so important is that when you get into, you know, the 50-foot level of dealing with these issues that maybe we don't debate as much as the American public, is that there are literally thousands of different individual decisions that have to get made in order to have the best possible policy.

So I'm in New York state. And Health Republic of New York was the lone co-op under the health insurance exchange here in New York. Health Republic went under. Over 200,000 New Yorkers lost their insurance, because we had one co-op, and we picked an entity that didn't know how to create a healthcare plan. So they ended up renting one. And they didn't know how to sell it, so they marked it down. And when they realized their math didn't work out, they went to New York state looking for permission to raise their policies. And New York said, "No, make it work," and then they went under. So...

CAMEROTA: So it's complicated.

ZELDIN: It's complicated. When we get into the weeds and we deal with those thousands of individual small elements, we need the best possible decision to ensure that the math works, and this doesn't collapse on its own.

CAMEROTA: It will be very interesting to watch. Congressman, thanks so much for being here.

ZELDIN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Nice to talk to you.

ZELDIN: Yes, you, too.

CAMEROTA: Let's get over to John.

BERMAN: All right. President Obama's legacy in jeopardy. This as President-elect Trump aims to repeal many of his actions on day one. How will Democrats fight back? One of those Democrats, Congresswoman Debbie Dingle, she will weigh in, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:28:50] BERMAN: The new Republican-controlled Congress will be sworn in tomorrow. This -- and President Obama's legislative legacy could be in jeopardy. President-elect Trump has pledged to roll back many of Obama's legislative achievements and executive actions. So what can Democrats do about it?

Joining us now is Congresswoman Debbie Dingle, Democrat from Michigan.

Representative, thank you so much for being with us, and happy new year to you and your family.

REP. DEBBIE DINGLE (D), MICHIGAN: Good morning, John. Happy New Year's to you, your family and everybody watching.

BERMAN: Appreciate that. So President-elect Trump has made no secret that he wants to repeal and replace Obamacare. President-elect Trump and his spokesman, Sean Spicer, have made no secret that, on day one of taking office, he's going to sign as many orders as he can to overturn some of President Obama's executive actions. My questions to you, in broad terms, what can you, as a Democratic member of Congress, do about any of this?

DINGLE: Well, let's start with healthcare reform, or Obamacare, as some like to call it. And the fact that Speaker Ryan wants to privatize Medicare. We need to understand that there are a lot of people out there that have come to depend upon this.

And Donald Trump is not a not-smart politician.