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U.S. Navy Fires Warning Shots at Iranian Boats; Trump and Putin to Meet; Kremlin Calls Report Witch Hunt; Interview with Rep. Brad Sherman; Jury Soon to Deliberate Dylann Roof's Fate; Israeli Slain Suspect Identified; Sports Headlines. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 9, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:32:24] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thanks so much for joining me.

A U.S. Navy ship fires warning shots toward Iranian boats. An American official says it happened near the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday after the Iranian boats kept speeding toward the Navy ship.

Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has more from the Pentagon.

Good morning.


A very tense time on Sunday. The USS Mahan, which is a Navy destroyer, was inbound. It was going into the Persian Gulf, passing through the Strait of Hormuz, when several Iranian fast attack craft approached it. These were Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval ships. These are the most militant of the Iranian maritime forces. They approached at high speed. They came within a distance that the U.S. Navy thought was unprofessional, posing a possible danger to them.

They say that the U.S. -- U.S. officials say the Mahan crew, they warned the Iranian ship, they tried to contact them on radio, bells, whistles, they even had a helicopter drop smoke flares into the water. The Iranians kept coming and then finally the Mahan, the U.S. ship, fired three warning shots into the water and the Iranians turned back.

We have seen this before, but this seemed to be a lengthy encounter. The U.S. Navy ship was approached a total of five times, we are told, over a period that lasted several hours.


COSTELLO: Barbara Starr reporting live from the Pentagon. Thank you.

Also this morning, Russia echoing President-elect Trump's comment that the hacking investigation is a witch hunt. This as we're learning the meeting between Trump and Putin is a go. And according to the Kremlin, it's being planned, quote, "very carefully."

Former CNN Moscow bureau chief and CNN contributor Jill Dougherty is following this for us this morning. Hi, Jill.


Well, they're not giving any details of when it might happen, but they are saying they've learned from the past. In fact, the spokesperson for President Putin, Dmitry Peskov, on a phone call today said, "if some contacts are planned, they will be planned very carefully. We're talking about contacts after a very tense phase in the evolution of our relations, in the degradation," he added, "of our relations. That's why, of course, any contacts on the highest level will be very carefully arranged."

So those -- that degradation, they would say, happened under President Obama, and under President Trump they hope that things will get a lot better. And then also, Carol, they were talking about that intel report and maybe, you know, I could read you some of what he said about that. It's quite interesting.

[09:35:03] COSTELLO: Please do.

DOUGHERTY: Yes. He said -- this is Dmitry Peskov again, that "this publication has not added any substance to even comment on." In other words, not worth talking about. "From our viewpoint, we still hear accusations that are unfounded, not backed by anything, made on a very amateur, emotional level that hardly befits highly professional work of really high-class special services. What we see is a serious tiredness, and all this looks like a full-scale witch hunt."

So that is from the spokesperson for President Putin. And I think it's fair to say President Putin is not going to get involved in this directly. He's going to leave it to his people to really, you know, downplay and dismiss, and in some cases even mock the report that came out from the intelligence services.

President Putin doesn't need to. I mean they know that in just a couple of weeks there will be a new president and that is the person that they are hoping will improve relations.


COSTELLO: So, Jill, is it unusual for a U.S. president to meet with the Russian leader in light of the U.S. intelligence services saying that Putin was directly behind election hacking in the United States?

DOUGHERTY: Well, you know, we've never really had this type of situation, have we? So whether he would meet with him -- I mean before the hacking, which -- well, before the hacking, you would say, yes, he would want to meet with President Putin maybe as soon as possible. But I think it's very obvious that there are a lot of complications that they are facing. And when Peskov talks about preparing for it, I think the U.S. side wants to prepare for it, too, because if you jump into some sort of meeting, symbolically that's nice but what does it actually mean about the relationship?

And then you have the very strong criticism coming from members of president -- soon-to-be President Trump's own party. So I don't think that they're going to jump into that meeting. But they do certainly want it to happen. Both Trump and Putin want all of this to go away as quickly as possible so they can get on with what they perceive will be a better relationship.

COSTELLO: Jill Dougherty reporting live from Moscow this morning. Thank you.

Joining me now to talk about this is Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman of California. He's a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Welcome, sir.

REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you.

COSTELLO: Nice to have you here.

Should President-elect Trump meet with Vladimir Putin ASAP?

SHERMAN: I don't know about ASAP, but, obviously, they should meet at some -- at some point. It's an important country.

COSTELLO: And what do you suppose the conversation will be like?

SHERMAN: Well, there might be a private thank you, but I don't think that will be reported to the press, but we have a host of issues to discuss with the Russians, and whether it's Syria, Ukraine, the Baltic states, et cetera, et cetera.

COSTELLO: You have both the Kremlin and the president-elect describing this election hack investigation by U.S. intelligence services, a witch hunt, although it seems that some members of Trump's team now say that Russia was indeed behind the hacking. So what does that say to you?

SHERMAN: We've known Russia was behind the hacking for many months. I'm surprised that there wasn't a reaction against Trump from his own base. The only bit of new information now is that the intelligence services are confirming what everybody obviously knew, which was that not only was Russia behind the hacks -- that was widely reported -- but that their purpose was to help Trump. You look at what they revealed, what effect it had in the campaign, when they revealed it and anybody who'd been in politics for a year or two would say that these leaks were designed to help Trump win. Democrats were overconfident and didn't want to rock the boat, didn't want to make as big a deal out of this as it was.

COSTELLO: You know, some Democrats suspect Trump himself was working in cahoots with Russia. Do you believe that?

SHERMAN: Oh, we'll never know. I would -- I would think not. There's little reason for them to have done a highly dangerous strategy meeting. The fact is that in the campaign, Trump said things that would have hurt him just a little bit with American voters, but helped him with the Electoral College votes that are controlled in Moscow. And Moscow returned the favor. The fact that -- I would assume they didn't do a secret meeting or a secret phone call doesn't change that.

COSTELLO: OK, but when you say Moscow controlled the Electoral -- that's not true.

[09:40:03] SHERMAN: No, they don't. But, look, this -- look, the Hillary campaign made many errors. Trump made many errors. There were dozens of factors more important than this in the campaign. But had these leaks not come out, it's hard to think that Hillary wouldn't have gotten another hundred thousand votes in the upper Midwest.

COSTELLO: I want to ask you about something along the lines in another topic. You know Meryl Streep and the Golden Globe speech. Did you hear it last night?

SHERMAN: I heard it this morning.

COSTELLO: You heard it this morning. OK. So she was upset that Donald Trump seemingly poked fun at that disabled reporter during the primary, right?


COSTELLO: And Donald Trump said that, you know what, I didn't make fun of him. That's just absolutely not true. That's what he tweeted out this morning. Kellyanne Conway said this morning on "New Day" that we should not take Trump literally, but we should know what's in his heart. How do you respond to that?

SHERMAN: He made fun of a disabled reporter who had questioned him. What was in his heart was a desire to counterattack anybody who questioned him on any issue and to do so with both legitimate criticisms and mockery of a man's disability. That what -- that's what is in our new president's heart.

COSTELLO: But I think what Donald Trump is saying, you know, I didn't make fun of him, and just believe me because you don't know what's in my heart. Does that make sense to you?

SHERMAN: We will never know what is in his heart, but we can judge what his actions were. He mocked a disabled reporter. He mocked him mercilessly, continuously and never apologized. And if his heart pushes him in the other direction, his heart doesn't seem to have much impact on his behavior.

COSTELLO: Congressman Brad Sherman of California, thanks for joining me this morning.

SHERMAN: Thank you.

COSTELLO: You're welcome.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, after days of testimony from the victims' friends and family members, the fate of Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof could soon be in the hands of a jury.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:45:25] COSTELLO: A jury in South Carolina could soon be deciding the fate of Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof after hearing from dozens of family members and friends of the nine victims, sentencing testimony could end today. Roof has objected to what he calls excessive testimony, but he has so far refused to call his own witnesses.

CNN correspondent Martin Savidge is live in Charleston.

Good morning.


Yes, we expect today that we will hear the last of these victim impact statements. Felicia Sanders is likely to be perhaps one to give the final sort of family account. She was a survivor. She was actually in that Bible study at Mother Emanuel Church when Dylann Roof opened fire. She watched her 22-year-old son be gunned down and murdered. She also watched the same happen to her aunt. She only survived as a result of playing dead.

So these are just heart rendering kind of testimonies that are coming from these victims' families. They are reliving every moment. But, of course, it is for the purpose of now the penalty phase of Dylann Roof, and that is whether he will be given the death penalty or whether he'll be given life in prison.

I should point out something else. Throughout this whole ordeal, Dylann Roof has not expressed any remorse whatsoever. We're still waiting to see if he will call any witnesses. He says he won't. But until this court case is wrapped up, it's never certain.

But at a hearing last Monday, not the trial, but a pretrial hearing, he showed up. He was wearing more of his prison garb that he wears. On his feet were these shoes. It was pointed out by an FBI agent on Friday on one of the shoes is a white supremacist design or marking. He wore it to court. So this shows you in many minds that he is totally unrepentant and in no way expresses any kind of remorse for the acts that he had done, which is why the prosecution says he must be put to death.

We'll have to see on that. It could wrap up soon, Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Martin Savidge reporting live from Charleston.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, new details about the man who drove that truck through a crowd of soldiers in Jerusalem, how he may have supported ISIS.


[09:50:47] COSTELLO: We're learning the truck driver who ran over a group of Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem may have been an ISIS sympathizer. And one of the victims, we now know, was a dual American/Israeli citizen. We also have new video of the attack. Here it is. You can see the soldiers, they were standing in a parking lot when a truck ran through the crowd. You see it there. The driver then turned around and drove back into the crowd. And the scene is just simply horrific.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is covering this for us from Jerusalem.

Tell us more.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's start with what you just mentioned there. We learned a short time ago that one of those killed in this attack, 20-year-old cadet Edis Oba (ph) was not only an Israeli soldier, he was also an American citizen, a dual U.S./Israeli citizen. That coming from the embassy. He has been laid to rest today and posthumously promoted.

As for the investigation into the attacker who was shot and killed at the scene, police say he is a 28-year-old Palestinian man from east Jerusalem, a short distance away from where this attack took place. As part of the ongoing investigation, there is heightened security and heightened alert around this neighborhood, blocking off entries and exits, as police have looked for suspects here and they say they have made nine arrests, five of whom are family members of the suspect.

What police are trying to figure out is, was this a lone wolf attack or was it preplanned, was it premeditated or was it spur of the moment? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in visiting the scene of the attack yesterday, just a few short hours after it happened, said Israel has an understanding that the attacker here was an ISIS sympathizer or an ISIS supporter. He didn't offer any evidence or he didn't say why it is that Israel knows that, but he pointed to the similarity between this attack and the attacks in Nice and Berlin where a truck was, once again, used to plow into a crowded tourist area, which is exactly what this was in Jerusalem, a crowded tourist walkway.

Police say there is no ISIS cell here. There have been no ISIS cell. And this, in fact, doesn't indicate that there is a new one. But there are two efforts on the part of the Israeli government to make sure that sort of a support of ISIS doesn't grow, which has broken Israeli and the Palestinian interest. First, Israel has been trying to crack down on social media incitement. One Israeli leader termed it, quote, "viral terrorism." Israel has been working for months on trying to stop the propagation of incitement on social media. Second, Israel is announcing that they'll use administration detention, detaining ISIS supports, to make sure it doesn't spread. But as -- going back to the beginning here, it is a sad day across Israel as the country mourns four soldier laid to rest today.

COSTELLO: Oren Liebermann reporting live from Jerusalem, thanks.

Next hour we'll hear from the mayor of Jerusalem, what he has to say about the attack.

North Korea warning it could fire off a long range missile at, quote, "any time." This on the heels of Kim Jong-un announcing the test of a nuclear weapon that could reach the United States. In a statement, North Korea saying, quote, "the U.S. is wholly to blame for its missile program." But signaled a willingness to open up a line of communication with President-elect Trump. Both China and South Korea denounce North Korea's missile threat, warning they could push for further sanctions. We'll keep you posted.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, Charlie Brotman has been behind the microphone for 11 straight inaugural parades, but not this year. I'll talk to him about President-elect Trump's decision to make a change and oust him. That's in the next hour of NEWSROOM.


[09:57:15] COSTELLO: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers showing why he's king of the hail Marys. That was an amazing game. As Steelers assistant -- and a Steelers assistant coach is arrested after their big playoff win. That's a downer.

Coy Wire live in Tampa with more.

Good morning.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Carol.

I'm here in front of Raymond James Stadium. We have that awesome rematch of last year's title game between Alabama and Clemson. We will get to more of that in a second.

First, you've got to check out Odell Beckham Jr. and the boat boys before the NFL playoff game at Green Bay yesterday. No shirts, no pants, no problem. Wrong, big problems. The Giants receivers fresh off their much-criticized Miami party boat trip, dropped and kept dropping Eli Manning's passes. Giants fans will not soon let them hear the end of that one.

Now we've got to go and show you the play of the game, and possibly of the year. End of the first half, time expiring, and Aaron Rodgers throwing a hall Mary to Randall Cobb, somehow coming up with a catch. That was the play that shook up the Giants' high. Rodgers dropping that dart into the honey hole. That is sweet. Packers blow out the Giants 38-13.

Now in another blowout yesterday, the Steelers squished the fish in Pittsburgh. The Dolphins were down by two touchdowns, less than ten minutes into the game. Pittsburgh wins 30-12. They have now won eight in a row and are red-hot at the right time. Next weekend's divisional round all set up.

Also red-hot, my former team, the Atlanta Falcons, will be hosting Seattle on Saturday. Then you have the Patriots, huge favorites against the Texans in New England. And on Sunday, the Chiefs hosting those Steelers. The Packers will take on the Cowboys in Dallas.

Now, let's go back to the Steelers real quick. After their playoff win against Miami, assistant coach Joey Porter was arrested outside of a bar on multiple charges, including aggravated assault. The Steelers say they are aware of the situation but will have no further comment until they have more details. Porter once started for the team as a player, then joined as an assistant coach in 2014.

All right, let's turn to the reason why we're here in Tampa, a rematch of last year's phenomenal national championship game between Alabama and Clemson. One that saw Bama barely winning the game, 45-40. But here we are again, both teams battling back for a chance to win it all. Nick Saban's Crimson Tide has dominated college ball, the nation's longest win streak at 26 games. They've won four of the last seven national titles.

But Dabo Swinney has turned Clemson into a perennial powerhouse as well. The school hasn't won a title since '81. But Coach Dabo was just in sixth grade at the time, but his Tigers last week dominating number three Ohio State. They're right back in the ring with the reigning kings. And over the last six years, Carol, Alabama is the only team that's racked up more wins than Clemson. We'll see if those Tigers can finally win the tussle. Last time they bet the Tide, 1905.

[10:00:12] COSTELLO: We will do that.

Coy Wire reporting live from Tampa.