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tv   Wolf  CNN  December 15, 2016 10:00am-11:01am PST

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hello, i'm wolf blitzer. it's 1:00 p.m. in washington, 6:00 p.m. in london, 8:00 p.m. in aleppo, syria. wherever you're watching around the world, thank you very much for joining us. president-elect donald trump raises new doubts about russia's election hacking here in the united states. while an operation to rescue civilians in syria rub run runs into trouble and the fight for mosul in iraq reaches a mile stone. we're following developments on those three major stories this hour. the incoming president donald trump takes direct aim at the white house. and once again disputes whether russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. the president-elect blames it all on politics. we're going to tell you what he said in his latest tweet. in syria, a convoy ferrying civilians out of aleppo came under sniper attack today.
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one person was killed. four others were wounded. the attack brought the evacuations to a halt. but the operation has since resumed. we're going live to the region for you. in iraq, it's been now two months since the battle to retake the city of mosul was launched. iraqi forces backed by the u.s.-led coalition are fighting to regain control of the city from isis. and an update on the operation ahead in a live report. but first, let's get to the president-elect. ness latest response to claims that russia directly interfered in u.s. presidential elections, he's placing blame on the obama administration. trump tweeting this morning, let me read it to you, quote, if russia or some other entity was hacking, why did the white house wait so long to act? why did they only complain after hillary lost? he's also continuing his victory tour tonight. historically blue state that put him over the necessary 270 electoral votes needed to win. we're talking about
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pennsylvania. and tonight, he will speak to supporters in hershey. tomorrow, he'll head to orlando, florida. saturday, scheduled stop in mobile, alabama. let's bring in our senior white house correspondent jim acosta, he's in new york city. our cnn international correspondent matthew chance is joining us live from moscow. jim, the white house has said the president-elect knew about the russian hack benefiting him. what more can you tell us about trump's response today? >> that's right, wolf, some pretty sharp words being exchanged between the president-elect and the white house. we haven't really seen this kind of back and forth since the election between the white house and donald trump. they were sort of making peace as you'll recall in those days after november the 8th when the president said he wanted to help donald trump bring about a smooth transition of power. earlier, just a little while ago, at the white house press briefing, josh earnest, the press secretary, sort of went back at donald trump.
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after trump tweeted earlier this morning if russia or some other entity was hacking, why did the white house wait so long to act. josh earnest had a very pointed response. here's what he had to say. >> but there are others on the outside who are raising these questions. and apparently that is striking a nerve with the president-elect's team. one way to deal with that, is to start answering these questions. and not just relying on a defense suggesting that the rhetoric of the republican nominee was a joke. when nobody thought it was funny. and there's plenty of evidence to indicate he knew exactly what he was talking about. >> and, wolf, i was at that press conference in florida in late july. i asked that question that elicited that response from donald trump when he said, you know, if russia could find those 30,000 missing e-mails from hillary clinton, please turn them over, you know, the trump campaign at the time said he was
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just joking about that but, you know, in the room it didn't sound like a joke at that time. but moving forward, wolf, i do want to point out something i think is very interesting. i've talked to a transition source just a little while ago who said that the president-elect is, quote, concerned about the intelligence community's findings. that russia was engaging in hacking during the election. that is a bit of a nuance i think because up until this point donald trump had been saying, you know, look, it could have been russia, it could have been china, it could have been a guy sitting on his bed. he said that during one of the debates. a transition source is telling me yes, the president-elect is concerned about these reports, is concerned about these findings, but they feel inside the transition that this whole russia matter is being used to delegitimize his victory and that's what he has a big beef about. >> in this tweet, when he says,
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the white house waited so long to act. josh earnest mentioned this on october 7th of this year, before the election, there was a joint statement from the department of homeland security and the office of the director of national intelligence, specifically saying that the u.s. intelligence community, quote, is confident that the russian government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from u.s. persons and institutions. so there was that statement during the campaign. hold on a moment, jim. i want to go to matthew chance. in moscow for us. we're also learning, matthew, that a senior adviser to the trump campaign, an outside surrogate if you will, former congressman jack kingston, was in moscow. he's now back here in washington. what do we know about his trip with whom he met, what are you hearing, matthew? >> well, there's been a couple of people that have had associations with the trump campaign that have been making the rounds in moscow. not in an official capacity. they've been here on personal
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trips. that's how they characterized it. jack kingston, former congressman from georgia, he's one of those individuals. he's been meeting with businessmen apparently, not with russian officials. but he's also been talking to reporters as well and talking about what russia can expect under a trump presidency. one of the things he's been talking about is the issue of sanctions. of course the united states put russia under economic sanctions following its annexation of crimea back in 2014 in an attempt to try to get it to alter its policy. russian policy has not changed. so possibly looking at sanctions and possibly drawing a line under them. that will of course be music to the ears to the kremlin. they are desperate to get these punishing sanctions lifted. carter page is another figure making the rounds in moscow as well. the trump campaign has distanced themselves from him but earlier on trump was talking about him.
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he has been speaking to businesspeople as well. he said one of the -- it's going to be islamic terrorism, that russia and the united states should join forces to combat that threat. these are the sort of pictures we're getting about what trump's thinking. but when they come to moscow, they're not officially part of a official trump delegation but they're tweeted by the state here as delegates from the white house in waiting, so they get special treatment and people listen carefully to what they say, wolf. >> i'm sure they do. jim acosta, matthew chance. guy, thank you very much. let's talk about the relationship with russia. chuck hagel is joining us. he was the defense secretary during the obama administration from 2013 to 2015. he served in vietnam, first vietnam veteran to serve as secretary of defense, former u.s. senator, from nebraska, republican senator from nebraska, i should point out as well. mr. secretary, thank you very much for joining us. >> wolf, thank you. >> your head spinning listening to all of this, what's going on right now?
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give me your reaction. >> well, i think a couple of things. yes, it's important that we get the facts. we will get the facts i suspect when the new congress comes back into session in january. they will open hearings on all this. we do need the facts. also, we'll got to remember, in 35 days, we're going to have a new president. a new administration. new policies. new structures. the fact is also we have common interests with russia. russia's a big country. it's an important country. every new administration that takes office comes in with new hope, new possibilities. i remember when president obama came in eight years ago, there was an effort to reset the relationship. >> how did that work out? >> that didn't work out very well. but the point is, we can't continue down this path of more slaughter, more chaos, more war, in the middle east -- >> so are you encouraged now, what you're hearing from the president-elect and his national
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security advisers, that they want a strong improved relationship with russia? >> i am encouraged by that. that doesn't discount or at all put aside the big differences we have with russia, where russia is today and what they did, ukraine, crimecrimea, their involvement clearly now, military involvement, and they're there to stay, i suspect, in syria. we've got to find some platforms of stability and start working together if we can to sort this out because the question i have is where does this go. we can continue proxy wars on and on and on and it will bring more suffering, more death, more slaughter. so yes, i'm encouraged. can they do it, can they find enough common ground, we'll see. >> do you have any doubt that the russians interfered in these hacking operations in the u.s. presidential elections? >> from what i know and i've not seen the intelligence but i think it's pretty clear that russia did do what we think --
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at least what the intelligence community is saying they did. i'm just also saying in some ways this shouldn't be particularly new. cyber is a new for of warfare and it has been and measure going to be dealing with this. it is a sophisticated instrument now of warfare, of intelligence gathering, of mischief making, and that's a reality. that doesn't discount it or excuse it, of course not. but we but we got to focus on how we deal with it and how we get ahead of it. >> was the hacking, the interference in the election by russia, an act of war, as some are suggesting? >> well, an act of war is a pretty heady statement. i don't know based on what i know, i wouldn't say that's -- >> because you said cyber warfare is war, if you will, it's a cyber war. >> well, just like terrorism or just like espionage, it's an arm, it's an instrument of some kind of warfare or effort to
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undermine opponents or people who you do not share common interest with. look at yahoo!. what happened. is that an act of war? it just didn't happen. but 1 billion customers were hacked. that's a pretty serious invasion. that's not new. we've been seeing that more and more. it's not just coming from russia, it's coming from china and north korea and iran. >> let me press you on this point, in that statement that general clapper, the national intelligence, the director of the national intelligence, homeland security secretary, released, they said, we believe, based on the scope and stress receivety of these efforts that only russia's senior most officials could have authorized these activities. listen to josh earnest, the white house press secretary, speaking about that. >> we believe based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts that only russia's senior most officials could have authorized these activities.
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that is a statement from the intelligence community that was made public on october 7th. at the risk of editorializing, when i read that statement for the first time in early october, i didn't think it was particularly so. >> he didn't think it was particularly subtle. the suggestion being that putin himself was involved in orchestrating the hack and the interference. you buy that? >> well, first of all, i have utmost respect and confidence in general clapper and his professionalism and that of our intelligence agencies. if that is their summary and if that is their conclusion, then you have to take that pretty seriously. i don't know if putin signed off on this or not. but if our intelligence community says that did in fact happen, we need to take that
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seriously. and i guess what president-elect trump is saying. he questioned some of this information that the cia and intelligence is always imperfect. they were wrong on a lot of things over the years. not just the cia but our intelligence. it's imperfect. you'll never get 100%. but this is pretty serious charge. to have the head of the dni who oversees all of our 17 intelligence offices make a charge like that based on accumulation of intelligence from all those different agencies. >> when clapper says even yor most officials, you believe he's referring to putin himself? >> i don't know that again. but it certainly would have to touch -- if that's his reverence, it would have to certainly touch the putin office, whether it was president putin himself that signed off on that, i don't know. >> we got a lot more to discuss, mr. secretary. stick around. we're also going to talk about what's going on in aleppo right now. and evacuations finally under
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w way. while syrian president bashar al assad celebrates what he's calling the liberation of the city. plus it's been months since u.s.-backed forces began the battle to liberate mosul, iraq, hoping to free the city from isis control. latest on both fronts right after this.
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and if you have hep c, it can be cured. be sure to ask your doctor to get tested for hep c. for us it's time to get tested. it's the only way to know for sure. a desperate cry from an orphan in aleppo. please get us out. the evacuation of civilians is under way. the syrian president bashar al assad is calling it the liberation of aleppo. in iraq, the battle to regain control of the second largest city reaches the two-month mark. let's get the very latest on both stories from two of our international correspondents.
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fred pleitgen is following the situation in syria from across the border in beirut, lebanon. ben wedeman join us from erbil in iraq, not far away from mosul. update us on this operation, the dire situation in aleppo right now. >> wolf, it certainly is dire for folks in the last rebel enclave there in aleppo. you're absolutely right, this operation began early this morning to evacuate all the fighters and all the civilians from that area and it really started very badly. when the first convoy that was supposed to leave came under fire at a checkpoint right on the border between rebel and government-held territory. one person was killed in that attack. several others were wounded. after that, all of these convoys were suspected for a while. but then everybody got back together and said looks, we have to get this back on track. now con voips have started rolling again. if you look at the video of
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those convoys, there's some drone footage, some regular camera footage as well. you'll see there's a lot of ambulances and ambulance convoys coming out of eastern aleppo it that's because the first people who are being evacuated are the ones who need it most. wounded people, people who have illnesses, people who need immediate medical attention, of course can't get those in those enclosed rebel areas. afters that done, wolf, that's when the civilians and the fighters are going to come out of there as well. for most of them, it's really a leap of faith that they're taking. a lot of them very concerned about the fact they have to go through government-held territory where they're very vulnerable inside those buses to then get into other rebel-controlled areas. you've already mentioned bashar al assad calling this the liberation of aleppo. of course the people leaving there see that differently. many of them very bitter because in spite of the fact they were getting bombed so badly over the past couple months, many of them didn't want to leave their city. as they leave, that's when the
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syrian government takes full control of aleppo once again, wolf. >> standby for a moment. i want to bring ben wedeman into this. we're now two months into the fight to lib rat mosul, the second largest city in iraq. how much progress has been made? where do things stand now? >> wolf, this was a battle that started with fairly dramatic advances by the iraqi army. and the peshmerga taking villages and towns around mosul. but now it's become a street by street, house by house slog. now, according to some accounts, the iraqi military have been able to retake one-third of the eastern half of mosul. of course, it's anticipated that the -- was anticipated that the eastern half would be the easy part. it's the western part where it's believed that isis is really dug in. and speaking to people on the ground there and people who have just come out within the last 24
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hours, they say that there are many civilians who are basically stuck in the middle. you'll recall that before the offensive began, the iraqi military dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets on mosul urging residents to stay in their houses if they felt safe. many of them actually heeded that call. but that has created a situation where you have civilians caught right in the middle of a battleground. yesterday, we spoke to some people who had just come out of mosul who said they were in the lower part of their house, the ground floor, on top, on the roof, where isis fighters, one block over, was the iraqi army, and they were terrified that coalition or iraqi aircraft would hit their homes. so you've got this very complicated situation within eastern mosul itself. and really this is just the beginning of what could be a
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battle that could last, wolf, for months and months and months. >> ben wedeman in erbil in northern iraq. and fred pleitgen joining us from beirut, lebanon, not far from the syrian border. let's bring back the former defense secretary chuck hagel. you look at these two situations, aleppo and mosul, let's talk about syria first. when you left the obama administration, you were upset the president had delivered an ultimatum, a red line, if syria used chemical weapons, they would pay a price. the u.s. did not cross that red line, if you will. i want you to listen to what the president recently told our fareed zakaria about this. >> i think it is the smartest decision from a menu of bad options that were available to us. do i believe that it would have been a profound mistake for us to wade in and to currently have
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100,000 troops or 50,000 troops inside of syria right now, do i think that the situation would be better for us? i do not believe so. >> okay. we do know the slaughter that has gone on over these years. 400,000, maybe half a million people in syria have been killed. millions have been made homeless. refugees. was it a mistake to issue that red line and not follow through on the ultimatum? >> well, yes, i think it was. and i say that not because i minimize or trivialize the complicated and the decisions that go into something like this, because you're always thinking about consequences. so i respect what the president has said there. we spent a long time talking about this. but 100,000 troops in syria wasn't the only option. in fact, that was not even
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really a feasible option that we had brought to the president. when the president of the united states says something to the world, that's a big deal. and then not fulfill a commitment that he made, your allies lose confidence and trust in your leadership and your word. your adversaries are watching this. clearly, whether this led to the russian russians moving militarily into syria where before they had not been, they had just one small little naval base in latikea province on the mediterranean or not, i don't know. this is imperfect. the united states military is not going to solve that problem in syria. the united states is not going to solve that problem. but, again, i go back to a president's word. i think when a president gives his word and makes a commitment like that and even before that when the president had said, and i wasn't there at the time, that
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assad must go, we did nothing in our policy to actually facilitate that. which i think hurt us with our allies as well. so i'll leave it to history to decide whether the president's position on this and what he ultimately decided was the right thing or not. i think we had some options -- >> because you were on the inside. you say deploying 100,000 troops to syria or even 50,000 troops to syria was not necessarily a realistic option. what could the president have done after he issued the ultimatum, crossing the red line, they used chemical weapons. what were the options before the president, short deploying u.s. troops? >> well, i'm not going to get into the middle of that on the air, the national security meetings and what the exact options were. but again i will say there was
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never any really serious conversation about putting 50,000 troops in syria. nobody was for that, by the way, no one. but there were other options that were significant that, in fact, we had agreed on to go forward with -- >> so what should the u.s. do now? >> well, i think the reality is, you're not going to unwind what's just happened. leave it to the historians on who was right, who was wrong and how it day out. but now with a new president, a new administration coming into power in 35 days, we've got to figure out some ways how we, the united states, can play some kind of a role here in trying to stop the suffering and the slaughter. but also i would say this is not just about syria, wolf. this is a regional problem. look at the dysfunctional government. and the nongovernments and countries all over that region. and you can continue with proxy wars and the russians put their people in, the iranians, the turks are there. turks are now outside of mosul,
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the turkish forces, and they're in syria. we're in both places. you can continue that, but we've got to get this elevated to some stability where it's going to have to include the russians and the iranians in the middle east. we've also got to recognize that we can't fix it, nato's not going to fix it, it has to come from the middle east, the leaders there. we can play a role, we can facilitate. >> you have confidence in the iraqi government for example? >> no, this isn't going to be done in one night or one year. until you stop the slaut, until you stop the blood shed and fighting. you'll never stop it completely but you have to get to the next step. one of the things i recommend trump do is seriously consider putting together a new baker/hamilton-type commission, which bush did, came back within months, 75 recommendations for
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president bush on iraq. now, in the meantime, you still have to deal with the day to day, minute to minute. i think you've got to come at this from a larger context and structure on what is the future and don't thing you can continue to play it, just a game, iraq here, isis here, syria here. it's bigger than that. it's a cultural ethnic tribal sectarian religious historical problem in the entire region and the one really critically important country, saudi arabia there, is going through unprecedented reforms, whether they can pull those off or not. turkey's in a mess. turkey's moving away from the west. so we've got a lot of dangerous elements. >> the whole region. i've studied that region for a long time. the whole region, i'm sure you agree with me, is a mess, north africa, middle east, south asia. >> yes. >> one final question before you go. i ask this question to you as a vietnam war veteran. rate now we're hearing from u.s.
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military officials and others all these numbers, statistics, 50,000 isis fighters have been killed, 75% of them have been killed. it's an amazing how great things are going in this war against isis. like me, you remember, during the vietnam war, 1,000 vietcong were killed, another 1,000 vietcong were killed. before you know it u.s. helicopters were evacuating diplomats from the american embassy in saigon, running away. do you take these numbers we're getting now from u.s. official, seriously? >> no, i don't. because first of all, the veracity of the credibility, you collect those numbers. that's to start with. i don't think the public believes it. my policy has always been don't release that kind of thing. >> body count? >> body counts. i mean, come on. did we learn anything from vietnam? we obviously didn't learn a lot of things going back to the invasion of iraq in 2003. but body counts make no sense.
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and i think we're better off to let that go. the isis problem is a big problem. we're doing better in some areas. but that problem is going to be with us for a long time. i gave a news conference at the pentagon, you might remember it, about three years ago, when i was asked a question about isis. i said isis is a force we've never seen before. the sophistication of that force, their ability to use social media, their expertise, strategic tactical military, financing. they blend a cultural religious dynamic to this. it's kind of the poor guy at the bottom fighting the colonial powers and they use theimmensel. we've got to understand that better than we do. i think to simplify it by body count so on and so on
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trivializes the seriousness. >> chuck hagel, the former defense secretary of the united states. coming up, the senate majority leader harry reid confirming reports from his perspective that the russian president himself vladimir put be was directly involved in the u.s. presidential election hack. >> i understand the answer is clearly yes. and having been former head of the kgb, does that surprise you? >> we'll discuss that and a lot more with the ranking member of the house intelligence committee standing by to join us. valley s. the vault to man's greatest wonders... selfies, cat videos and winking emojis. speaking of tech wonders, with the geico app you can get roadside assistance, digital id cards... or even file a claim. do that.. yeah, yeah that should work. it's not happening... just try again. uh, i think i found your problem. thanks. hmm...
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a trump transition source says the president-elect is concerned about the intelligence community's findings that russia engaged in hacking during the presidential election. he and his team are concerned the issue is is being used to delegitimize his victory. in a tweet today, the president-elect claimed the white house only responded to the issue after hillary clinton lost the election. in fact, the obama administration identified russia as the culprit in early october. trumpic congressman adam schiff of california is the ranking member of the house intelligence committee. wa what's your reaction to this tweet from president-elect trump this morning if russia or some other entity was hacking, why did the white house wait so long to act, why did they only complain after hillary lost? >> you have to go through some verbal mental gymnastics to make a statement like that. blaming the obama administration for not saying so, even though they did say so. the same time, president-elect continues to deny the russians
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were involved. i don't know how you can both blame the president and still deny the russians were involved. so frankly, it's not something i think you can say with a straight face but if he tweets it, he doesn't have to say it with a straight face. >> what role, based on everything you know, did vladimir putin him play in this effort, this infiltration, if you will, the hacking of the dnc, john podesta, the chairman of the clinton campaign, and others? >> as you know, wolf, in october, the director of national intelligence and director of national security issued a statement where they said not only russia was hacking institutions and u.s. persons to interfere with the election but due to the scope and sensitivity of what the russians were doing, this had to come from the senior most levels of the russian government. just looking at that statement, knowing as the ambassador has pointed out just how higher arctic the russian government is, there's only one decisionmaker and that is putin. based on that very
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circumstantial evidence, it's pretty clear something of this magnitude had to go to the very top. you can't imagine here in this country for example the president engaging in a ed medi foreign country or the u.s. doing it without the president's knowledge and we're an even more dispersed system of checks and balances here. in russia that would be unthinkable. >> is it just circumstantial evidence or is it direct evidence? i know you don't want to release classified sources and methods, information like that. based on what you know, is it more than just circumstantial? >> all i can speak to, wolf, is what the director has said, very publicly, in october. and what we know about how the russian government operates. that's unfortunately all i can discuss. >> the whole notion right now what to do about this is a huge debate. if -- and i'm sure he's not asking you, but if the president-elect were to ask you, congressman, what should we do about it, what would you say? >> i would say we ought to be working with our partners in europe to sanction the russians.
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>> additional sanctions? >> absolutely. because they'll do it between. we should look at clandestine steps we can take to shoot a shot across the bow, to let putin know there's a cost for this kind of meddling. donald trump was clearly the beneficiary. i don't know he doesn't want to recognize that in the campaign. but he may be the target in the future. if he does cross putin as inevitably he'll have to because the russians have very different interests than we do, there's nothing that's going to stop the russians from dumping things that are harmful to donald trump. so he's got to realize that's a very real prospect. he ought to deal with it. he ought to work on establishing a deterrent. he needs to work on re-establishing i think a faith in the intelligence community. they're going to work for him. they're going to need to know that they can confide in him the truth and that he'll be open to it. all of these things are going to be vital to his success. >> congressman schiff, thanks for coming in. coming up, donald trump making one thing clear from cabinet appointments to news
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conference, the roles of his kids, the president-elect is breaking long-standing precedents and setting his own. what this may indicate about his policies, his incoming administration, that's next.
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tonight was supposed to be the day the president-elect donald trump put to rest all the talk about supposed conflicts of interest between his businesses, his family and his presidency. instead of holding his first formal news conference as president-elect and talking about how he's stepping away from the trump empire, we're being told to wait, wait a little bit more until next month, that's when he'll do it. he hasn't held a news conference, a full-scale news conference by the way, since july. this, just one of the many ways
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the president-elect is fulfilling his promise to be, shall we say, unconventional. joining us, cnn political analyst jackie kucinich and david gregory, also with us, jeff mason, with reuters and also the president of the white house correspondents association. guys, thanks very much. so yesterday we saw meeting with the tech leaders. three of donald trump's adult children were all there. listen to how some of his advisers are explaining that. because some are saying there's a potential conflict. >> so ivanka and jared will make their own announcement in due course. i think we would benefit tremendously by having them inside the administration. ivanka's incredibly committed to women in the workplace, women in the economy, women entrepreneurs. >> number one, the president by law can't have a conflict of interest. number two is the reason you know about the children being involved are two things, one, they're on the website and they were publicly named as being part of the transition. and two, we brought the press in
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to show who was at the meeting. so it's not like there's anything nefarious going on or sneaky. we'll been very clear about the role of his family. >> so what do you think? >> i think that we don't -- we haven't seen his tax returns, so we don't know where his -- where his money is. we don't know how much control. we know so much about donald trump. we don't know, yes, thank you sop fso much for the photo spread, but just by virtue of having his adult children in the room sends a message. even if they step back after the fact, the message has been sent this is a conduit to donald trump, whether they like it or not. >> he says as president he's not subject to conflict of interest rules by law. for example, he's exempt. >> there are nepoism laws and there are questions about what the business interests are of the trump family and what the business of the country is as president of the united states. that's what he needs to take great pains to resolve. i'm concerned that he doesn't --
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is not yet showing enough respect for the insurance tugs of the presidency to make sure there's a real separation there. i think jared kushner and ivanka trump republican probably very valuable advisers to a president trump, would add a lot of value, but there's also conflicts. this was a candidate who spend all of his time bashing hillary clinton because of the clinton foundation and the proximity of former president clinton to that foundation and thus to the white house. he has an obligation to deal with these conflicts and not just brush them aside. well, as long as we're transparent. there's so much we don't know it it's not all transparent. we don't know about his business holdings. we don't know because we haven't seen his tax returns. >> i was very intrigued yesterday, i'm sure, jeff, you were, all of us were, when reince priebus, chairman of the national committee, said get ready, they're going to be big changes, maybe no daily briefings, maybe not assigned seats. you're the president of the white house correspondents
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association. have you been in touch about this? >> we're definitely in touch. one thing i wanted to do is correct some factual errors. mr. priebus mentioned or suggested it was the obama white house that had assigned seats in the briefing room. and that's just not the case. people who worked at the white house know those seats have been assigned since 1981. >> 1993 when i was cnn's white house correspondent i had an assigned seat there during the clinton administration. david gregory, you had an assigned seat as well. >> yes, so that's been white house tradition for the years, many decades. and there are other traditions. yes, the trump administration has the right to make some changes if it wants to. every administration that comes in makes a few changes here or there. there are reasons for an lt of the press core's traditions. the idea of a daily briefing is not just for the press, it's an opportunity for the white house to get out its message and it's our opportunity to ask questions about the news of the day. i suspect they'll have a lot of news come on january 20th. >> look, the reality is you have
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to expect someone who's unconventional in dealing with the media and dealing with the public directly as donald trump is going to want to shake things up. i think in the role you're in and those of us who covered the white house, you want to impress upon reince priebus and others in the administration, look, it's important to have a well informed white house press corps doing its job. it's good for the public, it's good for the president and the presidency. i think, you know, you want to continue to advocate for that so that people who are covering the presidency know as much about his thinking and about the administration's policies as you all know, not every day is news made at these briefings but it still keeps us in the rhythm of the decision making and some of the thinking. >> yeah, they can make changes and i'm sure they presumably were. remember when those daily briefings, there were no cameras allowed. then they changed it so cameras could show the american public and the world for that matter what the press secretary was saying. speaking of the press secretary, listen to what josh earnest said about this today.
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>> as an american, i'm concerned about that. i do think this -- the interaction that takes place in here on a daily basis is one that's good for our democracy. it is valuable. it's instrumental to holding people in power accountable for their actions, accountable for their statements and accountable for their promises. >> brian stelter interviewed him yesterday, our media correspondent, and that's what he said. so go ahead, what's your reaction. >> accountable for their comments. that said, i agree. it is important. we've seen candidate trump chafe even coming into this, remember, the press pool. they initially were ditching their protective pool, the reporters who are there to record history, to record if the president is alive essentially is how it started. it will be interesting to see if
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they tweak around the edges -- >> have you worked that out with the press pool? >> we've spent a lot of time on that issue. there's been a lot of progress. you're referring to a couple times the president-elect either went out to dinner or to washington without bringing a pool along and that has been largely rectified. we're not on his plane. they've said that's not going to happen during the transition. but that issue should be solved on january 20th when we have air force one. >> a little bit of a soap box here. changes are fine. you have to respect that. you're advocating for the things that the press corps want. but let's remember, the white house is the people's house. abraham lincoln when he began there, a member the public could just walk into the house and press their case to get a job if they wanted' job at the post office in their hometown. obviously things change, things evolve. it's important for the press corps, whether you like us or not, to be able to be a disruptive influence in the people's house where the president does business. we should be able to ask questions. we should be able to interrupt meetings at a time when we're
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brought in to say, we have a question about the news of the day. that is the function of the white house press corps. >> i think we all agree on that. guys, thanks very much. coming up, uncertainty in the south china sea as evidence now surfaces that china may be moving major weaponry into the area. what does the u.s. plan to do about it? that's next. [vo] quickbooks introduces jeanette. and her new business: i do, to go. jeanette was excellent at marrying people.
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. there's new evidence right now the chinese military buildup in the south china sea, the findings drawn from the transparency initiative, appear to contradict china's promise not to militarize the area. here's a closer look at hughes reef, one of china's smallest man made islands. those squares highlight hexag hexagon-shaped platforms believed to hold anti-aircraft guns. they appear on all seven islands china built in the area. let's bring our chief national correspondent jim sciutto. >> in may last year, it was detected they had runways to accommodate every military aircraft in the chinese arsenal. it was seen by u.s. satellites that they were putting in reinforced hangars which you would only do for military aircraft and now there are signs that they're putting weapons
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there. so it makes them the unsinkable aircraft carriers the military is talking about with an meet threat to u.s. ships and warplanes in the area. request with with a longer term expression of chinese military power. clearly u.s. officials are concerned and regional allies are concerned as well. >> they have flown u.s. planes, including surveillance planes, over and around those islands to say this is international airspace and we'll continue flying like they are. the fact is, though, those steps have not changed. china continues to do exactly this. so next steps, i mean, you could have economic sanctions that could hurt the u.s., you could have other diplomatic measures but this administration hasn't figured that out and the new administration is not expressed the new way they'll approach this. >> but they're tougher, the new administration, on china than they are on russia. >> they say so. the question is how do they follow that up and do in the a
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point that gets china to pull back? >> it's not clear. >> is there anyndication at all what the trump administration will do? >> they've taken one step which is to say they might be closer to taiwan. that's a sensitive issue for china since donald trump took the call from the taiwanese president, you've had nuclear bombers fly around that area, now you've had these weapons on the islands. >> disturbing development indeed. jim sciutto, appreciate it very much. that's it for me, thanks very much for watching. i'll be back 5:00 p.m. in the situation room. the news continues here on cnn after a quick break.
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top of the hour, you are watching cnn, i'm brooke baldwin. thank you for being with me. any moment now we'll hear from u.s. secretary of state john kerry expected to deliver remarks specifically on the crisis in syria. this comes at a pivotal point in this five-year war. we will bring you secretary kerry's remarks and have much more on what's happening in aleppo and getting these men, women and children out of there. first, let's go to charleston, south carolina. a jury is is in hour one of deliberations regarding the fate of a confessed church shooter. was he a hate-filled coward