tv Washington Week PBS December 17, 2016 1:30am-2:01am PST
>> president obama says he's ready to strike back against russia for meddling in the election but donald trump says the crime of russia is post-election sour grapes have. i'm pete williams. we look at what's at stake tonight on "washington week." >> what i can tell you is the intelligence that i've seen gives me great confidence in their assessment that the russians carried out this hack. pete: the president vows to take some kind of action against russia after intelligence directly links putin to cyber attacks on the d.n.c. nald trump says only the accusations occurred after hillary clinton lost. but some are calling for an investigation into russia's
hacking. >> cyber attacks, when you destroy or impact the ability of a nation to function, that is an act of war. pete: donald trump is playing up the relationship that his nominee his secretary of state as with putin, calling xxonmobil c.e.o. tillerson a great diplomat. >> some people don't like that, they don't want them to be friendly. pete: we'll get analysis on the high-stakes war of words over u.s. intelligence, cyber espionage and security. "newjuliet eilperin of the york post." david sanger of the "new york times," robert costa of the "washington post," and kimberly atkins of the "boston herald." >> this is "washington week," funding is provided by -- >> x.q. institute.
>> additional funding is provided by -- boeing. newman's own foundation, donating all profits from newman's own food products to charity and nourishing the common good. the ford foundation, the ethics in excellence and joranism foundation. wdewen.patricia the corporation for public broadcasting florida and from contributions to you're pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, pete williams of nbc news. pete: good evening. president obama says the u.s. has a bowl for -- goal for dealing with cyber attacks on
the american political system. he says the message to the russians should be don't do this because we can do this to you. in his last new in -- news conference of the year, president obama said the administration hasn't decided what should happen but he left no doubt russia was behind it. >> some of the people who have seen the evidence don't dispute the basic assumption that the russians carried this out. pete: president obama confronted russian president putin about the hacking in a private meeting t the g-7 sum it in september. why did the president wait until w to prickly -- publicly say it was the rush seasons in juliet: he was worried to be perception that he would have been seen as trying to influence the election in hillary clinton's flavor. that's one of the reasons he
gave. also, white house officials were very worried that by calling putin out, it could undermine both people's confidence in the electoral system here as well as potentially inviting a more damaging attack on our ability to cast ballots. pete: david, the election is over now. why hasn't the president taken a step if he's known about it for so long? david: there was an interesting admission in his description. because he said that as soon as he became aware of this in june or early this summer, they began looking at the options and, of course, looking at the intelligence. well, we published a fairly lengthly reconstruction this week of what had happened and the fick knew about this and first notified the d.n.c. in september of 2015. question number one is why did it take nine months for the president of the united states
to be told that somebody was hacking into the t. -- d.n.c. and it's not like the d.n.c. had never been the subjects of a third-rate burglary before so what are his options? the world of cyber when you are attacked, you have to make a fundamental decision. do you respond with a cyber attack or in some other way? president obama felt this acutely two years ago when he had to make a decision about how to respond to the hack of sony, hich was attacked by the north koreans, who were upset by a truly terrible movie produced about the assassination of kim jong-un, the north korean leader. that stroyed about 70% of sewn a's computers and also released a lot of emails along the way. in the end there were fairly light sanctions issued against the north koreans. clearly, if he does that now the
russians won't feel it. there are sanctions for their annex sation of crimea, many other things. so he doesn't have a whole lot of options and that's part of the difficulty. he could do sanctions, something that embarrasses put be with his financial ties with. oligarchs. pete: he said he wanted to wait until this report from the intelligence community is done. what's that going to tell him he doesn't know already? >> i suspect he's going to have to act before the intelligence report is done. he's asked for it before he leaves offices, just 34 days away. this is going to be a rapidly done report. his best hope, most in the white
house say is declassifying enough of this material that it leaves a paper record that can't be ignored by congress or even by the president-elect, by president-elect trump. the second is that it might create a commission that would begin to look at how we missed so many signals. this was a pretty big failure -- failure of intelligence. we were thinking about the cyber pearl harbor and not about the lower level attack. pete: as the president said today, this wasn't a fancy, clever thing. is was garden virlte fishing attack. juliet: it's extraordinary. because of a typo in a response from someone in i.t. that john podesta's aide ended up responding. pete: you have to change the password. juliet: people can relate to it. yes. this wasn't highfalutin and he
didn't say it was. pete: i want to -- want -- wants to get into more about what the trump administration is going to do but what is congress going to do? there are both republicans and democrats on the hill saying they want to investigate this. are we headed for something of a showdown between the incoming president and his party that controls congress? >> we might be. it's clearly that -- clear that congress is going to move forward on this exactly what congress will do there's not an agreement on. some people like sflarlt mccain want a commission or some sort of collect commission that's going to really look at this and take a deep look. it seems clear from congressional lineup -- leadership on the republican side that they're happy just to let the intelligence committees that are already in place take a look at this now, donald trump is, as you said, really rufusing
to pack a -- back this intelligence that's coming out. i think he sees it as a counterpunch against it as well as against anybody who is supporting in. is congress has a lot of leeway to go forward without him. pete: the last big commission after we were attacked, the 9/11 commission, everybody seemed to think that was a good idea. may we get where the president and kong are headed in -- congress are headed in opposite directions? >> we're already seeing, that especially with the republican party. there's a changing of the guard. now they find themselves working hand in hand like general flynn, president-elect trump's orbit. there's a new thinking on russia that's emerging in the .comthat's not hostile. you see it with the secretary of state pick, rex tillerson and
even with david nunez. there are the hawks. senator graham and mccain who continue to have real concern about putin. but others in the party, they say the foe for this trump era is china. pete: how much of donald trump's response to this has been instinctive, you're questioning the results of the election and has he changed his position at all on buying into what the intelligence commission says? >> he still fights it in herl morning tweets but -- early morning tweets but i have a funny feeling that when we're past the vote of the electoral college next week, he's going to feel less threatened and maybe deal with this more mort rightly. we're americans. we think only about an american election. ask the germans. they're saying the same
techniques under way for a german election that's still is a we're -- year away. the french sigh many of these same techniques. the ukraine rans -- ukrainians have already been through this. the fundamental question that donald trump and rex tillerson, if he's confirmed is how do you confront a russia that is making its way through europe, trying to destabilize it, trying to weaken nato and do you respond in the way that republicans traditionally would have during the cold war or do you basically begin to back off from our allies? and that's a very big fundamental decision about the relationship between united states and europe that is completely connected to how president-elect trump deals with russia. pete: robert? robert: i think some of the people around trump are really
important in the coming months. steve bannon, not a foreign policy expert but he's connected ump with this global popularism. with general flynn, who's been friendly with putin and the russian government in the past. you get a whole mu -- new leadership coming in. >> it's fascinating. one of the things that's interesting about what we saw today with president obama is he was basically pleading with donald trump to not get stuck into hard and fast policy positions without getting all his briefings, without getting his team in place. there's clearly this real concern. he sounded nostalgic for ronald reagan saying he'd be turning over in his grave if he saw that roughly 1/3 of republicans were -- trying to make sure trump doesn't box helps in.
>> what you heard in president obama's public advice to president-elect trump today was don't get so transactional, that you're not thinking about how each individual deal that you make interacts with the rest of the world and his big fear is donald trump doesn't think that way. he does straight-on property deals and you do one and you move on to the next. you know, you make your deal with taiwan and suddenly you have upended your relationship with the world's second largest economy and one of its great rising military powers in china. so he was asking him basically to sit down with his visors and -- advisors and thinks this thing through many chess moves ahead. >> it's also interesting with even with all of the sniping between the trump transition team and the white house this week, you haven't seen the president-elect go directly at the president or vice versa and even in the press conference
today it seemed pretty clear that programs the president, who is speaking on a regular basis with donald trump, wants to give himself a little bit of time to talk to him and perhaps convince him about a different path on russian policy or at least to accept publicly some of these intelligence reports in a way that is knot perceived as self-deprecating to him. pete: didn't the president cut donald trump a little slack day by saying, he's still in campaign mode, still in transition. >> he's really treating him with kid gloves. pete: and why it is that? > he knows this is his window where he can have some influence on donald trump. it's unlikely that once trump has all his advisors in place unlikely he'll have as much
influence as he does now. the president sees it as his best opportunity to influence some key decisions. pete: you mentioned rex tillerson and the president-elect has chosen the c.e.o. of exxonmobil, who also has to government experience, to be his secretary of state. so what does trump like about rex tillerson and somebody he met just a few beaks ago? >> tillerson was chosen late in the decision-making process over rudy giuliani. bob corker and others. he was highly recommended by condi rice. pete: former c.i.a. advisor, former secretary of defense. >> trump was intrigued and he
takes counsel from those names very seriously. he has them up to trump tower. in tillerson we saw someone who has the business background. tillerson is an eagle scout and trump went to new york naval committee. pete: trump is the head of the boy scotts, too, right? >> right. trump reveres military figures but he also has an affection for those who have kind of a boy scott mentally and i hear tillerson very much impressed trump in the interview. pete: he's been praised by some former bush administration officials in addition to gates. continuedy rice, former secretary of state james baker but i'm wondering how the hill is going to respond to this sit for sure he'll be confirmed? >> i think he has a pretty good shot. i think there was a lot of
rumbling coming from some republican senators that gave democrats perhaps some hope that they have a chance to block him. some concerns vocation -- voiced about his connections to russia. but i think they can be convinced to go along with it. especially with the vote of confident from folks like condoleezza rice and bill gates. >> you know the upside of rex tillerson is nobody has dealt with more people around the world, no leaders around the world in that group that president-elect trump was interviewing except maybe david petraeus. and nobody has dealt with more dictators. it turns out that when there's a lot of oil under the ground, there's usually a dictator sitting on top of it above ground. not always but a high prenches. i think the question about rex tillerson is if you have spent
more than 40 years cutting deals on behalf of your share holders. in some cases, a deal that was made in kurdistan that anchored -- angered the iraqis against the u.s. state department, if can you flip a switch and say we are going to represent a set of interests in the dwhrithes may mean standing up for houstonen rights in this place over the oil that's under the ground. it may mean going out to make a deal that you need to make because you need to build up an alliance, even if it's not in your economic interests. we don't know how well he can make that switch. >> we also don't know how many the president-elect can make the switch. we don't know as of yet how he'll separate himself. >> and we're wondering where the democrats are in this there are
other people on that list. giuliani would be at the top, who they absolutely don't want at secretary of state position. even though they have some reservations about tillerson, i would imagine they might be more comfortable with him than some other possible candidates. >> one challenge he'll face if confirmed is the same challenge that general mattis will face is confirmed, and that is how do you influence someone like trump. the person who's in trump's ear is most important person to the president-elect and that's usually these days general mike flynn, national security advisor. there's a concern, how will mattis and tillerson get their point of view to trump? pete: the secretary general of the u.n. summed up a sad turning point in syria oogsfeeve-year civil war when he said aleppo is
now a synonym for hell. the city is in rumble and -- rubble and many residents, including children left dead. here's your john kerry described the bombing. >> the regime is carrying out nothing short of a massacre and we have witnessed indiscriminate slaughter. not incidents of war, not collateral damage but frankly, purposeful. cynical policy of terrorizing civilians. pete: waves of people have been evacuated in an operation that has proceeded in its fits and starts. juliet, what was president obama's message to the people of syria today? juliet: he was working to get civil yabs out of aleppo -- and he felt some responsibility for their suffering but that he
concluded it was not in america's long-term interest and that he couldn't do it on the cheap and while he devoted a a -- huge amount of time to doing this. there was no way he felt direct nil torrey intervention would happen. pete: do we know what president-elect trump's view on this is going to be on this? a trump does not see putin as fee so how he approaches syria and isis i think will be mixed and how he doesn't traditionally go along hawkish lines. he does have a militaristic side of him and we'll see how that plays out. >> militaristic in what direction i think is the big question. mr. trump has said to me and maggie when we saw him on a series of foreign policy interviews that his view was that he would join up with
russia and assad to fight isis. so that requires to you do two or three things. first of all, suspend disbelief for a minute about who the russians' other ally is there. iran, with whom president-elect trump has some problems. second, it means ignoring the fact that assad is responsible for the death of nearly half a million of his own people and you have to come to a conclusion at some point that even if you're fighting isis, do you want to be seen propping up somebody of that type? and thirdly, there is no plan right now over what happens once assad is gone and there's no particular prospect that he'll leave anytime soon and this is what i think we saw president obama struggling with today. president obama knows that when the history of his presidency is
written, syria will be the one big open scar. pete: he seemed to sort of acknowledge that today. juliet: he did and he said he couldn't it in that he's been successful. president obama doesn't admit to failure easily and it was also the point in his press conference where he seemed the most emotional. pete: he sort of said what can i do? the american people don't want this there were not good options. the military was tied down. juliet: sometimes he talks about if i were smarter, maybe i could have come up with something else. he made it clear he's revisited the decision again and again but doesn't change his mind. pete: when president obama was the president when this was most heavily detected, there were republicans in congress who said we have to do more. are we going to hear that in a trump administration? wast wasn't just when obama
president. this statement by the president gives a lot of people pause, that there wasn't just a decision to do nothing. that there was a lot of deliberation going into this. that there are difficult fact iraqis. that this isn't something that just demands more boots on the ground, that it's a political solution that's missing and that's the toughest part and i think that's something folks on both sides of the aisle are coming to understand. pete: thank you all for the insight. our conversation exns -- continues on the washington week extra, where we'll talk about donald trump's strofrle choice as the embassy to israel. while at the website, test your news knowledge on the news quiz. i'm pete williams. thanks for tuning in have a great weekend.
>> additional funding is provided by -- the x.y. institution. newman's own foundation. donating all profits to charity and you'rishing the common good. the excellence in joranism foundation. ford and patricia ewen. the ewen foundation. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you.
♪ hello and welcome to kqed newsroom, i'm thuy vu. coming up on the program, from driverless cars to donald trump's meeting with liminaries it is a big week in the tech world. and we've hear from a stanford scientist who won a mcarthur for his inventive solutions to global problems. this week the governor spoke in san francisco. brown struck a defiant tone vowing to keep fighting to tackle climate change. >> we have the scientists and the university, we have the national labs, and we have the political clout and sophistication for the battle and we will persevere. have no doubt about