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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Report: Trump Says "Let It Be Arms Race"; Interview with Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida; Internet Debates "Die Hard" As Christmas Movie; Leading Globe Nominee "La La Land" Hits Theaters; Crowded Box Office For Holiday Week Off; ISIS Terror Warning. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired December 23, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A late morning transition e-mail unveiling a "Dear Mr. Trump" letter from Vladimir Putin which said in part, "I hope that after you assume the position of the president of the United States of America, we will be able by acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner to take real steps to restore the framework of bilateral cooperation."

[16:30:13] The date on this dispatch which Trump call a very nice letter from Vladimir Putin was December 15, more than a week ago, releasing it now could be vintage Trump, designed to distract from his own explosive comments hours earlier, threatening to escalate a nuclear arms race.

Off camera telling a pajama-clad MSNBC host, quote, "Let it be an arm race. We will outmatch them at every pass."

Trump's incoming press secretary explains.

SEAN SPICER, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There are countries around the globe right now that are talking about increasing their nuclear capacity. The United States is not going to sit back and allow that to happen without acting in kind.

BASH: An unorthodox approach to just about everything should be a surprise to no one. It's what Trump's campaign was all about.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Things to have change. And they have to change right now.

BASH: Now that change means threatening on roll back decades of diplomatic work on nuclear arms control, and shaking things up on the domestic front, too. Trump sent Lockheed into a momentary tail spend by tweeting about cost overruns for the Pentagon's new F-35 Strike Fighters.

TRUMP: These crooked people.

BASH: But some of Trump's harsh campaign rhetoric feels different now that the shoe is on the president-elect's foot.

TRUMP: You look at that foundation. It is pure theft and pure crookedness.

BASH: He attacks Clintons on allegations of pay-per-play with their charitable foundation, which does good works like global health initiatives. Now, his son Eric suspended his own foundation to avoid allegations of pay-per-play which Trump lamented on Twitter, saying, "My wonderful son Eric would no longer be allowed to raise money for children with cancer because of a possible conflict of interest with my presidency. Isn't this a ridiculous shame?"

And then there is how Trump spent his morning, on the links with Tiger Woods. An enviable outing for any golf enthusiast, yet curious since Tiger was a regular part of Trump's anti-Obama riff.

TRUMP: He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods. Think of it. We don't have time for this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, to be fair, since becoming a candidate, Trump has not spent time playing golf, especially considering his website lists 17 Trump branded golf courses. But Trump also says that during the campaign, he loves golf. He said that during the campaign, I should say. He thinks Tiger Woods is one of the greats. But he didn't have time.

But maybe, Jake, now he realizes that the weight of being president, or now president-elect, means that sometimes you need a mental break.

TAPPER: I would think so.

Let's -- stick around, Dana. Let's bring back Olivier and Josh.

Olivier, let me ask but this announcement the President-elect Trump made via a pajama-clad Mika this morning about "let it be an arms race" with Russia, presumably. How do you think U.S. allies are going to respond to that?

OLIVIER KNOX, YAHOO NEWS: With some measure of concern, not just allies but countries like Russia and China. And, in fact, on the other morning shows, the newly minted incoming press secretary, Sean Spicer, spent an enormous amount of time trying to disarm those comments, trying to roll it back, saying we're not talking about Russia. We're not even specifically talking China, we're talking about other nuclear powers broadly written.

They're going to watch to see also whether this turns into actual policymaking from January 20th because we don't know what's going to happen. And, finally, they're going to reach out to people that they already know in Washington, D.C. for reinsurance, whether that's inside the administration or Republican foreign policy notables like Condoleezza Rice, like Steve Hadley, like Bob Gates.

TAPPER: You talk to a lot of lawmakers and policymakers who are rather hawkish on Russia. What do they make of all this?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they think that the bromance between Trump and Putin is pretty fragile. They're predicting that it won't last long. That when Trump actually tries to implement this new relationship with Russia, he's going to run into trouble and he's going to discover like most of them believe that the U.S. and Russia actually don't have aligned interests, that what you're going to have to give Putin to get what you want is going to be too much, and that Donald Trump will not want to be on the losing end of a bad deal.

So, they're hoping that, you know, things like this where Trump reacts badly and tweets something at Putin could be the beginning of a crack in the relationship and hopefully, it won't last.

BASH: I don't know, or maybe this is conspiratorial. You know, one of them is waiting for the other to give them the rose. That this is, they're kind of doing a dating dance as part of their bromance, that that's what this is about. Or maybe to give them more macho example, they're trying to kind of see where the other one is kind of a ring, in a boxing ring.

So, you know --

ROGIN: I think that's right. I think every president tries to reset the relationship with Russia. George W. Bush did it.

[16:35:01] President Obama did it. They all failed and there's a reason. It is because what Mitch McConnell said, which is the consensus here in Washington that Russia is really not our friend.

BASH: That's true.

KNOX: But remember, the other part of Trump station about that nice letter where Putin said, I will be the ally in the war on Christmas, the final part of that statement says, let's hope that we can do this, that we don't to have take another path.

BASH: That's right.

TAPPER: Yes, that's a veiled threat.

KNOX: He didn't need on add that last bit. That suggests, yes, we're friends now. But I have other options.

TAPPER: And just for everybody -- Putin didn't actually say I will be your ally on the war on Christmas. Olivier's sense of humor.

Thank you very much. Merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah to you, guys.

Trump's comments on the nuclear arms race came after Vladimir Putin said he has the strongest military on earth. So, has this race already begun? That story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Sticking with our world lead. Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual marathon, end of year press conference today. Among many, many things he discussed during the four-hour media event, the Kremlin leader pledged to beefing up Russia's own nuclear arms stockpile, while downplaying Trump's call for strengthening and expanding the U.S. nuclear capability.

Let's bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Star.

Barbara, an MSNBC host asked about Trump's tweet about the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and she says he told her, quote, "Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all."

So, are we now in an era of nuclear proliferation?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Jake, call it proliferation, call it an arms race, call it what you will, suddenly, there are questions around the world about what Donald Trump plans to do with America's nuclear arsenal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Russian President Vladimir Putin vowing today to stay neck in neck with the U.S. if President-elect Donald Trump does seek to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal after taking office.

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translated): If someone accelerates and speeds up the articles race, it will not be with us. I would say that we will never, if we are in an arms race, we will never spend too much.

[16:40:04] STARR: But Putin said he saw nothing new in Trump's tweet Thursday promising to strengthen and expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

This morning, Trump went a step further in comments to morning TV anchor, an alarming statement delivered in a surreal, festive setting.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: He told me on the phone, "Let it be an arms race, because we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all."

STARR: A Trump spokesman later suggesting the president-elect wasn't necessarily talking about Russia alone.

SPICER: There are countries around the globe right now that are talking about increasing their nuclear capacity and the United States is not going to sit back and allow that to happen without acting in kind.

STARR: Concern now that a new global nuclear arms race could quickly emerge.

JOE CIRINCIONE, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: If the U.S. and Russia who each have about 5,000 weapons in their active stockpile say they need more weapons, well, how about China who has about 200, 250? Do they need more? What about India? What about Pakistan? STARR: As a candidate, Trump struggled to speak precisely about

nuclear weapons.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: But if you say Japan, yes, it's fine. You get nuclear weapons, South Korea, as well, Saudi Arabia says we want them too.

TRUMP: Can I be honest with you? It's going to happen anyway. It's going to happen anyway.

STARR: And while Trump has talked about the need modernize the nuclear force, he has not offered specific plans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The three legs of the triad, though. Do you have a priority? I want to go to Senator Rubio after --

TRUMP: I think to me, nuclear is just -- the power, the devastation is very important to me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: So, why might Vladimir Putin be writing these nice letters to Donald Trump saying that he's not too worried about all this? What does Putin really want is worth thinking about.

And what Vladimir Putin wants is those Russian sanctions to be lifted. Oil prices are down. He needs American dollars back into his economy. That's what most of the experts are telling us -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us -- thank you.

Let's bring in Republican Congressman Ted Yoho. He's from Florida. He's a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and specifically a member of the subcommittee that deals with nuclear nonproliferation.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

REP. TED YOHO (R), FLORIDA: Great to be on. Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: So a tweet and a cable news host in her pajamas and we're off and running in a new nuclear arms race? What do you think is going on here?

YOHO: It is a new day in American politics. And, you know, I think it's posturing and I think it's -- I'm fine with it.

TAPPER: You're fine with it. You think it is a good idea to shift from the longstanding U.S. policy to discourage proliferation of nuclear weapons? Including in the United States?

YOHO: I think over the last 16 years, you know, with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and then in the last eight years under President Obama, our foreign policy has become weakened around the globe. And we've got people who come into our office every day when we're in session saying they don't know where America stands. We don't know being an ally if we can depend ask trust you. As adversary, they don't respect or believe we'll do what we say.

We have to increase our military might and rebuild our military because it has been decimated over the last 16 years. You know, President Bush used a lot of it up and President Obama has pretty much pivoted away from keeping America in the forefront in military leadership.

And this is the time that we have to set a new standard. And I don't think anybody wants proliferation, but they have to know that we will do what we have to do to keep our country safe.

TAPPER: Take a listen to what Vladimir Putin had to say today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PUTIN: Technically, we have advanced improving nuclear triad and we are now capable to overcome missile defense system and we -- our systems are much more efficient (INAUDIBLE) itself. That's my cause and desire for the United States to step up their nuclear capabilities. And they've been doing so --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Basically, that's Putin saying the Russian missile defense system is better than the U.S. missile defense system. What's your response, sir?

YOHO: My response is it is almost like high school or, even lower than that, junior high school. My car is bigger than your car. My dad is bigger than your dad and can beat him up. You know, he is posturing is what he's doing.

I want to go back to the words of Theodore Roosevelt, peace through strength. Or, you know, walk softly carry a big stick, and Ronald Reagan, peace through strength. We haven't projected that.

We have drawn lines and backed away from them. President Obama and John Kerry said we are going to do these things and we didn't do it. We've done it over and over again.

And we have to reset. I think if it takes a stand to saying we're going to modernize our nuclear arsenal, so be it.

TAPPER: The president-elect said during the campaign, of course, that he is in favor of potentially seeing Japan or even Saudi Arabia develop their own nuclear forces so they can defend themselves and the United States doesn't to have defend those countries. Do you agree with that?

[16:45:00] YOHO: At this point, no. I don't agree with that. I think the important thing is that if you have good diplomacy, and that you can back up your words by the strength you have, that there's no need for anybody else to develop nuclear weapons. However, if you've got an aggressor, like whether it's Russia, whether it's China, what they're doing in the South China Sea or Iran with the capabilities that they're developing, or North Korea, I think you do have to be on the stage saying we are going to defend this, we are going to modernize this. And that we won't take, you know, threats from anybody or we'll take these threats seriously.

And the hope is that, with a super power status that we are, that we can reclaim, you know, with the modern technology, you know, the modern advancements, the designed weapon systems that nobody else can touch. I think if we do that and we stand strong with our allies through diplomacy, through trade, I don't think there's a need for other nations to go down this road because we've all seen this. That, you know, for us older people, you know, to grow up through the cold war and see the nuclear proliferation in the arms race of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, I don't think we want that in our world. You know, the mutually-assured destruction, the "Mad Theory", you know, that's not a way to raise, you know, society or families. And, I think it comes back to walking softly, carrying a big stick and peace through strength.

TAPPER: All right. Congressman Yoho of Florida, thank you so much. Merry Christmas to you, sir.

YOHO: Same to you. Appreciate it.

TAPPER: Appreciate it.

"Christmas story, miracle on 34th Street, a Christmas carol, die hard? Once and for all, we at THE LEAD will settle this debate. Is "Die Hard" really a Christmas movie? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE WILLIS, AMERICAN ACTOR: Got to play to the Christmas party by mistake. Who knew?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Welcome back. The "Pop Culture Lead", Yippee-Ki-Yay, and Merry Christmas. That of course was Bruce Willis in the classic film, "Die Hard." Most of you are probably blissfully unaware of the ferocious debate raging online about whether or not "Die Hard" is a Christmas movie, and whether John McLane should appear next to Ebenezer Scrooge in "The Grinch" and the Christmas vertical at Netflix. Here to help me debate that age-old question, David Edelstein , film critic at New York Magazine. And David, we're going to get to "Die Hard" in a second but I know the viewers would enjoy hearing your take on your must-see Holiday movies for the vacation. Here's a clip from the first movie on your list, the musical, "La La Land."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN GOSLING, CANADIAN ACTOR: City stars, are you shining just for me? City stars, there's so much that I can see.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: So, this is your top pick, here?

DAVID EDELSTEIN, NEW YORK MAGAZINE FILM CRITIC: It is, it is. I think you can hear that Ryan Gosling's voice is a little thin but it's extremely pleasant. And you also notice from that clip that it's all done in one shot. If you're used to seeing musicals that are kind of Cuisinart-ed up, you know, chopped into little pieces, the director Damien Chazelle creates this wonderful flowing mood, beautiful colors. With -- and Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have such tremendous chemistry. Really, it's the sweetest love story of the year if you don't count Trump and Putin. And of course, we don't know where that relationship is going to go. As we've just heard, and in fact, Gosling and Stone have their bumpy patches, so -- but, I think it's a - it's a real move forward for the - for the American musical on screen.

TAPPER: But what -- do you think it will - it will resonate with audiences? Musicals can be tough.

EDELSTEIN: I, you know, I would have thought that it's the most irresistible film I've seen in years. There are people I know who have resisted it. I don't have much contact with them anymore deliberately. I was completely transported by it.

TAPPER: "Passengers," is a film that's gotten some rough reviews.

EDELSTEIN: Yeah.

TAPPER: Rough reviews but it still made your list. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS PATT, AMERICAN ACTOR: I don't understand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can I show you?

PATT: Show me "Homestead II."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Homestead II" is the fourth planet in the (INAUDIBLE) system.

PATT: Right. And where are we?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: OK. So, why don't you agree with the many critics who have panned this film?

EDELSTEIN: Well, it's -- OK. It's a given that the situation is absurd. And it's a guy who wakes up on, in the middle of a 125-year flight. He comes out of suspended animation. He ends up romancing the only other passenger, human being who comes out of - out of suspended animation. There is really nothing they can do. They can't go back into it for some reason. No one on the crew is awake. It's absolutely absurd. But, but, but, there is something really moving to me about this situation, about two people being thrown together into this little pressure cooker. And, you know, betraying each other and falling in love. And I don't see how anybody can resist Jennifer Lawrence, who acts her heart out in this movie. I mean, she goes through so many emotions, wonder, alienation, love, rage, finally making peace with her situation. I had a blast during it until the admittedly really crappy ending. Although, I think, sometimes, when people box themselves into a corner, filmmakers, they have no choice but to kind of bust through a wall that they built themselves. I think the ending is going to satisfy nobody and maybe that's why a lot of critics are sent out pissed off. But I thought it was a lovely movie. I don't quite know exactly what made them so angry about this movie. It's got real emotion in it as opposed to the more plasticky stuff that you see in most blockbusters or "would-be" blockbusters.

TAPPER: You're also a big fan of this movie, "20th Century Women" which dives into the family tree of director, Mike Mills, his rocky relationship with his mother, played by Annett Bening. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNETTE BENING, AMERICAN ACTRESS: How do you be a good man? What does that even mean nowadays?

ELLE FANNING, AMERICAN ACTRESS: Don't you need a man to raise a man?

BENING: No. I don't think so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So what do you think? Is it - isn't it Bening carrying it alone? Or is it the whole - the whole package?

EDELSTEIN: It's got a lovely cast. I mean, those three women. What a harem there. You've got Annett Bening, you've got Greta Gerwig, you've got Elle Fanning, and they're all kind of conspiring to figure out how someone becomes a - how these 20th century women, how this young boy, this adolescent becomes a 20th century male. And, you know, it's -- of course it doesn't turn out too well. It's a very bitter sweet ode to Mike Mills' mother. But, I have to say that it's got this most wonderful kind of relaxed tone in which the characters kibitz and fight. And it reproduces the dynamics of a screwed up family better than anything I've seen in a while and, and, and, Annett Bening gives hands down, the performance of the year.

TAPPER: All right.

EDELSTEIN: I don't understand. She has - she has really become my favorite actress. She can think onscreen. You swear those lines are coming out of her head.

TAPPER: I'm sorry to be rude but we only have a little time left. We need settle this debate heating up the internet. "Die Hard." It takes place during office Christmas party. It is has many Christmas songs on the soundtrack. Bruce Willis's character refers to ho, ho, ho. Your verdict, "Die Hard," a Christmas movie or no?

EDELSTEIN: Well, let's not piss people off. It's got nothing to do with the birth of Christ. OK? But it's a great American holiday fable. It's a violent, red meat, vigilante, xenophobic, anti-feminist thriller with a savior from above, he comes down the metaphorical chimney and he royally wastes a lot of terrorists. What better American holiday movie, especially in 2016 could you possibly have?

TAPPER: All right. Well, I will take that as a yes. It is a Christmas movie. I'm going to interpret that. Yes, it is a Christmas movie.

EDELSTEIN: All right.

TAPPER: David, thank you so much. Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas. Happy (INAUDIBLE).

EDELSTEIN: My great pleasure. Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Thanks for being here.

A new warning right before Christmas that ISIS sympathizers are calling for attacks on churches in the United States.

A member of the House Homeland Security Committee will weigh in next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)