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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Trump to NYT: Russian Hacks Probe a "Witch Hunt"; Pelosi: "Stunning" Intel Russian Report Releasing Today; John Cornyn: Obamacare Will Be Repealed, Replaced in Small Measures; Trump: Obama's U.S. Ambassador Need to be Out on Day One; Clash Between Trump Transition Team, General "Mad Dog" Mattis. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 6, 2017 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00:] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Because, guess what, the next time, Russia may be hacking you as president of the United States, and this is an issue that we all need to be concerned about. So, separate those two things, and Donald Trump may decide to take it more seriously rather than feel threatened by it.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: But to this point, even when posed with that, why can't you separate those two things? Trump and his transition, they cannot -- Kellyanne Conway, this morning, she cannot separate those two things, because she says, you, Paul Begala, are trying to delegitimize Donald Trump's presidency when you speak about this, any time you bring it up.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's legitimately going to be sworn in. And he is legitimately the beneficiary of a crime, of an act of war, according to John McCain.

BOLDUAN: John McCain.

BEGALA: The Russians wanted to tilt the election to Trump. We know why. Trump has talked about pulling back from our commitment to NATO, the most successful military alliance which confronts Russia. He's talked about perhaps approving Russia's role in Syria where there is a slaughter going on with blood on Putin's hands. He's the most pro- Russian politician in America. That's why intel tells us they celebrated when that he won.

Trump lost the popular vote, we know. He won the three states that put him in.

BOLDUAN: But he won.

BEGALA: Yes, he did.

BOLDUAN: No matter what comes out in this report, he still won.

BEGALA: Absolutely. And when he signs a law, I will obey it. When he enters the room, I will stand. And that victory is tainted by Russian interference. It is simply true. It doesn't make him not legitimately president, but it means he won because the Russians wanted him to win. And they cheated.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: That is not a cause and effect.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.

BOLDUAN: These two things can co-exist. They interfered and he is the legitimate president. These two things can exist --

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: You say he is the beneficiary of this and they tipped their finger on the scale for him to win. We don't know that. We don't know that they tipped their finger on the scale for him to win. We do know for a fact that they did hack. They hacked into the DNC computers because they didn't have appropriate safeguards in place. That's their own fault. But we don't know --

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: That's blaming the victim.

STEWART: There has been no evidence whatever --

(CROSSTAKLK)

BOLDUAN: -- Alice?

STEWART: According to Donald Trump, he feels like there's so much talk, like you said, that the hack benefitted him. We have no earthly idea if anyone voted for Donald Trump based on these hacks.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: I don't think the intelligence community is making that conclusion, that people changed their votes -

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: They can't. People changed their votes because they tried to tip the scale in favor of Donald Trump. They're speaking to what they have concluded is the motivation, and that's what's going to come out in this report.

Guys, hold on one second. We doe have a little bit of news.

Let me bring in chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, on this.

Nancy Pelosi speaking out, saying we could learn some of the details of this report sooner than we thought, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Actually, a source tells me, a source with knowledge, that the declassified version of this report will come out as soon as this afternoon. The only question remaining is that the president-elect has not been briefed yet as well. I'm told that it will go to Congress first, something of a courtesy, via protocol, but that the American public will get their first look at the declassified portion of this report this afternoon, as soon as this afternoon. Keep in mind, it was meant to be on Monday.

Why is this important? For a couple of reasons. One, it will come out the same day Donald Trump receives his briefing with Donald Trump continuing to double and triple down on his doubts about that hacking. Last night, he was tweeting, calling it, "so-called hacking." This morning telling "The New York Times" that it's a "political witch hunt."

The public will see at least something of the evidence behind the intelligence community's high confidence assessment that Russia is behind this hacking.

We already know a little bit of what we're going to see in this public report today, based on our own reporting. One is details on the intermediaries that Russia used to release this information from the Russian government to middle men, in effect, then handed on to WikiLeaks. Why is that important? Because it will detail how this was not just about accessing this information but about strategically releasing it in the days and weeks leading up to the election. And of course, the material targeting one party.

I will add one note, that it is our own reporting that Russians also accessed Republican targets as well. We know that they accessed Republican members of Congress, some Republican Party organizations, and thought leaders as well. But as we know, the focus of the material that was released principally targeted the Democratic Party. And it is for that reason that the intelligence community's assessment is they believe that Russia with this hacking was trying to give an advantage to Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: Jim, thank you so much for that.

Jim raises a really important thing I want to bring up, that gets back to this new interview Donald Trump gave to "The New York Times." When he's saying why he thinks it's a political witch hunt, because when China hacked, we weren't talking about it, and now everyone is talking about it. They made a distinction between these two specific incidents yesterday in the hearing. They said, with China, it was espionage, not great, of course, no one likes it, it was espionage. This was interfering in the U.S. election. That's activism. As Jim lays out, it wasn't just that they hacked but that then there was a plan to release it. There was motivation, there was a plan on how they were going to leak it out. James Clapper made a big distinction there. Why can't Donald Trump make that distinction?

[11:35:27] STEWART: I think Jim made a great -- presented some great information about Republicans also being hacked, but that information wasn't released. I think based on what we're hearing, certainly, there was not a shadow of a doubt in that hearing yesterday by Republicans and Democrats that there was Russian hacking that influenced the election, many people feel that way.

But Donald Trump needs to hear it himself and needs to see it himself. He has been frustrated with the fact that unnamed intel sources are saying this, unnamed reports say this. He wants to see the information himself.

In my view, I don't see how he can come out of this hearing not feeling the same way as many Republicans in those hearings yesterday.

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: But he needs to see it himself.

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: Skepticism is healthy but I think once he sees it for himself --

(CROSSTALK)

What does that mean for sanctions? How does he not sign on to the sanction that Lindsey Graham is promising will be on his desk?

BORGER: That's right. I don't see how he can oppose them, particularly, if a majority of the Congress is -- and maybe a veto- proof majority of the Congress is supporting them.

I think that there's a big difference here, and James Clapper talked about it yesterday, between the healthy skepticism that every president should have towards intelligence. We know about this because of the failure of the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. We've all been there. We've relitigated that. We talked about that ad nauseam. And humiliation and disparagement of the people who are trying to protect this country, and these are people who toil in anonymity, most often, who are trying to get the best information and analysis to the president of the United States.

And I think Clapper tried yesterday to say we cannot say exactly how this influenced the election, because they don't know. They haven't interviewed every voter in the United States of America.

So, if Donald Trump could just take his own ego, insecurity, you know, whatever it is, personal sense of why are they trying to delegitimize me, out of this. And that's hard. But separate it from what he's going to hear from nonpartisan intelligence officials. That would be very useful.

BOLDUAN: The control room is going to kill me. I really want to get to this last question.

This is on the DNC. Donald Trump brought this up in the interview. The DNC wouldn't let them see the servers, meaning the FBI. And that's the reporting we have, that the FBI says the DNC would not give them access to the servers that were hacked. How can you be sure about hacking when you can't even get to the servers? Why wouldn't the DNC give them access to the servers? Don't they want all the help they can get?

BEGALA: I have no idea. You have to ask them. But that is blaming the victim.

The intelligence leaders at the hearing were asked about that. They said with certainty, high confidence. James Clapper, who has been in this game since 1961, for every president since then -- from John Kennedy to Barack Obama, he has served in these kinds of roles, in intel -- he said, I am more resolute than ever that this is Russia. We need a full investigation and a full hearing.

But I don't want to blame the victim. The victims here were the Democratic Party, my friend, John podesta, the chairman of the Hillary campaign, in a campaign that the Russians weight to try to tilt the election toward Trump and in fact he won by the narrowest of margins. He was the beneficiary.

I love Gloria's analysis. You can tell she raised a 4-year-old -

(LAUGHTER)

-- because --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Stop it right now.

BEGALA: He does not need a chief of staff. He needs a nanny, a preschool teacher. Just say, calm down, Donald. We need to look at what he does. In 14 days, it will no longer be about tweets.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: If he does not sign on to sanctions -- a fair comment that Lindsey Graham made yesterday, that Barack Obama was too timid, fair point.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: But what Lindsey Graham will tell you, what Lindsey Graham will say after this, is at least he threw a pebble. That's what he will say to Donald Trump, because he wants to pressure Donald Trump to sign on to sanctions.

Now the control room is definitely going to give me -

(LAUGHTER)

Thanks, guy. This discussion will continue as the day continues.

[11:39:42] Right now, President Obama is firing new shots at Republicans. You're looking at live pictures from an interview going on right now with President Obama, calling Republicans irresponsible for planning to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a clear plan, at least not yet announced, to replace it. We'll get reaction from a Republican Senator coming up next, who will be in the center of us all.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And my advice to the president-elect -- in fact, we talked about this when I met with him for an hour and a half right after he got elected. I said, you know, make your team and make the Republican members of Congress come up with things that they can show will actually make this work better for people. And if they're convincing, I think you would find that there are a lot of Democrats outs there, including me, who would be prepared to support it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Right now, President Obama answering questions about his signature health care law, the one Republicans are planning to repeal as quickly as possible, without, at least at this moment, a replacement plan in place.

Now, the second most-powerful Republican in the Senate is saying, in terms of that replacement, don't expect a comprehensive bill, they're talking about smaller measures.

Let me bring in Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican from Louisiana, joining me to discuss.

Senator, thank you so much for coming in.

[11:45:29] SEN. BILL CASSIDY, (R), LOUISIANA: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: This coming from John Cornyn, I found important. He's the number-two Republican in the Senate. Now saying, do not expect a big comprehensive bill to replace Obamacare, it's going to be smaller measures.

What is the risk there, though, Senator? Is there a risk? How much of a risk is there, that through a series of smaller measures, that people could fall through the cracks? And you'll take the blame.

CASSIDY: First, let's say that Republicans are committed that people don't fall through the cracks. If you have coverage now, that coverage will be continued. There will be a transition period. I think what Senator Cornyn is saying is wisdom. You want to, from my perspective, transfer power back to states, back to the patient. If you transfer that power back, inherently, it is step by step. First, reconciliation bill. Get rid of the mandates and the penalties. People hate them. They're tired of Washington telling them what to do. Follow up with a bill which would transfer this power back to the states. And perhaps in the last reconciliation bill, re-do the way we pay for it, fairer to people who are not treated fairly now, but give the states the resources they need in order to insure those patients.

BOLDUAN: But in terms of the timing on how this all plays out, right now it does not seem clear. You have Chris Collins, who said you're going to see a plan in July and it's going to be in place by 2019. Paul Ryan isn't committing that timeline other than saying that legislation is going to be happening in the coming year. What's your best guess right now, Senator?

CASSIDY: You know, I can't guess. But I can lay out the plan we've advanced. By the way, the president said Republicans haven't put forward plans. I've put forward three. I should be offended, he didn't acknowledge any of them.

In the plan, I would endorse, I had 12 Senate co-sponsors when I introduced it last time, and a similar bill in the House by Congressman Pete Sessions, in 2017. The Congress enabled legislatures, in 2018, to make a choice of the sort of health plan that would work best for their state. And by 2019, the states implement that plan. And by 2020, it is fully implemented and the transition has been made. The woman who has breast cancer, who voted for Trump, hates Obamacare, but, my gosh, still needs coverage, she transfers to a more affordable health care plan. That's my goal.

BOLDUAN: Senator, we're now hearing House Republicans, Paul Ryan, talking about putting a measure into the repeal part of this, a measure to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood as they dismantle Obamacare. In your view, if you want to get this done, do you think that's smart, to add the Planned Parenthood provision into this? Because couldn't that trip this whole thing up?

CASSIDY: That is a process question and a whip-count question. That is, if you will, not where my mind is. My mind is how do we return power to patients, transferring power from Washington, D.C., to state capitals, and thence to the patient and her family. How do we get the votes, and what are the kind of other things we need to have involved? That's not what I'm personally thinking about. You can ask Paul Ryan, John Cornyn. I'm about how do we get power to the patients, patient- centered care, and the state capitals running the show instead of Washington, D.C.

BOLDUAN: One of the big criticisms all along -- and you know this, Senator -- when Democrats passed Obamacare, was that it was jammed through by Democrats, it was all one-sided. How is this, what we're seeing right now, not the same thing, Republicans jamming through a repeal, and it's all one-sided?

CASSIDY: Again, I can best speak to the plan we're putting forward. I have co-sponsors in those. Under our plan, we would give power back to the states. Now, Republicans say that you can keep your insurance if you like it, but we mean it, unlike Obamacare where you end up losing it. Under the plan we have, if you're in California, the legislators in Sacramento could choose to stay on Obamacare. I think it's a bad idea, but let the Californians do what they want to do.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Will you get any Democrats to sign on? I mean --

[11:49:50] CASSIDY: In that case, you have Democrats in the state legislature saying, we like Obamacare, or we repudiate it. Either way, you have Democrats involved in making a decision for their state. My point being, if the state of California elects a Democratic legislature, I think it's a bad decision but, nonetheless, those Democratic legislators would be on a bipartisan basis, if you will. And not the federal government to be making a decision for their state. Ours is inherently bipartisan.

BOLDUAN: We will be watching to see how bipartisan -- where the level of bipartisan support is for what you are laying out. It's only just beginning.

Senator, thanks so much for your time.

CASSIDY: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Happening right now, Michelle Obama, the first lady, giving her final public remarks as first lady. You are taking a live look right now. We're going to take you there live in just a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Transition news right now. A newly elected president, another break with precedence. This time, when it comes to U.S. ambassadors abroad. Traditionally, outgoing ambassadors are allowed, in some circumstances, a grace period in which they can stay in their posts for a brief time following the inauguration. But "The New York Times" is reporting that the Trump transition team is saying all of Obama's politically appointed ambassadors need to be out, and be out on day one. What does this mean? What's the impact here?

Joining us right now is Michael Crowley, senior foreign affairs correspondent at "Politico"; and Josh Rogin, political analyst and columnist for "The Washington Post."

Michael, first to you.

Who is being sent home? Why? What's the impact here?

[11:55:19] MICHAEL CROWLEY, SENIOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: There's a new president, and he is sending home the old president's diplomats. I guess the idea is that policy is more unforgiving than it has been in the past, but the impact is some people wanted more time to make plans for the transition. But it's actually not that unusual for a new -- I mean, it's not unusual for a new president to change the diplomatic corps. I guess they're just offering fewer exceptions than in the past it seems.

BOLDUAN: From what you are seeing, much ado about nothing?

CROWLEY: The story in "The New York Times" didn't offer a ton of historical context, but it's not unusual for a new president to sweep out the prior ambassadors, although it's a little unforgiving not to keep the career diplomats, who aren't political appointees. You don't want vacancies during the transition, but Trump is not the first person to do this.

BOLDUAN: When it comes to political appointees, again, you serve at the pleasure of the president, as we say.

Josh, in other transition news, you have really interesting reporting about a major clash right now going on between Donald Trump's defense secretary nominee, James Mattis, and transition folks over -- who is going to be working with. What are you reporting?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANLAYST: That's right. It's been over a month since Mattis was named as defense secretary, and almost all of the top Pentagon positions remain unfilled. It's because all of the people that the Trump Tower is sending to Mattis, he is rejecting, OK? And it's part of their squaring off, right? Will Mattis get his own team, or will the White House have their people in there? That sets the stage for what could be turf battles between the Pentagon and the White House in the coming administration.

BOLDUAN: Mattis, from what we've been seeing, is, by and large, the most -- there's been the most bipartisan support for him.

ROGIN: Right.

BOLDUAN: Do you think this clash could get to the point where it could threaten his nomination?

ROGIN: I think they'll probably work it out, but how they work it out will determine how powerful Mattis, and it's also a test for all of the Never-Trump Republicans in Washington, especially, who wouldn't normally want to work for Trump, but they want to work for Mattis.

BOLDUAN: They want to work for Mattis. And he wants them to work for him.

ROGIN: Exactly. And he wants them to work for him, so the Trump people don't want that, and that's one of the sources of tension. It's also about intelligence, right? You have a national security advisor, Michael Flynn, who has very interesting ideas about how to run intelligence. Mattis outranked him when they were in the military together. Mattis is a four star. He is a three star. That could be an issue, too. We'll have to wait and see how it plays out.

BOLDUAN: We do need to see how that plays out because it's clearly important who he's working with.

Great to see you, guys. Michael, Josh, nice to see you guys.

ROGIN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, Arnold Schwarzenegger firing back right now at the president-elect after Donald Trump hit the Governator over what, you ask? Television ratings, of course. That's next.

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[12:00:12] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.