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THE SITUATION ROOM
Growing Calls for Investigation into Russian Hacking; Donald Trump Rejects the U.S. Intelligence Conclusion on Russian Cyber- Attacks; Kim Jong-un's Military Practices South Korea Attack. Aired 5- 6p ET
Aired December 12, 2016 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, ridiculous. Donald Trump rejects the U.S. intelligence conclusion that Russian cyber-attacks were intended to interfere with the presidential election. A bipartisan call for investigation is growing. Can Trump simply dismiss the evidence?
[17:00:05] Intelligence test. Trump spurns daily intelligence briefings, saying -- and I'm quoting him now -- "A smart person doesn't need to be told the same thing every day," but the briefs contain critical national security information. Is the president- elect shirking one of the most important duties of the commander-in- chief?
Russian relations. The Clinton campaign now backs a call from at least ten members of the Electoral College for an intelligence briefing on Trump's ties to Russia. And now Trump is believed to be favoring a CEO close to Vladimir Putin for secretary of state. Is Trump planning the biggest shift in U.S. ties to Russia in decades?
And plan of attack. North Korea's Kim Jong-un orders military drills and prepares for a simulated attack on the South Korean leader's residents. Is he using the political instability in Seoul to his advantage?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're learning new information about Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and why intelligence now believe a series of cyber-attacks were designed to help Donald Trump win. According to a source, they were convinced, in part, after discovering that hackers stole documents from both Democratic and Republican targets but leaked only documents deemed harmful to Hillary Clinton's campaign.
President-elect Trump continues, meanwhile, to reject the intelligence assessment, likening it on Twitter to a conspiracy theory. He goes on to ask why it wasn't brought up before the election, even though in early October U.S. intelligence agencies said they were united in the belief that Russia was trying to interfere with the vote.
And now at least ten members of the Electoral College are asking for a classified intelligence briefing on Russian election hacking and Trump's ties to Russia before they vote next week to officially elect the next president. Clinton campaign chair John Podesta is now supporting their demand.
We're covering that and much more this hour with our guests, including the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, former Congressman Pete Hoekstra. And the former assistant attorney general for national security, John Carlin, is also standing by.
Our correspondents, our expert analysts, they'll be joining us. But let's begin first with CNN's Phil Mattingly. He's over at Trump Tower in New York City.
Phil, a growing number of Republicans now breaking with the president -- president-elect and calling for a full investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election. What's the latest?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right, Wolf.
The consensus among the intelligence community, it appears to be coalescing, as you note, on Capitol Hill. There appears to be very real momentum about a congressional investigation into the alleged Russian hacking, but the president-elect, he's not backing down, continuing to attack, and his advisors say the reasons are quite simple. They believe this has nothing to do with the hacking at all. Instead it is a political play, designed purely to undercut his presidency.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's ridiculous.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Tonight President-elect Donald Trump blasting U.S. intelligence community's own findings of Russian hacking as a made-up political ploy.
TRUMP: I think it's just another excuse. I don't believe it.
MATTINGLY: Trump and his top advisors now on their second week of rejecting the intelligence community's conclusions of Russian meddling in the election and casting outright aspersion on the agencies and their intent.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISOR: We don't want intelligence interfering in our politics, but we also don't want politics interfering with our intelligence, and that's what's happening here.
JASON MILLER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TRUMP TRANSITION: I think really clearly, what this is, is an attempt to try to delegitimize President-elect Trump's win.
MATTINGLY: Trump, taking to Twitter, called the CIA conclusions equivalent to, quote, "a conspiracy" and asking, quote, "Why wasn't this brought up before the election?" But it was, publicly, and repeatedly. First, in the wake of the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, then in an unprecedented joint intelligence community statement. Trump today losing cover from his strongest allies, Capitol Hill
Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell breaking with Trump to condemn Russia hacking and Russia's motives.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Obviously, any foreign breach of our cybersecurity measures is disturbing. And I strongly condemn any such efforts. I think we should approach all of these issues on the assumption that the Russians do not wish us well.
MATTINGLY: McConnell also joining with a bipartisan group of senators calling for a congressional inquiry into the allegations.
The renewed clash comes after a report in the "Washington Post" that the CIA has concluded not just that Russia wanted to sow discord in the election but actually sought to get Trump elected, following an earlier report by CNN.
Now, ten members of the Electoral College, nine Hillary Clinton backers and a Republican, demanding an intelligence briefing on any ongoing investigations into Trump ties to Russia before they are set to meet on December 19. A call backed by Clinton's campaign chair, John Podesta, who said, quote, "Electors have a solemn responsibility under the Constitution, and we support their efforts to have their questions addressed."
[17:05:23] This all coming at a particularly inopportune time for the man sources say Trump is leaning toward to be his secretary of state, Exxon chief Rex Tillerson, a business titan with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
GOP senators, including John McCain and Lindsey Graham, quickly raising concerns about that relationship.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It's a matter of concern to me that he has such a close personal relationship with Vladimir Putin, and obviously, they've done enormous deals together, that that would color his approach to Vladimir Putin and the Russian threat.
MATTINGLY: And former 2016 contender, Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeting, "Being a friend of Vladimir is not an attribute I'm hoping for from a secretary of state."
Trump defending Tillerson's qualifications and actually touting those same Russia ties.
TRUMP: To me, a great advantage is he knows many of the players, and he knows them well. He does massive deals in Russia.
MATTINGLY: And Wolf, Trump advisors saying, despite the Capitol Hill backlash inside his own party, so far the president-elect has not been dissuaded for the potential pick of Rex Tillerson. That pick could come as soon as mid-week, sources are saying.
Also worth noting, the line of potential cabinet picks continuing to roll through that building behind me. Earlier today, Rick Perry, a potential energy secretary pick, came through, as did Carly Fiorina, obviously, an adversary on the campaign trail during the presidential campaign. Sources saying she's under consideration to be director of intelligence -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much. Phil Mattingly in New York City.
We're also learning more about why so many U.S. intelligence officials now believe Russia was working to actually help Donald Trump win the election. Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, has that part of the story.
Pamela, you're getting new information from your sources.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. In fact, we are learning the U.S. government has evidence showing individuals connected to the Russian government bankrolling operations to spread fake news about Hillary Clinton during the election.
And sources say Russian hackers also breached GOP organizations prior to the election, but those documents were never leaked. And tonight intelligence officials increasingly believe Russia was trying to undermine Hillary Clinton's campaign for Donald Trump's gain.
BROWN (voice-over): Tonight U.S. intelligence officials are increasingly confident Russia intended to help Donald Trump win the election, a view the CIA shared with Congress in a classified briefing after the election.
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: What they've done is they've pieced together a picture and, based on their ability to piece together this picture, they've come up with an assessment and that, as far as we know, basically says this, that in fact, the Russians did intend to have Donald Trump elected president of the U.S. And what they wanted to do in this particular case is grease the skids for him.
BROWN: In October, 17 intelligence agencies released a joint statement, saying they were united in the belief that Russia tried to sow chaos during the election with the release of hacked materials, but officials tell CNN new intelligence sheds more light on Russia's apparent motive to help Donald Trump win.
Former CIA director Michael Morrell says the hacks are the political equivalent of 9/11.
MICHAEL MORRELL, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Even before the election, Charlie, the entire U.S. intelligence community believed that the Russians were interfering in the election. What's changed now is it seems like the CIA believes that the intent here was to advantage Donald Trump and disadvantage Hillary Clinton in the election.
BROWN: U.S. officials tell CNN part of the CIA shift in assessment is based on the fact hackers obtained documents from both the DNC and RNC but chose only to accomplish documents harmful to Democrats online. CNN has learned FBI investigators did find a breach of a third-party entity that held data belonging to the RNC.
The FBI has not concluded the RNC was directly breached, and the RNC has repeatedly denied ever being hacked.
The extent to which the Kremlin is tied to the hacks remains murky. CNN has learned U.S. investigators discovered a digital footprint leading back to people in Russia tied to the Russian government. And officials have said the hack fits Russia's M.O. But there's still no smoking gun directly tying the Russian government to the theft of e- mails from the DNC and Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, that were released through WikiLeaks.
LEIGHTON: They have people that do the work for them, and that gives them plausible deniability. When they have plausible deniability, that gives them more independence, and they can say with a straight face in an open forum, "We never did any of this."
[17:10:03] BROWN: Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied Russia's involvement. Even if Russia did try to help Donald Trump, it's unknown how that might have impacted the outcome of the election, a point made in a fiery exchange by Trump transition spokesman Sean Spicer and CNN's Michael Smerconish.
SEAN SPICER, CHIEF STRATEGIST & COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC: Show me what facts have actually shown that anything undermined that election. Donald Trump won with 306 electoral votes, 2,300 counties. Sixty-two million Americans voted for him. So what proof do you have or does anyone have that any of this affected the outcome of this election?
BROWN: And the FBI has a more conservative view of Russia's motive and has not come as far as the CIA, believing it tried to help Donald Trump. No final conclusions have been made by any U.S. agency about the motive -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that. Pamela Brown reporting.
Let's get some more on all of this. Former Republican congressman, Pete Hoekstra of Michigan is joining us. He was the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who supported Donald Trump in the election.
Thanks so much, Congressman, for joining us.
PETE HOEKSTRA (R), FORMER MICHIGAN CONGRESSMAN: Good to be with you, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: Let me first get your response to the reports that Russia also hacked some Republican political targets, some members of the House, some pundits, Republican-related pundits, an RNC vendor, not the Republican National Committee itself, but never released any of that information. Do you accept that? HOEKSTRA: I think it's very, very possible. One of the things that I think here is I'm not sure what the news is, Wolf. For years, the intelligence committees have been tracking everything that's been going on in cyberspace. We are being attacked continually by the Russians, by the Chinese, the Iranians and others, and we're being attacked in the political arena, in the military arena and the economic arena. This is the world we live in today.
BLITZER: But the news, Congressman, is that Donald Trump doesn't believe what the intelligence community is saying, what the FBI is saying, that the Russians interfered in the U.S. presidential election. That's the news.
HOEKSTRA: Well, I think what we're hearing right now is that there's a disagreement between the FBI and the CIA.
BLITZER: Not -- there's not a disagreement -- there's not a disagreement on whether the Russians interfered. There's a disagreement on what their motive was. The CIA believes their motive was to help Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the election. The FBI, more conservative. They believe the Russians were simply trying to be sort of nasty and undermine the U.S. election system. They were under the assumption that Hillary Clinton was going to win. They just wanted to muddy it up a bit. That's -- that's the difference. But they both believe the Russians interfered.
HOEKSTRA: Well, I think it's probably true that the Russians interfered, that the Iranians and the Chinese may have also played some different games going on in the election.
This is what intelligence communities do each and every day. They try to make -- either get secrets or they try to make life miserable for their opponents and their enemies.
I think what Mister -- and I don't know exactly what Mr. Trump is thinking or talking about, but I think where this whole thing is going astray, because it's starting to -- you know, the allegations now with the Clinton team saying, you know, you need to brief the electors, you know, this is now starting to undermine, or they're trying to undermine the election of Mr. Trump, and there is no evidence at all that that is even a valid approach or a valid avenue to go down. That is -- it's totally ridiculous in that move.
And I think what you have is you have Donald Trump looking at it from -- you know, this is a guy that's worked for, you know, more than a year to win this election, and he worked his heart out; and all of a sudden now you've got people trying to undermine it.
HOEKSTRA: I think he's coming at it from a slightly different approach than others.
BLITZER: In this particular case, what all of this is about is that the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the director of national intelligence, General James Clapper, released a formal statement on behalf of all 16 of the intelligence agencies in the U.S. saying, "The U.S. intelligence community" -- this was on October 7 of this year. "The U.S. intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including U.S. political organizations," referring to the Democratic National Committee.
So if you're still the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee -- you used to be -- and the director of national intelligence says that, do you dismiss that, as Donald Trump is doing?
HOEKSTRA: No, you don't. You don't dismiss it. I don't think -- I don't think that's what Donald Trump is doing.
BLITZER: He says it's ridiculous. He says -- he's says it's ridiculous.
HOEKSTRA: What Donald Trump is doing, in my perspective, it's ridiculous what people -- it's ridiculous what people are doing with this information in trying to undermine this election. You know, the calls now in Congress, this is what intelligence committees do. They do the oversight. They will look into this issue. They will look at what role Russia played and what they tried to do in this election. It's the normal operating procedure.
And for people trying to say, you know, this is all brand-new, no, cyber is something that the intelligence committees have been looking at for a period of time. And they will look at these allegations, and they will go through it.
HOEKSTRA: And they will determine exactly what happened and what the response should be.
[17:15:17] BLITZER: So I assume you agree with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, that there should now be a full-scale investigation of Russian hacking into U.S. -- the U.S. election by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee? You agree with Senator Mitch McConnell?
HOEKSTRA: I -- I think that cyber is an area that the intelligence community continues to need to focus on. Whether this -- you know, I'm not getting the classified briefings -- whether this is the highest breach that has occurred in the last 12 to 18 months, I'm not sure whether, you know, that's warranted.
But clearly, cyber-security -- this is the new battleground, Wolf. It is. But it's happening economically, and it's happening militarily. And I think some of those threats may be even greater than what this allegation is about what Russia did in this election.
BLITZER: But in several interviews now and recent ones, including this past Sunday, the president-elect has defended Russia against the intelligence community's assessment, the FBI's assessment. He said yesterday, for example, he thinks the perpetrator of these hacks, in his words, could have been somebody sitting in a bedroom someplace. The other day he said maybe it was somebody who weighed 400 pounds, who lives in New Jersey.
Why is he offering these kinds of excuses, in effect, for Russia?
HOEKSTRA: Well, I'm not sure he's offering them for Russia. I think what he's recognizing -- and you and I have talked about this before. I haven't seen the digital footprint that, you know, ties this to Russia, but what we do know is that there -- it could possibly have been China. It could have been Iran.
The other thing I think that is frustrating to him is what came out, you know, in the last number of months, is that the CIA and the intelligence community was cooking the data that was coming out of -- that was coming out of the Middle East and was downplaying the success of ISIS.
And I think one of the things that also needs to be investigated here, Wolf, if they're going to look at what Russia did, they also ought to take a look at the politicization of intelligence. That -- we need to make sure that that's not happening, because that's very dangerous to our national security. We need intelligence providing us with data and information and staying out of the politics.
BLITZER: So what I hear you saying, and you're a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman, is that you think that -- that career intelligence officials, whether at the CIA or in other agencies, are politicizing their reports to the president of the United States?
HOEKSTRA: No. No, but what I'm saying, Wolf, is we do know that there's pretty clear evidence, and I think the report came out that said that intelligence was politicized regarding ISIS. And if it occurred in that case, is it occurring other places?
And it -- that accusation and what appears to have been true in terms of the information coming out on ISIS, warrants as much of an investigation in terms of what's happening, what now -- what is being said about Russia. They are -- they both could be serious problems.
BLITZER: I want to get to one final point. What I hear you saying...
BLITZER: ... and correct me if I'm wrong, Congressman, because I've known you for a long time...
BLITZER: ... you believe what the U.S. intelligence community, in effect, is doing now is what the U.S. intelligence community did before the war in Iraq in 2003, at the end of 2002, when they said there was no doubt that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of weapons of destruction. Colin Powell, the secretary of state, went before the U.N. Security Council. George Tenet, the CIA director, was sitting right behind him and made that case.
That case was clearly wrong, but it was because of political reasons why they did that, as opposed to good U.S. intelligence, is that what you're saying is going on right now?
HOEKSTRA: Wolf, I don't know. I have not seen the materials. All I've seen is the same kind of information that you had that appear to be, you know, the CIA or someone else leaking into the media. I haven't seen it. I don't know if it's politicized.
I do know and I have some concerns about some of the stuff that's come out from the CIA, like I said, about their assessment of ISIS. People said it was politicized. There are other cases where I'm concerned about information that has come out.
But I don't know, and I haven't seen the information. I'm sure that the committee will look into both of those issues. What Russia did in this election cycle and how this -- how this CIA and the intelligence community and whether there are any grounds for the accusation that it would be politicized, both in the conclusions and why parts of this information are coming out but not all of it.
BLITZER: Pete Hoekstra, one final question. Are you anticipating a position in the Trump administration?
HOEKSTRA: I have absolutely no idea. I stay in close contact with the Trump team, and if they determine that there's a position where I can help them on national security issues, I'd be more than willing to take a look at it and more than willing to serve.
BLITZER: Nothing offered yet, right?
HOEKSTRA: Nothing offered. Absolutely not. No. Thanks.
BLITZER: We'll stay in close touch with you.
BLITZER: Pete Hoekstra, the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
HOEKSTRA: All right, thanks.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Up next, what is the specific evidence that points to Russia's hacking in the U.S. presidential election? I'll ask a former assistant attorney general for national security. My interview with John Carlin, that's coming up next.
BLITZER: The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, is among the growing number of Republicans now breaking with President-elect Donald Trump. He's joining Democrats, calling for a full-scale congressional investigation of Russian cyber-attacks, designed to influence the U.S. presidential election.
Let's get some more now. The former assistant attorney general for national security, John Carlin, is joining us. John, thanks very much for joining us. And until recently, you served at the Justice Department in this sensitive post.
JOHN CARLIN, FORMER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Thanks, Wolf. It's great to be back.
BLITZER: So is there a difference, based on everything you know, between the bottom-line assessment of the CIA versus the FBI when it comes to Russian interference in the presidential election?
CARLIN: There may be some difference in emphasis, but let's look at what the community does agree on. You had all...
[17:25:03] BLITZER: The intelligence community?
CARLIN: The intelligence community. Sixteen different elements -- from homeland security, to CIA, to FBI, to the NSA -- all agreed that the Russian government, the Russian government directed cyber-attacks into the United States, along with other efforts designed to undermine confidence in the integrity of our election. And that was stated publicly.
We've only stated publicly what a foreign government was trying to do without a criminal charge attached to it once before, and that's when North Korea attacked Sony. So this is significant, and it demands serious attention by our government and a response to make sure not only that it doesn't happen again by the Russians but to all the other countries figuring what can we get away with in cyberspace, that they're deterred.
BLITZER: And that statement was released on October 7. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, Jeh Johnson, the secretary of homeland security, released that statement, saying the U.S. intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed these attacks. What's the evidence?
CARLIN: I can't get into all of the sensitive sources and methods, but to put out a statement like that, that means that there's high confidence, unanimously across the leaders of each of the elements of the community that says Russia did that.
And that can -- that evidence can be things ranging from technical evidence, digital forensic evidence, to human sources, to inference from other patterns of behavior, like very similar activity that's occurred in eastern Europe and we're seeing now in Germany.
So they look across every single type of piece of evidence. They look across that mosaic, and they draw a high confidence assessment. Same type of approach -- to give you an example dating back to the Sony North Korea case, we literally in that case used FBI cyber profilers, behavioral analysts, the same guys that figure out who committed a homicide or a mass rape, to figure out, combining their analysis of bits and bites with studies of behavior, who's responsible.
BLITZER: Since becoming president-elect, it's now been, what, more than a month, would that kind of evidence, sources and methods, the most sensitive information -- until recently you were privy to it -- be shared with the president-elect, the evidence to back up that assertion?
CARLIN: Well, certainly, once the president assumes office, then I would assume...
BLITZER: He hasn't assumed officeyet. That will be on January 20. But now he's the president-elect. In the presidential daily briefs, in the intelligence briefings he's getting, would they share with him and his top national security advisor, General Flynn, for example, the former director of the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, would they share the specific information?
I ask the question, because Trump remains skeptical. He doesn't buy it. He says it could have been China, could have been North Korea, could have been a 400-pound guy sitting in his bed in New Jersey. He doesn't buy it yet.
CARLIN: I'm going to try to remain, as I always have, from commenting on politics.
I'll just say that, certainly, once he's in office, he'll have access and be able to be briefed by the top-level professionals who've been serving our country through administration after administration for years, get a full sense of the intelligence after there and draw his conclusions.
I'm not sure he said that Russia wasn't trying to undermine confidence and the integrity of the election. He may have said that. The bottom line is they were. And it will be important, both for the president and his new national security team and Congress. I was heartened to see the seriousness with which the heads of both the Senate and the House are taking this issue, because we've got to figure out, as a country, going forward, what are we going to do is they try this again? How do you hold them responsible?
BLITZER: Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States. He doesn't accept that conclusion, at least not yet.
There's a difference of opinion, analysis, between the FBI and the CIA. They both agree the Russians interfered. The CIA thinks the Russians were doing so in order to help Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton and become the next president of the United States.
The FBI is more cautious. The FBI thinks the Russians were interfering to embarrass the United States, to disrupt the election, if you will. The Russians were under the assumption, like so many others, that Hillary Clinton was going to win anyhow, but they just wanted to muddy it up.
Where do you stand?
CARLIN: I think that's a good example of degrees of emphasis. So you know they're taking certain actions to undermine confidence in the election. What was their intent? Were they thinking at the time "We're going to do this, because we actually want to support one candidate and think they'll win. Are we doing this because we believe Hillary Clinton is going to win, but we want her to come in weakened? Are we doing this just to create mischief?"
And when you look at the different roles, and you're telling me what the CIA thinks now, but the CIA's traditional function is to think about what foreign leaders overseas are thinking. They're tasked with foreign intelligence collection and assessment.
Our role, when I was at FBI and working with them at the Department of Justice was different. We usually collect within the United States. We make -- we make intelligence assessments, but we also try to prove cases beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
BLITZER: The CIA's bottom line is circumstantial, in part because the information that eventually emerged, that was leaked, was all damaging to the Democrats and Hillary Clinton. If they did hack Republican institutions or individuals, none of that information was significantly leaked.
[17:30:18] That's one of the reason why the CIA apparently concluded. I guess the bottom-line question is this: How vulnerable is the U.S. right now to Russian cyber-attacks?
CARLIN: That is the key question, and it's not just Russia. We are vulnerable to Russia, to China, to Iran, to North Korea, to sophisticated organized criminal groups. The bottom line is we've put almost everything we value into digital means, connected it through the Internet, and we haven't perfected it.
It's going to take a significant investment in change in policy to increase deterrence to keep people with messing with what it is that we value.
That's vitally important as we move forward. Not just for data, but think about the Internet of things. So the hearts -- hearts, the pacemakers in our hearts are going to be digitally connected. They already are. The cars that we drive are essentially commuters on wheels. Drones that are flying through the air for commercial purposes are digitally connected.
We have to take this seriously, dedicate the resources now, and make sure we do both a better job at defending but also tell the world that if you mess with America, we will mess with you back.
BLITZER: John Carlin is the former U.S. Assistant to national security. Thanks for coming in.
BLITZER: Coming up, just how important are the daily intelligence briefings that the president-elect, Donald Trump, is apparently skipping?
Plus North Korea's simulated attack on South Korea. What is Kim Jong- un really planning?
[17:35:24] BLITZER: We're following the latest firestorm started by Donald Trump's rejection of the U.S. intelligence community's assertion involving Russia's malicious cyber-attacks during the presidential election.
Today members of the Trump team insisted that investigations of the cyber-attacks are meant to delegitimize Donald Trump's win.
Let's bring in our correspondents and our experts to assess. Gloria Borger, the intelligence -- even if there's a disagreement...
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHEF POLITICAL ANALYST: ... between the FBI and the CIA on why the Russians were doing it, they both agree that the Russians did it. But Donald Trump isn't ready to accept that conclusion. Why?
BORGER: Because they may be conflating two things. One is he believes that lots of Democrats are jumping on this bandwagon because they want to delegitimize his election, so he doesn't want to give them any, you know, any comfort in that.
But he doesn't trust the intelligence agencies. I mean, this is a -- this is a fact, and he has said that he -- he has suggested that he'll get briefings from different people. So we don't know who that's going to be yet.
I think it's troubling. I think Richard Nixon, when he was president, didn't trust the intelligence agencies, didn't read his presidential daily briefs, didn't do them. I think we may find that Donald Trump puts that responsibility to Mike Pence, but at this point he has to establish, I think, some kind of a relationship with intelligence in some way, shape or form because that's how you make decisions about life and death in this country.
BLITZER: Clearly, the FBI and the CIA, the intelligence community, in effect, they agreed that the Democratic institutions -- the DNC, John Podesta, the campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton's campaign -- they were hacked by the Russians. You're getting new information, Pamela, on what was hacked on the Republican side.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Because as you know, really only the Democratic documents were released online, and so it makes you wonder, well, did the hackers have anything from the Republican side?
And we have learned that yes, they did. They had RNC documents. They had documents from GOP individuals and organizations that they had hacked, yet most of those documents were never leaked online. And so that's just one of the reasons why members of the CIA and other intelligence agencies believe that Russia was essentially trying to, you know, grease the wheels for Donald Trump and help him win and undermine Hillary Clinton's campaign. That's one factor out of many that now has the CIA believing...
BLITZER: Just to be precise, the Republican National Committee itself was not hacked, but elements who worked with the RNC...
BROWN: A third-party vendor.
BLITZER: A third-party vendor were hacked, and various Republican think tanks and pundits, if you will, they were hacked, as well. But that information, by and large, was not released.
BLITZER: Is that the information you're getting?
BROWN: That's exactly right. Of course, we don't know what those documents contain. It may not have been useful to the hackers or whatever the case may be. But I think it was enough for intelligence analysts to look at it and say all of this information was released from the Democratic side that was harmful to the Democratics [SIC], yet nothing was released from the Republican side. That says something.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, what does it say?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It says the Russians wanted Donald Trump to win the election. I mean, I don't see how you can draw any other conclusion.
BLITZER: Well, the FBI's conclusion is they wanted to disrupt and embarrass and muddy the waters, if you will. They were working under the assumption that Hillary would win, and they just wanted to make it, obviously, awkward.
TOOBIN: Yes, but you have...
BLITZER: That's the FBI's position.
TOOBIN: You have to consider the difference between what the FBI does and what the CIA does. Mr. Carlin, who was here earlier, made this point.
I mean, the whole job of the CIA is to determine what's going on in foreign countries, what are their motivations. The FBI is a domestic agency that investigates crimes and intelligence failures in the United States. So the fact that the FBI can't conclude what's in the heads of Russian leaders, I don't think that tells you anything, because that's not the FBI's job.
We have one agency that is supposed to determine that. They determined that the Russians wanted Trump to win. I conclude from that that the Russians wanted Trump to win.
BROWN: And the FBI is notoriously a very conservative agency, as you know. I mean, it's not surprising that there is some nuance here in terms of how far they're willing to go, compared to the CIA saying, "Look, we believe that Russia was trying to help -- you know, help Donald Trump."
TOOBIN: Conservative, in some respects, and I think you're right institutionally. Remember, on the eve of the election, the FBI director released information...
TOOBIN: ... that was incredibly damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign. The CIA did not release this information that could have been very damaging to Donald Trump's campaign. So I think that's an important historical point to keep in mind.
BLITZER: Kevin, how do you see it?
[17:40:00] KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think Donald Trump, clearly the Trump transition team feels that this is a -- has less -- I think they believe it's less to do with the intelligence agencies. This has more to do with the -- Donald Trump's critics trying to delegitimize him and his potential presidency. And that's why you see the reaction that they have.
I think one of the risks that he's going to have as he goes forward is, you know, this is serious. There are serious enough charges here where there's going to be bipartisan movement to investigate it and find out more.
And, you know, we've heard of triangulation, right? But I don't know if Donald Trump wants to run the risk of being triangulated against by congressional Republicans and congressional Democrats who are trying to get to the bottom of this. And that's one of the things...
BLITZER: Because the Republican leader, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, he wants a full-scale investigation.
BLITZER: Right now so many other Republicans are jumping aboard that bandwagon. Democrats are, as well.
Everybody, stand by. There's more coming in. We're getting more information on why Donald Trump is skipping those daily presidential intelligence briefings. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're back with our correspondents and our experts.
You know, Gloria, Donald Trump, the president-elect of the United States, he's downplaying the importance of these daily presidential intelligence briefings, classified information. Listen to what he said yesterday on FOX.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are very good people that are giving me the briefings. And I say, "If something should change from this point, immediately call me. I'm available on one minute's notice."
I don't have to be told -- you know, I'm like a smart person. I don't have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years. Could be eight years, but eight years. I don't need that.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Already suggesting he's going to run for re-election with
the eight years.
BLITZER: So what's the precedent on this?
BORGER: Well, there really -- I mean, there really isn't except for Richard Nixon, as I was talking about before, who didn't trust the CIA, didn't want the intelligence briefings, allowed his vice- president to get briefings. He got briefed by Henry Kissinger. And so there really isn't much precedent on this.
The way President Obama has used it is, essentially, I'm told, is a Q and A session, and he and Joe Biden did these briefs together. And it's a way to get to know your intelligence people, first of all, at the very top, and it's a way to ask some tough questions and ask for more information.
It's not just a one way, "They're telling me the same stuff every day, I don't need it." It's the president of the United States getting to say, why don't I know the answer to this question? Why don't I know the answer to that question? Can you get me more on this and let's figure out this issue or that issue?
So it's really very much a give and take which, I think, if you don't establish that relationship with your intelligence folks, it becomes more difficult going on because when do they know to brief you? When there's an emergency that you maybe didn't see coming? I mean, that's a real problem.
BLITZER: Because, Jeffrey, you would think an incoming Commander-in- Chief without a lot of national security, military experience, would want as much information as possible during these critical days leading up to the inauguration.
TOOBIN: Well, we see just in this current controversy over the intelligence regarding Russia and the election, he doesn't want to hear what he doesn't want to hear. I mean, he might get information that he doesn't like, so he's going to reject it in advance. I mean, I think it is a troubling possibility. I think, you know, he deserves to set up his administration how he wants to do it, but the question is, you know, why do we have an intelligence agency if the President, out of hand, is simply going to reject what he doesn't want to hear?
BLITZER: Kevin, go ahead.
MADDEN: Well, look, I think this is a question of style, and I think anybody who is surprised by Donald Trump's answers on this wasn't paying attention during the campaign. He never sold himself as a details guy. He never sold himself as somebody who was really curious about intelligence matters and enmeshed in the details. And he's always sold himself as somebody who is a decision-maker and somebody who delegates. And he did indicate in a number of these interviews that Mike Pence is
getting the presidential daily briefing and a lot of what he's doing on the policy side of things in this administration is being outsourced to Mike Pence, so it should not be a surprise.
BLITZER: Pamela, getting back to our original discussion, very quickly, you're getting new information on who else was involved in hacking of Republican activists, if you will?
BROWN: That's right. So we have some new clues, we're learning from our sources, about why people in the intelligence community believe that Russia was trying to help Donald Trump, and one of that is they've identified individuals connected to the Russian government who were being bankrolled by the Russian government to set up these troll farms, essentially these people who are in office buildings pushing out fake news about Hillary Clinton during the election, commenting, liking, and that kind of thing. So they've been able to trace these troll farms to these individuals linked to the Russian government.
BLITZER: Very disturbing developments indeed. Guys, stick around. And to our viewers, please be sure to check out the first ever book from CNN Politics. It's called, "Unprecedented: The Election That Changed Everything." You can pick up your copy today in stores or go online at cnn.com/book.
Coming up, an alarming new threat coming in from North Korea. Kim Jong-un's military is practicing an attack on the South complete with an assault on its presidential mansion.
[17:52:16] BLITZER: North Korea's military just announced a menacing new round of war games simulating an attack on South Korea. CNN's Brian Todd has new information.
Brian, this comes as South Korea is gripped with political turmoil right now.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it comes as South Korea is in the throes tonight of its biggest political crisis in several years. President Park Geun-hye, a top U.S. ally in the standoff against North Korea has just been impeached. They're trying to figure out who their next president is going to be and Kim Jong-un is pouncing on all of this. I spoke to a U.S. intelligence official a short time ago who told me that Kim's regime is war mongering and making belligerent gestures that are aggravating tensions on the peninsula.
TODD (voice-over): An artillery barrage, heavily camouflaged commandos parachute in, storm the compound, take positions around columns as the building burns. These are North Korean Special Forces conducting an attack drill. Their target? A mockup of South Korea's Blue House, their version of the White House. LT. COL. TONY SHAFFER (RET), FORMER SENIOR U.S. MILITARY INTELLIGENCE
OFFICER: I think this should be a wakeup call to the South Korean government and the South Korean people that you have a North Korea which is still bent on the potential destruction of the South.
TODD (voice-over): The troops practice capturing an enemy who the North Korean anchor says needs to be put on trial. This drill, according to North Korean media, was personally directed by the country's barbarous young dictator, Kim Jong-un. Experts say Kim's forces have good intelligence on the layout of the South Korean leader's residence.
CURTIS MELVIN, RESEARCHER, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY'S US-KOREA INSTITUTE: Here we see a very well detailed reproduction of the Blue House. We have the main facility here, the two auxiliary buildings, and even the car port and even the unique pattern of sidewalk in front of the building. So they paid very close attention to detail when they built this.
TODD (voice-over): The North Koreans have staged an actual attack on the Blue House. January 1968, more than two dozen North Korean commandos infiltrated the South. Armed with these weapons, dressed in South Korean uniforms, they got to within about 350 feet of the Blue House. In a furious gun battle, at least 30 South Koreans were killed, as well as 29 North Korean commandos. One North Korean attacker who was captured later spoke to CNN.
KIM SHIN-JO, FORMER NORTH KOREAN COMMANDO: I came from North Korea to kill President Park Chung-hee.
TODD (voice-over): It was a mission that failed, and that South Korean leader's daughter, Park Geun-hye is the country's current president. But she's just been impeached in a massive political scandal, has had her power taken away. Experts say Kim Jong-un will use the South Korean crises, the political instability, to his advantage.
JEAN LEE, PUBLIC POLICY FELLOW, THE WOODROW WILSON CENTER'S NORTH KOREA INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTATION PROJECT: If they continue to have a political paralysis, it could be very difficult to deal with a North Korean provocation. Now, we should keep in mind that North Korea does have a very savvy sense for drama. They will be trying to get on the radar of the Trump administration.
[17:55:08] TODD (voice-over): It appears, tonight, Kim Jong-un's already on the President-elect's radar. Donald Trump telling Fox News he needs more help in pressuring Pyongyang.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have North Korea, you have nuclear weapons and China could solve that problem, and they're not helping us at all.
TODD (voice-over): But experts say China is actually fed up with Kim Jong-un. They are tired of his nuclear tests and other provocations. They're angry with him for not telling them about those tests beforehand, and the Chinese are punishing him. The Chinese have just suspended coal imports from North Korea, cutting off a major source of cash for Kim Jong-un, but that suspension, Wolf, is only going to last a few weeks.
BLITZER: Very tense situation. Brian Todd, thank you very much. Coming up, President-elect Donald Trump openly criticizing the U.S. intelligence community saying it's wrong about Russian hacking. What message does it send to Vladimir Putin?
[17:59:54] BLITZER: Happening now, intel outrage. Donald Trump goes even further in his refusal to accept the CIA's findings on Russian hacking, prompting new pushback by fellow Republicans and the Clinton campaign.
Tonight, new information as to why U.S. intelligence officers suspect the hackers tried to help Trump win the election.