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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Obama Orders 35 Russian Operatives Out of U.S.; Interview with Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois; U.S. Aware of ISIS Leader's Recent Movements; Syria: Ceasefire to Begin at 5PM ET Today; Debbie Reynolds Dies Day After Daughter Carrie Fisher; Alleged Ex-Hitman: Philippines President Ran Death Squads; Duterte To CNN: I Personally Killed 3 People As Mayor. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired December 29, 2016 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:30:00] REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: We're also the United States of America. This is sending a message that we will not be pushed around by a country that's basically a gas can in Europe with an economy roughly the size of Italy. And I think it is about time. It's taken long enough.
But I think this is an important first step to saying to the Russians that we are not one of your former satellite states. We're the United States of America, and you will not mess around with our election system. You will not mess around with, you know, with Europe anymore and the Middle East. So, it's an important step to push back and I'm looking forward to more, frankly.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: With all due respect, sir, the only one not united in this in Washington, D.C., and New York is the president- elect. I mean, you have President Obama, the Republican leaders of the House and Senate. You have a number of Republicans on Capitol Hill, such as you, Democrats on Capitol Hill, like Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, et cetera.
The only person I hear expressing any skepticism about our own intelligence agencies and saying that we all just need to move past this is President-elect Donald Trump.
KINZINGER: Yes. And I can't defend that. I am not going to.
I mean, I think to disparage the intel-gathering mechanisms that we have here is not the right answer. I hope, when he is actually sworn in as president, you know -- now the weight of the world has fallen on to him. He realizes that, you know, for a while -- frankly, for the last eight years America has given up its role in a lot of areas the world to Russia. We need to claw that back.
And so, I hope it changes on Inauguration Day.
But, look, there are people like myself, like Senator Graham, John McCain and Marco Rubio and a bunch of folks out there that are going to continue to say, look, we swear -- I did as a military member and as a congressman to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We don't swear to protect and defend parties. It's all about our country. And when someone thinks that they can come in and mess with -- it's
not questioning the legitimacy of Donald Trump. He won. I think he won by having a strong message. But it is saying that, if a country thinks they can influence us in a certain way, there is going to be consequences for them. Frankly, it will have to be escalating consequences if they try to do it again.
TAPPER: Well, again, with all due respect, you have been outspoken on this issue. And so have Senators McCain, and Senator Graham and Senator Rubio. But I wouldn't say all your Republican colleagues have been.
KINZINGER: Well, that's probably true. I think a lot of them are waiting to see what happens. You know, a lot of them don't necessarily always talk about foreign policy issues. But that's not going to change who I am. It's not going to change what I stand for.
And my hope is, again, when President-elect Trump is sworn in, on this specific issue there is an awakening of the fact that, look, we can try to have a better relationship with Russia. Nobody is saying we can't talk to them or try to have a better relationship.
But we also have to defend ourselves. We have to defend our integrity of our voting systems. We have to defend our role in the world. And that's a role that's been given up over the last eight years, and hopefully that changes under the new administration. And I look forward to seeing him come in and kind of understanding what's going on and hopefully that tone changes.
TAPPER: It seems as though this is going to escalate. We've already heard from the Kremlin that they are going to carry out reciprocal measures compared to retaliating to what the United States is doing with these 35 individuals with diplomatic and consular passes who the U.S. is saying are now basically spies. So, we are expecting, I'm sure, Americans to be ejected from Russia.
What else do you think might happen?
KINZINGER: Well, I don't know. And they've obviously been abusive to our diplomats in Russia. You've seen them when it comes to military moving into the eastern Ukraine, say they weren't there. You see 'em bomb a convoy and say they didn't. You see 'em bomb innocents in Aleppo and say they weren't part of that. So, who knows what they'll actually do and what they'll actually admit to.
But I think the key is this: anytime you see a quote about leadership, it's not about how easy it is, it's always about how tough it is. And we're the United States of America. And I think we're kind of stuck in this mindset of thinking of Russia as our equivalent, as the old Soviet Union, as the other polar in the bipolar world. They're not. Their economy is the size of Italy. They have a lot of power. They need to be taken seriously.
But this idea that we have to be scared to confront them because we're scared of what they're going to do back to us, we have way more tools in our arsenal to make this painful on Russia than they do on us. So, they can do whatever they choose to do and we're going to come back.
TAPPER: Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thank you so much. Happy New Year to you, sir.
KINZINGER: You bet. You too. Thanks.
TAPPER: Russia says it's brokered a ceasefire in Syria and is now inviting the president-elect to join them at the negotiating table with countries the U.S. would not exactly call allies. That story next.
[16:37:40] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Some more on our world lead now. U.S. officials are saying that they are aware the elusive ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, has been moving around, dismissing rumors that he may be injured or even dead.
Let's bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
Barbara, are officials close to pin-pointing the terrorist group leader's location?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't really know the answer to that because this is such sensitive information. Very little is being said about it, they are saying that in the last few weeks, they've been aware of some of his movements. So this is an indication they do have some recent intelligence.
It's not real-time. We don't know where he is right this minute, one official has indicated. But they are working this now, working their way back, trying to see if they can move some of this information forward, where he might be, who he might be talking to, how he might be moving around, and see what they can develop to see if it is possible to go after him at this point.
There is a $25 million reward on his head for his capture. He -- the thinking is, you know, he may be hiding somewhere in Iraq. He may be deep -- in deep hiding somewhere around Raqqa, Syria. They are looking at all of these areas now, taking this report and seeing what they can make of it all -- Jake.
TAPPER: I guess the big question is also, what exactly is President- elect Trump's position on the war against ISIS in Syria and in Iraq going to be? Is he going to withdraw troops altogether? Is he going to double down and do even more air strikes. Does anyone at the Pentagon have any idea? Are they getting any guidance from the transition team about what it's going to look like going forward?
STARR: Not at this point, as far as we can tell. Military planners, there have been public indications they are looking at a variety ideas. So, they are ready if the new president asks for a new plan, in fact. But right now, they're making progress, they say, against ISIS. They're going to conduct as many airstrikes as they possibly can. And let's say they do get Baghdadi. Will that really change the
course of the war? Likely not. The general thinking is that ISIS is going to go underground and stage guerilla insurgent attacks -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us -- thank you so much.
More in our world lead: in just about 20 minutes, all military operations that have ravaged Syria for the past six years could come to a complete halt.
[16:40:01] The Syrian government and opposition rebels have agreed on a ceasefire, we are told, one that could finally bring peace to the war-torn country. This was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who orchestrated and backed the deal while leaving the U.S. out of the negotiations.
But the Kremlin did invite the incoming Trump administration to join the Syrian peace process once President-elect Trump takes office. And Syrian President Bashar al Assad said he is optimistic about Trump's presidency.
Let's bring in CNN's Muhammad Lila. He was in Istanbul, Turkey.
Muhammad, previous ceasefire deals -- well, they didn't work out. Are we sure this one will actually go into effect in a few moments?
MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, both Russia and Turkey, Jake, say that they have concrete measures on the ground and guarantees in place. They themselves say that they will each guarantee that the ceasefire takes hold.
You know, Jake, a lot of people would see this as the natural outcome of what happens when the United States chooses to not engage in a meaningful way in Syria. What happens when that happens is that Turkey, Russia, Syria and Iran essentially get together and decide a ceasefire on their own. This was decided without United States involvement. They weren't invited. And, in fact, the U.S. didn't participate in this peace process or this fledgling peace process, you could say.
That these talks that are going to take place in a few weeks' time, in Astana, Kazakhstan. Again, the United States has not been invited. The Kremlin throwing out an olive branch, mind you, not to President Obama, but to President-elect Trump, sort of bypassing Obama in the last stages of his presidency and inviting Trump to come to the table and saying, look, we're hopeful President-elect Trump may have a seat at the table when the peace talks take place.
So, clearly, they're sort of considering the Obama, the administration as not being able to do anything, they haven't done anything, and they're reaching out directly to Trump to possibly help.
TAPPER: Muhammad Lila in Istanbul, Turkey -- thank you so much. We appreciate it. He claims he's murdered dozens of people for the president of the Philippines. Now, this alleged hit man is sitting down exclusively with CNN. That story, next.
Then, Debbie Reynolds passed away just one day after losing her daughter, Carrie Fisher. Did the 84-year-old Hollywood legend die from a broken heart? That story next.
[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD ANCHOR: Singer, actress, dancer, Hollywood royalty - 84-year old Debbie Reynolds died yesterday. Just one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher passed away. It's our "POP CULTURE LEAD" today. Todd Fisher told CNN of his mother's last day saying, quote, "She spoke to me this morning and said she missed Carrie. She's with Carrie now." Today, he shared this drawing saying, "This is a beautiful love story to witness in my 58 years. I miss them both so much."
Joining me now to talk about these two is especially Debbie Reynolds is James Lipton, host of Inside the Actor Studio. Sir, always a pleasure, thanks for joining us.
JAMES LIPTON, INSIDE THE ACTOR STUDIO HOST: Thank you very much.
TAPPER: So, in just two days the death of two Hollywood icons, a mother and a daughter, we do not know yet the cause of Reynolds' death but fans and even some cardiologists speculate maybe she died from a broken heart.
LIPTON: Well, that's my theory. I've always thought that the idea of dying of a broken heart was a sentimental myth, until last night, when I heard what had happened, and then I decided it's not. I am absolutely convinced that Debbie died of a broken heart. A lot of people feel that way today.
TAPPER: In 2011, Debbie Reynolds spoke with Oprah about a time when her daughter Carrie Fisher was rushed to the hospital after collapsing on set. Let's take a listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBBIE REYNOLDS, AMERICAN ACTRESS: First, it was just a terrifying night. It was pouring rain, so you can just picture you're in the car, with the rain smashing against the windshield, and you're crying like mad, and you don't know if it's - if your daughter is going to be alive when you get there. There have been a few times when I thought that I was going to lose Carrie. I've had to walk through a lot of my tears, but she's worth it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Difficult for any parent to lose a child, but these two had a very unique and close relationship. Tell us about it.
LIPTON: Well, the relationship was an up and down relationship. And through the years, they were close and they were not close, but in the end, of course, they left us together. Last night, I was watching an Oscar screener of "La La Land", the story of two young people trying to survive in Hollywood, and I got a call suddenly informing me that Debbie Reynolds had died 24 hours after her daughter. And now, at the age of 19, this amazing woman shot to fame in one of the greatest films in the history of Hollywood musicals, "Singin' in the Rain".
It was a story of three people struggling to survive in Hollywood. She was plucked from obscurity and she was then taught to sing and dance, and act by Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor. In the ultimate crash course that she took, they drilled her 12 hours a day, and then she held her own with them in the infinitely cheerful song, the most cheerful song Hollywood ever wrote, and that's song is the one that we've been hearing, good morning, good morning, now they're - no they're all gone. And my first thought last night, as I received the shocking news, was if, as my question asks at the end of every episode of my show, heaven exists, what would we like to hear God say when we arrive at the pearly gates? My thought was that Gene and Donald are greeting Debbie at the pearly gates with good morning, good morning, and she is falling into perfect step with them as they do, and then the three of them are romping off through paradise followed by a cheering Carrie Fisher.
TAPPER: I think that I read that Debbie Reynolds had once said that the two most difficult things in her life were "Singin' in the Rain" and childbirth, and when you look at the effortless - although seemingly effortless, I should say, performance in "Singin' in the Rain", especially the good morning scene, it's just incredible how graceful those three are. Both Reynolds and Fisher were more than actors. They were more than performers. Tell us about that.
LIPTON: Absolutely. Debbie did something very difficult. She learned to act, she learned to sing, she learned to dance, and she had a radiant personality on the screen. Then, she became America's sweet heart. Those are all different crafts that require different disciplines and different training, and yet she mastered them all. And then, when we come to Carrie, Carrie did something equally amazing. She had the "Star Wars" trilogy, she was a superstar, and she did "Hannah and her Sisters", "When Harry Met Sally".
[16:49:58] But then, in her second career, she became a writer. She wrote "Postcards from the Edge", a remarkable book that she then turned into a remarkable film that starred Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine, and directed by Mike Nichols. And she just - and then she became a great famous script doctor. She would go and fix everybody else's scripts. She became from a star - a superstar actor, a superstar writer. Imagine doing -- each of them had two careers, a lot of twos in this story, each of them had two careers, a beginning career and then a chapter two. And then finally, when it came time for them to exit, they exited together. Another two. Amazing.
TAPPER: You've covered show business for a long time. This year, we lost a lot of big names. You just mentioned two of them, obviously, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, but also, Prince, David Bowie, Gene Wilder, Harper Lee, Florence Henderson, Muhammad Ali, these - I could go on and on. Did we really lose more icons in pop culture than in other years?
LIPTON: I think that what happens is when they are really big stars. We have the impression that there are more of them going. I suppose every year the same number of people leave us. But sometimes when they are big stars, and when they are mother and daughter, dying within 24 hours of each other, we take note of it, and then we start noticing every death that happens. We add them all up, and it seems like more, I suppose statistically, it's the same every year. But it doesn't make it any easier to endure, especially this. These were two beloved people, and we lost them both, and we lost them, I believe, because one couldn't go on living without the other.
TAPPER: Sad, but likely true. James Lipton, thank you so much. Happy New Year to you, sir. Thanks for joining us.
LIPTON: Happy New Year. Much happier than it is today, right?
TAPPER: I hope so, I hope so.
The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte has told President Obama to, quote, "Go to hell." He even claimed he threw someone out of a flying helicopter once. Now, CNN sits down exclusively with a man who claims to be Duterte's former hitman. That story next.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: We have a CNN exclusive for you in our "WORLD LEAD" now -- an alleged former hitman with some explosive claims. He says that Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte once ran secret death squads and ordered him to commit unthinkable acts. When Duterte was Davao City's mayor, this as Duterte prosecutes a controversial drug war in this country and makes threats that might jeopardize this nation's military alliance with the United States. Let's bring in CNN Correspondent Will Ripley who's in Manila. And Will, this sounds like some sort of a film, as bombastic as Duterte's previous comments.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I told the president's communications secretary yesterday, it feels like a real life version of "Scarface". First of all, you have the Philippines huge drug problem more than $100-million meth bust just this week. You have the president openly boasting about killing several people when he was a mayor. And he even said this week that he threw someone out of his helicopter then he back-tracked from that remark. And then you have this former hitman, we had to drive to a secret location, a rendezvous point, he's in hiding because he said he'll be killed if he's found, and he says he and a small army of assassins were operating on the direct orders of the man who's now president.
RIPLEY: Edgar Matobato says he and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte have something in common, they both have blood on their hands. "I want him to pay for what he did, for the many killings he ordered," he says. "If we bring back the death penalty, I hope Duterte is the first to hang, and then I will follow." Decades before the president took his bloody war on drugs nationwide, Matobato says he was part of a group known in the Philippines as the Davao Death Squad. A 2008 U.N. investigation found the shadowy band of assassins was committing hundreds of murders in Davao, targeting street children and criminals, all during Duterte's decades-long run as the southern cities gun- toting, crime-fighting mayor beginning in 1988.
"I personally killed around 50 people," Matobato says. He shows us a journal with names and dates of some of his victims written by his wife because he can't read or write. Matobato also showed his Davao City I.D. He says, he was a ghost employee earning just $100 a month to murder on command.
Who was ordering the Death Squad to kill all these people?
"We got the orders from Mayor Duterte, he says."
CNN cannot verify his story, but Matobato's graphic testimony in September before a senate hearing on vigilante killings shocked the Philippines. The country's Human Rights Commission is investigating. The President's Office says he changed some details in his story.
MARTIN ANDANAR, DUTERTE COMMUNICATIONS SECRETARY: Very inconsistent. So, if you go through the transcript in the senate, you will see for yourself that Matobato is lying through his teeth.
RIPLEY: The President's Communications Secretary Martin Andanar says, if the testimony was credible, police would have built a case.
ANDANAR: The Davao Death Squad that people are talking about, this is all legend. It's all legend. There's no death squad.
RODRIGO DUTERTE, PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES: I did kill. I was only three months mayor.
RIPLEY: Duterte told me he personally gunned down three people while mayor of Davao to set an example for his officers. But in media interviews, he said he doesn't remember Matobato and denies ordering vigilante killings. For several years, Matobato was in official witness protection, now that Duterte is president, he's just in hiding. We meet at a safe house, several hours from Manila. He's moved at least 10 times in the last year, and is currently facing charges of kidnapping and illegal firearms possession.
"I was told to cut the body parts into pieces," he says. Matobato claims they dumped bodies in crocodile farms, in the streets, and even in mass graves, but those graves have never been found.
Why are you the only one who has come forward?
He says, "Many of them are scared. If we try to change, we're killed."
So, you think, if they find you, they'll kill you?
"They will kill me," he says, "because now their secrets have been revealed."
Matobato says he's eager to confess his sins, to shine a light on the dark reality behind the president's deadly drug war.
RIPLEY: President Duterte says if the United States continues to criticize his human rights record here, Jake, he will cut off the Visiting Forces Agreement that allows U.S. forces to operate here, essentially changing the whole geopolitical dynamic as the killings continue here in the Philippines.
TAPPER: Will Ripley, thank you so much. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over to Jim Sciutto, who's in for Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room".