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Russian Opposition Leader Calls for Election Boycott; Kremlin: Russia Ready to Act as Mediator on North Korea; Apple Sued over Slowing Order iPhones. Aired 12:30-1pm ET

Aired December 26, 2017 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:52] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: The Russian opposition leader who has been barred from running for president is now calling for an election boycott. Alexei Navalny registered to run against Vladimir Putin in the March election. But yesterday, election officials disqualified his candidacy. Navalny told his supporters, it's clear the vote will be a sham.


ALEXEI NAVALNY, RUSSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER (through translator): We are announcing a voter strike. The procedure in which we are invited to participate is not an election. It involves only Putin and those candidates whom he personally chose who do not pose a slightest threat to him.


BASH: Let's get straight to CNN Fred Pleitgen who joins me now from Moscow. And Fred, so this is such a fascinating story. You know, the Russians are saying --


BASH: -- that he can't run because he was convicted of a crime. He is saying, I was convicted of the crime because I was set up so that I can't run.

PLEITGEN: Yes, exactly. He is saying look, all that was politically motivated in order to try and keep him out of politics, because he is by far at this point in time, the opposition figure that would be able to garner the highest amount of votes if he were to run against Vladimir Putin. That's interesting, because election have only (ph) is essentially doing two things now.

On the one hand, he is trying to go through the system where he says, he is going to launch an official appeal against being barred from running in the election. But then he is also calling for this boycott. And we spoke to the Kremlin about this. And they said look, this is a completely a decision by the Russian electoral commission. We have nothing to do with this. And they said, look, if someone has committed a crime like Navalny or like the authority saying Navalny committed, then he simply can't run for president.

Now, the opposition is saying they believe or Navalny believes that he would beat Vladimir Putin if there was what he calls the free and fair election. However, at this point in time, he simply can't do this. Vladimir Putin of course has approval ratings here in Russia well above 80 percent. But the opposition there said, look, that's because you don't really allow popular people to run against Vladimir Putin. All finally, Dana, all this could have major legal repercussions for Navalny as well.

The Kremlin also saying they believe the authorities should look into him calling for a boycott and see whether that in it self might be illegal. So he might be more in for more trouble just for calling for the boycott. Dana?

BASH: Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much for that report. Let's talk about this a lot more with our panel, Michael Allen, who served on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush and Peter Beinart, a Contributing Editor at "The Atlantic."

Michael, I covered the Bush administration when you were there. It's hard for me to imagine if this were happening back then. If George W. Bush were president, that they wouldn't have released a statement saying this is outrageous.

MICHAEL ALLEN, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT, GEORGE W. BUSH NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: You're exactly right. It's one of the things that any frankly, any Republican or Democratic administration should do. And that's at least to show the world, show the Russians that we're watching. It's totally unacceptable to exclude Alexei Navalny.

Having said that, he is got to be careful. He is talking not only talking not only badly about the Kremlin, but about Putin's corruption and in the past, that's been prescription for assassination. So, also long ago Boris Nemtsov also was killed on the bridge in Russia for doing many of the same things.

BASH: That's exactly right. And Peter, it is true that he has to be careful, that's the reality of where he is living. But it's also true that mark that was mentioning with Michael, democracies usually led by the United States when things like this happen in countries like Russia, where it's clear or it seems clear that a leader is trying to completely subvert democracy by, you know, getting rid of his most ardent challenger that democracy speaks out.

We have it now -- it's holiday, I get it, but we haven't heard anything from this administration. How much -- I mean, I know that you're not a fan of this administration, but how important would have be to hear from the Trump White House on this?

[12:35:03] PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, practically, there's not really much United States can do. Vladimir Putin has been very successful in establishing kind of authoritarian regime on the kind of wreckage of the former Soviet Union. The liberal experiment that existed briefly after demise and realistically, there's not very much the Unites States can do to change that.

But I do think that you're right. There are still something valuable about the Unites States, speaking, you know, with its allies and making a statement about the importance of free elections and the importance of the right to free speech n the right to descent. What you see is that Russia has so some have may manage and Donald Trump is part of this to kind of fracture some of the alliance -- some of the unity in that western alliance by essentially supporting a series of fairly pro Russian leaders in Europe.

And to some degree, Donald Trump falls into that category I mean, some of his advisers are not pro-Russian but Donald Trump certainly seems to have an affection for Vladimir Putin and for authoritarian leaders in other places too.

BASH: Let's talk, Peter, about the fact that Russia has volunteered to mediate and get involved -- more involved in dealing with the North Korean nuclear crisis. Do you think that this is real or that this is just a way to be a spoiler?

BEINART: I don't think the Russians really have that much influence. The Chinese have much more influence. And I think the fundamental problem in America's North Korean policy is that we don't seem to recognize that there are genuine concerns to both the North Koreans and the Chinese have that we are going to have to deal with in a swage (ph) if we're going to any chance of reducing North Korea's kind of cutting limiting North Koreas weapons program.

North Korea want the nuclear weapons above all, because they saw what happens to Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. And they recognize that without nuclear weapons, they would be potentially overthrown by the United States government. If the United States wants to have the North Korea limits its -- their nuclear weapons program, we have to become less threatening to North Korea, not more threatening as the Trump administration is trying to make it.

BASH: Well, that might be, Michael, but I think at the end of the day, other people think that the Russians do have a little -- certainly, Peter is right. The Chinese have the most influence of any body who has any influence that all the Russians may have a little bit more of influence.

And they were brought in to the folds, when you were working in the White House -- when you were working in the Bush White House.

ALLEN: They certain where I think what Russia is trying to do is say hey, listen, we're a player on every major international issue. They may have either plan player in North Korea, but they are certainly playing very hard in Eastern Europe. They are certainly are forwarding our aims in Venezuela. And they're being very aggressive and very hard edged in Syria in elsewhere in the Middle East.

So this is their way of saying that Putin is back and Putin is a player and you can't you -- the United States can not ignore us where and indispensable party. BASH: And, Peter, lastly, I just want to ask about the fact that the Trump administration is now allowing some weapon to go to the Ukraine to help effectively fights the Russians. What does that tell you? Because to me, when I heard that I couldn't remember the time in the last -- almost year since the Trump White House has been there that they have done anything that would anger the Russians. And this certainly seems to be angry in the Russians.

BEINART: Right, well, you know, one of the fascinating internal stories of the Trump administration is this kind of dichotomy this conflict between where Trump himself seems to be and maybe along with outside advisers like, Bannon, who basically believe in a better relationship with Russia.

And -- but he has brought in a lot of fairly kind of conventional hawkish foreign policy types like H.R. McMaster who I think, you know, would adhere to the older and more traditional kind of Republican view that you saw with Mitt Romney, that the U.S. should be fighting Russia and Ukraine. I don't really ultimately -- I don't see what value sending, you know, weapons to the rebels in Ukraine is going to serve unless you have some vision of a political settlement in Ukraine.

And I can't imagine the Trump administration really having the capacity to actually care, you know, kind of broke or something like that.

BASH: Well, we'll see if that could happen. You never know this days, Peter. You never know.


BASH: Peter, Michael Allen, thank you so much both of you for joining me today.

And the Russia probe, the travel ban, he tax overhaul plan at the center of all these headlines. You guessed it, the President of the United States. And look at the seven biggest political stories of the year. Next.


[12:43:39] BASH: It's been a tumultuous year in politics and let's put it mildly. The first year of a new and very different President that likes to do things his own way.

CNN's Jake Tapper takes to look at the political highlights of 2017.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD JAKE TAPPER" (on camera): Gather round, family and friends. You'll be talking about 2017 for generations to come.

The first year of the Trump presidency shattered the status quo. Cultures of harassment were exposed, travel bans were debated, protests erupted. And I seem to recall something about Russia. Here are, in our view, the top seven political stories of 2017.

TAPPER (voice-over): President Trump signed executive orders banning U.S. entry from seven Muslim-majority nations which sparked worldwide protests and disagreement among the courts before a revised version was upheld.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court.

TAPPER: The administration also ended the DACA program affecting some 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The DACA policy, produced by the last administration, could not be sustained.

TAPPER: The fate of these so-called Dreamers was left in the hands of Congress.

[21:45:02] TRUMP: Hopefully, now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly.

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Mr. President, I will not be complicit or silent.

TAPPER: In 2017, some Republicans went rogue, openly displaying disdain for the president of their own party.

SENATOR BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I think the debasement of our nation will be one he'll be remembered the most for.

TAPPER: Critics such as Jeff Flake of Arizona and former Trump supporter Bob Corker of Tennessee announced they would not seek reelection to the Senate.

FLAKE: It's not enough to be conservative anymore. It seems that you have to be angry about it.

TAPPER: Both will remain in office until November working with Republican Senators John McCain, Ben Sasse, and Cory Gardner, who have expressed condemnation of Trump at different times, as well.

TRUMP: We're going to get a health bill passed. We're going to get health care taken care of in this country.

TAPPER: Republicans tried to repeal and replace Obamacare, received insufficient support, removed the bill, regrouped, and were left reeling after repeat defeats.

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE: The motion is not agreed to.

TAPPER: The most dramatic courtesy of Republican John McCain.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We promised to repeal and replace Obamacare and we failed. TAPPER: The GOP had no major legislative victory all year until December.


TAPPER: A $1.5 trillion GOP tax plan passed with a partial repeal of Obamacare, handwritten edits, and absolutely no Democratic support.

A white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia began with a torch-lit march around a Confederate monument. One of these white supremacists rammed his car into a crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The President initially failed to call out the white supremacists.

TRUMP: I think there's blame on both sides.

TAPPER: Even strong conservatives condemned his response.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, AMERICAN SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What Trump did today was a moral disgrace.

TAPPER: Passionate demonstrations filled the streets --

PROTESTERS: Nazis are not welcome here.

TAPPER: -- and nationwide symbols of the Confederacy were vandalized or officially removed.

TRUMP: You're fired.

TAPPER: It was more than a catchphrase. Just ask Press Secretary Sean Spicer, or Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, or Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, or Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, or National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. And, of course --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you believe you were fired?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: I take the president at his word that I was fired because of the Russia investigation.

TAPPER: The Trump administration had more than a dozen resignations, firings, and reassignments in its first year.

The "MeToo" movement ushered in an era of accountability, ending careers and launching a battle for moral high ground.

Allegations that Republican Roy Moore sexually assaulted teen girls as an adult led Alabama voters to elect their first Democratic senator in 25 years.

SENATOR AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office.

TAPPER: Fellow Democrats forced Sen. Al Franken to announce his resignation after several women said he acted inappropriately.

LEEANN TWEEDEN, AL FRANKEN ACCUSER: He just mashes his mouth to my lips.

TAPPER: Several others in Congress, including Trent Franks, John Conyers, Ruben Kihuen, and Blake Farenthold resigned or announced early retirements after facing accusations of their own.

But in response to questions about the president's past actions, the White House was defiant.

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: That's the big news here is the Russian interference in our election system.

TAPPER: The leaders of U.S. Intelligence agencies unanimously concluded that Russia interfered in the presidential election, but did President Trump's campaign help them in their effort?

TRUMP: I have nothing to do with Russia.

TAPPER: FBI Director James Comey was leading the investigation until he was fired. Now, an investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is digging deeper.

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to misleading the FBI, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort was indicted.

The Senate Intelligence Committee questioned Donald Trump, Jr. for hours about his meetings with Russians in Trump Tower.

Is he being forthcoming?

SENATOR MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: There are a lot of legitimate questions that this individual needs to answer.

TAPPER: All this as the president and his supporters playing defense, tried to accuse the Mueller investigation of bias.

TAPPER (on camera): Those are our top seven political stories of 2017. But with the Russia investigation still ongoing and control of the Senate at stake, 2018 is sure to present unprecedented political headlines of its own.

I'm Jake Tapper. Stay tuned.


BASH: And still ahead, Apple has admitted its slow down some of its older phones. We'll tell you why some users say that company needs to pay for messing with their phones.


[12:53:59] BASH: Just days after Apple admitted it is slowing down some of the its older iPhone, the lawsuits are starting to fly. The tech giant is facing multiple suits after saying it's slow down older phones to help preserve the battery. Some owners are claiming that the move is forcing them to buy new iPhone.

Let's talk about this with CNN Samuel Burke, who is joining us live. And Samuel, and let's start with just the basics.

You know, look, Apple has a lot of control and power over little people who are their consumers and are addicted to their products. Are they actually doing this in a nefarious way?

SAMUEL BURKE, CNN TECH CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, we now count five different lawsuits, Dana, and Apple is admitting that they do slow down a whole line of phones. Let me just put up the list so people can check and see if theirs is one of them, the iPhone 6, 6S, SE and the iPhone 7. They say, when you do an IOS update, that's the operating system, that they slow down these phones, but they say, they're not doing it to try and cajole you into buying a new iPhone, they're doing it because there is a problem with the battery on those phones that surges. That battery causes the phone to shut off.

[12:55:11] So they're just trying to stop that from happening. So the answer to your question specifically, no they are not doing it nefarious way. They would say, but they weren't up front and transparent and I think that's why you are seeing now five different lawsuits, four from the United States and even one as far as Israel. Dana?

BASH: Yes. And look, putting those new operating systems in, never mind slowing down your phone also has done some crazy thing with the way that you type your letters and things like that.

BURKE: That happened too.

BASH: Samuel Burke -- and by the way, iPhone 6. Samuel Burke, thank you so much.

BURKE: Thank you. Happy holiday.

BASH: You too.

Coming up, President Trump is once again taking aim at the FBI and the infamous dossier that alleges ties between the President and Russia. So what are the facts and how important is the dossier to the special counsel's investigation. Brianna Keilar picks up right after a quick break.