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  • JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.

  • I'm Judy Woodruff.

  • STEVE INSKEEP: And I'm Steve Inskeep.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: On the "NewsHour" tonight:

  • DONALD TRUMP (R), President-Elect: I saw the information.

  • I read the information outside of that meeting.

  • It's all fake news.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: In his first news conference as president-elect, Donald Trump takes on

  • reports of Russian spying, questions over conflicts of interest with his business, and

  • much more.

  • STEVE INSKEEP: Also ahead: His choice for secretary of state faced questions at a confirmation

  • hearing.

  • Rex Tillerson was asked if Russia's Vladimir Putin is a war criminal.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: Plus, we continue our series The Obama Years with a look at the president's

  • efforts to fight climate change.

  • CAROL BROWNER, Former Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change: I think that

  • this president believes that climate change is real.

  • He believes there is a moral and ethical imperative to act.

  • STEVE INSKEEP: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."

  • (BREAK)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.

  • We are having some guests join me here at the "NewsHour" anchor desk in the coming weeks.

  • Tonight, it is Steve Inskeep, who many of you recognize from NPR's "Morning Edition."

  • Welcome, Steve.

  • STEVE INSKEEP: I'm delighted to be here.

  • It's an honor.

  • Thank you.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: We're so glad to have you.

  • And we are devoting much of tonight's program to our lead story, and that is the Donald

  • Trump news conference today.

  • It came amid a swirl of stories about the president-elect and Russia.

  • DONALD TRUMP (R), President-Elect: It's all fake news.

  • It's phony stuff.

  • It didn't happen.

  • And it was gotten by opponents of ours.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: At his first news conference since the election, Donald Trump flatly denied

  • the Russians have any compromising information on him.

  • DONALD TRUMP: But it should never have been released, but I read what was released.

  • And I think it's a disgrace.

  • I think it's an absolute disgrace.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: The bombshell burst Tuesday evening, when CNN reported the president-elect

  • and President Obama were briefed on the matter last week.

  • The report included unsubstantiated claims that Russian intelligence compiled a dossier

  • on Mr. Trump during visits to Moscow.

  • The Web site BuzzFeed then published a 35-page cache of memos from the alleged dossier, including

  • a claim of sexual activity caught on a Moscow hotel room surveillance camera.

  • The New York Times and other major news organizations said they had been aware of the information

  • for months, but could not verify the claims.

  • Today, Mr. Trump insisted he wouldn't put himself in such a position.

  • DONALD TRUMP: I told many people, be careful, because you don't want to see yourself on

  • television.

  • There are cameras all over the place, and, again, not just Russia, all over.

  • Does anyone really believe that story?

  • I'm also very much of a germaphobe, by the way, believe me.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: From there, the president-elect lit into the news media again.

  • He condemned BuzzFeed.

  • DONALD TRUMP: It's a failing pile of garbage writing it.

  • I think they're going to suffer the consequences.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: And he accused CNN of being fake news, and brushed off persistent attempts

  • by its correspondent to ask a question.

  • Later, CNN's parent company, Time Warner, defended its reporting, and BuzzFeed said

  • it published what it called a newsworthy document.

  • As for the leak itself:

  • DONALD TRUMP: I think it was disgraceful, disgraceful that the intelligence agencies

  • allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out.

  • I think it's a disgrace, and I say that.

  • And that's something that Nazi Germany would have done, and did do.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: On Russian hacking more broadly, the president-elect suggested an upside to

  • the probing of Democratic Party computers and e-mails.

  • DONALD TRUMP: The hacking is bad and it shouldn't be done.

  • But look at the things that were hacked.

  • Look at what was learned from that hacking, that Hillary Clinton got the questions to

  • the debate and didn't report it?

  • That's a horrible thing.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: Likewise, he acknowledged the intelligence verdict that President Vladimir

  • Putin ordered the hacking, but he didn't leave it there.

  • DONALD TRUMP: I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries

  • and other people.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: And looking ahead, Mr. Trump suggested the hacking will not necessarily

  • hinder future cooperation with Putin.

  • DONALD TRUMP: If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks?

  • That's called an asset, not a liability.

  • Now, Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I'm leading it than when

  • other people have led it.

  • You will see that.

  • Russia will respect our country more.

  • He shouldn't have done it.

  • I don't believe he will be doing it more.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: There were also questions about the Trump Organization's business ties to

  • Russia, and he denied there are any.

  • DONALD TRUMP: We could make deals in Russia very easily if we wanted to.

  • I just don't want to, because I think that would be a conflict.

  • So I have no loans, no dealings and no current pending deals.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Trump has not released tax returns to verify his claims, and he said

  • again he won't do so until a federal audit is finished.

  • He also declined to say whether his associates or campaign staff had contact with Russian

  • officials during the campaign.

  • An ABC reporter tweeted later that the president-elect denied any such contact after the news conference

  • ended.

  • We take a closer look at Russia, the president-elect, and these latest revelations with former attorney

  • at the National Security Agency Susan Hennessey.

  • She is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution and is managing editor for the Web site Lawfare

  • about the intersection of the law and national security.

  • And John Sipher, he served almost 30 years at the CIA, both in the agency's clandestine

  • service and executive ranks.

  • He was stationed in Moscow in the 1990s and he ran the CIA's Russia program for three

  • years.

  • He's now at CrossLead, a consulting firm.

  • And welcome to both of you.

  • So let's start, Susan Hennessey, but I just want to ask both of you in brief, what do

  • you make of this report?

  • SUSAN HENNESSEY, Brookings Institution: Right.

  • So, for the moment, the real story is the allegations themselves are unverified.

  • They're obviously quite salacious in nature.

  • The real story is that the intelligence community thought it was appropriate to brief the president

  • of the United States and the president-elect.

  • That means that serious people are taking this seriously.

  • That's different than saying that the intelligence community believes the allegations or has

  • substantiated them.

  • But this is a matter that is not just simply a matter of fake news or something that we

  • should disregard.

  • It clearly passes some degree of preliminary credibility.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: John Sipher, your take?

  • JOHN SIPHER, Former CIA Officer: I think the question is, is this real?

  • And there are things on the positive side and the negative side on that.

  • On the positive side, for those of us who have lived and worked and worked in Russia

  • and against the Russians, it does feel right.

  • It does feel like the kind of thing that Russians do.

  • A lot of those details fit.

  • Also, I think, the author has some credibility, which is on the positive side.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: This is the former British intelligence officer.

  • JOHN SIPHER: That's right.

  • Yes.

  • On the negative side, it really is hard to make a distinction if we don't know who those

  • sources are.

  • He talks about his sources providing various information.

  • In the CIA, before we would put out a report like that, an intelligence report, there could

  • be, you know, hundreds of pages of information on that person's access, on their suitability,

  • on their personality.

  • We don't have that.

  • And, secondly, the fact that a lot of this reporting is the presidential administration

  • in Russia and the Kremlin is a little bit worrying, because, I mean, that's essentially

  • a hard nut to crack.

  • And U.S. intelligence agencies have been trying to do that for years, and the fact that he

  • has this much data about them does put it into question a little bit.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan Hennessey, let's talk about your organization, Lawfare.

  • You had a copy of this, what, several weeks ago.

  • And you started looking into it, decided not to put it out, but you did look into it.

  • How did you go about figuring out or trying to figure out what's real and what isn't here?

  • SUSAN HENNESSEY: Right.

  • So, the document was shared with us to -- so that we could provide some professional input

  • as to whether or not it was credible.

  • As we were satisfied that the relevant government entities were aware of the documents, and

  • then like everybody else, we attempted to talk to people in various communities to see

  • whether or not the allegations seemed credible to them.

  • I think the point that we're at now, it's really not about our organization or anyone

  • else verifying the specific facts.

  • The FBI is conducting an investigation.

  • We will expect -- there are very specific allegations in this document.

  • Those allegations can either be proven true or proven false.

  • And so we should expect some answers that provide some additional clarity.

  • One important note is just because a single fact in the document is true, it doesn't mean

  • the rest of the document is true.

  • And just because a single fact in the document is false, that doesn't mean the rest of the

  • document is false.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: That the entire thing is false.

  • Well, John Sipher, let's go back to what you said a minute ago.

  • You said there are parts of this that are credible, and you said it's the way the Russians

  • operate.

  • What did you mean by that?

  • JOHN SIPHER: It must look odd to views or anybody who has read this thing.

  • It's such a different world.

  • But Russia is a police state.

  • Russia has been a police state for much of its history.

  • And this is the way they often do business.

  • They collect blackmail on people.

  • When I lived there, we had audio and video in our houses.

  • We were followed all the time.

  • Restaurants and places, hotels like this are -- have video and audio in them.

  • They collect this.

  • They do psychological profiling of people to try to see who might be sources for them.

  • This is just the way the Russians operate.

  • So when you read this, it smacks of the kind of thing that we would believe is credible.

  • That doesn't mean it is.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: The methods.

  • JOHN SIPHER: Right, the methods, right, and the -- right.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: But you went on to say that the precise details in here are not borne

  • out, are not verified by any individuals outside of this report, the British -- the British

  • office.

  • JOHN SIPHER: Right.

  • And in that sense, it's difficult because of the hyperpartisan atmosphere here.

  • The fact that this is now in the public is going to spin up on the salacious details

  • and these type of things, whereas I think the FBI does have a lot of experience doing

  • very sensitive investigations like this, working with partners overseas and others to try to

  • put this together, because there are a lot of details that we as citizens can't follow

  • up on.

  • Did people travel during those certain days?

  • Who are these people?

  • And that's the kind of stuff that we just can't do, and the FBI can and will.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: For example, Susan Hennessey, there's a reference in here to an attempt

  • to get the FISA court, the court that has to OK investigations, surveillance of individuals,

  • permission for them to look at four different people who were working for the Trump campaign,

  • the Trump Organization.

  • How unusual would something like that be?

  • SUSAN HENNESSEY: So, certainly, it's highly unusual in the context of a political campaign

  • or a presidential election.

  • That said, there is news reports that perhaps there were additional attempts to secure a

  • FISA warrant, and that the FBI reportedly obtained one in October.

  • If the allegations in the documents are true, are accurate, those are the kinds of things

  • that would fall within FISA.

  • That's the type of warrant that the government would pursue.

  • That said, just like everything else, we're a step away from actually verifying the substance

  • of that.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: Verifying.

  • John Sipher, if you're in charge of the investigation to figure out what is and what isn't right,

  • if anything is accurate in here, what do you need to do now?

  • JOHN SIPHER: What you need to do is take each piece of this document and run it to ground.

  • So, you need to find out -- they talk -- the issue here is not the salacious details, the

  • blackmail piece.

  • The issue here is the criminal behavior if people in the Trump campaign were working

  • with Russian intelligence to collect information on Americans.

  • If that's the case, there's a lot of detail in there that needs to be verified.

  • And we have to find out, did the people travel on the days they said they traveled, those

  • type of things?

  • So, there are a lot of things to run down that you can run down with your partners and

  • information that you can collect as part of an investigation in U.S. travel records, all

  • these type of things.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan Hennessey, what would you add to that?

  • If you were involved in trying to determine if any parts of this are accurate or to verify

  • that they're not accurate, how would do you that?

  • SUSAN HENNESSEY: Right.

  • So, certainly, the FBI is going to be calling on all of their resources to investigate the

  • specific allegations, things like travel records, things like financial documents.

  • They're also going to need to draw on intelligence sources.

  • And so there are specific sort of comments about meetings between Putin and others, very

  • sort of high-level, high-value intelligence targets.

  • They would really need to reach very deeply into their intelligence networks and the networks

  • of allied intelligence agencies in order to see if anything to lend credibility or substantiate

  • these very serious allegations.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF: John Sipher, we saw that Senator John McCain had a role, the Republican senator,

  • of