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EARLY START

Electoral College Votes For President; Calls For Russian Hacking Probe By Congress; Russia To U.S.: Put Up Or Shut Up; Hundreds Leave Aleppo As Evacuations Resume. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 19, 2016 - 05:30   ET

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


[05:30:15] MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump's formal election expected later today. Will any electors go rogue and break with tradition?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. intelligence says Russian hackers aimed to influence the election. The Russians say put up or shut up.

MARQUEZ: An escape from Aleppo. Sabotaged buses sat on fire delaying mass evacuations from the war zone.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Miguel Marquez.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. Nice to see you this morning.

MARQUEZ: Great to see you. Thank you.

ROMANS: You're here all week?

MARQUEZ: All the week.

ROMANS: OK, well --

MARQUEZ: You'll have to put up with me.

ROMANS: -- ho, ho, ho. All right, today is election day not for hundreds of millions of Americans, but for the select 538 members of the Electoral College who officially directly vote for president. Donald Trump's formal election is pretty much a foregone conclusion. Even so, there is more drama behind today's Electoral College vote than there's been in generations.

Trump opponents have been furiously lobbying electors. They're trying to convince them to vote against the man they are pledged to elect. This, as the Trump transition fights back against a U.S. intelligence assessment that Russian hacking was intended to help Trump win. For the latest let's bring in CNN's Ryan Nobles. He is at Trump's Mar-a- Lago estate in Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Miguel, after wrapping up this "thank you" tour this weekend, Donald Trump and his family are here at his resort in South Florida getting ready to celebrate the Christmas holiday. The Trump administration still has a couple of holes to fill, including the secretary of the Veterans Administration. No word if that announcement will come before the Christmas holiday.

The Trump transition is, though, pushing back on this U.S. intelligence assessment that Russia attempted to intervene in the United States election to help Donald Trump. This is what incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus said this weekend. Take a listen.

REINCE PRIEBUS, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I mean, if there is this conclusive opinion among all of these intelligence agencies then they should issue a report or they should stand in front of a camera and make the case.

NOBLES: And Monday's, of course, an important day for Donald Trump as electors from all around the country will formally cast their ballots to elect him the next President of the United States. And, of course, there has been an effort by some liberal groups to try and either stall this election to allow the electors to hear an intelligence briefing about this alleged hack or to convince them to not cast their ballots for Donald Trump.

Now, there is not expected to be any sort of widespread revolt by these electors but it is something that has the president-elect's attention. In fact, on Sunday, he tweeted the following. "If my many supporters acted and threatened people like those who lost the election are doing, they would be scorned and called terrible names!"

And there have been reports that electors have been receiving death threats, others receiving tens of thousands of emails a day trying to convince them to vote for someone other than Donald Trump. That being said, we don't expect anything to happen out of the ordinary in this process and it's expected as it plays out that Donald Trump will formally be elected the next President of the United States -- Christine and Miguel.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Thanks, Ryan. Senator John McCain sounding an alarm on the Russian election hacking saying it could destroy democracy. The influential Republican joining with incoming Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. They're calling for a select committee to investigate hacking not only by Russia but possibly by other countries. On CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" McCain slammed the response of the Obama administration to the cyberattacks, calling it "paralyzed".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We need to get to the bottom of this and we need to find out exactly what was done and what the implications of the attacks were, especially if they had an effect on our election. There's no doubt they were interfering and no doubt it was a cyberattack. The question now is how much, and what damage, and what should the United States of America do and, so far, we've been totally paralyzed. This is serious business. If they're able to harm the electoral process then they destroy democracy, which is based on free and fair elections.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MARQUEZ: Now, so far, Republican congressional leaders have rejected McCain and Schumer's idea of a select committee, saying the Russian hacks can be investigated through existing committees.

ROMANS: In Russia, the president -- Vladimir Putin's spokesman strongly denying Russia was behind any election cyberattacks and arguing that the U.S. should either prove the claim or shut up. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling the ongoing accusations indecent and unseemly. Senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is in Moscow following all the latest developments for us. Good morning, Matthew. So what are we hearing from authorities there?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, within the past few minutes we just off the phone from the Kremlin in our daily conference call where you're allowed to ask questions. It's a rare opportunity to ask questions of Dmitry Peskov, who is Vladimir Putin's spokesman.

[05:35:03] We asked him to try to fill in some of the blanks when it came to that conversation that President Obama talked about on Friday during his last press conference of the year when he told Putin to cut it out when it came to hacking and warned him of serious consequences. But the Kremlin refusing to fill in what the response was from Vladimir Putin, saying it was a private conversation and they won't reveal any details.

And they went even further than that saying look, when it comes to the issue of hacking that we've already said that it's indecent. We've already said that there is no evidence and we want to see that evidence. We've already said that Russia has got nothing to do with it and we've got nothing further to add. And so you get the sense that the Kremlin is getting quite annoyed at this point.

These consistent allegations are coming out from the United States and from other quarters as well, but so far no evidence has been produced that they -- that they accept as being evidence that demonstrates a concrete link between the hacking and the government of Russia, and that's what they're looking for. And, of course, there were calls in the United States for such evidence, such intelligence, to be made public as well, even though that may compromise some of the sources that U.S. intelligence depends on to make its assessments, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Matthew Chance just off the phone, asking about that conversation between the president and Vladimir Putin and told it was a private conversation and they're not going to divulge any more. Thank you for that, Matthew Chance.

MARQUEZ: And helping us break down all the latest Trump transition news, political economist Greg Valliere, chief strategist for Horizon Investments joins us from Washington. Thanks for getting up so early for us.

ROMANS: Morning.

MARQUEZ: Good morning.

GREG VALLIERE, POLITICAL ECONOMIST, CHIEF STRATEGIST, HORIZON INVESTMENTS: Good morning.

MARQUEZ: I take it all of the Russian hacking, while important and should be looked at, will become just sort of background noise at some point and we'll get on to the business of a Trump presidency. What does that look like out of the -- out of the gate for you?

VALLIERE: I think two things, Miguel. First of all, I'd say right within a day or two of the inauguration on January 20, a lot of things he can do with a pen. Killing regulations and going after illegal immigrants. Announcing to our foreign trading partners that we're pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Maybe even imposing tariffs on China. So a lot, right away.

And then there's the longer-term stuff, I'd say headed by Obamacare which will be killed maybe be early spring. I'm not sure what it's going to be replaced with yet. And then the big ones. The really big stories are tax reform, which I do think can get done in 2017, and infrastructure which might take a little bit longer. But I think those bigger stories will have to go through a Congress that moves slowly. The early stuff in January, I think will be pretty interesting.

ROMANS: Let's talk a little bit about that tax reform because infrastructure, I have to say, I was meeting with a bunch of -- asking questions to a bunch of CEO's a few weeks ago and they were saying that they can't find the workers for big infrastructure projects. That they're worried about how having workers and that they see a world very different than Donald Trump does. They see 4.6 percent unemployment and they worry about having to pay up or, heaven forbid, have guest worker programs, ironically, to do some of these things --

VALLIERE: Yes, right.

ROMANS: -- that Donald Trump would like to do to juice the economy. So let's put infrastructure aside here and talk about tax reform. What does it look like, who benefits the most, and is it a giveaway for companies?

VALLIERE: Well, first of all, tremendous cuts in the individual rate. Just about everyone, maybe disproportionately the wealthy on a percentage standpoint, but everyone gets a tax cut. The big story is capping deductions. What does that mean for the mortgage deduction, charitable contributions, the municipal bond deduction? That's a big story over the next few months.

On the business side, I think also the top rate's going to go from 35 percent down to low twenties. A lot of big changes there and, most importantly, a lot of profits that have been stashed abroad come back here. A very positive story.

ROMANS: Does that create -- but does that create jobs? I know because I remember in the Bush administration there was a --

VALLIERE: Yes.

ROMANS: -- big act to bring money -- to repatriate money at a very low tax rate and I think zero jobs were officially the -- the government auditors found no jobs were created from that.

VALLIERE: You make a good point and really -- because I travel around the country I hear the same thing you just mentioned, Christine, and that is you ask employers what's their biggest issue, they've run out of skilled labor. So I'm not sure how much it will do to add jobs. But for companies, bringing back this money is great for new plant and equipment expenditures, dividends, M&A. There will be some positive stories coming out of that.

ROMANS: You know, Ginni Rometty, who runs IBM, has the ear of the president. She was just at that -- you know, that tech roundtable with him and she's talking about new-collar jobs. So we'll see if the people around Donald Trump are going to be able to plant some ideas that he can run with and take credit for. New-collar jobs meaning, she says --

VALLIERE: Yes.

ROMANS: -- you can talk about bringing jobs home but we need to educate American workers for the jobs that -- she has 25,000 jobs in the next couple of years that she could hire for if people had the right skills, Greg.

VALLIERE: Yes, but the good news is for Trump he's already on second base, maybe third base, when it comes to the unemployment issue. And just a little bit stronger growth, which seems quite likely, could get us to a situation where we're at almost full employment.

[05:40:00] MARQUEZ: But on the business side is it really that simple? I mean, you have the House with basically a bill that they wrote up in June. You have a lot of senators who have big questions about whether they're going to accept what the House says. I mean, is -- could we see a Trump administration where he just gets lost in the minutia of politics?

VALLIERE: No, I do think we get a bill. Paul Ryan will get a bill through the House quickly and then I think in the Senate there's this arcane provision. I won't explain it -- it will take an hour. There's an arcane provision that allows the Senate to move with only a simple majority, just 50 or 51 votes, not --

MARQUEZ: Well, that's what it would take.

VALLIERE: -- the filibuster prove 60. They don't need 60 for this so I think -- that's why I said in the earlier segment, the key factor here is that on most big issues Trump has the votes.

ROMANS: What I love about Greg Valliere is he knows the arcane inter- congressional little --

MARQUEZ: And you're lucky it's arcane provision Monday --

VALLIERE: Yes.

MARQUEZ: -- so you were right on top.

VALLIERE: Yes, there you go.

ROMANS: All right. Greg Valliere, thanks. Have a great pre-holiday week and we'll talk to you again soon. Thank you.

MARQUEZ: Happy holidays.

VALLIERE: You, too. See you guys. All right.

ROMANS: All right. Speaking of holidays, all that Black Friday hype -- oh, the deals are still there. Retailers are rolling out new deals -- new deals ahead of Christmas weekend. Saturday was what the retail folks call Super Saturday. Sixty-six percent of Americans -- more than 155 million people said they would shop for holiday gifts. That makes it busier than Black Friday. You can credit procrastination, Miguel Marquez.

MARQUEZ: What? Never heard of that.

ROMANS: Only 10 percent -- only 10 percent of shoppers have finished getting everything on their list. I think they get derailed by shopping for themselves. That's my own -- that's my own analysis. Retailers are looking to finish strongly after a solid first half. Sales jump 3.8 percent as you can see in November. Online revenue jumped 11.5.

FedEx and UPS, they expect to handle a record number of packages this year. Both of the companies ramped up hiring. They've even built some new facilities to handle the rush. So far, no reported slowdowns, even with the winter weather last week. Good thing because online retailers are pushing a ton of shipping deals right now to get packages delivered by this weekend. That's if you buy today, right? Some are offering two-day shipping for free or a deep discount, especially if you spend more than $50.

MARQUEZ: Very convenient for Santa Claus to schedule Christmas on a weekend this year.

ROMANS: I do need a flannel fedora.

MARQUEZ: He's very sensible.

ROMANS: Maybe a wool fedora.

MARQUEZ: I will get you a -- I know --

ROMANS: It's going to be a hard winter here.

MARQUEZ: I have notes on my list. Plans to escape from war-torn Aleppo, they go up in smoke. Buses set on fire delaying the evacuation of desperate survivors. A live report from the Syrian border coming right up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:46:15] MARQUEZ: New evacuations carrying refugees out of Eastern Aleppo this morning. The Red Cross says ambulances and buses carrying at least 1,000 people have left rebel-held areas of the war-torn city. Initial efforts to get civilians out of the danger zone were put on hold after a number of buses were set on fire. All this, as the U.N. votes today on a plan to monitor evacuations.

CNN's Muhammad Lila is live for us on the Turkish-Syrian border. Muhammad, even if they get all of those refugees out of Aleppo, I take it that doesn't improve the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miguel, there's still a lot of steps that need to be taken to make sure that people are fully out of danger. Let me set the stage for you. We're on the Turkish side of the border right now. We've seen, suddenly, a lot more activity here. We've seen convoy after convoy of trucks crossing the border into Syrian territory. There's an ambulance right here. Ambulances are going across as well to help bring some of the most critically wounded people out of Syria and into hospitals in Turkey.

But the good news is that it's not just these trucks that are moving, it's also those now infamous green buses that are ferrying people to safety from Eastern Aleppo to the Aleppo countryside. We understand the latest estimate is about 3,000 people or so have been taken to freedom and safety out of Eastern Aleppo. And as part of that, there's also been an exchange or a transfer where people who are in villages that have been encircled by Jihadi militant groups are being allowed to leave those villages as well. It's, effectively, a transfer.

Of course, one of the problems with monitoring any transfer like this is making sure there's enough safety on the ground and that's why the U.N. Security Council is going to be voting tonight to allow international observers to monitor this process. And that could really be a turning point because this whole process -- this whole evacuation really broke down over the weekend because of rogue elements deciding to take matters into their own hands and burning some buses that were supposed to take civilians to safety.

With international observers on the ground the hope is that that won't happen and that many more thousands of people will continue to be evacuated from those besieged villages from besieged Eastern Aleppo and at some point get to a place where they are safe and they have medical care.

MARQUEZ: But even if Aleppo is completely cleared of refugees, it's the last rebel stronghold. I take it the end of the humanitarian crisis there, it's nowhere in sight.

LILA: Well, you know, listen, where are these refugees and these evacuees going to go once they're evacuated from Eastern Aleppo? These are people who in many cases have nothing but the clothes on their back and maybe a blanket or something like that. So we know that there's a refugee camp that Turkey is setting up. They say it's going to house about 80,000 people. Most of those people will be evacuees from Eastern Aleppo.

But there is a mad scramble right now, and that's why you're seeing a lot of these convoys cross the border because that camp has to be built. It has to have logistics, it has to have temporary housing, and all of those things are not yet in place. They're going to be built -- in fact, they're starting to be built right now, so the hope is that camp will be up and ready as these evacuees are taken out of Eastern Aleppo.

MARQUEZ: Muhammad Lila for us on the Syrian-Turkish border. Thank you very much.

ROMANS: All right, homebuyers beware, mortgage rates are jumping. Do you have an adjustable rate loan? Things are changing fast. I'm going to show you how much more you're going to be paying for a mortgage when we get a check on CNN Money Stream, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:53:20] MARQUEZ: Security forces in Jordan killed four gunmenlinked to a terror attack. Authorities say gunmen targeted an ancient castle popular with tourists. Ten people died in the attack, including two civilians and a tourist. Thirty-four people were wounded. We get more now from CNN's Jomana Karadsheh from Amman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Miguel, Jordanian authorities are saying the attack was a terrorist attack carried out by a group of attackers. There were several shootings in southern Jordan. Now, the worst shooting incident was in and around the castle in the city of Karak. This is a 12th century Crusader castle, one of the main tourist attractions in southern Jordan.

What happened there, according to authorities, was that a number of gunmen moved in, positioned themselves in this castle that's on a hilltop overlooking the city there, opened fire on security forces. A gun battle ensued and they were surrounding. Now, when the operation ended we heard from security authorities here who say that at least four attackers they describe as terrorists were killed. They say they found a large amount of weaponry on them -- automatic weapons and ammunition.

Now, in a house in a nearby town they say that the terrorists were also using, security forces say that they found suicide belts as well as explosives. The majority of the causalities in this attack were members of the Jordanian security forces but there were also civilians and one Canadian tourist was killed.

This sort of attack is rare in Jordan. This is a country that prides itself with its security and stability in the midst of this turbulent region. But over the past year authorities here say that they have foiled several terror plots including one by ISIS. Now it's unclear who is behind Sunday's terror attack but Jordanian authorities say they are investigating this. They are trying to identify these attackers and their affiliation -- Christine, Miguel.

[05:55:25] ROMANS: All right, Jomana. Thank you so much for that.

Back home here, actress, socialite, perennial talk show guest Zsa Zsa Gabor has died. Her longtime spokesman says she passed away Sunday of heart failure in her Bel Air mansion at the age of 99. The Hungarian actress and socialite appeared in several movies, perhaps most well- known for her 1952 role in "Moulin Rouge". But she was best known as a pioneer in the art of being famous, just for being her chatty, gossipy self, spending nearly 75 years in the public eye and charming talk show host for decades.

MARQUEZ: That's right, "dah-link". We love Zsa Zsa Gabor. The "Star Wars" franchise -- what is that -- came out on top again this weekend. The "Star Wars" spinoff took in $290 million at the box office making it the top movie around the world. In North America alone, the film scored an impressive $155 million. That's a lot of dough.

ROMANS: I think it's validation for Disney --

MARQUEZ: The force is with that movie.

ROMANS: -- for Disney, too. I mean, there are some people who, you know, didn't love the storyline but it doesn't matter because this is just to hold you over until next year when the big one comes out again. All right, I'll explain it to you all later.

MARQUEZ: Thank you very much.

ROMANS: Let's get to CNN Money Stream this morning. This could be the day Dow futures are up. The Dow will take another shot at the 20,000 mark. Stock markets have been open about three hours in Europe now and they are down. Shares in Asia began the week with losses. Oil is up. There are just, in case you're counting, nine trading days left in the year.

In just five months mortgage rates have jumped one full percentage point -- ouch. The national average for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, 4.38 percent over the weekend. Look at how quickly it has climbed. In the first week of July a 30-year fixed rate home loan was just 3.34 percent. It was below four percent before the election. The Fed interest rate hike last week is one big reason but the rise began even before then. Investors are betting Donald Trump's pro- growth big spending policies will keep launching interest rates higher.

To put this one-point rise in perspective, a $250,000 home loan at the low of 3.34 percent, that's $1,100 a month or just less than $400,000 over the life of the loan. At the new rate, the current 4.38 percent, it's $150 more per month and $54,000 over 30 years.

All right, big corporate story. Apple and Ireland are fighting the European Union over the record-setting $14 billion fine Apple was ordered to pay earlier this year. Apple says European officials singled the company out as "convenient target" because it generates lots of headlines. Ireland is accusing the European Commission of meddling with its sovereignty by demanding that it recover the money from Apple. Both vow to fight the ruling in court. Experts say that could be a long process.

Ireland has one of the lowest tax rates in Europe and is known -- a known tax haven for big companies. The Irish government is afraid multinationals will be less likely to invest if its tax regime changes and that could cost the country thousands of jobs, Miguel.

MARQUEZ: Very good to be with you today.

ROMANS: You, too.

MARQUEZ: The demand for answers over allegations of Russian hacking into the election. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: The electoral vote, I never appreciated it until now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we vote in the Electoral College, I fully expect that Donald Trump will be formally elected.

PRIEBUS: He would accept the conclusion if these intelligence professionals would show the American people that they're actually on the same page.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is an attack on our country. Cyber war is real war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The CIA, the director of National Intelligence, the FBI all agree that the Russians intervened to help Trump.

MCCAIN: If they're able to harm the electoral process then they destroy democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It looks like it's still night but we say good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Monday, December 19th, 6:00 in the East, and six days until Christmas.

Up first, the Electoral College is set to make Donald Trump's presidential victory official today. Electors are gathering in all 50 state capitals and Washington, D.C. This vote will get more attention than usual because of this rumored anti-Trump protest. What's going to happen? We'll cover it.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And the real drama is coming from the responses to Russia's alleged hacking during the election. Trump and his team largely dismissing the issue but a bipartisan group of senators calling for a broader investigation.

There are just 32 days until the inauguration. We have it all covered this morning beginning with CNN's Jessica Schneider. She is in Lansing, Michigan where the state's electors will vote later today. What's the latest, Jessica?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Alisyn, it was a narrow win for Donald Trump here in Michigan.