Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

German Authorities Knew Suspect Discussed Attack; Police Warn Terror Suspects Is "Violent And Armed"; Intense Manhunt For Europe's Most Wanted Man; Trump Selects Campaign Manager As White House Counselor; Lewandowski: "Drain The Swamp" Won't Top Trump Agenda; U.S. Plans On U.N.'s Israeli Settlement Vote Now In Flux. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 22, 2016 - 11:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: John Berman here. Kate Bolduan is off today. Disturbing new details in the Berlin terror suspect. What officials did know about him and what they didn't do about it?

According to investigative files, German authorities not only knew who Anis Amri was, not only knew that he had contacts with pro-ISIS operatives, but they knew he had spoken several times about launching attacks in Germany.

They also believe members of a pro-ISIS network to which he was linked had offered him a place to hide. A huge manhunt is under way for this 24-year-old Tunisian man suspected of driving a truck into a Berlin Christmas market. That attack killed 12 people and injured 48 more. The list of those injured now includes two Americans.

Want to go live now to Berlin and bring in CNN's Erin McLaughlin for the latest on the manhunt. Erin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel just spoke about this a few moments ago.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. And Chancellor Merkel said that they are growing increasingly confident that the main suspect at the heart of this manhunt, 24-year-old Tunisian Anis Amri is in fact the man that was behind the wheel of that 25-ton truck that drove through the market killing 12 people and injuring dozens others.

She said that his fingerprints were found inside the cabin. Angela Merkel also talking about how she was praising people here in Germany for the calm nature, the calm way in which they have handled the aftermath of this attack as well as the manhunt, calm nature perhaps exemplified in the scene you see just behind me.

That is the Christmas market. That's where the attack took place. It opened up for the first time since the attack this morning and as you can see, people are gathering at a makeshift memorial just at the main entrance there. They are laying flowers. They are also lighting candles.

The kiosks are also open. They have resumed selling wine, sweets and small gifts. I spoke to one customer who told me she's here because she believes in hope.

At the same time, we are also seeing an increased security presence. Plenty of police officers. They have also installed concrete barricades to prevent this from happening again. After all, this manhunt is well under way -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Erin McLaughlin for us outside the Christmas market in Berlin which has now reopened. Thanks so much, Erin.

Joining me now with new details on the suspect and really the alarming amount the German authorities knew about him before the attack, here with us, CNN terrorism analyst and editor-in-chief of the "CTC Sentinel," Paul Cruickshank. Also with us, CNN national security analyst and author of "United States Jihad," Peter Bergen.

Paul Cruickshank, first to you. Not only was Anis Amri on the radar of German officials, but he was on the radar because he had been discussing terror attacks?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: That's right. CNN has obtained a 345-page investigative file, I have been poring through it over the last few hours and it turns out that German security services had a police informant inside this ISIS recruiting network that Amri was part of.

Somebody who was able to partake in conversations and report back that Amri had discussed the possibility of launching attacks and that those attacks had been sanctioned by senior members of this ISIS recruiting network in Germany, including a Serbian-German figure, who was arrested back in November.

And that other members of the circle were discussing launching truck attacks in Germany, including by loading up the trucks with bombs and a lot of gasoline. They were aware of all of this weeks and weeks and weeks ago, but they failed to apprehend this individual despite the fact they were well aware that he was involved in all of this.

They did move against the senior members of the network about five figures in November, charging them with terrorism offenses after bringing them into custody. One of those figures was this German- Serbian (inaudible), who the alleged attacker in Berlin was very, very close to.

And it's possible he was angry about this arrest and perhaps that was one of the reasons that he kind of moved forward. But we have a situation here where it's sort of glass half full, glass half empty.

[11:05:08]Glass half full is that they are well aware of this network, they have a lot of names, addresses, phone numbers and so on, so they know the kind of places they need to look. Glass half empty, he was part of a network and they could help hide him.

BERMAN: The glass half empty part is truly alarming, Peter Bergen. We should say, by the way, that German officials now say they found a fingerprint of Anis Amri in the cab of that truck as well. They really have like a great deal of data with him right now before they even began this manhunt.

But you know, Peter Bergen, I do understand you can't surveil everybody. It takes an enormous amount of manpower to watch every person you fear may be a threat to the country.

But the amount of data they had on Anis Amri really feels like beyond critical mass to make sure you don't let him slip through his fingers. You know, do German authorities have a lot to answer for here?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think so. I mean, part of this is probably a resource challenge and the numbers of people they have to track and part of it may be a legal problem. I'm not familiar with German laws around this.

But, John, we see this repeatedly in the United States. Major Nidal Hassan killed 13 people at Fort Hood, he was exchanging e-mails with a well-known al Qaeda cleric basically seeking permission for a suicide attack.

That was all known to the FBI. He exchanged 18 e-mails with this al Qaeda cleric. Omar Mateen was repeatedly telling -- who killed 49 people in Orlando, told his colleagues that he was an al Qaeda fan and an ISIS fan and was interviewed twice by the FBI.

So let's not pretend that this is unique to Germany. What is exceptional is when somebody comes out of the blue completely and has had absolutely no contact with law enforcement. That's the unusual case.

I would add one other thing which is interesting to me, John, here is that so many of these cases in Europe, the perpetrator's coming out of the criminal milieu. The alleged suspect in the Berlin attack spent four years in jail.

Pretty much everybody involved in the Paris and Brussels attacks had spent time in the French or Belgian prison systems. We don't have that problem so much in this country, where people are radicalizing in jail and often coming out of criminal background.

BERMAN: You know, Paul Cruickshank, you mentioned glass half empty, the fact that they let him slip through the cracks of the system. The glass half full, they have a lot of data on people that he may be connected to. Any update in the search for him right now and are they going to some of these sources perhaps that they haven't arrested just yet, people he may have been in contact with beforehand?

CRUICKSHANK: Absolutely. They are doing all of that. This is an investigation which is proceeding with great velocity. Chancellor Angela Merkel just speaking about that. This is the highest priority right now of the German government.

This is a manhunt now right across Europe, because in the hours after the attack it's possible that he could have fled elsewhere. I think most likely he's still in German because that's where this logistical support network linked to ISIS were based. That's where they will have potentially safe houses, places where he can hide, and we saw after the Paris attacks with Saleh Abdeslam, that attacker who ducked out of the attack, he was provided shelter in Brussels for four months after that before authorities were able to find him.

And so we could see a similar situation here play out where if they hide him somewhere, the Germans may not be able to find him for many weeks.

BERMAN: Peter Bergen, this man, Anis Amri, from Tunisia, apparently spent time in Italy before making his way to Germany. We know that Tunisia, by the way, which is one of the very few countries, maybe the only country that emerged from the so-called Arab Spring with anything resembling the reforms that were set out at the outset, Tunisia is the source of so many soldiers for ISIS. The question is why?

BERGEN: Yes, it's a paradox because it's the only country that somewhat weathered the Arab Spring and has sort of a democratically elected government that is somewhat representative and so why is it that thousands of Tunisians have gone to fight with ISIS. It's a relatively small country.

We have seen something like 6,000 Tunisians who have fought for ISIS in Syria. I don't really have a good answer to that. One answer that often these people come from a particular region.

When you dig into the kind of country specific, you often find there's a particular region, whether Saudi Arabia or Tunisia or any of these other countries, that they come from that tends to be ignored by the central government and often these are groups of friends and family members who are kind of creating a group that goes and a snowball effect happens.

[11:10:01]BERMAN: All right. Paul Cruickshank, Peter Bergen, thanks so much. Again, we keep showing the picture of this man, Anis Amri that's because right now, German officials want you to take a look at his face and help, if you can, 24 years old, 5'8," 165 pounds. There's a 100,000 euro reward for any information that might help lead to his capture right now, but this huge manhunt under way all across Europe.

All right, also this morning, news that the Trump team is discussing the possibility of a tariff on imports. Could you end up paying more for your car and other goods because of that? We will discuss.

Plus, Donald Trump says he's taking a few days off but not before appointing campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, to a position in the White House. We will tell you what she will be doing in the west wing that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: New this morning, Kellyanne Conway steered Donald Trump's campaign to presidential victory, a first for a woman running a presidential campaign. Now she will have a job in the west wing. Conway's new role will be counselor to the president. She will work for the White House leadership on shaping the president's messaging on legislation.

Let's speak to CNN national Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny live near Trump's Mar-a-Lago Resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Good morning, Jeff.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Kellyanne Conway is going to be a central player in the west wing as she was in the campaign, as winning campaign manager. One of her tasks I'm told is to sort of minimize and control any in-fighting that may happen, totally typical for any presidential administration, certainly when you bring other people in.

But she's known as someone obviously who has Donald Trump's trust. She's very loyal to him and she defends and protects him perhaps like no one else. She was already busy at work on that this morning on CNN's "NEW DAY" talking about the conflicts of interest among Donald Trump's children. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:15:12]KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT-ELECT TRUMP: They support their father and they know they will never get a fair shake in the Trump administration and that's unfortunate. I think this conversation shows that. To actually compare the two, the idea that these folks are trying to help people in need and those people are going to suffer now because folks are pointing out what they think to be improprieties.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: Now, John, if that sounds familiar, she said those folks are going to suffer now because they won't receive the help of the charities of the Trump children, that sounds very similar to what the Clinton campaign and the foundation used as rationale at the time when saying if Bill Clinton and the foundation stop raising money for charities in Africa and other places, people would suffer because of it.

So a lot of similarities here between this. But John, some other transition news today. We just got off the daily call with some transition officials and they said that the president-elect has received an intelligence briefing for the second day in a row here at Mar-a-Lago.

Now this is important because earlier this month Donald Trump of course said he doesn't need to receive that daily intelligence briefing. He said it's largely the same information day to day to day.

But the optics of that they know, particularly in the wake of the attacks in Berlin, not good, so for the second day in a row, Donald Trump we are told has received his daily intelligence briefing here in Mar-a-Lago. He is also holding meetings here today and potentially may make a few staff level announcements before beginning his Christmas holiday officially tomorrow -- John.

BERMAN: Jeff Zeleny at Mar-a-Lago, thanks so much. Here to discuss with me, CNN chief business correspondent, Christine Romans. Also here, Donald Trump supporter, Harlan Hill, and CNN political commentator, former Hillary Clinton campaign manager back in 2008, Patti Solis Doyle.

Patti, you know, let me start with you. Kellyanne Conway going to the west wing in a senior adviser role. This is something we have seen for the last several campaigns. David Axelrod went into the White House with Barack Obama. Before that, Karl Rove went into the White House with George W. Bush.

You can go back even further than that. It's important really for a couple reasons. Number one, the president needs to have people around him or her that he trusts implicitly with all things. Number two, the west wing is and has become a truly political operation and you do need someone in there to manage the politics as well.

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first, let me say I'm in favor of this decision. I think having strong women in powerful positions is a really good thing for everybody concerned, and also, Kellyanne Conway came in after Paul Manafort.

And she really lent some calm and some organization into a campaign that was very much in disarray and whenever Donald Trump seemed to be on message or really reading from the teleprompter, Kellyanne -- people saw Kellyanne's footprints on that or fingerprints on that.

So I think it's a good thing. Yes, because of all of the reasons you mentioned, I think it's very important to have some campaign staff in the White House doing some governing.

But another reason it's important is for that institutional knowledge, someone who has a very clear memory of the promises made on the campaign so that they can sort of make sure those promises are kept.

BERMAN: All right, I want to talk about not the person who ended up running Donald Trump's campaign but his first campaign manager, Cory Lewandowski. We've learned yesterday, Cory, who did work for a time as a CNN analyst as well, but Corey is opening up a consulting firm in Washington, D.C. along with Barry Bennett.

They will be hired by people to offer advice on government and offer advice on the incoming Trump administration as well. So Cory was asked, he goes, you know, where is this job? How does this fit in with Donald Trump's promise to drain the swamp of political influencers? This is what he said this morning. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think if you had to put them in a chronological order, drain the swamp is probably somewhere down the bottom as opposed to getting tax reform done, making sure middle class people have more jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So Harlan, I don't know if you heard that. Cory says drain the swamp is at the bottom of the list of things he wants to do. You know, Cory Lewandowski whose consulting office is in the same building as the Trump transition office, which has the faint whiff of swampiness.

HARLAN HILL, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, you know, this is frankly, I will acknowledge this is how Washington works. I mean, if you look back at President Obama's campaign in 2008 and 2012, people came out of that campaign, not making any money. Their plan was to cash in after the fact. They have consulting firms and this is how it works.

BERMAN: And but this is what Donald Trump said he would change when he was talking about draining the swamp.

HILL: I think having people that have surrounded and advised Trump going and starting consulting firms does not preclude Trump from draining the swamp.

[11:20:08]And changing things -- no, I think he can still change business as usual in Washington and still have these people trying to cash in on his reputation, though, it concerns me that they are.

BERMAN: This is just how Washington works. Donald Trump ran on changing the way Washington works.

HILL: But Donald Trump is not out there starting consulting firms. Cory Lewandowski is. So he can't control what Cory is doing and he is working within the reality of how Washington works. This is it. He's trying to change it, but he can't control their behavior.

BERMAN: He can't control Corey's behavior. He can't say Cory don't set up a consulting firm right now?

HILL: I can't blame Cory. You know, I mean, he's got to make money, got to put food on the table so I get it.

BERMAN: So it's a reasonable thing to do for people who worked for Donald Trump to try to set up some kind of operation that benefits you financially?

HILL: Look, absolutely. Absolutely. This is how politics works. I hate to be -- beat a dead horse here but you know, the action of starting a consulting firm isn't bad. If there is some sort of nefarious activity or coordination between the White House and the consulting firm, then we have reason to discuss.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, let's talk about the business of governance right now.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: They say they are going to change that.

BERMAN: They are going to change that. There's a lot of people in the financial community right now who are concerned because some are reporting, John King is reporting that one of the things that is being discussed inside Trump world is the idea of a tariff, a 5 percent tariff on imports. We don't know if this will be policy and we also don't know exactly how it would be implemented. But you know, a tariff would be a big change.

ROMANS: It would be a big change and this I think is sending a signal to the business community that Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, who has been named to run his White House Trade Council and the protectionist wing of some of these advisers, and I don't say protectionism as a bad word, necessarily.

Protectionism is one of the reasons why he got elected to be president to protect American workers. They are trying to send a message we mean business, we want to upset the apple cart on purpose so you know we are -- what would that mean for 5 percent tariff across the board?

Most economists say that would mean higher prices for U.S. consumers. A lot of the business community today very, very upset and pushing back and saying hey, hey, are you just floating this because 5 percent across the board, not a good idea. That is a bludgeon of trade policy.

I will say the Trump campaign has said many times, first and foremost they want to renegotiate bad trade deals. They want to cut stupid regulations as Carl Icahn would say. They don't want to be putting on tariffs. But just the fact that it's floated around I think tells you it's not business as usual.

BERMAN: Look, on the political side it is America first. On the economic side, economic 101 tells you there will be reverberations and one of those is that some of the goods will be more expensive.

Patti Solis Doyle, on the subject of politics, it is interesting because when you talk about trade and when do you talk about America first, that is an area where President-elect Trump can pick up some Democratic support.

SOLIS-DOYLE: I agree. Yes. I think trade is something where Democrats and Republicans may be able to work together, although what I find interesting about the appointment of Peter Navarro, he's not going to be the U.S. trade rep or he wouldn't be nominated as U.S. trade rep, but rather an adviser on trade within the White House.

My only -- the only thing I can think of, the reason to do that, is to avoid the sort of confirmation hearing because many Republicans on the Hill, the Republican establishment, are for trade. So he might not have gotten the confirmation if he had been nominated as U.S. trade rep. I think while Democrats will be willing to work with trade, it's going to be harder than Donald Trump imagines.

HILL: Let me just say, everything's a negotiation with Donald Trump. So I don't believe that the end policy will be a blanket 5 percent tariff on all imports, OK? But he's standing up and following through with campaign promises to say that the American middle class cannot compete with slave labor in China and Mexico City.

He's saying that we are going to tackle currency manipulation. We are going to tackle, you know, different sort of ways that foreign countries disadvantage the American middle class by flooding our market with cheap goods. Obama did this, too, actually, with the tire tariffs towards the front of his presidency. This is not unprecedented.

ROMANS: How many jobs did the tire tariff create? That's the question. It raised prices for American consumers. Can Donald Trump do it in a way that brings large scale numbers of jobs back or is it better to do it in corporate tax reform, where you are giving companies other incentives like lower taxes overall and then --

HILL: These are not mutually exclusive. He is going to do both.

BERMAN: We will see after January 20th. We will see with the Republican Congress. Many of those members who have been oppose to this type of thing, we'll see where they fall in line. Guys, thanks so much.

I do want to give a little clarification clear. Earlier I said that Cory Lewandowski's new consulting office is in the same building as the Trump transition team. That is no longer the case. It was the case, but the transition team did move out of that building last month. Cory though still in close touch with both the transition and people who will be in the White House.

[11:25:01]Up next, President-elect Donald Trump writing this morning about a big vote that was set to happen at the United Nations today. What he said and could there be fallout from his statement? That's next.

Plus, Vladimir Putin says this morning he wants to strengthen Russia's nuclear capability. What does this mean? We'll discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Fast-moving developing story over at the United Nations this morning. The U.N. Security Council considering a resolution on Israeli settlements and what they are considering keeps on moving right now.

So I want to bring in CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott for the details. A lot going on here, Elise.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. A lot of high stakes drama at the U.N. The U.N. Security Council was supposed to vote today at 3:00 on a resolution condemning all Israeli settlement activity, calling on Israel to stop it, calling it illegal.

A very tough resolution that after years of using its U.S. veto to protect Israel at the United Nations, we understand the U.S. was going to abstain and not use its veto or let it pass. Secretary of State John Kerry was expected to lay out his vision for Mideast peace in a speech. You know, before the vote, you know that Secretary Kerry is very involved in trying to bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians when he first came to office, wasn't able to do that.

We understand that vote has been postponed and why western officials telling me that's because the Egyptian government, who proposed this resolution in the first place, has been under pressure from the Israelis.

So obviously a flurry of diplomatic activity going on behind the scenes. Now that vote has been put on hold.