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EARLY START

Police Say Berlin Attack Suspect is Dead. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired December 23, 2016 - 04:30   ET

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


[04:30:00] MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Police on the case of the Berlin attacker. Another key clue found in the cab of the truck he used as a deadly weapon.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now: Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking. What will he say about president-elect and nuclear weapons?

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

MARQUEZ: I'm Miguel Marquez. Merry Christmas to you.

ROMANS: Thank you. Merry Christmas Eve eve.

MARQUEZ: It is 29 minutes past the hour.

New information about the Tunisian man suspected in the Berlin Christmas market attack that killed a dozen people.

Twenty-four-year-old, Anis Amri, the target of the huge manhunt now. German police say they are certain he was behind the wheel of the huge semi truck. They say they found Amri's fingerprints inside the truck and on the door of the truck.

We have newly released dashcam footage that shows the fatal moment when the truck plowed into the sidewalk of that arcade. You can see on the lower left side of your screen. A few moments later, panicked shoppers run for their lives.

And we're learning much more about Amri's ties to a terror network in Germany.

I want to bring you up the latest with journalist Chris Burns. He's live for us in Berlin.

Chris, is there -- there must be a sense that Amri is still in Germany. They are really banging on doors everywhere across the country.

CHRIS BURNS, JOURNALIST: Well, they are, Miguel. They are banging on doors, they are busting down doors to look for Anis Amri across Germany and probably beyond Germany. There was a search even yesterday in Denmark that turned up nothing.

But, yes, they're very, very active. Hundreds of police active on this. And at the same time, we're looking at documents. CNN got ahold of documents.

Take a look at this headline. Which is the gaps, this is the perfect sense of irony that the Berliners have. They're showing the gaps between the concrete blocks here behind me at the market, but also talking about the gaps in intelligence.

We've looked at 350 pages of German documents, intelligence papers that show that there were plenty of dots to connect showing that Anis Amri was connected and active with the group led by Abu Walaa. He is a hate preacher, known as a hate preacher. And this organization was proselytizing, was recruiting, was training people even with backpack trips ten miles long to -- like a boot camp to train them. And that is what Anis was a part of.

He also was, through surveillance, he was heard to say that he was ready to be a suicide attacker in an attack, but he was not found to be a big fish or a serious candidate for that kind of thing. So, even though he was held for a while, by authorities, pending his deportation back to Tunisia, he was released because of a technicality. And there we are now, Miguel.

MARQUEZ: What is public sentiment over that? Obviously, you had the situation in France and Belgium where you had similar situations, where people were on the radar and didn't act aggressively enough. Now, you have this guy in the middle of obviously the concern over refugees across Europe.

What is the public sentiment in Germany right now and will there be a price to pay at some point? Maybe not now during the investigation.

BURNS: Yes, it's quite possible we're going to see, you know, the local elections coming up in the spring, federal elections coming up in the fall. Definitely, there has to be a lot of explaining to do before those elections to show that, yes, we have -- we're on this case. But they have to explain how he managed to slip through the cracks.

I mean, we've got here -- here is another one showing Anis Amri. A newspaper showing this is where he hid out after the attack, at a mosque in north Berlin. You know, you have the public looking at headlines like this, and they're asking themselves how come they didn't catch this guy in the first place. You know, that's definitely going to cause anger among a number of voters and how are they going to react is anybody's guess.

Up to now, Angela Merkel has done well in the polls. There have been four other terrorist attacks earlier this year. She bounced back.

What will happen after this one? We don't know yet. We have to see how the polls pan out.

MARQUEZ: The frustration they had the wrong guy for so long and let this guy move unfettered for so long.

BURNS: Indeed.

MARQUEZ: Chris Burns for us in Berlin. Thank you very much.

ROMANS: And whether he has help and support right now and whether he is planning something else. I mean, this is Christmas Eve eve.

MARQUEZ: It's possible, though probably on the run and trying to get out.

ROMANS: Yes.

MARQUEZ: If he can get out and get a message out and show them that he can get away, that would be a problem.

ROMANS: All right. In western Germany now, police there say they have foiled an apparent unrelated terror plot. . Police arrested two brothers from Kosovo, ages 28 and 31. Officials say these brothers are suspected of planning an attack on the Europe's largest shopping mall and a popular Christmas market in the city of Oberhausen. Police are still trying to determine how far along this plot was and whether anyone else was involved, Miguel.

MARQUEZ: In Australia, seven people are under arrest as police investigate a possible plot to attack central Melbourne on or around Christmas Day. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the suspects plan to detonate improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in that city's business district. He says the plot has been thwarted. Officials say the suspects, six men and one woman, all in their early to mid-20s, were self radicalized and inspired by ISIS.

[04:35:04] ROMANS: Here in the U.S., it was a whirlwind Thursday before Christmas for Donald Trump. The president-elect weighing in against a proposed United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Trump's help was called in by the Israeli government after the Obama administration indicated it might not veto the resolution and may even vote in favor.

The politics yesterday were just so hot and heavy. Experts say such interference in foreign policy matters in a president-elect is unprecedented. And they say it puts the White House in a bind since whatever it does on the peace process, Trump might undo.

That's an assertion the State Department spokesman strongly disputes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Well, look, I don't -- again, without previewing what we may do if and when this resolution comes to a vote, nobody here felt boxed in by a tweet from the president-elect. And he is perfectly entitled to express his views on these kinds of things. But there was no boxing in of our purview or what -- how we might deal with this going forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Egypt's response to the U.N. resolution, postponed the showdown vote after Israel and Trump weighed in. But let's reiterate here. This was a U.N. drama that was happening

with the Israelis calling in the help of Donald Trump. Donald Trump --

MARQUEZ: Calling the president of Egypt, al-Sisi.

ROMANS: You know, just, a lot of folks saying, we have one president at a time is the rule here. One president at the time. But clearly the folks involved in that process --

MARQUEZ: It is also indicative of how low the relations between Netanyahu and Barack Obama.

ROMANS: And maybe that's the big headline there.

MARQUEZ: At this very moment, Vladimir Putin live with his annual news conference on Russian TV. He is sure to talk, we believe, about the incoming U.S. president who he joined in a bit of a nuclear sable- rattling on Thursday hours after Putin said in a speech that Russia must, quote, "enhance" the combat capabilities strategic nuclear forces.

Donald Trump seemed to fire back in a tweet. He said, "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until the world comes to its senses regarding nukes." A spokesman dismissed concerns that Trump was talking about reigniting the nuclear arms race. He said, "President-elect Trump was referring to the threat of nuclear proliferation and critical need to prevent it, particularly to and among terrorist organizations and unstable rogue regimes. He has also emphasized the need to improve and modernize our deterrent capability as a vital way to pursue peace through strength." That Reaganism.

ROMANS: Now, the president-elect also puts some finishing touches on the top of his White House staff list, including his messaging shop. As expected, Mr. Trump named RNC communications director Sean Spicer as White House press secretary. Campaign spokesman Jason Miller will become White House director of communications. And Trump campaign press secretary Hope Hicks has been named director of strategic communications.

One of the press team's first challenges will be giving some kind of formal shape to the Trump's famous love/hate relationship with the media. Congratulations, all. You will have a busy start to the year.

MARQUEZ: Indeed. One final name appointment to the West Wing, former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway will join Team Trump as counselor to the president. Conway telling CNN her duties will be whatever the president wants them to be, but will probably include communications, data and strategy. After Trump's victory, Conway said she wanted to serve the administration somehow, but was concerned about having time for her four young children. She's going to need a lot of time, indeed.

ROMANS: All right. The American dream may be out of reach for half of all young Americans. This is new data that shows millennials, that's people born in the 1980s, only have a 50 percent chance of making more money than their parents did. That percentage has steadily declined since hitting 92 percent for those born in the 1940s. If you're born in the '40s, 92 percent earned more than your parents.

This is according to the economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.

One of the main reasons incomes are stagnant, the bottom 50 percent of earners made $25,000 in 2014. The same group made $21,000 in 1980. The top 1 percent is a big jump from $341,000 in 1980.

It also means wealthy Americans are making and keeping a larger percentage all of the wealth. That was exacerbated by the Great Recession and contributes to the feeling some Americans have of being left behind, something Trump tapped into very well during the campaign.

This is income equality. This is income inequality story here, no question.

MARQUEZ: Well, it's also sort of about the U.S. and all of the other countries getting parity over the years. After the war -- the entire world was wrecked, except for the U.S.

ROMANS: I would say the first half of the 20th century was very good for American workers, you know?

MARQUEZ: If that's your baseline.

ROMANS: Right. But now, the rest of the world has been rising, too. So, yes.

MARQUEZ: And people around the world are watching President Vladimir Putin right now, commanding the podium, taking questions.

[04:40:02] We are watching for news about President-elect Trump, hacking, nuclear weapons. A live report coming right up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: All right. Forty-three minutes past the hour.

Russian President Vladimir Putin right now delivering his 12th annual televised press conference. We expect him to focus on Donald Trump, terrorism, whether he'll seek a fourth term. For how long he will speak is hard to say. I mean, two of Putin's recent conferences no less than three hours, while another lasted over four hours.

CNN's senior international correspondent live in Moscow, Matthew Chance, with more.

And, Matthew, I see he is talking a little bit about the strength of the Russian banking system. He's talking about whether Russia is falling behind on information technology and whether the comments about nuclear strength and nuclear modernization from Donald Trump were expected or not.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are hoping for all those hot-button issues to be addressed. We're hoping he talks about nuclear weapons, to talk about what he expects under Donald Trump when he assumes the presidency in the U.S. We're hoping for him to talk about Syria.

But, you know, as often is the case in this annual sit piece event by Vladimir Putin, in order to get to those tidbits, you have to wade through the ocean of other stuff. I mean, for instance, he's been speaking about the Russian economy at length. He was asked the question about the state of the banks, which you mentioned.

My favorite one was the one he expanded on for several minutes about the production of agriculture machinery in Russia as well.

[04:45:04] He briefly mentioned the high profile killings, he was asked about the profile killing that dogged Russia for a while now, the killing of Boris Nemtsov, of course, last year and the killing of the Russian ambassador to Turkey four days ago. He said stuff he'd said before, which is we're going to get to the bottom of this. One the ambassador killing, he said, look, we're going to find who is responsible for this, not just the killing, but those behind it and hold them accountable.

But, you know, in terms of the other stuff, we have a long way to go. Still in the first hour of the press conference. It lasted three hours last year. The longest one, so you know, of the sort of time frame we're looking at here, in 2008, it went on for four hours and 40 minutes.

So, that's the record we are aiming for today.

ROMANS: All right. Matthew Chance, thank you so much for that this morning. We know you will monitor this for the next few hours actually. Thank you.

MARQUEZ: More than a dozen letters surfacing of President-elect Donald Trump's berating the Scotland's first minister. The incoming president seemingly outraged over the country's proposal to build a wind farm so close to his Aberdeen golf course. Mr. Trump attacked the now former Scottish leader in a barrage of letters before switching to a softer tone.

CNN's Ian Lee has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IAN LEE, CNN REPORTER: It's not personal. It's business, except if you're President-elect Donald Trump.

Sixteen recently emerged letters obtained by "The Huffington Post" and confirmed to CNN show Trump berating Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond between 2011 and 2013.

The focus of his outrage, a proposed wind farm off the coast and in eyesight of Trump's Aberdeen golf course, a project supported by Salmond's Scottish National Party. In the letter, Trump called the plan an ugly cloud hanging over the coastline of Scotland. In another letter, he accused Salmond of destroying Scotland's economy, predicting it will become a third world wasteland that investors will avoid.

Trump known for his personal insults didn't shy away saying history will remember him as Mad Alex, the man who destroyed Scotland.

But when threats and insults didn't work, the president-elect shifted gears, vowing he'd be Salmond's greatest cheerleader if he changed his stance.

Trump did receive a single response to his 16 letters, with Salmond saying, "I don't expect you to support the development, but I hope this letter will help you understand the importance we place on this industry's great potential."

There is no love lost between the two. Salmond expressed his views on Trump to CNN's Max Foster.

ALEX SALMOND, FORMER SCOTTISH FIRST MINISTER: Once, twice, three times a loser is Mr. Trump. I mean, he fought this in the court and then the inner council. Now, the supreme court, the highest court, has now found against him. So, Trump is now a three-time loser.

LEE: But Trump didn't let it go. Even after being elected as president of the United States, he brought up the wind farms with U.K. politician Nigel Farage, according to media reports.

The Trump camp didn't respond to CNN's request for comment.

This latest revelation doesn't just give more insight about Trump's business dealings, but rather raises the question about whether he is willing to stop advocating for the Trump brand when he becomes the 45th president of the United States.

Ian Lee, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: A man forced off a JetBlue flight after allegedly harassing Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner. Matthew Lasner tweeted about it last night. He said his husband was kicked off a flight from New York's JFK a flight attendant overheard a man slamming Ivanka and Jared.

But another deleted tweet on Lasner's account said his husband chased down the couple to harass them. A man sitting in front of Trump told CNN the man seemed visibly agitated and told the couple they ruined our country.

ROMANS: All right. Developing overnight, two big banks slapped with fines. We'll tell you what the U.S. government says they did when we get a check on CNN Money Stream, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:52:16] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ROMANS: All right. We are just learning right now, Italian police are announcing they have shot and killed the suspect in the Berlin Christmas market murders. The 12 people killed in the truck attack. This is the most wanted man in Europe. The manhunt now over. Italian agencies and police confirming the Berlin suspect shot and injured a policeman after being asked for ID near a rail station near Milan. He was shot dead by police.

MARQUEZ: This is an individual who had gone to Italy from Tunisia years ago. And police in Italy were on the lookout and after a shootout, he is dead.

We want to bring in Chris Burns who is in Berlin for us.

Chris, this must come as enormous relief, but at the same time, police busted two other possible attacks on Germany. There must be a sense of relief, but also unease about what to expect for the next few days.

BURNS: Absolutely, Miguel. This ain't over. I mean, yes, we saw just overnight two more suspects that were arrested in a plot against the largest shopping mall in Europe, in Oberhausen, which has a Christmas market.

Another Christmas market plot foiled this time by police. They sent more police there to make sure that nothing happened. They did not give us more details about that, but it is troubling to see. We don't know if there is a link with the Oberhausen plot and what happened here in Berlin.

But, of course, authorities are continuing searching and the thing is Anis Amri was connected with a group that has been recruiting and proselytizing and training people to wage attacks like these. So, it's led by Abu Walaa. He is a hate preacher here in Germany and has a network. They are also linked to ISIS.

So, this is also very troubling and authorities are going to be very much on edge watching for that as well to see if there are any copycat attacks like here on Monday, killing 12 people, injuring 48 people, including two Americans.

ROMANS: So, for people just tuning in, we can tell you that manhunt is over. Italian police confirming they have shot and killed that suspect in that Berlin Christmas market truck attack. He is dead. It was a normal checkpoint there saying he was asked for an ID. He pulled out a pistol and a gun fight ensued. That is what the Italian media is reporting, Italian officials say, again, that this suspect is dead.

He would go, Chris, to the Milan suburbs. Not really that much of a surprise since he has been in prison for several years in Italy after starting a fire at a refugee center.

[04:55:05] This is a man originally from Tunisia, but with ties around Europe.

BURNS: Yes. Absolutely. He -- Anis Amri is not a recent refugee. He is a common criminal now.

I mean, he had been in Europe for more than seven years. He left Tunisia, running from the law there. He came to Italy. He was, yes, he was jailed for four years.

That is where it is believed that perhaps he was radicalized as others have been radicalized in prisons in other parts of Europe by other people inside those prisons. He was radicalized. And that is probably one reason why he went back to Italy on the run. He probably had some kind of support network over there.

ROMANS: You know, it's interesting. We are looking at "Reuters" report right now, that they know this is the man because they identified him from his fingerprints.

Let's quick -- don't go away, Chris. I want to go to Ben Wedeman. He is in Rome. He is on the phone right now.

Ben, we know that this press conference with the Italian interior ministry and Italian police sources are confirming that the suspect is dead. What else do we know here, Ben?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): What we understand from the police is that he was stopped outside the Chiasso San Giovanni train station in Milan at 3:00 a.m. It was an ordinary check by police of documents. They asked the man to show his documents. Instead, he pulled out a .22-caliber pistol from his back pack, shouted "Allahu Akbar" and opened fire, hitting one of the policemen in the shoulder. They returned fire and killed him on the spot.

The Italians were on high alert for Anis Amri, somebody who spent several years in Italy in Italian prisons. He obviously got away from the Germans, but the Italians managed to find him, stop him and kill him.

MARQUEZ: Ben, you said they were on alert. Any sense of how it was they didn't realize this might be their man when they were asking him for passport information?

WEDEMAN: Well, it appears it was an ordinary check of documents at 3:00 in the morning in the city like Milan. Obviously, the police are looking for people. You understand why they might be out and about at that time of night.

We don't know at this point whether they were actually working on a tip or this was simply a case of finding somebody like a needle in a haystack in a big city late at night. We don't know at this point why exactly they stopped him.

MARQUEZ: I take it 3:00 a.m. in the train station in Berlin. This is somebody who is trying to stay under the radar and perhaps put himself over the radar, onto the radar by traveling so late and seeming to skirt around. Are there even trains running out of there? Why he'd be getting through there? What is it like there?

WEDEMAN: Well, it is not unusual in a big city like Milan that is the train station is where a lot of people hang out there. There are homeless people in the area. There are migrant people, people not Italians.

But it is not unusual people would be there. Often times are where train stations are where, shall we say, those who have suspicious motives hang out, criminals, petty criminals and whatnot. So, the police are on the lookout. But given that Anis Amri does have an Italian connection in the sense he first arrived here in the beginning of 2011 and spent several years here and including several years in prison. There was an expectation among security officials he might return to a more familiar territory after he committed this terrorist attack in Berlin.

ROMANS: All right. Ben Wedeman, don't go away. We are following the breaking news. This Berlin attack suspect is dead. We've got all the details and developments. Stand by.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ROMANS: All right. Our breaking news -- as we told you, we are just learning these moments from Italian authorities that the suspect in the Berlin Christmas market killings has been stopped, checked for his ID. He pulled out a pistol and they are saying he was shot dead.

MARQUEZ: On the spot in the train station in Milan, Italy. Anis Amri is dead after several days of intense manhunt in Germany and across Europe.

I want to go first to Chris Burns who's on the ground for us in Berlin.

Chris, I'm curious if you have had a chance to speak to anybody there and to see if what is the level of relief that he has been caught.

BURNS: Miguel, no, we have not. This has just broken.