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Report: Berlin Police Say 9 Dead in Christmas Market Crash. Trump Electors Voting, Trump Close To 270; In Turkey Cop Kills Russian Ambassador. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired December 19, 2016 - 15:00   ET


[15:30:00] BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Lot of Muslims sympathize with the carnage that has gone on there. You can connect, at least I can, the murder of the Russian ambassador in Ankara. Also, I'd like to say this has been long anticipated, another attack like this, a Nice-like attack. First time in Germany mass casualties. If indeed this is terrorism, I think Europe is in for more of it.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: What do you think?

BUCK SEXTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: When you look at the indicators and the probability, it certainly points towards a terrorist attack, we can't be certain but the similarities with Nice, here there are photos posted online, you have a truck that seems to have been used in this again attack. There's the remote possibility that it was something other than that you also look at the target, just before Christmas, Christmas market, the number of people that were injured and nine killed, that number looks like it will go higher. The probability this was some kind of horrific accident is small. It looks like it fits in with the criteria would expect for a jihadist attack, similar to what we saw in Nice, from the jihadist perspective, an attack on a French national holiday -- mostly using a truck, I know there was also weapons involved there.

BALDWIN: There were weapons there. It is different in the sense that I'm not hearing reports of shots. It sounds like this individual we know nothing about this individual or if this person has even been caught, drove up going who knows how fast into this crowd of revelers.

SEXTON: One of the lessons of the Nice attack from the terrorist perspective and jihadists, those who might want to be acting out now because of what's happening in Aleppo or grievances real and imagined, is they may have recognized that the vehicles is the most important component in this process. All you need is a big vehicle that gets enough speed momentum behind and target set full of people that are innocent civilians. That would add up, the absence of weapons or gunfire, it may just be they realize all you need is the vehicle looking very likely this was a jihadist attack given all of the indicators we have.

BALDWIN: I remember being in Nice and talking to our terror analysts who are saying this is what ISIS was essentially saying to followers, this M.O. of using a car as a weapon, am I correct?

BAER: Oh, absolutely. As Buck was saying, it's easily accessible, of course, a truck, there's virtually no way to stop it. You can't put stanchions on every public event. The Islamic State has evolved, doesn't need bombs and explosives, it doesn't need guns. It can create mass casualties with vehicles and Europe right now is at a loss what to do about this. They can't control what's happening in Aleppo. Even though Germany has nothing to do with Aleppo, the Islamic State paints the west as a single front. And that it's permissible to kill civilians and especially on a symbolic holiday and Christmas market like this.

BALDWIN: Have there been any attacks, not necessarily with a car used as a weapon but within Germany. There was a mass casualty event, not sure terror related or not that we covered live, this would be the first?

BAER: This would be the first. I mean, there has been attacks in Germany on the train with an Afghan, on a coffee house and rest of it but this is the first time that Germans have -- this is a copy in a way of Brussels and Nice attack or even the Paris attacks. And I think what as the police get better and start rolling networks up, you'll see more and more are probably people inspired by the violence in the Middle East, inspired by the Islamic State, without actually making contact. We're going to find out. If there was terrorism, German police -- let's wait and see. We can revise this next hour or so.

BALDWIN: Nine dead, at least 50 injured there at a busy Christmas market on a Monday evening in Berlin. Buck and Bob, thank you. We'll keep a close eye on what's happening there. Also, ahead, we're watching electors in Texas, they are expected to be the ones to push President-elect Donald Trump over the threshold to reach 270 electoral votes, officially making him the 45th President of the United States, that count sits at 241. We'll take you to Austin, Texas when it happens.


BALDWIN: Before we talk politics, an update on electoral college, just a reminder we're watching the situation that has developed in Berlin, Germany. Someone we don't know anything about this driver, but someone plowed his truck into a busy Christmas market right around 8:00 local time in Berlin. According to police there, at least nine people have been killed and 50 injured. So, we will have more on that as soon as we get anything more.

Also, we're watching electors, all 538 around the country voting officially for the next President. Let me bring in our panel, Abby Phillips CNN political analyst, Jeff Zeleny and Juilan Zelizer, history public affairs professor at Princeton. I believe -- I don't know the exact latest tally but I think it will be the Texans in Austin who officially -- 241 right now, needs to get to 270 to make it official. Jeff Zeleny, I'm expecting no surprises.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No surprises, Brooke. Those 38 electors in the state of Texas will put Donald Trump over that threshold of 270 electoral votes likely within the next half hour or so. There are also other red states convening right now, including Nebraska and Missouri and Alaska and others. It is definitely on a path towards happening. This is an exercise of democracy. We see it happen every year in state capitols across the country. Nothing new this year.

Donald Trump is going to meet the threshold here. There were some hopes of Democrats, liberals who thought they could change things here but that has not happened. We have not seen much drama. There have been a few outbursts in Wisconsin and Colorado and protests other places but, Brooke, Donald Trump as he's watching this in Palm Beach, Florida, he's already on a bit of early Christmas vacation. He'll have an exclamation point on his victory, officially becoming the President-elect.

BALDWIN: That should happen in the next few minutes. Professor to you, to Jeff's point it has been happening for however many years but it is different because of the unprecedented historic nature of the presidency and popular vote went one way, electoral college we another and add in Russia interfering and you get electoral college on the spotlight on national TV.

[15:40:00] JULIAN ZELIZER, HISTORY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: This was an electoral college vote no one was sure would be as normal as it usually is because nothing was normal in this campaign. The context. Russian hacking scandal raised questions about what would happen.

BALDWIN: How long does this date back?

ZELIZER: This dates back to the founding, this is the electoral college system we've had from the start. It has to be formally accepted on January 6th.

BALDWIN: Vice President announces it.

ZELIZER: And Congress could challenge it and members can challenge part of the vote but that won't happen. I think reality is settling in and President-elect Trump is going to have a happy night.

BALDWIN: I think it is noteworthy, Abby, though in the paper this morning, the different groups and I talked to a Harvard professor part of one group who wanted the electors to vote his or her conscious and go against the grain. Can you talk about those efforts and how it's not happening?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, for a lot of these folks there were a lot of hurdles. It wasn't just as easy as some people saying I don't want to vote for Donald Trump. In some states, they have legal boundaries that make it more difficult to do that and face potential legal consequences for stepping out of line with their state's vote count. So, it was a challenge and it was a long shot from the very beginning. And what you've seen so far in the vote totals we've had, very few electors, fewer than a handful, have done anything other than vote according to the way their state did. The ones who did, didn't necessarily vote for Hillary Clinton. Even to deny Donald Trump two or three electoral college votes hasn't necessarily meant those votes would be transferred to the other candidate who lost the Presidential election.

BALDWIN: OK, Abby and Julian and Jeff, thank you. Mr. Trump should reach the 270 number in Texas momentarily. Coming up, we're covering the breaking story out of berlin this tragic evening at a busy Christmas market. Thousands of people go out to these things and come to Berlin to shop ahead of Christmas and to revel and now nine are dead, at least 50 injured after this truck plowed through this massive crowd. An update coming up.


BALDWIN: Breaking news out of Berlin, Germany. Reports that someone has driven a truck through a busy crowd in a very popular Christmas market, potentially up to thousands of people shopping there in the days before Christmas. The latest numbers we have from Berlin police, at least nine people have been killed and at least 50 injured. Max Foster is live for us keeping a close eye on what's been happening there. Max Foster, do we have any word on who was behind the wheel?

MAX FOSTER, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: The only thing we've heard in the last few seconds is that our sources telling us that a suspect has been apprehended supposedly, the driver. That's the very latest we have on this. The numbers absolutely horrific. Very chilling when you consider that the state department just less than a month ago was warning that there could be a terrorist attack on outdoor markets. Listen to this, Brooke, this was from end of the November. "Credible information indicates ISIS, al Qaeda and their affiliates continue to plan terrorist attacks in Europe with the focus on the upcoming holiday season."

Very much the focus right now will be on the potential of a terrorist attack even though it hasn't been confirmed at this point. We don't know the motivation. This driver could have been incapacitated driving into the crowd. But it is looking less likely that that is the case on the basis that someone's just been apprehended.

BALDWIN: Do you know if police have called this a terror attack or not just yet?

FOSTER: They haven't. There are local sources suggesting that's the case but we haven't confirmed it. We don't want to go there yet. We can say they are investigating in that direction as they automatically would in this situation. Very quickly after these attacks as you know, you cover them yourself, they discount terrorism as quick as possible and they haven't done that yet.

BALDWIN: Max Foster, thank you so much. An update on what's been happening there in Berlin. Also, just an update on what's happening here at home. The electoral college, 538 members have been voting today, ultimately the official stamp for the next President of the United States. So, it's the Texans in Austin who are expected to be the ones to push Mr. Trump over the 270 number, officially making him the 45th President of the United States and ultimately members of Congress get together the 6th of January and up to the vice President to declare it and sworn in January 20th. An update on the tally. We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: Again, if you're just joining us, nine people have been killed, at least 50 injured in this mass incident in Berlin. Now we can tell you according to Berlin police, the suspect, who is the one who drove that truck, has apparently been apprehended. Drove the truck into this major crowd at this Christmas market. No details as of yet. A spokesperson saying the operation there is ongoing, but just tragedy on a Monday evening days before Christmas.

We are also watching the official vote tally for the next President of the United States, Donald Trump here. Let's go to Kyung Lah in Texas ahead of the vote. Kyung, will this be the vote to put him ahead of 270?

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Reporter: 270 electoral votes should, and I say should, put Donald Trump over the top, over 270. The drama we were expecting here, and it's minor drama, because according to the Republican party here, they are anticipating that every single one of those electors, except for one, will be voting for Donald Trump. So, that will mean 37 to add to the total. Christopher Supurn is a faithless elector. Even though he is a lifelong GOP, he is not going to vote the will of the state and he is going to vote against Donald Trump saying Trump, in his opinion, is simply not qualified. So, that's what we're watching here. The vote just about to begin. We are anticipating it will begin any moment from now, Brooke.

BALDWIN: That, though, mentioning the elector, people voting as they said they would. I am curious because we've heard reports of some protests, some hiccups in some of these state capitols, Kyung. Have you seen that in Austin?

LAH: We've seen dozens and dozens of people who were on the steps of the state capitol. There were people still in the rotunda, holding up signs saying the electoral college is the last stop, they want the college to defy the will of the state. The electors believe they are just simply doing their job, that they are following the will of the state. One thing I should add, Brooke, one little nuance is that the state party says there is one person they're not 100 percent sure on, but even with that, they do anticipate that the rest will go to Donald Trump.

BALDWIN: OK, and so just quickly, the vote has begun or not quite yet?

LAH: The ceremony has begun. This is a minutes' long -- it should be minutes long, but it's actually being extended because there were four people who were disqualified because they had jobs with the federal government, a job with the county, and then there was one elector who decided not to come because he didn't want to vote for Donald Trump as well. So, they have to replace all of them, and the people who are filling those spots, they are also anticipated to vote for Donald Trump.

BALDWIN: OK. Kyung, thank you. We'll be watching those numbers when the voting begins there in Austin. Thank you in Texas.

[15:55:00] Also, we are watching the story develop out of Turkey today. This off-duty police officer here has been identified as the gunman who killed the Russian ambassador to Turkey today. The shooter could be heard shouting in Turkish, quote, god is great, do not forget Aleppo, do not forget Syria. And he fired. You can hear it in the video. It was caught on camera shot after shot after shot. He killed a man by the name of au Andrey Karlov. He was speaking in the Turkish gallery. They have called this a, quote, unquote, terror attack. Let me bring in our senior correspondent who is on the ground of the Turkey-Syria border. What more do we know? We saw this gunman in the picture. Do we know anything else?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Reporter: well, Brooke, it's a good question. We know he was 22 years old. He was from turkey's coastal regions. Not only was he a police officer, but he was also assigned to the riot squad. We know he was an active duty police officer. It's unclear if he had any sort of official role in tonight's event. When you look at that chilling video, you can see clearly he knew how to use a firearm. That first shot he fired was a direct hit on the ambassador and the ambassador basically crumpled to the ground right away. Now we know why.

We know he has firearm training as a result of being with the police. Turkey is reacting quite forcefully to this. We understand now from Turkish officials that the gunman's father, the gunman's mother, and the gunman's sister have all been detained as investigators are combing through his home, looking for any piece of evidence that can tie him to a bigger picture and explain why this 22-year-old would assassinate the Russian ambassador.

BALDWIN: Muhammad Lila, thank you. I want to pull away from that because we just got a major development here in this Berlin story. Paul Cruikshank, you are the man I wanted to talk to. Our CNN terrorist analyst here. You now have the news with regard to this investigation. Tell me what you've just discovered?

PAUL CRUIKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: This is now being investigated as if it were a terrorist attack by German authorities, the German intelligence official telling CNN that that's the way it's being investigated. But they have not yet confirmed that this was a terrorist attack. That determination may take several hours. But this is being investigated as if it were an act of terrorism in Berlin, an attack which has obviously lead to fatalities which recalls the ghastly attack in Nice which you and I covered during the summer when 86 people were mowed down by a truck in the promenade by somebody who had been radicalized by ISIS.

We also saw just a few weeks ago another car running attack in the United States at Ohio State. ISIS, al Qaeda, they both call for these kinds of attacks from their followers. This is being investigated as an act of potential terrorism at this point, but they still need to make the full determination that that is, in fact, what they are dealing with. But obviously, you know, given that a truck plowed into a Christmas market, given all the warnings, given the intelligence that has come into western intelligence about ISIS and their supporters determined to launch attacks in Europe during the holiday period, given the fact that just a few weeks ago the state department warning alert that went out for American travelers to Europe, warning about exactly this kind of scenario, an attack on a Christmas market, it is being investigated as if it were an act of terrorism, though they have not yet confirmed that to be the case.

BALDWIN: So just 60 seconds, Paul. You're right, we talked a lot about Nice and how ISIS has called for followers to use cars as weapons. But what do you make of this Christmas market, specifically, as a potential target if, in fact, this is what it is?

CRUIKSHANK: Well, intelligence has suggested that ISIS and followers and extremists want to attack during the holiday, because that can be traumatic for people. People just to want get out and enjoy a holiday market. It's obviously a target of opportunity because a lot of people are gathered outside, and it's very difficult to protect all possible Christmas holiday markets all around Europe. So, it's a soft target. This target may well have been a target in a terrorist attack tonight.

BALDWIN: Paul Cruikshank, thank you so much. I'm sure Jake will have this also. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.