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THE SITUATION ROOM
Truck Kills at Least 9 in German Christmas Market; Russian Ambassador to Turkey Assassinated; Electors Push Trump Over 270 Electoral College Votes; Trump: Russian Ambassador Assassinated by "Radical Islamic Terrorist". Aired 5-6p ET
Aired December 19, 2016 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:09] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Christmas market attack. At least nine people are killed as a truck plows through a crowded holiday market in Berlin. Dozens more are injured. Was this an act of terror modelled on last summer's slaughter in France?
Brutal assassination. Russia's ambassador to Turkey is shot dead while speaking in an art gallery. The gunman shouts, "God is greatest" and "Remember Aleppo." Is the region headed for more turmoil?
Passing college. The Electoral College seals the deal for Donald Trump. Across the country electors resist the protests and are making Trump's White House win official.
And you don't even know me. Michelle Obama says she was hurt by being labeled, quote, "an angry black woman." The first lady tells Oprah Winfrey that critics have no clue what she was really like and says racial sensitivity is built on fear.
Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Brianna Keilar, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KEILAR: We're following multiple breaking news stories right now. Nine people are dead and at least 50 others are hurt after a truck plowed through a Christmas market in a major public square in Berlin. One witness says people are crushed, adding that the truck did not slow down. A German intelligence official says the incident is being investigated as an act of terrorism. Police say a co-driver died at the scene and that a suspect has been apprehended.
And in a shocking act of violence caught on camera, the Russian ambassador to Turkey is assassinated while speaking at an art gallery in the capitol, Ankara. The gunman, identified as a policeman shouted, "God is greatest. Do not forget Aleppo. Do not forget Syria." Russia has backed the Syrian regime's brutal assault on Aleppo. The U.S. has strongly condemned today's shooting.
And Electoral College voting has been underway all day in state capitals, 538 electors casting their votes for president and vice president. Donald Trump may have lost the overall popular vote, but he won where he needed to on November 8; and this is the vote that counts. Now, despite pressure and protests, the electors are sealing the White House win for Trump.
I'll be speaking with Congressman Chris Collins. He is a member of Donald Trump's transition team. And our correspondents, analysts and guests have full coverage of the day's top stories.
We begin with that horrific scene at a Christmas market in Berlin, where at least nine people are dead and 50 hurt. I want to go straight now to CNN's Frederik Pleitgen. He's in Berlin. What are we learning?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna.
We're actually right here at the scene where all this took place about three hours ago. And you can see behind me, if we just move forward, our shooter can show you it's a big, gigantic semi that plowed through this Christmas market. You can still see next to it a Christmas tree that was apparently knocked over by this truck.
And what we're hearing from eyewitnesses, at about 8 p.m., the truck was going at about 40 miles an hour, plowed into this very, very full Christmas market, took out several of those market stalls. You can still see some of the debris laying down there, as well. And then obviously, also hit a lot of people, as well.
Eyewitnesses that we've been speaking to says it was going about 40 miles an hour, made absolutely no effort to put on the brakes or to any other way stop. There were people apparently trapped underneath the truck as all of this was going on.
As you've noted, it's now being investigated as an act of terrorism. One man is apparently apprehended. Another was found dead on the passenger seat of that truck that you've just seen behind me.
Certainly, the German authorities at this point in time treating this as a terrorist attack, and I can tell you from being here on the ground and also, of course, being a citizen of this city, Brianna, that people here, of course, are very, very shaken by what's taken place here tonight.
KEILAR: This is an incredibly busy time of year and a very busy place, Frederik. Tell us about that. And also the concerns that this could be replicating what we saw in France last year.
PLEITGEN: Yes, I mean, those concerns are very big. And I can tell you that, in the past couple of months, there were very big concerns here in this country that, first of all, there could be an attack here in Germany during Christmastime and, second of all, that an attack could take place on a Christmas market.
Now Christmas markets are usually huge venues in almost any German town. Around the Christ time, you'll see people gathering there, and especially at that time of day, 8 p.m. As people were coming either from work or coming from their daily shopping. This is also a very popular shopping area here in Berlin. And it is
one of the most iconic places in the west of Berlin, as well. If we pan out a little bit, you can see that church over there. That's the Church of Remembrance, which is a church that was bombed in World War II and then was sort of kept in that state of ruin to become a landmark here in the city.
[17:05:03] So this area, this pedestrian zone, is one where we've seen thousands of people on it, especially at this point in time, being on that Christmas market, doing their shopping, and then, of course, very, very vulnerable to this attack that then apparently took place here, Brianna.
KEILAR: Do we know anything, Fred, about the suspect? One, obviously, you said there's a co-driver that police -- that died in all of this. But they have someone in custody, yes?
PLEITGEN: Yes, there's very little that we know about the potential suspect that they've apprehended. They believe, obviously, that it was the person who was driving this truck. It appears as though after this incident took place that he actually escaped from the scene initially and then was apprehended, I would say, about a mile, maybe two miles away from this area as the German authorities, of course, not only cordoning off this entire area on a wide space but also launching a manhunt as well. There is very little that's known.
We do understand the police are questioning this man at this point in time, because one of the things that they said as they were -- as they announced that they had someone in custody is that they were very quick to come out and say they believed this was indeed an attack that took place here on this market, Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Fred Pleitgen, stand by for us, if you would.
I want to bring in now CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward. She is in Moscow. And joining me here in studio, CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen and Evelyn Farkas. She's a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia.
We're following a couple of stories here. But Peter, as you look, this has just happened in Berlin. What are your first impressions?
KEILAR: Well, we saw this in Ohio with less fatalities.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, we saw this in Ohio, with less fatalities...
KEILAR: Well, Ohio State University.
BERGEN: At Ohio State University where somebody inspired by ISIS plowed a car into a group of people, injured 11 of them. And this -- we've seen this repeatedly. We saw this in Canada a couple of years ago. We obviously saw this in Nice, with more than 84 people killed.
And, unfortunately, you know, we sit in the city where probably one of the largest public events in history is about to happen, which is the inauguration, where there will be a lot of people all in one place. And terrorist are copycats, often. And the Nice attack demonstrated you can do a lot of damage. And so for U.S. officials planning the inauguration, this kind of attack is surely front and center of their thinking.
KEILAR: Clarissa, there is a suspect in custody who is at this point. What do you think that they are trying to learn from the suspect? And also it seems so significant that they were able to detain this person so quickly.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's what I would say, Brianna. So quickly and also the fact that they were able to detain him at all.
Traditionally, suicide warriors or inkamaze (ph) or people who are fighting on behalf of ISIS or inspired by ISIS, they don't tend to get to the stage where they get arrested. Traditionally, they're going all the way to the end. They try to kill as many people as they possibly can before being killed.
And I do have to stress to our viewers that, at this stage, we know that this is being investigated as a terrorist attack, and but don't yet know what the motivation for the attack was or who was responsible for it.
Obviously, those are the first two questions the German authorities will be wanting to see answered.
At the same time, we can't be oblivious to the obvious parallels we've seen. And you heard Peter list some of them. Of course, those of us who follow ISIS closely know that many times now we have heard ISIS leaders calling explicitly for these types of attacks, even using the suggestion of cars. It says, "If you don't have a gun, take a knife, take a stone, drive a vehicle into a crowd of people." So we have heard this type of rhetoric coming increasingly from ISIS.
Of course, the more ISIS gets hit hard in its physical territory in Syria and Iraq, the more it moves its caliphate into a vertical realm.
But still to early to say if this was ISIS-involved, ISIS-inspired, how it was that they were able to capture this man alive and arrest him. As I said, that is highly unusual for these types of events that usually end with the attacker being killed, Brianna.
KEILAR: So Evelyn, we're still waiting, as Clarissa noted. Who is the suspect? What is the motivation?
But you -- you can't help but notice this is at least an M.O. that we have seen before. What can be done to try to prevent attacks like this on these soft targets?
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT DEFENSE SECRETARY: Yes, I mean, I think partly what can be done is what the Germans have done already. They thwarted as recently as -- I believe it was last week, or maybe even this week, there was a 12-year-old planning an attack on Germany. The Germans are quite good in terms of their capabilities. But you
can't thwart every attack, and if you have an attack like this, you have to harden it as much as you can, but you're relying on intelligence and police work. They are pretty capable inasmuch as they have police on the ground there able to apprehend the individual, which is different from some of the cases that we saw earlier in France and Belgium in previous -- last year.
[17:10:14] KEILAR: It seems, in some of these other attacks, it's an inspiration by ISIS as we wait to find out that this is, indeed, one of these attacks. What are we looking for? And not just from what officials find out from the suspects but maybe a potential claim that might tell us something.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: There are various forms of ISIS claims. One of them comes out on an ISIS channel, which is called Amaq (ph). And there are other ways they claim credit. And typically, if it's somebody that they merely inspired, they refer to them as a soldier of the caliphate. If it was something that was more directed, they might have more information about this person. So let's see. As Clarissa pointed out, we still don't know.
KEILAR: Yes. It's unfolding as we speak. All right. Peter, Evelyn and Clarissa, stay with me, if you would. We have some more breaking news ahead. A gunman assassinates Russia's ambassador to Turkey. It was a shocking attack caught on camera.
KEILAR: As we follow the deadly incident at a Berlin Christmas market, let's turn now to another breaking news story that we're covering. Russia's ambassador to Turkey has been assassinated while speaking at an art gallery in Ankara, and this murder was caught on camera as the killer shouts, "Do not forget Aleppo."
[17:15:10] Our Brian Todd has been tracking this. What is the latest that you're hearing, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, tonight the Russian government is calling this a terrorist attack saying, quote, "Murderers will be punished."
We have new information tonight on the assassin, a 22-year-old from western Turkey who was a member of Turkey's riot police. And we have jarring new images of how this attack unfolded. We have to warn viewers, some of this video is graphic.
TODD (voice-over): Seconds before the chaos, Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov's killer looms behind him at the art gallery. Then, the ambassador is instantly cut down. His attacker, a young, clean-shaven man in a suit, yells, "Allah Akbar," "God is greatest" and "Do not forget Aleppo. Do not forget Syria." He yells, "Get back," and says, "Only death will remove me from here. Everyone who has taken part in this oppression will, one by one, pay for it." Moments later he's seen from the street, through the building's glass
facade, moving on a walkway, still brandishing his handgun. This all as Karlov was rushed to a nearby hospital.
Tonight Russia's ambassador to Turkey is dead in what that country is calling an act of terror. Turkey's official news agency says the gunman has also been neutralized.
And in a plot twist straight out of a spy movie, it now appears the shooter, identified by Turkey's interior minister as Mevlut Mert Altintas, was an officer assigned to Turkey's riot police, who stood behind the ambassador as if he were guarding him. What remains unclear is if he was working alone or if he was part of a larger conspiracy.
Today's assassination could upend an already fragile relationship between Russia and Turkey. And it puts growing pressure on the Turkish government over an urgent security problem, what analysts call the growing number of Turkish police and other security forces who've turned against the government in recent years.
CHRISTOPHER SWITT, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Usually at a low level among junior people who are new to those organizations. And sources within the Turkish government have indicated that those problems have been greatest within the air force and within the Turkish national police.
TODD: On the Russian side, analysts say this incident, along with the shoot-down of a Russian passenger plane over Sinai last year, were among the risks Vladimir Putin's government has run for sending its military to prop up Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
NATE SCHENKAN, FREEDOM HOUSE: This is the kind of price that many thought Russia might have to pay for its intervention when it started. And then the second way to understand it, I think, is as the continuing destabilization of the situation inside Turkey that's been going on for several years and that is growing and growing as the war in Syria continues.
TODD: But tonight both the White House and the State Department are condemning the assassination of Ambassador Karlov. And tonight, experts say, expect significant and probably immediate blowback to this assassination, especially from the Turkish government. They say President Recep Erdogan will likely order a crackdown on elements of his military and police forces who he suspects to have either been radicalized or otherwise turned against him -- Brianna.
KEILAR: And Brian, I know that you're hearing some new information about injuries and also the timing of this attack.
TODD: That's right. Turkey's prime minister has just said three other people at the exhibition, including one foreign national, have been wounded. The wounded are being treated tonight. And on the timing, this comes about one day before Turkey's foreign
minister was going to fly to Russia to consult with his Russian and Iranian counterparts over the situation in Aleppo. This attack -- this attack tonight could have been timed around that, or possibly it could have been just the gunman's window of opportunity to do what he did.
KEILAR: All right, Brian Todd, thank you for that report.
Let's bring back now our national security experts. And Clarissa, you are there in Moscow. How is the Russian government reacting to this?
FARKAS: Well, it's interesting. We heard just a few hours ago from President Vladimir Putin, and it definitely seems that he's trying to sort of deescalate the situation.
Well, the Russians have been very firm about calling this an act of terror and saying how crucial it is for a Turkish investigation to really drill down into the details of how this young man was able to get into this event, whether he had a larger cell that he was working with, whether he is part of ISIS or not. Clearly, there are a lot of questions.
The Russians have also sent a delegation of investigators to work with that investigation.
But for the most part, the president, Putin, called this essentially a provocation designed to lash out at the warming of the relationship between Russia and Turkey, designed to lash out at the Syria peace process. As Brian mentioned, a summit scheduled to take place tomorrow here in Moscow.
And he finished by saying the only response we should offer to this murder is stepping up our fight against terror.
I should say, though, Brianna, this is the official reaction. Unofficially, if you go on Twitter, if you look at some lawmakers who are allies of President Putin, you're seeing a slightly different story. People saying that western media has played a role here by riling people up with the propaganda images of Aleppo that, of course, have been coming out as that city has faced a brutal onslaught -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. I have a couple things to say about that, but propaganda images of what's coming out of Aleppo? I mean, these are just pictures of what's happening.
FARKAS: These are pictures of what's really...
KEILAR: This is just reality on television.
FARKAS: Horrible. Right, right. Which is that the Russians first, after targeting hospitals, you know, the most vulnerable citizens, innocent citizens, then targeting the people in their homes, then arranging for them to leave on buses from Aleppo to Idlib, which is probably going to be bombed in a few more days. It's another, you know, one of these strongholds that the moderates are holding right now, the opposition is holding. Now there -- and there have been all kinds of interruptions in the ceasefire, as well.
So the Russian behavior on the ground has been, like, reprehensible. But it doesn't excuse, of course, an assassination.
KEILAR: Of course, it doesn't. And it sounds like there is this appetite that Clarissa is describing among many people in Russia for a retaliation. Will we see one? What do you think it would it look like?
Well, I feel that the Russian government will retaliate in some way. So I saw something being reported in the media -- I don't know whether it's accurate -- that Vladimir Putin said that whoever sent this individual will feel the Russian response. So they'll probably be looking to see whether there's anyone behind him. That's an open question.
But clearly, the Russians will take some kind of action, because that's kind of their M.O. I mean, they want to demonstrate and try to deter even the one-off, kind of, you know, self-motivated individual.
KEILAR: In 2015 things were very dicey between these two countries, because Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet. And then it seemed like things were getting a little bit better. Erdogan and Putin seemed to be reaching out towards each other a little more. Right? There seemed to be more of an improvement. And they're both involved in this fight against ISIS, so does this affect that?
BERGEN: I mean, I think it's a little hard to tell. Certainly, you know, Turkey took a laissez-faire approach with ISIS, let the foreign fighters through, and as soon as ISIS started attacking domestically, changed its policy. So I don't see Turkey changing their policy on ISIS, because they do regard it as a big problem.
This guy who carried out this attack may have nothing to do with ISIS, may be self-motivated, but clearly, that's the frame in which all this is happening, whether the attack on the Istanbul airport recently. So I don't see Turkey changing its policy because of this particular instance.
KEILAR: And what we know here is this is a Turkish police officer, a member of the riot police, and you heard what he was yelling, "Remember Aleppo" -- or "Don't forget Aleppo. Don't forget Syria." How much can you extrapolate from that about his motivations?
BERGEN: I think they speak for themselves. And he said, "Allah Akbar," which of course, doesn't mean that he's a member of a jihadist group. I mean, I think Sunni Muslims around the world are outraged, rightly so, about what is happening in Aleppo.
KEILAR: He could just be someone motivated, Evelyn, by being in the region and seeing...
FARKAS: And bearing witness to this. And it's not the first time. But what's happened here is they really razed the city of Aleppo, or at least this portion, where the moderates were hold up, to the ground, practically.
And the Russians themselves have seen it and done it in their federation, in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. It's not new to them. But this is a whole other level of brutality, basically geared against civilians. And I think that's the problem.
On the diplomacy, if I could just add, I mean, I think it seems clear that Turkey and Russia have to come to an accommodation. Turkey is going to be increasingly stretched. I mean, they're already stretched with all the refugees. And as it looks like Russia is going to win, Russia, Syria, Iran, Turkey has got to figure out an end game. Because any -- I mean, the refugees who are coming in and any moderates who are left are really in danger of becoming further radicalized, and as they come and seek sanctuary in Turkey, it's a real increase -- threat to Turkey and their stability internally.
KEILAR: Clarissa, do you think there are any implications more broadly for this just in terms of diplomatic circles, the idea that someone could have gained access to the Russian ambassador? This must be a concern, certainly, not just for Russia but other countries, as well.
WARD: I think it is a concern for many countries, and I think some people are probably scratching their heads, though, as to why the Russian ambassador did not have more security.
The reality is, you would be hard pressed to find many Sunni Muslims who have a very favorable opinion of Russia right now and of the atrocities that Russia has been complicit in carrying out in Aleppo and, indeed, throughout Syria. And even President Putin has been pretty sanguine about the elevated risk that would be an inevitable consequence of Russia's intervention of Syria.
So it's a little difficult to understand perhaps why there wasn't more of a security detail with him. I mean, it's very difficult in these situations, especially from here in Moscow and not being there on the ground in Ankara, to know exactly what went down.
[17:25:08] But let's put it this way. Russia has been very much aware of the fact that, in the wake of their actions in Syria, they do face an increased risk, not just in Turkey, not just in the region but across the entire world, because the actions that Russia has been involved with in Syria have galvanized the Islamic world, and not just Muslims even, but particularly the Islamic world. A lot of anguish, a lot of frustration. And many people even wondering, to be honest, how this is only the first time that a terrible incident like this has happened, Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Clarissa, Evelyn and Peter, thank you so much to all of you for your insight on this.
We do have some more breaking news next. The Electoral College is casting ballots right now that will seal Donald Trump's presidential victory. We'll have the latest on that process and also the protests. These are some live pictures that you're looking at. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KEILAR: All right. You are watching this unfold before us. Texas electors sealing the deal for Donald Trump. This is a live picture for you in the state capital in Texas, where the 36 members of the Electoral College have -- for Texas have just cast their votes for Donald Trump.
And with these votes, Donald Trump has just passed the threshold of 270 electoral votes -- college votes that he needs to officially become president of the United States. So those are those 36 electoral votes that now put Donald Trump over the top to become president.
There are, we should mention, two faithless electors, I'm just hearing from my producer in my ear. So that would be two people. We knew that there would be one, but there have been two people who abstained from voting for Donald Trump, even though they certainly were supposed to do that. But they chose not to do that. Obviously, not making the difference for Donald Trump, these electors still putting him to that important 270 Electoral College votes threshold. But two faithless electors who chose not to support Donald Trump.
[17:30:00] KEILAR: I want to bring in now CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta.
Jim, this is really the vote that counts.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT; This is the vote that counts, Brianna. There were a handful of faithless electors, as they've been called throughout the country, but not enough to change what we all knew was going to be the outcome today. Donald Trump has prevailed, as you said, Brianna, in the official counting of the electoral votes in states across the country today, making him the 45th president of the United States.
But just as we saw during the election, even this formality came with plenty of drama.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Electors may be carrying out their official function in selecting a president on behalf of the voters they represent today, but they won't be able to heal the political wounds, still raw.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't deserve to be in America.
ACOSTA: And on display at state houses across the nation. One of those electors in New York, former President bill Clinton, cast his vote for Hillary Clinton, smiling but candid about the forces he saw conspiring against his wife.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I watched her battle through that bogus e-mail deal, saw her through everything. And she prevailed through it all, but you know, in the end, we had the Russians and the FBI deal that she couldn't prevail against that. And she did everything else and still won by 2.8 million votes.
ACOSTA: Pushing back on those hard feelings, Donald Trump railed against the idea advocated by some Democrats that electors revolt and throw the election to the House of Representatives, tweeting, "If my many supporters acted and threatened people like those who lost the election are doing, they would be scorned and called terrible names." Trump now defends the Electoral College, a system he once slammed as unfair.
DONALD TRUMP (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never appreciated it until now, how genius it was, what they had in mind.
ACOSTA: President Obama told National Public Radio Democrats have bigger problems and an election system he's described as antiquated.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we're not showing up, if we're not in there making an argument, then we're going to lose. And we can lose badly, and that's what happened in this election.
ACOSTA: Trump's top advisers are still tearing into the notion that Russian hackers tipped the balance in the election.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISOR: The entire nonsense about the electors trying to use the Russian hacking issue to change the election results is really unfortunate. I think that actually undermines our democracy more than any other conversation that we're having.
REINCE PRIEBUS, TRUMP'S SELECTION FOR WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: There's no evidence that shows that the outcome of the election was changed because of a couple dozen John Podesta e-mails that were out there.
ACOSTA: But even a fellow Republican, Senator John McCain, said Moscow's interference is a troubling sign of the times.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This is a sign of the unraveling of the world order that was established after World War II, which has made one of the most peaceful periods in the history of the world.
ACOSTA: Trump tried to turn the subject to China over the weekend after the Chinese navy intercepted an underwater U.S. drone, tweeting, "Let them keep it."
PRIEBUS: I don't know if you'd want that drone back. I mean, who knows?
ACOSTA: But it's not Trump's relationship with China that's got the attention of "Saturday Night Live."
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR (AS DONALD TRUMP): Vladimir, this is such a great surprise.
CECILY STRONG, CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE" (AS MELANIA TRUMP): What are you doing here? BECK BENNETT, CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE" (AS VLADIMIR PUTIN): I was just in town, you know, hiding in the walls.
BALDWIN: Come in, come in. It's so great to finally get a chance to talk in person. I composed an e-mail to you, but I haven't even sent it yet.
BENNETT: I know.
ACOSTA: And sticking to his pattern of placing the super-rich in several top positions in his administration, the president-elect tapped pro hockey team owner and military veteran Vincent viola for secretary of the Army. But Viola is already picking up bipartisan support, including from the incoming Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer. Brianna, this pick is not turning out to be very controversial at all -- Brianna.
KEILAR: No, it is not. All right. Jim Acosta, thank you so much.
We are tracking multiple breaking news stories this hour. Joining me now is Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York. He was the first House member to endorse Donald Trump, and he is a member of Donald Trump's transition team.
And a congratulations to you and your team as you reach this official milestone there today, with Texas electors pushing you over the top. It must certainly be a welcome moment for you.
REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: It is, and thank you, Brianna. I say it's a sigh of relief. It should not have, frankly, come down to some of the suspense, if you want to say that, today with the faithless Electoral College voters. The election was decided November 8.
But even today, former president Clinton, you know, continuing to say what he's saying about Hillary and effectively saying the election was stolen, if you will, through WikiLeaks.
It's time for all this nation to unite behind President Trump to move forward as a United States of America. And it's just been disappointing for the last five and a half, almost six weeks, to hear people call President-elect Trump the Electoral College president, to insinuate somehow this election was stolen from Hillary Clinton. It's time that Hillary and Bill Clinton and others look in the mirror and understand why America has elected Donald Trump to move our country forward, to put America first.
So it is a relief tonight. Certainly we're very happy with tonight. It's a shame it's overshadowed by all the tragedy in Germany. Certainly our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those.
But we are going to be moving on now. Donald Trump's cabinet's all but full. We just have two spots to fill with the veterans and, you know, one other spot that we've still got to go. But great progress is being made. All of us are thrilled with the selections he's made. Certainly a strong group that's going to be able to take on ISIS moving forward. We're very happy with all of the individuals he's got, all the experience they have.
So it's a day now to start the nation healing and moving forward, and I call on all the Democrats, former President Clinton and the others, to unite behind President Trump.
KEILAR: All right, Congressman, you mentioned the tragedies today. I want to ask you about -- you were talking about Germany, this deadly incident in Berlin. It's being looked into as a possible terror attack. Now, we don't know what the motive is. We don't know a lot about the suspect, but you have nine killed at this point, many more injured. Have you spoken with the president-elect since this news broke, or do you know any of how he is responding to this?
COLLINS: No, I have not spoken to him, but I'm sure that President- elect Trump, like all of us, know the dangerous world we're in. He has pledged to defeat ISIS, to take the fight to him -- to them, and I know that he's going to do that.
But the lone-wolf attacks, as we've said, against soft targets, and frankly, ISIS is putting out on the Internet a step-by-step instruction manual on how these lone wolves can conduct themselves. So it is a very dangerous world we're living in. It needs to be a concerted effort by all civilized nations, and that includes China. That includes Russia. That includes, certainly, all European countries and the United States. Because this attack is on the civilized world.
So I think Mr. -- or Donald Trump as president will be able to bring all of these countries together in a united effort to defeat ISIS once and for all.
KEILAR: He -- we're waiting to see if he makes a statement. We're waiting to see if he calls, certainly, leaders not only in Germany but also in Turkey or in Russia, where we saw a Russian ambassador killed by a Turkish riot police member.
As he moves toward the presidency next month, those things that are so regular that we've seen presidents do, is he going to be doing that? I mean, we've seen him not take the daily briefings as many presidents do, but is he going to stick with the normal protocol of making calls and statements about incidents like this?
COLLINS: Well, one thing we know about President-elect Trump is he was an unconventional candidate. He's going to be an unconventional president-elect and an unconventional president. I think that's all good. He's going to be communicating to those that he needs to communicate with, coordinating through his new administration and others.
So I can't tell you exactly who he would be talking to, but I know top of mind from day one through the campaign was to defeat ISIS. And again, this is a call to the civilized world, and we may have disagreements with countries like China and Russia, but they are part of the civilized world. We need to work with them, because we have a common enemy in ISIS that we need -- the world needs to defeat.
KEILAR: All right. Congressman Collins, stand by for me.
Coming up, and we're going to have much more with you just ahead, but coming up, we have more news on this breaking story coming out of Germany where a truck has plowed into a Christmas market. This attack killed at least nine people. Being investigated potentially as an act of terror. We'll have details ahead.
[17:42:00] KEILAR: We're following two breaking news stories this hour. At least nine people killed when a truck plowed into a Christmas market in Berlin that's being investigated as an act of terror.
Also, the assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey, gunned down in the Turkish capital by a police officer, a Turkish police officer, who shouted, "Do not forget Aleppo."
I want to bring in my panel now to discuss this. And Jim Acosta, you have covered Donald Trump for quite a long time...
ACOSTA: Long time.
KEILAR: ... at this point. Is this one of the first foreign policy tests for Donald Trump?
ACOSTA: I think so. Russia and ISIS are right there at the top. And, you know, just look at who we picked for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who won the friendship award from Vladimir Putin, and not Mitt Romney, who is a critic of Russia. It just goes to show you that he is going to pursue a friendlier path with Moscow.
The question becomes, though, with this attack in Berlin -- this apparent attack in Berlin, if it was carried out by ISIS, this is going to put the onus on Trump and his foreign policy team to come up with a very coherent policy quickly for how to deal with is.
Because he railed against this on the campaign trail, the attacks of France and so on, and laid them at the feet of President Obama. But once he takes the oath of office, all of that is his responsibility.
KEILAR: This is different, Evelyn. This is about to get very real for him.
FARKAS: Yes, yes, although I think -- look, we still have President Obama for more than 20 days. I think almost 30, still. So we should probably not put this on Donald Trump's plate yet, although he has had a way of getting himself involved, like when the Chinese took the drone. That's another challenge, challenge No. 3, where Donald Trump actually spoke out and said, "We don't want the drone back." And I'm referring to the drone...
KEILAR: Keep it, he said. FARKAS: ... off the -- I think it was in the South China Sea where we had some naval ship there nearby, and we were looking -- it was some kind of meteorological -- I can't even say it.
ACOSTA: Weather drone.
KEILAR: And the Chinese thought it was for surveillance.
KEILAR: But he weighed in on.
FARKAS: I don't know what they thought, but they took it in front of our naval officers. So you know, we, of course, immediately reacted with alarm and tried to get it back, which we asked for it back, and then when they didn't give it back right away in that intervening space...
KEILAR: He jumped in right away and he says, "Keep the drone."
KEILAR: But we're waiting to see how he weighs in on Syria.
FARKAS: Yes. So sorry.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What we haven't seen is the knee-jerk reaction we've seen of Donald Trump of old, immediately blaming the Obama administration and weak leadership. That's something he would have done during the campaign.
And he's actually tried to sort of, at least with President Obama himself, carve out -- and Mrs. Obama to some extent -- carve out a little bit of a ceasefire, for lack of a better word, with them and has tried to keep a cordial relationship since they all met at that transition meeting.
So we'll see if that -- I haven't looked at my Twitter account for at least 20 minutes. So he may have tweeted at this point. But at this point he is showing a little bit of restraint, perhaps, in seeing what actually happens.
[17:45:04] KEILAR: OK. And, Evelyn, the way he is dealing with Russia in another incident having to do with the Russian hacking of U.S. entities, he's still denying what appears to be what is the reality, that Russia was behind this. And you have Reince Priebus, his incoming Chief of Staff, who is saying, look, the FBI and the CIA need to be more public about this information, perhaps signaling that Donald Trump might be open to agreeing that, yes, this really did happen. Do the FBI and the CIA need to do that in this case?
FARKAS: They have already said that they agree, that they agree that the Russians hacked into the DNC and also into the campaign e-mails of Podesta --
KEILAR: So do you see this as some sort of cover for people around Donald Trump who may think, yes, he's obviously going to have to acknowledge this at some point?
FARKAS: Maybe they don't know. Maybe they're leaving some space because they don't know where he's going to end up. You know, we're all praying, I think, that at the end of the day, when the electors have finished their voting, that Donald Trump will go and turn the page, and he will say, we need to look at this --
KEILAR: They just finished moments ago as we found out.
FARKAS: OK. Good.
KEILAR: He's over the top now.
KUCINICH: Any minute now.
KEILAR: There you go.
KUCINICH: Any minute now.
KEILAR: He'll let --
ACOSTA: I think this is a key test for the Trump transition team, for President-elect Trump. I think the only thing worse than perpetuating fake news is denying real news.
FARKAS: Good one.
ACOSTA: And reality is, is that Russia was behind this. I mean, that is the assessment from our intelligence community. And if Donald Trump and his transition team can't acknowledge that, there's going to be a real problem, I think, in the intelligence community because they're going to be wondering, at some point, when we bring information to you, are you going to operate off of it?
KEILAR: Yes, what often happens is they find a voice. That is, if they don't feel they're being heard, then they find their voice outside.
ACOSTA: That's right.
KEILAR: And that can sometimes be through the media. All right. You guys stick around with me. We have much more to talk about. We'll be back in just a moment.
[17:51:04] KEILAR: And we just have a statement in right now from President-elect Donald Trump on the assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey. It reads, "Today, we offer our condolences to the family and loved ones of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov who was assassinated by a radical Islamic terrorist. The murder of an Ambassador is a violation of all rules of civilized order and must be universally condemned."
Let's discuss this, that he says it's a radical Islamic terrorist. What we know right now from Turkey itself is they're not going this far.
KEILAR: They're saying they're investigating it as an act of terror, but they're not going this far. What do we make of that?
FARKAS: Maybe Donald Trump knows something we don't know. Maybe he's been getting an intelligence briefing today.
KEILAR: Maybe he doesn't. Is that also --
FARKAS: Or maybe he doesn't. So this is the problem now. Now that we know that he's not taking intelligence briefings regularly and, of course, he's not yet in the White House, so we can also take his comments with a little bit of a grain of salt, but it does cause some question. When he gets into the White House, we can't have questions.
KEILAR: The idea that these questions are being created by this statement, that's something that must trouble Republicans as well as Democrats. There seems to be a lot of concern about this.
ACOSTA: Well, you can't have loose talk when it comes to this sort of thing. And being a candidate not on the campaign trail -- and I was out on the campaign trail with Donald Trump every day -- you know, this was one of his favorite lines of attack out on the campaign trail. He talked about radical Islamic terrorism. He said Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were incapable of using that term, and he milked that all the way to Election Day. He is injecting that term into this statement.
We should point out that we don't know all the facts yet. We don't know if he had been briefed and perhaps has been told that information. So that is quite possible. But it certainly seems, at this point, that he is laying down that marker that, in his mind, he believes that that's what occurred.
KEILAR: And just to be clear, I think he might be looking at the video where the assassin says, "God is the greatest."
KEILAR: And he says, "Don't forget Aleppo. Don't forget Syria." But we've had national security experts who have pointed out, this may not be someone in the way when you think of with ISIS, that they could be radicalized maybe not ideologically, perhaps disgruntled because of what they're seeing going on, but there is actually a distinction that's being made. The White House seems to have made it in their statement. They condemned this. Donald Trump did not, Jackie.
KUCINICH: He's made it very clear that he will not mince words, and that's what this statement indicates. But you're absolutely right, we don't know all the facts here. We don't know what facts Donald Trump knows or doesn't know. And because of how he campaigned and because of his, I guess, straight talk, question mark, I guess you would call it, until they kind of clarify what this means to them, we're going to have these questions. And to Jim's point, you really can't have that as the President of the United States.
KEILAR: It is very interesting to see that the White House of the President condemns it, doesn't go as far, but the President-elect condemns it and does go even further.
I want to take a turn now and talk about politics and certainly, as you have so many Democrats still looking back on this election result as we see today, the electors have put Donald Trump over that important threshold of 270 votes. President Obama talked about this, why did Hillary Clinton lose, and he blamed the campaign strategy on their loss. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You've got a situation where there are not only entire states but also big chunks of states where, if we're not showing up, if we're not in there making an argument, then we're going to lose and we can lose badly. And that's what happened in this election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:55:05] KEILAR: Very different than what we're hearing from those around Hillary Clinton.
KUCINICH: I think you have some Hillary Clinton staff that are going to hear that and say, oh, thanks, now you're saying this. Where were you, you know, months ago? You hear a lot of frustration that there's this arm chair quarterbacking going on, you know, but hindsight's 20/20 after the fact. That said, he's not wrong.
KEILAR: Well, and that's the point, Jim, is they're not taking responsibility.
KEILAR: Hillary Clinton hasn't taken personal responsibility today.
KEILAR: Bill Clinton didn't say any of this really.
ACOSTA: That's right. And I'll say it, time and again, if you go out to places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, you go to Trump rallies, you look at these crowds, you see a lot of people who sure look like Democrats. And that is, I think, the damning indictment of Hillary Clinton's campaign. They lost a key portion of the Obama coalition, the Democratic base. They yielded it to Donald Trump. I mean, you add the Russians, you add the FBI, sure, that was a factor.
KEILAR: But the message, yes. ACOSTA: But those voters did help.
KEILAR: The message wasn't reaching.
FARKAS: And on the Russian hack, it would help if they didn't actually try to point to that as being an additive, as something that contributed to her losing, because it's really a separate issue. The impact is a separate issue. They should be talking about it --
KEILAR: And very hard to quantity as well. Evelyn, Jim, Jackie, thank you so much to all of you.
Coming up, breaking news. At least nine people are killed as a truck plows through a Christmas market in Berlin. Dozens more are injured. Was this an act of terror?