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New Details in Berlin Truck Attack; Political Ramifications of Berlin Truck Attack; Turkey, Russia React to Assassination of Russian Ambassador. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired December 20, 2016 - 02:00   ET



[02:00:22] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

In Turkey and Germany right now, a search for answers after shocking and brazen and deadly attacks.

In Berlin, police say they now assume a truck that plowed through a packed Christmas market steered deliberately into the crowd. They say it's presumed to have been a terrorist attack.

Some of the images you're about to see are disturbing.

This is cell phone video recorded moments after the crash. 12 people were killed, 48 others hurt. And in custody right now, one man, while another, a Polish citizen, was found dead inside the truck cab.

Also on Monday, Russia's ambassador was shot dead in cold blood in Turkey's capital. His assassin, a police officer, who screamed, "Do not forget Aleppo."

The attacks in Turkey and Germany follow an ISIS suicide bombing in Yemen that killed dozens of people. There was also a shooting in a mosque in Zurich, Switzerland.

For more on the deadly truck crash and the latest on the investigation we are joined by Max Foster.

Max, it seems the German authorities are now inching closer to calling this a terrorist attack.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They have been very cautious on this. They obviously wanted to be sure before they raise it to the level because it causes so much concern. And there will be political concern, which I will explain in a moment. But just confirming we have had from the police that the lorry was steered deliberately, or at least they're basing their assumptions on that, it was deliberately into the crowd and it is a presumed terrorist attack. So, they're investigating on that level.

But there are also security sources speaking to the local media with a wider concern. This is what the DPA News Agency is hearing, is that the detained man, who they presume is the driver, likely came to Germany in February, and was either from Afghanistan or Pakistan, which is political, considering Angela Merkel has been under pressure for her policy allowing refugees into the country from war zones, including those two countries, as well. This will cause political concerns this morning -- John?

VAUSE: Max, thank you. Max Foster in London with the latest.

Joining me is in Los Angeles, security expert, Aaron Cohen, former member of Israel's Counterterror Special Operations Unit; and Julia Ebner, a policy analyst with Quilliam, a London-based think tank focused on terrorism.

Aaron, let's pick up on what we heard from Max about the suspect detained, possibly a refugee from Pakistan or Afghanistan. A lot of red flags must be raised simply by the origin of the suspect.

AARON COHEN, SECURITY EXPERT & FORMER MEMBER, ISRAELI COUNTERTERROR SPECIAL OPERATIONS UNIT: Yeah. There is obviously no doubt that the origin of the suspect, based on the natural prints of terrorism, these are countries that have a high rate of terror. That has to be looked at. It is not politically correct to say it, but it is the way you have to investigate terrorism.

The other thing is looking at print of the fact that a specific truck by a person, drove in to a crowd of people at a specific area for a specific time of the year. A lot of red flags there. So, the conflict with Chancellor Merkel is that by being too careful and by not framing this as terror immediately, you slow down the possibility of being able to prevent further attacks. That political correctness has a lot of pressure that's on her. At the end of the day, it is about reducing risk to the German people. That's where I come out, what are we doing to prevent the next attack?

VAUSE: Julia, with that in mind, do you see a problem here with the slow pace of the details coming from the German authorities, a reluctance to call it a terror attack, and now we have word the suspect maybe from Pakistan or Afghanistan?



VAUSE: I think we are having a problem with your audio. We will leave it there and try to fix that.

We'll continue our discussion with Aaron and get back to Julia in a moment.

We have a situation with the German intelligence, that they have a number of these terrorist plots over the last 12 months. They have had some success, but there was specific information, they say, that the Christmas markets were in fact a target. So, given that, was this a big failure of intelligence.

[02:05:00] COHEN: I think the intelligence was working. I think the network is out there. The Germans have a good counterterror capability. One of this best GSG-9 unit. They're incredible with response. The failure, in my opinion, is looking at the macro picture. If you know it's a problem, the markets are a problem, what measures have you taken to protect -- you can't protect every pipeline, every event, but you can put enough layers between your citizens and a potential attacker so it would take a multi-failure event in order for the attacker to reach your citizens, which means every ring would have to fail. If the intel was good, which sounds like they were on to it, what security measures were in place, whether they are undercover security personnel, armed, private security mixed with local police? Germany has a police presence. They have been in an alert state for quite some time. I'm curious to know what measures were in place and what are in place on a macro picture in the city of Berlin and other cities in Germany to prevent the attacker, the gunman from firing in to the crowd and prevent it from happening. That's where the biggest layer seems to be missing throughout Europe. We can't protect every piece of property. We can't protect everybody but there's a great deal of resources that get spent to make sure we reduce risk. My question is what is being done? Are we not getting it done because of the political correctness?

VAUSE: I want to bring Julia in on that.

Aaron was saying the intelligence here worked because there were warnings the Christmas markets could be hit, it was the follow-up, and maybe there's a problem in Germany trying to secure these places from a physical point of view, from a law enforcement issue.

EBNER: I mean there was ---


EBNER: I think what we need to do --


VAUSE: OK, I'm sorry, Julia, we still have problems.

So, we might leave it there with Julia.

Two tries and we will try to get back to you maybe later on.

Obviously, Aaron, we have word now from the owner of the truck company that this may have been hijacked. This is what the owner told Polish television


UNIDENTIFIED TRUCK OWNER (through translation) (voice-over): The person driving and jumped out of the truck was not my driver. I can vouch for my driver. I can see they did something to him and hijacked his truck when he was practically in Berlin center. It was a good truck so they could have done what they did. It was not my driver. They simply did something to him. God forbid, that's how it looks.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: In Nice, they just went out and hired a truck, the attacker in France back in July. Why go to this extra trouble of essentially stealing a truck?

COHEN: Because then you can put distance between the attacker and any known information on the attacker and the actual attack. It's the same way our spy agencies or our operatives will use covers. They will rent things with false identification. If there are operations, you don't want to be involved in or any way to connect it back to the actual source.

Bob Baer brought up a good point, your CNN analyst. There are blogs that are secretive that the German government has a hard time penetrating. And these chatrooms are hard to breach. They are very secure. Getting intelligence prior to these attacks is really difficult.

By renting the vehicle, you create layers in between the actual attacker, his proper identity, so that it can allow those terror groups to carry out more attacks. It shortens the tentacles.

VAUSE: Quickly, by creating those layers, all the planning that went into this, does it suggest it is more than one guy?

COHEN: It suggests it could be more than one guy, John. But I think there's a play book that is on the Internet somewhere that these guys are able to tap in to use, to be able to protect themselves. I think that what could be going on here.

Also listening just to the way the owner of the truck company was speaking -- I'm not trying to sound like an expert in the behave of his voice, but it sounds like a certainty when he's speaking and keeps repeating he wasn't his employee, repeating he wasn't his employee. I'm leaning to almost believing him based on how it sounded. So, it doesn't sound like he is trying to cover anything. So, that's two red flags. Again, with the distance with the rental, the algorithm of the truck stopping and starting. Too many red flags here. I would be looking at it as terror. If it is not fine. We will

figure that out in a couple of days, but at least lean toward it so you can prevent any attacks that might be brewing around the holidays. It's a dangerous time right now.

[02:10:07] VAUSE: OK. Aaron, thanks so much.

And our apologies to Julia that couldn't get the connection working. But we appreciate Julia being with us as well.

Thanks, Aaron.

COHEN: Thanks for having me.

VAUSE: Joining me now from Berlin, Dominic Thomas. He chairs the Department of French and Francophone Studies at UCLA.

Dominic, if this is linked to a jihadi group -- that's not official yet -- but that if that is the case, there will be political ramifications for Germany, as well as Angela Merkel.


DOMINIC THOMAS, CHAIR, DEPARTMENT FRENCH & FRANCOPHONE STUDIES, UCLA: As you can hear, the implications are enormous. A lot of activity in the area right now. Police arriving. It is 8:00 in the morning here. The truck is about to be towed from the facility.

In terms of the implications, whether this is an organized terror attack, a lone person acting, or an accident, the fact, nevertheless, remains this raises once again the whole discussion around security in Germany, whether it is security around the question of national identity, protecting Germans from refugees, asylum seekers or terror organizations. And for Chancellor Merkel this is a nightmare leading in to the 2017 elections. It's blends completely into the discourse of the Alternative for Germany far-right party and other populist parties in Europe that are trying to shape the conversation around these kinds of questions.

VAUSE: What about beyond Germany? This feeds into politics in other countries in Europe right now, France.

THOMAS: Yes. Certainly, you know, this happens on the heels of the attacks in France on July 14th. Basically, a state of emergency has been in place. The response in France has been dramatic. There's much of a presence here around these Christmas markets, even though we have known for several months they were potential sites for attacks and so on. Clearly, we have already seen and heard responses from far-right parties in France and elsewhere in Europe. And President- elect Trump has also weighed in on this in a rather unmeasured way, which is completely at odds with what the interior minister has been trying to do here, which is let's find out more about this, let's be measured and try not to feed in to precisely what a potential terrorist attacker is trying to do, which is further divide the population over these kinds of questions.

VAUSE: You mentioned the interior minister for Berlin State, urging everyone to go on with their lives and not change their behavior. This is what he said.


THOMAS DE MAIZIERE, INTERIOR MINISTER, BERLIN STATE (through translation): Our free society needs us to be open and celebrate Christmas as a festival of the family, of happiness. This has been destroyed here today. But I caution everyone not to jump to conclusions or change our way of life.


VAUSE: But realistically, how will this impact Germans? After all, the country hasn't seen the kinds of attacks like they had in Paris or Brussels until now.

THOMAS: I think there's been a reluctance on the part of the German government to respond with a real kind of security-based reaction, like we've seen in other parts of Europe. German society is certainly divided over these issues, but there's a general tendency for people to want to live and move about, not feeling like they are being -- living in a kind of police state. I think that a heightened police presence goes precisely in the direction of exacerbating the fears and tensions around these sorts of questions. As we are seeing now, the balance is precarious. Does one set off the kind of protectionist apparatus that has everybody on standby and fearful, or allow people to go about their daily lives? Certainly, the German government has erred on the side of caution when it comes to that question.

[02:14:08] VAUSE: Dominic, thank you so much. Dominic Thomas from UCLA, live in Berlin. We appreciate it. Thank you.

It is now 14 past 11:00 here in Los Angeles. We'll take a short break. When we come back, more on the other breaking news of the day, the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey and how both countries are now reacting.





RECEP TAYYIP ERODOGAN, TURKISH PRESIDENT (through translation): On behalf of my nation and my country, I repeat my condolences to Mr. Putin and to all of the people of Russia.


VAUSE: Turkey and Russia are vowing to stand together after the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey. A police officer shot Ambassador Andrei Karlov at an art exhibition in Ankara.

It was all caught on video. We're about to play it now.

A warning, the images are graphic.






VAUSE: The 22-year-old shouted, "Do not forget Aleppo" and "Allah Akbar," or "God is greatest."

For more on this now, CNN's Nic Robertson is in Ankara and Matthew Chance is in Moscow.

And, Nic, we will start with you.

It seems the Turkish and Russian presidents, there is little delight between their positions when it comes to this assassination. But for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, what is at stake for him right now?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: There's a lot at stake. It's been rekindled and he's rebuilding his relationship with Russia. It is clear Russia is a dominant force inside of Syria. Erdogan wants to do have a role in the --- in Syria, post war, and the only route is with Russia. He worked with Russia over Aleppo to help people get out of Aleppo. Those evacuations were stalled, started and stalled. He was involved in that. Of course, we look back a year when Turkey downed a Russian aircraft flying close to the Syrian/Turkish border. The Syrians (sic) said it had flown over the border. So, he was just beginning to rebuild that relationship with Russia.

What they are both saying, both presidents are saying, this is an effort to drive a blow between the two countries as they were normalizing relations here. But it goes beyond that. For Erdogan, there is a lot at stake, if you will. The reaction was to cut off trade ties or stop importing Turkish goods. The Turkish economy is suffering since the coup last summer.

So, politically, diplomatically, economically, a lot at stake that this relationship, continues to improve, and this, although, essentially, if you will, singing from the same hymn sheet at the moment, there's a lot of rebuilding in that relationship to be done -- John?

[02:20:47] VAUSE: Matthew, to you in Moscow.

We have heard the official statements from Putin. And as Nic said, they are all singing from the same hymn book, if you like, but unofficially, there's been a different reaction, especially for many politicians in Russia, a lot of conspiracy theories about what took place and why.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I mean what exactly took place and the circumstances behind it are going to be the subject of a joint investigation between the Russians and the Turks. Putin said in his address last night on national television that they need to find out who was behind the hand of the killer. And they sent a team of experts, including investigators, of course, to work with the Turkish authorities to try to get to the bottom of it.

Look, this had happened a year ago, after Turkey shot down a Russian plane. There was that massive fallout in the relationship between Putin and Erdogan, between the two countries. This could have had potentially cataclysmic consequences for the relationship. But it's not a year ago. It's now. And they've rebuilt their friendship. And both leaders are saying this is not going to derail that process of normalizing their relationship. I think we can take it at face value. Neither country wants to go in to that situation, the shoot-down of the Russian plane. Remember, it wasn't a state-sanctioned assassination of the Russian ambassador. It is an individual, may have been affiliated with a rebel group. So, in that sense, you know, there's no reason for diplomatic relations between Russia and Turkey to suffer as a result of this.

Now, the assassination shows there was an element in Turkish society -- I don't know the extent of that element -- that is very much opposed to what Russia is doing in Syria. Obviously, the fact he was voicing support for the people of Aleppo indicates that. Also, protests outside of the Russian embassy and Russian facilities across Turkey, in fact. So, there is a sense in which many people in Turkey are extremely angry with what Russia has been doing, and that may have an impact on tourism in to the country.

VAUSE: Nic, to Matthew's point there, how much of a difficult position is the Turkish president is in now? He is in lock-step with the Russians but there is, as Matthew pointed out, a large section of the Turkish population that are growing increasingly angry at the Russian military offensive in Syria.

ROBERTSON: The shooting raises many questions, many, many questions, one of them, people will be looking at here and seeing. The government here doesn't allow demonstrations on the streets without their permission, without their say so. It just doesn't happen. The opposition doesn't get to protest here. So, the fact we have seen large gatherings outside the Russian consulate in Istanbul a week ago, a lot of people would look at that and say it must have happened with an understanding and approval, if you will, and a nod and wink from the government, from President Erdogan. It couldn't have happened otherwise.

President Erdogan and President Putin are on opposite sides of the conflict in Syria. Erdogan has been supporting rebels inside of Syria. He was, if you will, not so much on the rebels' side but trying to get support to get rebels and their families out of Aleppo as tensions were building around the country in Turkey. A lot of people will look and say, look, in an environment like that, where it may have been permissive for people to come out and protest against Russia, where there is a known increased security threat against potentially Russian officials, they would know this, too. ISIS has made it clear their feelings about what Russia is doing inside of Syria.

That an ambassador could go in to a building, like the one behind me here in a high-class neighborhood, one with a lot of embassies and up- market hotels around here, and this kind of threat environment, and a man would be in a room with a weapon in a position to shoot at him raises a huge number of security questions. If you are President Putin, you are going to want to get to the bottom of those.

We know they will work together on a joint investigation. The Russians said they would do what they did in Egypt when the aircraft was downed carrying so many Russian holidaymakers a year or so ago in Europe. Undoubtedly, the Russians will look at this through their own prism and get very much to the bottom of it on their own understanding, as well, as much as they are working with Erdogan on this, because so many questions have been raised on the context of what took place and how it could take place -- John?

[02:25:48] VAUSE: Quickly, Matthew in Moscow, how crucial will that investigation be, how far will it determine the relationship, especially if it is found there was big security failings by the Turks?

CHANCE: If that is what the investigation turns up, and obviously, we have a dead ambassador from Russia as evidence of that, that's going to add tension to this very fragile relationship. I wasn't trying to suggest that Russia and Turkey are going to be the best of friends. They are, as Nic points out, quite rightly, on opposite sides of the conflict in Syria, and that conflict continues. It has in the past. It will continue in the future. It seems, to throw up tensions between these two countries.

Yes, it's certainly true that the outcome of the joint investigation and the outcome of Russia's own investigations -- and, of course, they will conduct their own intelligence operations inside of Turkey and they have done it repeatedly the last several months -- will determine, I think, you know how that relationship is going to move forward in the future. At the same time, the Turkish foreign minister is already in Moscow now. That is a pre-planned meeting. A meeting underway in Moscow, later on today, getting underway wean the Russians, the Turks and the Iranians about how to proceed in the Syria peace process, as they call it. These various sides are talking to each other about Syria and that's a good sign.

VAUSE: Matthew Chance in Moscow, Nic Robertson in Ankara, thank you to you both.

It's 11:27 here. Time for a break. When we come back, the search for answers to the deadly Berlin Christmas market attack. We will have more in a just a moment.



[02:30:49] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. 11:30 here in Los Angeles.

Police in Berlin are treating the deadly truck crash at a Christmas market as a terror attack. The tractor-trailer barreled in to a crowd of shoppers on Monday night. At least 12 people were killed, another 48 wounded.

Some of the images you are about to see are graphic and disturbing.

This is cell phone video, recorded moments after the attack. Police arrested one man not far from the crash site. A dead passenger found dead inside of the truck was a Polish citizen.

From Berlin, here's Fred Pleitgen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, police are confirming they have forensic units on the scene. Obviously, investigating right now. They are probably going to continue to do that throughout the entire night.

They also say they have one man in custody but, at this point in time, they are not sure, first of all, what the nationality of that man is, and also whether they can be 100 percent certain this is the same person who was sitting at the wheel of the tractor-trailer as it plowed through the very crowded Christmas market here on Monday night.

Now, they did confirm there was a second man in the vehicle on the passenger's seat, found there dead, and that man is a Polish citizen. That's significant because the truck also has Polish license plates. It belongs to a trucking company from northeastern Poland. The trucking company has come forward and said it lost contact with its driver and had already feared that something horrible may have happened to him. And now, of course, the big fear is potentially the truck got hijacked and was used to run into this Christmas market here. It was also loaded with metal rods, apparently 25 tons, which not only made the vehicle very fast as it rolled in to the Christmas market, but heavy, as well, as it hit a lot of stalls and, of course, plowed through people, as well.

We have some harrowing accounts from folks on hand here as all of this happened, saying it happened very quickly, that the truck was doing about 40 miles an hour as it moved in. Obviously, made absolutely no effort to hit the brakes, and then just rolled right thru the Christmas markets for several yards before finally coming to a stop. Obviously, at least 12 people killed in this incident. More than 40 people were injured in the incident.

Again, the police saying that it is on hand. It has several units from various different agencies here, all investigating this case. But of course, all of that will take some time as the police does its forensics work and then moves forward with this investigation -- John?


VAUSE: Bob Baer is with us, CNN intelligence and security analyst, former CIA operative.

Bob, it seems authorities have been worried for months about attacks on these Christmas markets in Germany -- they could be a target. Some cities increased security but this one in Berlin had not.

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE & SECURITY ANALYST: Well, John, the Germans don't have a really good grip on the jihadist presence in their own country. German police have been on full alert for attacks for the last couple of months. They were expecting this. This doesn't come as a surprise, but so many of these people in Europe, the jihadists have simply gone off the air. If they are talking at all, it's in chat rooms that the Germans don't get in to. There's a new -- new apps they can talk on that Germans can't get in to. These people are evolving very quickly. So, the fact the Germans missed this I don't think came as a surprise to the Germans. I think what's particularly tragic about this is Germany is not involved in the wars in the middle east in any degree and yet these people are looking at Germany as the enemy. I'd also like to say that you look at Aleppo and the more the war in Syria continues the more likely there will be more attacks like this.

VAUSE: If Germany is not directly involved in what is happening in Syria and Iraq, why are they being targeted if we are sharing this is a jihadi operation, and it certainly looks like it?

[02:35:00] BAER: It is a war against the West. Islam is a clash of civilizations. They look at the Germans as being aligned with the United States, being aligned with Germany. Never mind that Merkel, the chancellor letting refugees in remained neutral for the rest of it but in jihadist terms, it's apocalyptic struggle, Islam against the West. So many of these people, you know, thrive off conspiracies and thrive off of the fact the West intends to, you know, crush Islam, in their view, and they hit back at anywhere they can. What it comes down to is, as I have said other and over again, as long as the violence continues in the middle east, the more likely it is to migrate up in to Europe. And these people -- jihadists will be hitting the Europeans for no other reason than they can't get to Moscow or Washington.

VAUSE: Ok, Bob, thank you for being with us. As always, your insight is very much appreciated.

BAER: Thank you.

VAUSE: Russia investigators will be in Ankara after the assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey. A police officer in Turkey shot Andrei Karlov while the ambassador was speaking at an art gallery. Russia says the attack was a clear provocation against strengthening relationships with Turkey, and meant to destabilize the peace process in Syria.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): The committed crime is obviously a provocation designed to spoil normalization of Russia/Turkey relations and derailing the peace process in Syria, which is actively promoted between Iran, Turkey and other countries interested in reconcilement of inter-Syria conflict.


VAUSE: Joining me from Istanbul is Mustafa Akyol, a columnist from the "Al-Monitor," a news site.

Mustafa, thank you for being with us.

Are you buying this message coming from the Russian president and the Turkish president that this was all an attempt to destabilize relations between Russia and Turkey?

MUSTAFA AKYOL, COLUMNIST, AL-MONITOR: Well, let me first offer my condolences for the innocent victims in Germany. And I'm appalled to see crimes committed by the fanatics who supposedly act in the name of my religion. I should first say that.

To come back to your question, the killing of the Russian ambassador is now perceived, as we receive the first messages, as a sabotage on the relationship between the two nations. So therefore, if this perception goes on, this terrorist attack, this assassination of the ambassador can act not as a, you know, as a leverage for two countries going against each other but maybe even, you know, could make them continue their relationship they have and the dialogue they have over Syria.

VAUSE: One of the problems, though, especially for the Turkey president is while he tries to restore ties with Russia, many within his own country are not on board with that. How much of a problem moving forward is that for President Erdogan?

AKYOL: That is true. There is anger in Turkey against Russia, especially around the people who fear Syria and that includes -- they were non-violent protests. So, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's own base includes people who are angry at Russia for the killings of Aleppo and the Russian policy of supporting the Assad regime. Last night's attacker seemed to reflect that and he shouted slogans for Aleppo, saying, "Don't forget Aleppo, don't forget Syria," and said, "You are not safe," speaking to the Russians. So, in that sense, it's difficult.

But President Erdogan seem to interpret it as a false interpretation but somebody who poses like that in order to harm the Turkish relation relationship. If that argument is accepted by the Russians, which seemed to be the case from the first messages, Russian and Turkey can manage to move along. Turkey has been supporting the opposition, Russia is a supporter of the Assad regime. Although the two countries have been speaking to find a solution, the creation, for example, of the civilians in Aleppo, was made possible thanks to the Turkish- Russian dialogue. I think both capitals want to preserve that.

VAUSE: Very quickly, how does this impact Erdogan's personal standing with Vladimir Putin?

AKYOL: We will see. But again, the first signals from last night and this morning is it won't be bad. Erdogan called Putin directly, something he didn't do until last year. And this time, he called Putin and said, obviously, we had nothing to do with this, we are sorry, it's a provocation, and Putin seems to agree. I don't expect to see this as a reason for fallout between Russia and Turkey.

[02:40:19] VAUSE: Mustafa, thank you for being with us. Appreciate it.

We're following a separate incident in Ankara. Hours after the assassination, Turkish police arrested a man who fired multiple shots outside of the U.S. embassy. He was heard shouting, "I swear to God" and "Don't play with us," in Turkish. Officers led him away. This happened the same day where the Russian ambassador was killed. The U.S. closed its embassy and consulates in Turkey on Tuesday.

China returned to U.S. underwater drone days after it seized the device in the South China Sea. The Chinese officials say the transfer was completed with friendly consultations. The U.S. said it is still investigating.

A short break. When we come back, Donald Trump is condemning the latest string of attacks in Europe, saying the violence is only getting worse. We will have more from the U.S. president-elect after the break.


VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. 11:44 here in Los Angeles.

Police are investigating an attack on a Christmas market in Berlin as an act of terrorism. A truck plowed in to a crowd on Monday, killing at least 12 people, 48 others were wounded.

U.S. President-elect Trump offered condolences to the victims and vowed to eradicate terrorists and their networks.


CNN senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein.

Ron, good to have you with us.


VAUSE: Trump issued this statement after the Berlin attack, "Innocent civilians were murdered in the streets as they prepared to celebrate the Christmas holiday. ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship has part of their global jihad."

Ron, I want to pick up on the statement Donald Trump. He said, "Innocent civilians were murdered in the street as the prepared to celebrate the Christmas holiday. ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad."

He's already blaming Islamic terrorism. German authorities haven't gone that far. It seems it did this in the campaign. Again, moving ahead, he's jumping the gun.

[02:45:11] BROWNSTEIN: Right. It has the hallmarks of what we have seen before, but it is jumping the gun. It's one thing to do it as a candidate and another as a president. Every time you read one of these tweets, for example, over the weekend about China, with "unprecedented" spelled incorrectly, you have to wonder what is the process by which the president elect and soon-to-be-president of the United States, is it him reacting instantly? Is Michael Flynn reading it? Is Rex Tillerson reading it? Is General Mattis reading it? Or is it him reacting instantly. I think that will be different as president than as candidate.

VAUSE: Everything that has happened in the last 24 hours, from Turkey to Germany, it presents the picture of a very complicated, complex world. It would be a challenge for any incoming president. It seems one that doesn't have a lot of experience and one who is pretty much at odds with his own intelligence community, it seems to be trouble ahead.

BROWNSTEIN: A degree of conflict we have not seen. Some of the leaks that have come out are a reminder of how much discomfort the intelligence community can cause for a president if they are seen to be at war.

Not only that, not only everything you described, secretary of state nominee with no real diplomatic experience, although certainly deal making experience around the world, a national security adviser at odds with most of the intelligence community. Only the defense secretary is situated with broad respect across the national security community. It is an unpredictable position, especially because Donald Trump has questioned so much of the post-World War II U.S. role as a lynch pin of global stability moving much towards, what's in it for us.

VAUSE: Let's move to the Electoral College. It became official on Monday; Donald Trump is the president elect. This uncertainty, the last-ditch insurgency failed. The "New York Times" said Trump's Electoral College is putting his popular vote 47 of the last 49 elections. What are the implications of the numbers?

BROWNSTEIN: Only two presidents ever lost the popular vote percentage-wise by more than he did. He lost it more than anybody, three million votes, and Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than Jimmy Carter, and nearly as much as George W. Bush. Donald Trump is coming in with a more divided country than any incoming in the history of polling. I think he will almost have the lowest approval rating of any newly inaugurated president in Gallup polling going back to Eisenhower in 1953. It will not mean much right away because the Republicans are unified and in control and will drive forward the built-up agenda over the last several years. But starting on an island. He doesn't have that big honeymoon. And I think you will see a lot of pressure on Democrats as a result to be in a position of resistance from the beginning.

VAUSE: We are also seeing his poll numbers, which aren't great, 50 percent. Barack Obama, and at similar point, was 70 percent. This is a guy who loved his polls. And it's almost political capital for a president and he is not doing well.

BROWNSTEIN: No. Like I said, he will come in with the lowest opinion poll of any president. I'm not sure how much this is going to shape the choices they make in Congress with one big exception, how far do they go toward rolling back some of the entitlement programs for the elderly that Paul Ryan and House Republicans have wanted to for years. Donald Trump promised not to. His HHS secretary said he is part of that camp that wants to cut them. Is Donald Trump go for it? That is a big question.

VAUSE: Something to watch.

Ron, good to have you with us. BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

[02:59:01] VAUSE: The happy scene at a Christmas market turns in to chaos and horror. Ahead, an eyewitness account of the Berlin attack.

You are watching CNN, live around the world.


VAUSE: Investigators believe the person who drove a tractor-trailer into a Christmas market in Berlin did so deliberately, killing 12 people, injuring 48. The truck had Polish plates, and a passenger found dead inside was a Polish citizen. Police arrested a man not far from the crash site.

Many ran for cover when the truck barreled into the crowded market and did not slow down.

Shandana Duranni (ph) was there when it happened. I spoke to her a short time ago.


SHANDANA DURANNI (ph), WITNESS: I haven't had much sleep. Every time I try to sleep tonight it has just been thoughts about what I saw and thinking about all the people who died.

VAUSE: When you --


DURRANI (ph): It's pretty rough.

VAUSE: I can imagine it must have been horrific to be there. When you saw the truck hitting the marketplace do you remember if it appeared that the driver was deliberately trying to run people down?

DURRANI (ph): No, it looked like he jumped the curb and was going out of control and lost control of the truck and swerved into the crowded market. It came -- it went so fast and it sort of jumped the curb and went sideways from where I was at and people started running and dropping their -- which is the Christmas tradition here at the markets. Started screaming, running and yelling things in German. I am an American and only lived here three months, so I don't know much German, but I knew enough to run. So, I ran in the other direction. There is no cover in the markets. There is no place to run. You have to hide behind the stall or just keep running. I heard popping and heard maybe there is a guy with a gun. And we hear about it in America with people going on a rampage with guns. So, I tried to duck and cover and hid behind a stall with a bunch of other people until we thought it was safe to come out.

[02:55:00] VAUSE: Do you remember seeing much security at the market before the truck went into the crowd?

DURRANI (ph): There's always security around these markets and around Berlin. They're not as obvious as what you see in the U.S. They are kind of a little hidden and not so obvious and they are always there and always looking around. But this is a very, very free society and open society. It's not like it's in your face so people can come and go as they please, which they like to

VAUSE: Do you remember how long all this lasted before the truck actually stopped?

DURRANI (ph): It felt like -- it felt like 10 hours but it was probably 10 seconds. I was texting on my phone and stopped to respond to a text. If I hadn't responded I might have been hit because it was only 20 feet away at that time. I looked up and people just started running and scurrying and screaming and I saw this big, you know, looked like a gigantic UPS truck coming towards us and I just ran. It probably didn't last very long, but it felt like I was in slow motion, trying to get away from it. Very surreal.


VAUSE: Shandana Durrani (ph) speaking to me a short time ago.

You have been watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

The news continues with Max Foster in London after this short break.