Return to Transcripts main page
German Police May Not have Captured Driver of Truck that Attacked Christmas Market; Donald Trump Reacts to Violent Incidents in Germany and Turkey; Interview with State Department Spokesperson John Kirby; Interview with Congressman Chris Collins of New York. Aired 8- 8:30a ET
Aired December 20, 2016 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: -- in Europe and the Middle East. Berlin's police president now says they cannot confirm that the man they have in custody is the driver who plowed through the crowd at a holiday market.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Part of that is because he supposedly denying involvement. Another part they picked him up a mile and a half from the scene. So they are warning maybe there could be an armed gunman still on the loose.
We have complete coverage this morning starting with CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen live in Berlin. Fred?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris, and one of the reasons why the Berlin police is warning people around here to be careful is that they do believe that if someone is still out there, if indeed the person they have in custody is not the right person, is not the person who was driving that truck through this Christmas market, then that person could, indeed, be armed because, remember, when the truck came to a stop in the cab of the truck, on the passenger seat they found another person's body and that person had gunshot wounds.
But so far authorities have not been able to retrieve the weapon. That's why the Berlin police has tweeted out saying, look, the suspect we have in custody is denying all allegations so therefore everybody needs to be careful. If you see anything suspicious call the police. Don't try to do anything on your own because there is no doubt that the individual who plowed through this Christmas market with his truck certainly was very, very dangerous.
And just to recap all of this, of course, happened at 8:00 p.m. last night when as this Christmas market was really at the height of the hustle and bustle with many people here, the truck plowed through here going about 40 miles an hour, destroying, completely annihilating a lot of these stalls that were built here. Obviously also taking out a lot of people in its wake as it was plowing through.
The numbers, of course, are devastating. Some 12 people killed, around 50 people, some with some very serious injuries. And so, therefore, obviously Berlin and the German politicians are saying that this is definitely a terrorist attack that was plotted here. However at this point in time they are saying, look, we're still questioning the man we have in custody, but at this point in time he's denying all the allegations. They are obviously checking out whether he has any sort of alibis. But they are saying be on the lookout in case someone else is out there, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, Fred, thank you very much. Whenever you have more breaking news please bring it to us.
Meanwhile in Turkey police detaining seven people and questioning them after the chilling on camera assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey. Most of those in custody are members of the shooter's family we're told. CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson has more from Ankara. What have your learned, Nic?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It's quite normal here in Turkey for authorities to pick up members of the attacker's family. That is standard practice. It doesn't mean that they were necessarily connected.
We have had here the first elements of the joint Russian and Turkish investigation team. We saw the Russian forensic team go into the building behind me where the attack took place, where the Russian ambassador was gunned down. It was all caught on camera. The video you're about to see is very disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: Leaders of Turkey and Russia are calling it a provocative terrorist act, the assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey caught on video. Andrei Karlov shot multiple times in the back while giving a speech at an Ankara art exhibit on Monday night.
ROBERTSON: The gunman shouting defiantly "God is greatest," and "Do not forget Aleppo. Do not forget Syria." According to Turkey's interior minister the lone gunman is a 22-year-old police officer born in Turkey. His body taken from the scene after he was shot and killed by security forces shortly after the attack.
The brazen public assassination coming as many blame Russia for its part in supporting Syria's president in the civil war and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Aleppo. Turkey and Russia often at odds over the Syrian civil war trying to put aside their differences this year.
Russian President Vladimir Putin vowing the assassination won't damage relations, pledging to step up the fight against terror, and saying, quote, "criminals will feel the heat." The president of Turkey agreeing, calling the attack a provocation aimed at driving a wedge between two countries. The U.S. State Department condemning the attack.
JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: We stand ready to offer any assistance that may be required to Russia and Turkey as they investigate this despicable attack. ROBERTSON: Just hours later another frightening incident, this time
outside the United States embassy in the same neighborhood where the ambassador was assassinated. Turkish police arresting a man who fired into the air with a shotgun, yelling in Turkish "I swear to God don't play with us."
[08:05:09] ROBERTSON: Now the United States embassy is just a few hundred yards from here. That is closed today along with U.S. consulates across the country. Meanwhile in Moscow you have Russian, Turkish, and Iranian foreign ministers meeting to figure out a humanitarian disaster in Aleppo and at the same time look at the strained relations we now have increased again between Russia and Turkey. Chris?
CUOMO: Nic, thank you very much.
President-elect Donald Trump creating controversy with his rapid response to the attacks in Turkey and Berlin, labeling both Islamic terror while authorities in both situations seem unsure. CNN political reporter Sara Murray live in Palm Beach, Florida, where Trump is on vacation supposedly at Mar-a-Lago dealing with the transition. Sara?
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. From his vacation here he offered up a flurry of statements yesterday, offering his concerns but also condemnation for the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, but also for this attack on a Berlin Christmas market.
And as you pointed out, he wasted no time in tying both instances to radical Islamic terrorism even though investigations continue in those cases. He also vowed to come together with freedom loving partners in an effort to eradicate terrorism across the world. Now, in addition to putting out these statements he also took to Twitter to address not just the attack in Turkey as well as the one in Berlin but also an incident in Switzerland where a gunman opened fire in a mosque. On Twitter he said "Today there were terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland, and Germany and it's only getting worse. The civilized world must change its thinking."
So clearly not a lot of vacationing happening for Donald Trump here. In addition to transition meetings, we expect he will be getting updates on what is happening in Berlin and what is happening in Turkey although so far his advisers have not been able to tell us who is briefing the president-elect at this point. Back to you.
CAMEROTA: OK, Sara, thank you very much.
Joining us now to talk about the various attacks that we are seeing this morning U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby. John, it's hard to know where to start because there are so many gruesome things happening, but let's just talk about for a moment the Russian ambassador because your agency, the State Department, is obviously tasked with protecting U.S. ambassadors around the world. Is that job getting harder?
JOHN KIRBY, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: It's always a tough job. We take first protection of our ambassadors and our embassy personnel very, very seriously, and it varies from almost week to week depending where you're stationed around the world. So it's something we're constantly focused on, constantly evaluating, reassessing and changing our force protection posture as needed.
Now, obviously, as you just saw in Nic's report, we're very much on guard there in Turkey. He's right, our consulates and our embassy are closed today out of an abundance of caution because of the incident yesterday as well as the shooting outside our embassy last night in Ankara. So obviously we're taking this real seriously and we'll constantly evaluate now almost hour by hour.
CAMEROTA: John, let's talk about the situation that happened with this Russian ambassador Andrei Karlov. He was at an art show. It's hard to imagine a more innocuous setting, quite frankly. So this was a security lapse?
KIRBY: First of all I want to offer our thoughts and prayers to Ambassador Karlov's family and to the Russian people. It's absolutely despicable, reprehensible that here you have a diplomat that, as you noted, Alisyn, is doing what diplomats do. He went to an art gallery. He was participating in what we call public diplomacy events. All of that is what we're supposed to be doing in the world of diplomacy and certainly he had to reason to suspect this would be his last event, his last day.
Now, as for security lapse, I think all that is going to be investigated. And we don't want to get ahead of the Russians and Turks who are jointly investigating this. Obviously there was some security problem or this man wouldn't have been able to get in to do what did. Now, as I understand it, the information is preliminary, he's an off duty police officer and he may have used credentials to gain access to the venue. All of that will be and should be investigated, and I'm sure they will get to the bottom of this. We have offered our help as well. I'm not aware that they have agreed to take us up on that, but Secretary Kerry was very clear yesterday that if there's anything we can do to help in the investigation, we stand by.
CAMEROTA: Let's talk about what going on in Berlin, Germany, right now. You know there has been this terrible truck attack that mowed down people at a Christmas market. The State Department, your State Department issued a warning in November to U.S. citizens traveling to Europe during the holidays.
CAMEROTA: Are Americans not -- should Americans not feel safe going to Europe right now?
KIRBY: No, that wasn't the purpose of the alert. You're right, we issued that right before Thanksgiving and we made particular note to be vigilant around festivals and open public events such as Christmas markets. We want people to be vigilant, we want them to be self- aware, we want them to keep their head on a swivel as they are out and about.
I myself shopped at that exact Christmas market just a couple of weeks ago when we were in Berlin for an event with the German foreign ministry. So you want to be out and about and we don't want to discourage people from traveling to Europe or to elsewhere around the world, particularly around the holidays. It's just really a matter of being alert and cognizant of your surroundings and making sure that you're looking after those in your party as well. But certainly we don't want to discourage travel to Europe.
CAMEROTA: John, why did you go the length of issuing that warning. What information was it that prompted it?
KIRBY: There was no specific threat information that led to that alert, and I would remind you we issued a similar travel alert for Europe back in May in advance of the summer travel months. This is something we typically do, we normally do. So it wasn't any specific threat information that led to this one back in November, just a general sense that we got through our own inner agency processes that open events like this could be something that, you know, could come under some sort of attack by those who wish us ill, whether it's Islamic terrorists or others. So, I mean, this was just, again, an act of prudence, something that we always do and we'll continue to do going forward.
CAMEROTA: That's a little bit different than what earlier the year the U.S. director of national intelligence James Clapper said. He warned something a little bit more specific than what you're saying. He said terror cells are operating in Germany. He said quote "We continue to see evidence of plotting on the part of ISIS." So, you know, I hear what you're saying that people should always be aware of their surroundings, have their head on a swivel, but, really, if you're shopping how are you supposed to get out of the way of a semi- truck barreling towards you?
KIRBY: An attack like that is obviously very difficult to predict and certainly to prevent, also if you're an innocent bystander and a shopper to get out of the way. And we're not at all faulting anybody who fell victim to this terrible attack at all.
All we're saying is that there's enough information out there, nothing specific and credible to a particular market or a particular street, but there's enough information and concern out there that we want people to just be aware and be vigilant when they're out and about in an open air setting like that. That was the purpose for the alert. And we're obviously going to continue to assess and analyze information as it comes in, and if we need to update that or be more specific going forward, we'll certainly do it.
CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the attacks in the past 48 years we've seen globally. These are only the ones, the big ones we know of at the moment, but let's break just it down. In Zurich, Switzerland, there was an attack on a mosque. In Berlin, of course, the truck attack we've been talking about. In Ankara of course what we've been talking about, the Russian ambassador who was assassinated. In Yemen there was a suicide bomber who killed 50 people. John, do you see a connection here or are we trying to find a pattern that doesn't exist?
KIRBY: I think it's somewhere in the middle, Alisyn. Don't forget there was also an attack in Jordan that now we're hearing Daesh is claiming responsibility for. Obviously terrorist networks, and, again, I don't want to make a leap here on the attack in Berlin or the attack in Turkey yesterday. Those are under investigation.
But, you know, even in Berlin they are saying, they are presuming it to be a terrorist attack. But let's put that aside for a second. We are obviously seeing terrorist networks who are under pressure and under threat, particularly Daesh, look for low cost, low resource, high impact events to try to continue to attract people to their narrative, to their pernicious ideology. So we're seeing this all around the world, and it is something we all need to stay focused on.
Counterterrorism is something that threatens everybody. And that's why in the United States we don't try to fine cooperative ways to work with allies, partners, other nations around the world, to share information, to analyze that information, and to be able to use to it try to get ahead of these sorts of attacks.
But it's a difficult thing to do. Remember, they only have to be right once. We have to be right 365 days, 24 hours of each and every one of those days, and that's a very difficult thing to do. We know we have stopped attacks here in the United States. We know that our partners in European have also likewise prevented and stopped attacks from happening, but it's going to be very difficult to do that when one person has it in their mind that they want to kill innocent people and they will do it in a low cost way.
CAMEROTA: John Kirby we know how busy it is at the State Department today. Thank you for taking time for NEW DAY.
KIRBY: My pleasure, thank you.
CUOMO: We are following breaking news from the Czech Republic. Two- time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova says an armed robber broke into Kvitova's apartment and she was injured defending herself. She suffered damage to tendons and fingers on her left hand, which is her playing hand. The injury is severe and she is fortunate to be alive. The robber is still on the run.
CAMEROTA: Well, teams searching for MS370 say it's likely they've been looking in the wrong place.
[08:15:03] A new report out recommends that they shift to a new search area, the northeast of the current location in the Indian Ocean. The search is slated to end in early 2017. That Malaysia Airlines flight you'll remember, of course, vanished on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing back in 2014. Two hundred and thirty-nine people were on board. CUOMO: President-elect Donald Trump will soon be responsible for America's reaction to these types of terror attacks that we're seeing. So, what do we expect based on what he is doing now? We're going to ask a top member of the transition team and also the president-elect was just tweeting about something that's almost completely off topic. Why?
CUOMO: Donald Trump is officially the president-elect. The Electoral College voted for Trump yesterday. There was none of the drama that was expected. In fact, if anybody lost some support, it was Hillary Clinton.
This morning, the president-elect back on Twitter.
Joining us now is Republican congressman from New York, Chris Collins. He was the first house member to endorse Donald Trump and is the Trump transition team's congressional liaison.
Good to see you. Best to the family for Christmas in case I don't get to see you between now and then.
REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: Same to you, Chris.
[08:20:02] CUOMO: All right. So, let's talk about why the president- elect stays so focused on the legitimacy of his win. This morning, he's tweeting, "@BillClinton. Clinton stated I called him after the election. Wrong, he called me with a very nice congratulations. He doesn't know much especially how to get people with an unlimited budget out to vote in vital swing states and more. They focused on wrong states."
He won the election. Why this insecurity about the legitimacy of the win?
COLLINS: Well, I don't think it's insecurity, Chris. Just yesterday, Bill Clinton as he was casting his Electoral College vote for his wife, went out again and said, let's remember Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.
So, Bill Clinton continues to be one of those people who just doesn't want to let go, wants to refer to Donald Trump as the Electoral College president. So, you know, I thought that was totally inappropriate by former President Clinton to again kind of gin up the Democrats who want to claim that Donald Trump is not the legitimate president-elect of the United States.
That was just yesterday. I don't blame Donald Trump at all. That was totally inappropriate by former president Clinton to make the comments he did. It's time for the country to come together, unite behind President Trump, and Bill Clinton didn't do any of those.
COLLINS: Just playing into that narrative just yesterday. CUOMO: But by focusing on that personal political dynamic and who
wronged him, and it winds up bleeding into other things. For example, the refusal to acknowledge whatnot only people where you are but those in the intel community see as consensus, the Russians, specifically Putin, the Kremlin, were behind the hacks that happened. The president-elect won't go near that conclusion and it seems to be his motivations are political.
Why do I say that? Listen to what he said in 2014.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I've been talking about China for a long time. They put on the front like we're your friend and everything and in the meantime, the cash comes out of your back pocket. It's disgraceful what's going on. I think he's 100 percent right. It's a big problem. And we have that problem also with Russia. You saw that over the weekend. Russia is doing the same thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Russia is doing the same thing. 2014, Donald Trump acknowledging what everybody knows in the intelligence communities which is that Russia motivates a lot of these hacks like they did during the election. But now, the President-elect Donald Trump won't say what he said in 2014. It seems to be because, again, he's defensive about the legitimacy of the election.
COLLINS: Well, I think it comes back, Chris, cyber hacking by China, by Russia, by North Korea, it's an ongoing problem, it has been for years and years and it's going to continue to be. And certainly Mr. Trump was referring to that back in '14.
I think the basic problem is liberal media keeps wanting to insinuate the hacks influenced the election and just the other night, your own on CNN, Jake Tapper was saying there's certainly no proof WikiLeaks influenced this election. So, those people who are continuing that narrative and I believe that's what you got Donald Trump responding to, the suggestion, even by Bill Clinton yesterday, that somehow he's not the legitimate president of the United States.
CUOMO: Congressman, Bill Clinton lost. OK? That's sour grapes. That's what people say.
The intel agencies are the ones forwarding the theory on the implications. You just named Jake Tapper and you staring at the unfortunate face of Chris Cuomo, neither of whom have brought up a connection between the hacking and the outcome of the election. The question from both of that is the same. Why is the president-elect ignoring what the intelligence community has consensus about?
On the one hand, you want to blame certain people for political motivations, but you're not saying the same type of scrutinizing statements about the president-elect when his motivations seem entirely political. COLLINS: Well, again, it's 95 percent certain that Russia did the
hacking. I'm certainly willing to stipulate that. The president is entitled or president-elect is entitled to his own opinion. I've heard different reports on whether he is, you know, not 100 percent so at 95 percent. All I can say is he certainly is entitled to his opinion. I would stipulate Russia was behind the hacking, release those to WikiLeaks and also would say it's doubtful that changed the outcome of the election.
CUOMO: All right. Last question for you this morning, the president- elect quickly gets out and says what happened in Turkey, what happened in Berlin, Islamic terror, we have to rid those people from the face of the earth.
Do you see the problem with that rush to judgment when in Germany, they don't even know exactly who did it yet. They have questions. And in Turkey, you're dealing with somebody who seems Muslim, did say "God is great" in Arabic, but was talking about Aleppo which many secular Syrians and sectarian concerns of Sunnis are upset about with Russia, so that it's not exactly just Islamic terror. And we don't know what it is in Germany, and yet the president goes out early and condemns both as if he knows what happened.
[08:25:03] COLLINS: Well, you know, President-elect Trump promised throughout the election he's going to take the fight to ISIS or Daesh gentleman before referred. But in either case, that is the threat to our civilization, the terror threat that ISIS brings. So, I think it's appropriate.
Certainly, I think Germany clearly would appear considering the fact that ISIS has training videos up on the Internet that talk about exactly --
CUOMO: Why not wait until you know before you give a conclusion about what happened on foreign soil? You don't see any problem with that?
COLLINS: Well, what I would say this president is going to take the attack to ISIS unlike President Obama and he's not going to hesitate. So, in calling them out, putting them on notice that we're going to take it to them, the fight, by some chance the actions in Turkey were not ISIS, that doesn't -- isn't going to dissuade this president, President Trump, from going after ISIS at every turn and not backing off even for a second.
And I think America appreciates that he's going to take the fight, not just sit back and wait for the next attack.
CUOMO: All right. Congressman Collins, thank you very much for your perspective on this. Appreciate it.
COLLINS: OK. Yes.
CAMEROTA: Chris, as you've been talking about, President-elect Trump back on Twitter this morning, going after former President Clinton. Why? We'll tell you in the bottom line.