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Manhunt for a Tunisian Man; North Carolina's House Bill 2; Trump: Berlin Attack is "Attack on Humanity"; ISIS's Attack on Christians; World in Turmoil. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired December 21, 2016 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Urgent manhunt in Germany and across Europe for a suspect wanted in connection with the terror attack in Berlin that killed 12 people.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
German authorities searching for 24-year-old Native of Tunisia said to be armed and dangerous with links to ISIS. His identity papers found inside the truck that mowed down innocent people at the Christmas market.
President-elect Donald Trump saying this about the Berlin rampage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's an attack on humanity, that's what it is. It's an attack on humanity and it's got to be stopped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And at the peak of the holiday season, how are law enforcement officials protecting Americans? I'm going to ask the New York City Police Department's deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism in just a moment.
But I want to -- we're going to get to that manhunt in just a moment. But I want to begin with the breaking news, it's out of North Carolina right now. The state legislature during a special session failing tonight to repeal that controversial 'bathroom' bill.
I want to get to CNN's Nick Valencia. He joins us now by phone from Raleigh. Nick, good evening to you. Tell us what happened.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot happened, at the same time, not very much. There was a political antics in both sides of the aisle, democrats and republicans. Ultimately it was a core group of House republicans that were unwilling to change their support for HB2, unwilling to vote no or unwilling to repeal the House bill, the controversial House bill known as the bathroom bill. Earlier this morning, there was no shortage of drama, Don. It started
this morning with Jeff Collins, a Representative and the Republican Party saying that today's special session was unconstitutional, saying there was no extraordinary reason for the special session because -- to be called, so, therefore, everything should be null and void.
By the mid-afternoon, there was a Senate bill that was proposed, but it was not a full repeal of House Bill 2. Earlier this week, there was a deal brokered between republicans and democrats in the State of North Carolina, if they took care of a non-discrimination ordinance in Charlotte, voted to rescind that, then the pathway would presumably be cleared for House Bill 2. That didn't happen today.
LEMON: And Nick, you know, this House Bill 2, that this bill has already cost the state a lot of money. The NBA, the NCAA pulled out of their championship games from the state.
A whole host of companies said they could no longer do business in North Carolina. And Bruce Springsteen and many other artists canceled performances. Will there be even more fallout? Nick, can you hear me?
VALENCIA: I can hear you now, Don. There you go.
LEMON: Yes. I talked about the artists and the amount of money the state has lost, and I'm wondering if there is going to be more fallout from artists pulling out, and the, and sports organizations pulling out from doing business there.
VALENCIA: Well, that's the concern. There's been an estimated $650 million lost as a result of House Bill 2. If you talk to democrats, they say that the House Bill 2 has just been incredibly detrimental to the economy here in North Carolina.
As it stands right now, House Bill 2 is still a law. They adjourned earlier tonight without coming to a conclusion on whether or not to repeal House Bill 2. So, as it stands today, it is still law in North Carolina.
Transgender people still need to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate, not how they identify. That is unacceptable to state democrats, especially when you consider this deal that was brokered earlier this week, reportedly between House leadership and Senate leadership.
That didn't happen today, and it was an incredibly embarrassing moment. You could just tell the energy started with incredible optimism and hope for state democrats.
I interviewed one of the Representative Chris (Inaudible), one of the openly gay representatives here in the State of North Carolina, and his feeling was this morning that he was very hopeful that there would be a repeal and a vote to happen by midday.
By about 2 o'clock, 3 p.m. Eastern, it was very clear that that vote was not going to happen. That's when the Senate came back with their bill. But all that bill did, Don, was it proposed a moratorium, a six-month
moratorium on any nondiscrimination ordinances proposed in municipality. There was not a full repeal which evidently was the deal between these two parties.
So, that's how they did took a forum with that, they adjourned without coming to a clear resolution and conclusion on what to do with the so- called 'bathroom' bill.
LEMON: And of course, what happens next? We'll continue to follow Nick Valencia reporting from North Carolina. Nick, thank you very much for that. I appreciate it.
Lots going on tonight. I want to get to the other breaking news. A manhunt for the terror suspect in Germany.
CNN's Erin McLaughlin is in Berlin tonight. Erin?
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, we now know that the 24- year-old Tunisian national had at least with run-ins with German authorities. In August, he had been arrested for illegally trying to cross into Italy on forged documents. The judge in that case, though, for some reason simply let him go.
[22:05:00] We also know that in June, authorities had tried to deport him but failed to do so after being unable to establish his true identity. At the same time, we're hearing that he was known to German intelligence officials, having raised alarm when he tried to get a gun.
They also have linked him to a pro-ISIS recruitment network here in Germany. Key figures from that recruitment network having been arrested in Germany in November.
His father, also speaking out in an interview to a Tunisian radio network, basically saying that his son left Italy as a teenager. While in Italy, he was convicted of armed robbery, sent to prison for four years.
When he was released, that's when he made his way to Cologne, Germany, and that's where he fell into contact with these Islamists, the pro- ISIS recruitment network. Now on the loose with a 100,000 euro bounty on his head, authorities warning that he could be armed and dangerous. Don?
LEMON: Erin McLaughlin, thank you for that. I want to bring in now John Miller, the New York Police Department deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism.
I'm so happy that you could be here tonight. Thank you very much, and we always appreciate your expertise. I want -- I want to find out what you think about this army, the suspect in this truck attack. We're learning now, CNN is that he has connections to an ISIS, ISIS- recruiting network. Does that change things?
JOHN MILLER, NYPD DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF INTELLIGENCE & COUNTERTERRORISM: Well, one of the gaps here was, in the first day ISIS didn't claim responsibility and nobody claimed responsibility on their behalf. Then we saw them yesterday claim responsibility, using the very tightly controlled language that they use when they think someone answered their call but they're not sure.
This certainly adds an element of credibility to what the drivers were here in terms of the group.
LEMON: Take us behind the scenes, if you will, John. What are German police doing and how is the U.S. helping in this investigation?
MILLER: Well, within, let's start with the German police. They're in the throes of a massive manhunt and a dragnet for a suspect who is not only extraordinarily dangerous because he's out there and he could do this or something else again.
But is also extraordinarily valuable to get, to get alive and to learn information about what network, if there is one, is behind this. Was it propaganda? Was it someone who talked him into it? So, it would be, it would be good for a number of reasons to have him in custody.
LEMON: And the U.S.?
MILLER: And the U.S. has its cooperation with German law enforcement through the FBI and other intelligence agencies who are stationed in Germany at the U.S. embassy working with the ambassador and the FBI's joint terrorism task force to exchange information. And that is a very well-honed relationship.
LEMON: Yes. It's interesting because it appears well thought out, but Amri left his identification in the cab of the truck. Was does this say to you about is he an amateur? Was this on purpose?
MILLER: Well, in these cases the actors are all expendable. If you look at the ISIS magazine, Rumiyah, that came out the week before our Thanksgiving Day parade where they suggested using large trucks to attack mass gatherings as the ultimate weapon that you could get without drawing a lot of suspicion.
And you break down this attack component by component as measured against that article, you'll see that Amri, the alleged suspect, followed you know, four out of the seven protocols in order as listed by ISIL. The two he didn't follow were to claim credit for ISIL during the attack, either by throwing leaflets or by calling it out.
And the last one, of course, which was to end the attack by killing whoever was left with a secondary weapon and becoming a martyr on the scene. After he crashed the truck, he fled.
LEMON: Now that his picture has been plastered all over the place, it's running on just every news organization around the world, just about, does it make it more at least likely to hide out or to strike again?
MILLER: It puts a lot more eyes on the case. When you have police looking for someone, they have to really use the information, they have to go to a certain place or a certain person that they think might have a connection.
When you have the whole city, the whole country, in some cases all of Europe looking for someone, it's going to be very hard to hide for long.
LEMON: If this had happened in the U.S. or other European countries, there would be closed-circuit video all over the place. Because Germany has a history and sensitivity to government surveillance. They don't have it. How much is this going to affect the case?
[22:09:55] MILLER: Look, Don, you cannot understate the value of that video. And I think -- I think we do ourselves a disservice when we talk about closed-circuit video being the equivalent of government surveillance.
You know, if you look at that Chelsea bombing case, we have 10,000 cameras connected direct to the Police Department in New York, but the cameras that gave us the key evidence in that case were the cameras that are owned by stores and bars and apartment buildings and hotels along the way that we were able to string his movements back together and identify him.
You look at the same in the Boston marathon bombing. That wasn't a government camera, that was a camera at Lord & Taylor's.
LEMON: Right. Let me tell you a little bit about his past of what we do know. German authorities said that they, he had applied for asylum and he had been rejected. He's been under surveillance and arrested. His father now says that he spent time in jail in Italy as a teen for armed robbery.
Police wanted to deport him but somehow he was released. Should this be considered an intelligence failure?
MILLER: I don't think it's an intelligence failure. Apparently they had plenty of intelligence on him. And I'm always very careful to cast those stones across the fence because, Don, if you look at the Boston marathon bombers, subject of an FBI JTTF investigation, but they hadn't broken the law, there was nothing to arrest them, nor could you have surveillance on them forever.
If you look at the Orlando nightclub shooter, subject of an investigation, denied the allegations, hadn't broken the law, they couldn't follow him forever, and you know, you see in one case a year and a half, and another case months later.
If you look at the Chelsea Manhattan bomber, here is a guys who was questioned by the FBI, he was questioned by the NYPD, was questioned by customs at the border, was looked into based on certain allegations but hadn't broken the law and couldn't be followed forever.
I think the Germans, the Europeans, the Americans we're in the same boat, which is we are a nation of laws and rules, and we don't have what some countries have, and probably shouldn't, where we can detain people on suspicion.
LEMON: Because of civil rights, right? Because of their civil rights.
MILLER: It's a balance, and it's not one that's made up by the police or the prosecutor. The balance is struck by the people and their Congress.
LEMON: Yes. These terrorists are now using cars and trucks as weapons, and we have seen that recently in Nice and then we saw this. So, it feels like the ramp-up time is shorter.
Oftentimes, you know, by explosives there are clues, you know, that when you just go to rent a truck or something, this ramp-up time is shorter. How do you prevent this? Is it planning? Is it readiness? Is it part luck?
MILLER: There is always luck and luck is great, but you can't count on it. So, it's about the layers. In our case here in New York City under the Nexus program, under Chief Tom Goladi, chief of intelligence, he has the incident prevention unit.
Their sole job is to find ways to prevent these things. They have visited 181 truck rental places giving them key clues on what constitutes suspicious behavior, giving some of the tips and queuing what we're like to get a call on, given them direct contact information. We did that after Nice, we did it before Thanksgiving. We're doing it again now.
LEMON: Americans are rightly worried and rightly so. How vulnerable is the U.S., John?
MILLER: Well, we are as vulnerable as any other free society but less so in that we spent a long time preparing. You know, people often say, what worries you most? And I have become accustomed to say, we don't devote a whole lot of time to worry. What we spend most of our time doing is planning.
MILLER: Because if you spend a good deal of time planning against the right things, you don't have to worry.
LEMON: We have millions here visiting for the holidays, we have New Years Eve where you're going to have, what, a million people or more if not more in Times Square just gathered in one spot. What's the NYPD doing, I know you don't have all evening, but I know you guys do a lot to protect the people not only in Times Square but all over the city.
MILLER: You know, in Times Square is something we have a lot of experience at. You know, I've done the last three. The NYPD has been doing it for years and years. Every year we add another layer to the counterterrorism overlay.
This year we've added a couple of more layers. It gets more complex, it gets more layered. But it is something we are very used to protecting.
Now that said, when you have a million people in one place, there's no such thing as total security, but I think that Times Square on New Year's Eve is probably the safest place in New York given the number of rings, the number of cops, the amount of protection, the number of eyes on the prize there.
LEMON: And if you see something.
MILLER: Say something.
LEMON: Say something. Thank you, John, It's always a pressure, and I know that you're very busy.
MILLER: Thanks, Don. Thanks for having me.
LEMON: Thank you so much.
Just ahead, more on the Berlin suspect and how he slipped off the radar of German investigators.
Also tonight, the final election results are in. Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by a wide margin in the popular vote, but Trump tweets that Clinton made a big mistake in the election.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: We're back. An urgent manhunt underway in Germany and across Europe for a suspect wanted in connection with a deadly truck attack in Berlin.
Let's discuss now with CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem, the author of "Security Mom," contributor Michael Weiss, the co-author of "ISIS Inside the Army of Terror," and Chris Swecker, a former assistant director of the FBI.
Good to have all of you, experts on. Thank you so much. Let's start with Chris. Chris, you led the FBI team that helped capture the 1996 Olympic Park bomber. I want you to walk us through what investigators are doing to get this guy and prevent more attacks.
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Well, first and foremost, they're going to dissect his social network and see if he's got some local contacts. I call it the malignant social network.
Of course, there were forensics in that truck, there are a lot of electronics in a commercial truck like that. There is a lot of information to be gleaned from that. Hopefully his cell phone was pinging into that GPS.
There is just a whole lot going on. Family members, friends. Remember, they did -- the Germans did a sweep about three weeks ago and hit about 200 places across Germany, and three of those individuals that they rousted back then and arrested are tied in to the suspect. So I think they have a lot more information than they're putting out right now.
LEMON: What's interesting to me, and I'm sure to a lot of people, is that he left his documentation behind in the truck, Chris. Was is that intentional or is that sloppy?
SWECKER: Yes. Well, we've seen this before. In the first World Trade Center bombing, they went back to get their rental deposit.
(CROSSTALK) LEMON: Deposit, yes.
SWECKER: So, I mean, we've seen this before, and I think -- I think the people that are susceptible to falling under the spell of ISIS or whatever organization, I mean, these aren't all professionals.
[22:20:01] And these are not people who are necessarily capable and well-trained. They've just fallen under the spell. They've taken -- either taken matters into their own hands and answered that call, or they are -- have a minimal amount of training.
So, what I'm saying is these are lone actors or small cells that we give them maybe too much credit for their capabilities.
LEMON: Michael, do you think that maybe he wanted people to know who he was or just to take credit for the thing for the fame of it?
MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: If he did, then it was because this was meant to be a martyrdom operation where he's supposed to commit suicide and he chickened out.
WEISS: You know, if he was trying to get always and conduct a knock on attack, no, he doesn't want people to know who he is, because that just makes the news, you know, tightened around his neck, right?
LEMON: I read some of the details to John Miller about what we're learning about the suspect, that he had watched that he was arrested. He was linked with a pro-ISIS recruiting network, Juliette, also arrested back in August and then let go.
How does someone like this, I guess we can consider this slipping through the cracks. John Miller said, well, they had a lot of intelligence on him, but it didn't prevent this.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. That's exactly right. When you say something like slipping through the cracks, it's as if you know that that's the person you have to catch and they got away.
I mean, the problem is just the magnitude of information that's coming through because you have thousands of people who are getting pings all the time in terms of their affiliations, who they've met with, whether they're part of groups, maybe they're close to some people, maybe they used to be roommates with other people.
There's a quantity of information now about these allegiances with ISIS is so great that no western European country can handle every single one of them. So looking back now, what German has to learn. So first of all, how
did he -- what was it in the judge's determination to let him go? Because at one stage, he, you know, he shouldn't have been roaming the streets essentially.
And so, one is going to be just sort of what was -- what was that case about him and why did the judge decide that? But I have to be honest with you while this is a horrible case and they will probably find him relatively soon.
I think the long-term consequences of this case are going to be felt much more politically than they might be about terrorism.
LEMON: Because of Angela Merkel?
KAYYEM: Yes, and the refugee issue even though he's not a Syrian refugee.
LEMON: Yes. Is it fair to say why wasn't he watched more closely because could even watch more closely?
WEISS: He was. He was watched. Because he was watched because they suspended him of trying to commit armed robbery in order to make money to conduct a terrorist attack or to buy guns.
His recruiter is a guy called Abu Wala, 32-year-old Iraqi sheik or cleric. You can go to his Facebook page. I just did it today. He's got 25,000 followers. He sends sermons. He looks like the character on that movie "Assassin's Creed" wearing a cloak and a hood. You don't see his face.
He was presbyterizing, sermonizing for three years and was under German surveillance. People within his own network had been sent to Syria.
In fact, he was identified by a guy who went so Syria, joined ISIS, then denounced ISIS and repudiated the organization and came back and said this is the number one ISIS recruiter in all of Germany.
He was arrested as part of a five-man ring in November. So, it was a very near thing that they didn't catch this particular guy. And in fact, there were two people who were part of Abu Wala's network that were responsible for recruiting the Berlin attacker.
One of them was a German Serb called Boban Es (Ph) who ran out of his own apartment a kind of de facto Islamic center that was indoctrinating people into the tenets of Salafist Jihadism and offering to send people to Syria to join ISIS.
This guy apparently gave the attacker a choice. Either you can make Hijrah, immigration to Syria and join ISIS, or you can conduct a terror operation on German soil. And Abu Wala, the chief German recruiter for ISIS, personally signed off on that choice.
LEMON: Can we -- would you think that, Chris -- can we say that if you, the one like this that you don't catch that there are many more that they do catch and they do stop? Is that --is that so?
SWECKER: Well, I'm not so sure if that's true in eastern, or in Europe in general. I think it's true here in the United States. I think we've done a pretty good job of being proactive, although there have been, you know, there some -- there have been some incidents here.
But, I mean, if you can't detain somebody for having six aliases, trying to smuggle himself into the country with a forged document. You call his country and they say, we don't know this guy, he's not a Tunisian citizen. If you can't hold him under those circumstances with a fairly serious criminal background, I'm not sure when you could detain somebody.
What I'm saying is that they're just not proactive enough in Europe even today.
LEMON: Yes. And Juliette, I have to run, but the lack of security video closed circuit.
LEMON: That's going to be an issue because Germany is concerned about privacy.
KAYYEM: Right. And they are already -- well, it used to be Eastern Europe, right. It was the surveillance state bill, they're already going to change the laws.
But, yes. It's just each country is going to have its different level of comfort with surveillance. Germany has always been pro-privacy. That will probably, as it was -- has this morning probably begin to change.
[22:25:01] We're used to it here. Public spaces are used to being videotaped. That will probably happen more in Europe.
LEMON: Juliette, Michael, and Chris, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Coming up, Donald Trump doesn't -- well, Donald Trump now called the Berlin rampage on the attack -- and the attack on humanity. We're going to talk about that.
LEMON: President-elect Donald Trump has been avoiding the news media. And I want to talk about this with Michael Wolff, a columnist for the Hollywood Reporter, CNN political commentator, Peter Beinart, and Kayleigh McEnany, and political -- and Phillip Bump, political reporter for the Washington Post.
Hello. And we're all here together. Here we are all together. Peter, you first. It's been 147 days since the president-elect held a press conference, but he did answer some brief questions twice today. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your comments about the truck attack in Berlin being against Christians, do you think that this might...
TRUMP: Say that again, what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The attack in Berlin being an attack against Christians?
TRUMP: Who said that? When did -- when was that said?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think -- I believe you said it in a press release.
TRUMP: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, I'm wondering how this might affect relations with Germany.
TRUMP: It's an attack on humanity. That's what it is. It's an attack on humanity and it's got to be stopped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: It did seem awkward because he did say it in his statement.
PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. I actually think what he said there was much better. But it's kind of remarkable to have somebody who doesn't -- who is a president-elect who doesn't know what was put out under his name.
And what was put out under his name was strikingly different than the White House statement because it never mentioned the people killed as Germans, he specifically referred to them as Christians, people celebrating Christmas and linked them to other Christians killed around the world.
[22:30:06] It was a very clash of civilizations statement. I thought Trump's statement here was much better. But really striking that he wasn't even aware of what was put out under his name, evidently.
LEMO: Well, here's what he said, just so we're clear about it what he actually said.
He said "Innocent civilians were murdered in the street as they 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. These terrorists and their regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated from the face of the earth, a mission we will carry out with all freedom-loving parties."
Does it seem, Kayleigh, that he's backing away from his original statement?
MCENANY: No, I don't think so. I think he was making clear that ISIS attacks more than just Christians they attack moderate Muslims, for instance. But this attacks, and I think that statement administration put out is entirely accurate.
This was an attack on people at a Christmas festival. There was a genocide against Christians specifically happening in Syria which has been ignored, entirely ignored. I think it will be a story much reported on a decade from now and it's been ignored.
There is a genocide of Christians. That statement is accurate also what President Trump said was accurate, President-elect Trump. I think it's important to acknowledge, though, that others were attacked, moderate Muslims, namely, and I think he's acknowledge that.
LEMON: Do you think he's backing away?
PHILIP BUMP, WASHINGTON POST POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, it seems pretty clear that he wasn't exactly sure as Peter said what had been in the statement, and I mean, he himself seemed to say, yes, this is all about humanity.
I mean, I think -- I think the important issue here is the words that are being used. These are the words that are coming out from the president-elect of the United States. We've already seen how things that he's tweeted, for example, have moved the stock markets.
These are important. It's important. It's important to get this right and to say what you mean. The suggestion here based on his response to that shout it out question is that he wasn't exactly having ownership over the words that are being put on that press release.
MICHAEL WOLFF, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER COLUMNIST: I'm kind of missing the whole point here. I mean, this is pretty much what Donald Trump has been saying for the entirety of his campaign. There is nothing new here. I hope you're not running a breaking news chyron on this.
This is not new. This is what he says. This is his position. This is the position that in part got him elected.
LEMON: You don't see a difference in what he said in that on-camera interview and the statement?
WOLFF: I do not.
WOLFF: Do you?
BEINART: No. I mean, you're right. It's not a big difference in what he's been saying during the campaign, but what he's been saying during the campaign has been consistently, from my point of view, horrifying. You know, it's been a consistent attack on Muslims, their right, their dignity. And so, when he continuously...
WOLFF: Yes. We know -- we know that's what democrats feel, and we know...
BEINART: Not only democrats, actually a lot -- a lot of other people feel it as well.
WOLFF: Well, not enough not to deprive him of -- to have deprived him of election.
WOLFF: So, the American people feel, the most of the American people feel, or at least vis-a-vis the Electoral College, most feel that this is a legitimate way of looking at these issues.
BEINART: Yes. But we're allowed to talk about...
BUMP: Are you sure that's the argument.
BEINART: We're allowed to talk about what's right and wrong, not just what a majority of people feel, right?
LEMON: Yes. Hang on. He did say "who said that" as if he didn't know who said it. Now maybe -- maybe his messaging has been similar all along when he said, who said that.
WOLFF: Well, also, Don...
LEMON: And the reporter said, you said it. So, the reporter said, you said it.
BUMP: Everything he does you mean it's not OK because he got elected? That doesn't make any sense.
WOLFF: Well, no. It does make a great deal of difference that he was elected and that this is the position that he ran on, and he's not....
BUMP: But the question...
WOLFF: ... no, no. He's not deviating from that position. So, we are not advancing the argument here. What is the argument, that he's wrong?
BEINART: Wait a second. Michael, Michael -- Michael, what you're saying makes no sense. He said again that he supports, that he didn't walk back the Muslim ban, which is still on his web site. That was horrifying before, it's horrifying now. The fact that he still holds the same position doesn't make it less important.
WOLFF: It's just that you've been saying this through the whole campaign.
BEINART: And I'll keep saying it.
WOLFF: And you turned out to have been on a side that lost.
BEINART: I'm proud to be on the side that lost. It's a question of right and wrong.
WOLFF: Nevertheless, at some point because this is a democracy, we have to say, OK, what's the -- what's the issue here? I mean...
WOLFF: ... how does this...
MCENANY: I mean, that's exactly right.
BEINART: I'll answer that.
WOLFF: ... how does this change, what has been argued in the campaign? How does this reflect what the American people want it to reflect? Where do we go from here?
LEMON: We're going to move on and talk about that, but in this one question where he was asked by a reporter and he seemed not to know what the initial response was, that was the crux of the question. Did he seem to know? And you moved on and did it and said, what does it matter if he knows?
WOLFF: Once again -- once again, that response, the response that was put out by the campaign has been very similar to what he has been saying throughout by the camp -- I'm still calling it the campaign.
LEMON: Right. I did that last night by doing the same.
WOLFF: By the, I guess, transition team.
LEMON: And it's an administration now. You can say that, right?
[22:34:58] WOLFF: Is very close to what he has been saying for a very long time now.
WOLFF: So, no issue there. Then he said something, called out in the crowd, hey, hey, hey. And he said something else, and now we're debating whether he's reversing himself on that?
BEINART: No. No.
MCENANY: He brought into his message by saying humanity. And look, there was a slight miscommunication there with a reporter. It might have been he has a dozen meetings a day and he was trying to get clarity on what exactly was said. It might, hopefully it's not the fact that he wasn't aware of the press release that went out, but there was a slight miscommunication there.
LEMON: Which is the point of asking this question.
BUMP: That's exactly right.
LEMON: Yes, that's why I ask.
BUMP: The reporter asked the question because she's like, this is an interesting thing for the president-elect to say to single out the fact that these are Christians being attacked, as Kayleigh points out. It was primarily Muslims who are being targeted by the Islamic state and these radical terrorists because this is where they live.
But this is why the question was being asked because this is an unusual thing for the president-elect to say. Yes, he won the election. That doesn't mean he can say whatever the heck he wants from the -- in the next four years.
WOLFF: I'm just pointing out that he has said this...
MCENANY: Because the accuracy in the statement that...
WOLFF: ... he has said this continuously, and you seem shocked.
BUMP: No, I'm shocked by your response. I'm not shocked by what he did at all.
WOLFF: Which is, the media position. Nevertheless, shocked, shocked. That is you. Shocked.
BEINART: No. It's because we shouldn't know -- it's because we shouldn't normalize things which are horrible no matter how many times they are said.
LEMON: It's the media position, it's the media's job to ask questions. If you think they're silly, if you think they're wrong, that's our job is to ask questions.
BEINART: And not to believe in a way by saying he won...
LEMON: Especially if it seem as if there... (CROSSTALK)
BEINART: It's astonished. That kind of words of a power.
WOLFF: I'd argue...
LEMON: I got to take a break. I'll give you the first -- I'll give you the first -- well, you didn't give us a chance because you said, well, the question, why are you asking that question, and I hope you're not putting this up.
We could have advanced the story but now we're arguing about whether every response to what Donald Trump says, whether he -- whether he has reversed himself or not, is well, I won. That seems to be what you're saying. Well, he won. So, he can say whatever he wants to. That is not a valid argument, actually, Michael.
WOLFF: Well, it is partly a valid argument, of course, it is.
WOLFF: He won.
LEMON: OK. I'm going to punch Michael in the face, but it doesn't matter because I won. That's what you're saying.
BUMP: It's a worship of power, is what you're saying.
WOLFF: It's a worship of democracy. This is -- I don't...
LEMON: And part of a democracy is for the press to be able to ask questions regardless of what you think of them or not.
WOLFF: You said he could punch me in the nose.
LEMON: No. But that's what -- that's what you're saying. You're saying it does not matter. What everyone here is -- what everyone here hears from you, and I think many people at home, yes, you're right, it's part of the media's job to move the conversation forward.
But what you're saying is if you ask a question, if the president- elect or the president says something that you don't deem or he thinks that, you know, you're ganging up on him that it's -- you know, that it's just that he can say it because he won.
WOLFF: No, that is not what I'm saying. I am saying this has gone...
LEMON: He's never wrong because he won.
WOLFF: No. But he has said this throughout the campaign, we know that it's his position.
LEMON: That wasn't a question. I've got to take a break.
WOLFF: Tell me what you think the question is.
BUMP: I give five minutes...
LEMON: We will after the break. We'll be right back.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: And we're back now with a very dull discussion that we were having just before the break. But Michael, you and me, I promised to give you the first word out of the break. You were making a point that what?
WOLFF: I'm just curious about the implications of this. This is now not an neither/or situation. This is Trump's position, this is Hillary Clinton's position, and we're arguing about the two.
This is now the position of the president of the United States and of the -- and of the administration that he is now assembling. So what are the implications of that, I think, is the better question to ask than what I heard before, which is, did he say that? Could he have said that? Shock, shock.
MCENANY: Well, I mean, more than just him saying it, I was just reading that Secretary Kerry actually recognized the genocide against Christians. This is a real thing. You're absolutely correct to acknowledge it.
There is a genocide against Christians. And what President-elect Trump did today was he brought it out saying this was an attack against humanity, recognizing the fact that people of other faiths are killed as well. But it doesn't delegitimize the point that there is a genocide against Christians being conducted or rage by ISIS.
LEMON: Should have been that said in the original statement and then there would be no need to have this conversation?
BUMP: Well, I mean, that's the point that Michael was just making. Yes, I mean, yes. Obviously there are all sorts of ways to approach an issue in which terrorists kill Muslim people. It's a horrible tragedy. It's a tragedy to humanity regardless of who those people are, regardless of the faith that they -- that they participate in.
The fact that he is the president-elect of the United States is what makes this a more important topic to tackle. What his stance is in terms of how he responds to terror attacks. That is an important issue, particularly because it's no longer an either/or, because he is president-elect of the United States. I think that's what we're getting at and I think that's why it's a worthwhile. BEINART: And the larger context here is that we have a president and
a lot of this advisers, people like Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, and others in the administration who are in a really significant divergence from both the Obama and Bush administrations depict the war on terror as a clash of civilizations.
I mean, there are statements after statements after statements from these guys basically talking about this is a civilization of fight sometimes...
MCENANY: Well, it is.
BEINART: Sometimes -- actually, no.
MCENANY: It is the west being attacked. It is modernity being attacked. It is certainly that.
BEINART: Well, I'm not entirely sure what you mean by the west, I'm not entirely sure what you mean by modernity, right? Especially because more Muslims are being killed by ISIS than have people in the west, right?
The ones who argue is Bush said this is actually struggle about freedom, right. To calling the west, the west has got -- has got very particular racial and religious connotations to it, right? That's where the term west comes from.
And people line Bannon and Flynn are not -- are not subtle about that, right, about talking about this is a war of Christendom essentially against Islam. So, in that context the statement is significant. This is a significant shift in the way we frame this struggle.
MCENANY: I don't think that's correct. Look, the west is being attacked, Christianity is being attacked, and moderate Muslims are, in fact, being attacked. But there is a war on western society.
It started by a guy named Sayyid Quitb who came to the United States and it was discussed with modernity and what he saw in his college campus. And he wrote the seminal document that founded Al Qaeda than then transpired into ISIS.
So, it is a war against the civilization. Other people have been killed certainly and I recognize that but this attack...
[22:44:57] BEINART: There are deep problems with that construct. First of all, to suggest that this civilization, the west, is at war with Islam puts the Muslims in the west in the position of being essentially enemies within, right.
There's -- you can talk about this as a construct of states versus a stateless actor or of principals. But when you talk about a religious civilization against another one you are causing...
(CROSSTALK) MCENANY: We are not at war with Islam. We are being attacked by
LEMON: Let Michael get in. Go ahead.
WOLFF: Let me advance the discussion. What are the implications of this? What happens now? How does this become policy? What does --what does this statement portend in terms of actions?
MCENANY: When you have a president who calls terrorism workplace violence, isolated extremism, a lone gunman. He just use all those three terms.
WOLFF: OK. Actors.
LEMON: Did he -- did he make that argument in the first segment?
BUMP: Don, yes. I mean, I just want to say what Peter said in the beginning of this. I mean, obviously this is a huge conversation about the extent to which the United States is fighting radical Islamic terrorists.
But the point is that what he said in that statement is a break from past presidents. It is a break from what happened with the Obama administration and that's what made it stand out. And just to cycle all the way back to what we were talking about 10 minutes ago and yelling at each other, I think that's why this is -- and to your point.
WOLFF: And what is -- what is the -- what's the ramification?
BEINART: It doesn't matter. He won.