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German Police Hunting Tunisian National in Attack; Kremlin Says Dialogue with U.S. is 'Frozen'; Wanted Notice, Reward Issued for Berlin Suspect; Trump Still Tweeting about Election He Won; U.S. Sources: Russia Tests Anti-Satellite Weapon; Officials: New Activity at North Korean Chemical Weapons Plant. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 21, 2016 - 17:00   ET


JAKE TRAPPER, CNN HOST: That is it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper. You can follow me on Twitter, @Jake Tapper. I turn it over to Brianna Keilar. She is in for Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.

[17:30:13] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. ISIS suspect on the run. A wanted notice and a reward for a Tunisian man suspected in the deadly Berlin Christmas market attack. German authorities link him to a pro-ISIS network. Can an urgent manhunt prevent another slaughter?

Russian space war. Moscow tests an apparent anti-satellite weapon and may have deployed satellites that could target American spacecraft. That comes as the Kremlin says the U.S.-Russian dialogue is frozen. Where is the relationship with the U.S. headed?

Pro and conflict. Donald Trump's sons are removed as directors of a non-profit after a report linking them to a plan to auction off access to the president-elect. Is Trump himself now focused on global crises or, as his tweets suggested, is he still obsessed with the election results?

And un-secured. U.S. spots new activity at a North Korean chemical weapons plant as Kim Jong-un overseas a night combat drill by fighter jet pilots. What is he planning?

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Brianna Keilar, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: Breaking news. Germany puts out a warrant and a cash bounty for a 24-year-old Tunisian who prosecutors say is under urgent suspicion in the Berlin Christmas market attack. The suspect was known to authorities, who have linked him to a pro-ISIS network operating in Germany. And he had been refused asylum, was arrested but released last August. Officials say several people could have been involved in this attack, and raids are being carried out amid an urgent manhunt.

President-elect Donald Trump calls the Berlin rampage an attack on humanity. Asked by a reporter if this week's incidents caused him to rethink plans to create a Muslim registry or ban Muslim immigration, Trump responded, quote, "You've known my plans all along. I've been proven to be right, 100 percent correct. What's happening is disgraceful."

And sources say Russia has recently tested what's believed to be an anti-satellite weapon and may have an arsenal of killer satellites which could carry out attacks in space. This is a big concern for the U.S., which depends on satellites for military and commercial uses. And this comes as a Kremlin official says the dialogue between Russia and the U.S. is now frozen. I'm going to speak with Republican Congressman Will Hurd of the Homeland Security Committee. And our correspondents, analysts and guests are standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.

First, to the Berlin Christmas market attack. A suspect has now been identified. He is the target of a huge manhunt, and CNN's Erin McLaughlin is standing by in Berlin.

But we're going to begin with our Brian Todd on the investigation. Brian, tell us what you're learning.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, we've been speaking with German officials in Berlin and here in Washington. We've learned the FBI has been in contact with the Germans in this investigation. We've gotten some crucial information on the suspect, as well. Tonight, German security forces are scrambling to find him. He's a young Tunisian man with connections to ISIS. He's very dangerous, and he had a head-start in eluding capture.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, a frantic manhunt and an urgent message across Europe, warning people to stay away from this man and to help find him. German police say 24-year-old Anis Amri from Tunisia is now, quote, "under urgent suspicion" in the Christmas market attack in Berlin that killed a dozen people and wounded almost 50 others. Police say Amri's identification was found inside the truck, along with the truck's original driver, who had been shot at close range.

As the search for the alleged terrorist expands, including raids by police in northern Germany where he lived, there is growing concern about his links to ISIS.

RALF JAGER, INTERIOR MINISTER, NORTH RHINE WESTPHALIA (through translator): He had contact with radical Islamist organizations. Various security services assessed him as a person who poses a risk.

TODD: ISIS has claimed responsibility for inspiring the attack, and CNN has learned Amri has connections to an ISIS recruiting operation, funneling would-be terrorists to the group's strongholds in Syria and Iraq. Even more concerning, German officials once had Amri in custody. Officials say he previously faced an assault charge and didn't show up in court. He was arrested this past August with forged documents, according to a German security official.

But when they tried to deport him, they couldn't. Police say he had so many fake names and papers that, under German law, they couldn't send him back to Tunisia. Officials tell CNN Amri could be using one of those aliases and may have the help of a support network.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: The concern is, because of his connections to this ISIS recruitment network, he has contacts, resources, infrastructure, to either help him hide or to help him leave the country.

TODD: The possibility of accomplices for Anis Amri presents another challenge for police, according to a former U.S. marshal who's worked with the Germans to track fugitives.

[17:05:09] JOHN CUFF, FORMER U.S. MARSHAL: You have to be mindful that the suspect himself or his associates in his organization could be watching these broadcasts, as well. So law enforcement is going to be careful and sensitive as to what they're disclosing.

TODD: Tonight, German authorities aren't saying much, only that Amri is 5'10", 165 found and violent and armed. Now that his name and face are plastered over TV screens in Europe, he and whoever he might be working with could accelerate any plans they have for a future attack.

Brianna, they are very much on edge in Germany tonight.

KEILAR: And obviously, law enforcement is hoping for some sort of break at this point with him on the loose.

TODD: That's right. We're told by former U.S. Marshals German police are going to be looking for any slipup by the suspect. They say he could break into a residence or a commercial establishment. He could steal a vehicle, as he allegedly did in this case. That's what police are going to be watching for, and that's what they're asking the public to watch out for.

KEILAR: Brian Todd, thank you for that report. I want to go live now to Berlin. That's where CNN's Erin McLaughlin is, at the scene of this deadly attack. And Erin, it really sounds like this man was well known to authorities. We've heard experts say that there were failures here, that he slipped through the cracks so many times.

ERIC MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. And there are some serious questions as to how that happened, especially when you consider that the main suspect was actually in police custody back in August for forging fake documents, trying to travel illegally to Italy.

But at the time, a judge took the decision to release him. The question is, why? Especially when you consider the timing of that arrest. Germany had just sustained two terrorist attacks, albeit on a small scale, and officials were on lookout, on the alert, for potentially more.

Also, when you consider that in June, German officials tried and failed to deport him, according to German media reports, the problem with that is that he, at the time, had multiple identification documents; and authorities simply didn't know which country to deport him back to.

So that being said, German authorities have so far this year foiled multiple potential terrorist attacks. So what this story in some ways illustrates is the sheer scale of the problem, the number of potentially radicalized individuals out there that could pose a danger to the public and the difficulties of tracking them -- Brianna.

KEILAR: It is a huge problem, as you point out. Erin McLaughlin, thank you.

And joining me now to talk more about this is Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas. He is a former CIA officer, and he serves on the Homeland Security Committee.

Congressman, thank you for making the time for us. And you hear Erin's report there, that there are so many potential terrorists that could be tracked. But we now know that the attacker was known to German authorities.

So to you, that he slipped through the cracks so many times, is this a failure on the part of German authorities, or are they just drinking out of a fire hose when it comes to potential threats?

REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: I think one of the things they're going to have to analyze is whether this was something slipping through the cracks.

Earlier this year I participated in a task force in Congress, I believe led by Congressman John Katko of New York, looking at terrorist travel from Europe and other places to the United States. And one of the things that we found was that folks in Europe were not checking the travel documents, every single travel documents of folks. They weren't checking the names of travelers against known watch lists.

And this was a problem that we saw in places like France earlier in the year. And I think we're going to see this here in Germany.

One of the things that we learned here in the United States since 9/11 is that, when you get -- when you get good information sharing between local, state and federal intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies, is the way -- is the best way to protect the homeland.

KEILAR: That you're more likely to catch someone there. And I wonder, as a CIA officer for many years, can you take us behind the scenes a little bit? Just how difficult it is to track and to keep an eye on potential attackers?

HURD: The volume of information that our intelligence services have to manage is vast. And we have -- you know, if people knew the size of our actual intelligence agencies, they'd be pretty shocked at how small it is and how they really do punch above their weight.

And then, when you deal with a permissive environment like Europe, where it's easy to move back and force across international boundaries, that further complicates the effort. But what's going on right now is that our intelligence agencies are working as closely as we can with the Germans on providing any information that we may know.

[17:10:03] But also learning and understanding what new pieces of information they have to see if we have information about similar attacks on -- in our homeland or against our resources across the country -- across the world, excuse me.

KEILAR: Are you pretty comfortable -- I mean, do you -- are you pretty confident that Germany is going to find this suspect?

HURD; I think so. When you know, you have all of these countries marshal their resources to find someone, the fact that they know the many different passports that he travelled in before, the fact that they're putting his face up everywhere, I think you're going to ultimately lead to this.

When the Germans are -- a very good service. And they're going to put all their resources to find this person and this killer and bring him to justice.

KEILAR: This is a guy who came to Germany in 2015. And what we're seeing is this backlash now against the chancellor there and this policy of opening the door to refugees.

Now, we're still waiting to find out exact details about this man, who is a Tunisian national. But as you know, President-elect Donald Trump has been extremely against taking in refugees. In light of this and certainly the concerns that this may create, what do you think about that position of his?

HURD: Well, we have to remember, this is a symptom of a larger problem. If we would have engaged effectively in Syria and other parts of the Middle East sooner, you would not have had an extensive refugee problem on our hands. You wouldn't have 4 million Syrians displaced. You wouldn't have seen a spillover in other countries in North Africa.

And so we have to remember and take away the lessons from this. And that means we've got to take the fight to the doorstep of the people that are targeting us. And that means ISIS and Iraq and Syria. That means keeping al Qaeda on the run in places like Yemen. And we have to have aggressive policies against them, kinetic action against them.

But it also means we have to improve the kind of intelligence that is coming out of these organizations. We've got to better understand the plans and intentions of these terrorist organizations, and that means increasing the amount of human intelligence in many of these hot spots.

KEILAR: And also countering recruitment. That's been one of the big issues, too. So I wonder if, as you see this heightened anti-refugee rhetoric, do you worry that that actually helps with recruitment? For instance, we know that this suspect in Germany was in touch with a recruitment network.

HURD: Right. One of the things that makes ISIS so deadly is their ability to inspire people, even if they're 6,000 miles away. And so we have to address and attack their resources in order to get that message out. But we also have to be out there countering that message, as well. And I don't think we've done a good enough job on that from a U.S. side. But also from an international community perspective either.

When I was chasing al Qaeda in the CIA, they would do things called night letters, putting a letters on a doorstep. But ISIS is doing four social media campaigns a day, translating it into 49 dialects, and impacting tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people a day. And that is a tool that they're using to inspire these kinds of attacks all over the world.

KEILAR: With the suspect on the loose in Germany, how concerned are you that we could be seeing another strike or another strike that could also be facilitated by others?

HURD: Well, I think everybody in Europe is going to be on high alert. You're seeing how some of these pedestrian malls and activities that are going on in other parts of Germany, they're putting up additional barriers to prevent vehicular traffic.

And so I think security forces throughout that part of Europe needs to be thinking about this time and where people are going and what additional protections they can take and how can they stay alert.

And again, one of the important pieces here is, if you get the right information to the right people at the right time, you keep terrorists on the run. And this is something that we always have to strive for.

And here in the United States since 9/11, what I call horizontal sharing, sharing information across the federal government, has improved. But we have -- we even have a ways to go when it comes to sharing with state and local law enforcement.

And so this is something that every -- every country has to be focused on. And if we improve information sharing networks within our own countries and we figure out how to tap into this together, this is how we can make sure we have a global dragnet to stop these people.

KEILAR: All right. Congressman Will Hurd, stay with me. You are a member of the homeland security committee, a former member of the intelligence community. We have a lot to talk about, especially when it pertains to Russia and U.S. relations and the president-elect. We'll have more in just a moment on that.


[17:18:48] KEILAR: Tonight the Kremlin is saying that dialogue with the U.S. has been frozen at nearly all levels and that, if the U.S. and Russia are talking at all, it's at a, quote, "minimum."

Well, the Pentagon and the State Department both say that contacts are continuing.

And we're back now with Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas. He serves on the Homeland Security Committees. He's also a former CIA undercover officer.

So what do you think about that? When you hear a spokesman from the Kremlin saying that almost all levels of dialogue with the U.S. are frozen, and the two countries don't talk to each other. And then the State Department is saying there is engagement. You have Secretary Kerry, who just spoke with the foreign minister of Russia yesterday. Why is Russia doing this?

HURD: Well, Russia is very good at information operations. And that's using many of their official spokespeople to put information out that's not completely accurate.

So, you know, I would -- I would trust more what our folks in the State Department and the military are saying. This is -- the Russians have shown, in eastern Europe, in Germany, here in the United States, that they try to sow misinformation. And what their objective in saying that is, I don't know. But that's something that, hopefully, our intelligence agencies are looking to understand.

KEILAR: Could they be trying to make things look bad under the Obama administration in an effort to curry favor with an incoming administration? Is that possible?

HURD: Anything is possible when it comes -- when it comes to the Russians. The one thing that I do know is that they are our adversary. If they were interested in cooperating, they would have cooperated a lot more when it comes to Syria and the fight against ISIS. If they were interested in cooperating, they would not have invaded Ukraine.

So I think it's disingenuous to think that the Russians feel like they're an aggrieved party in any -- in any form or fashion.

And one of the things I learned when I was in the CIA is, be tough with tough guys and nice with nice guys. And I think having a tough approach when it comes to Russia is a way forward.

KEILAR: And don't be nice with tough guys. I assume that's also part of it, right?

HURD: Exactly.

KEILAR: The CIA, the FBI, the DNI, they've all said they are on the same page when it comes to Russia hacking various political organizations during the election. But President-elect Trump continues to say he doesn't know who did it. And you're in a uniquely-positioned place as a Republican lawmaker but also a former member of the intelligence committee. What do you make of this? What's your reaction to this?

HURD: I think, over the last couple of weeks, a lot of different pieces of information has been conflated. I think President-elect Trump has made it clear that he does believe a further investigation by the intelligence services is a valid pursuit. And that the Russians did not impact the outcome of the election. They did not manipulate the 1s or 0s when it comes to the voting boxes in the voting machines. My committee held a hearing on this topic, and we can be assured of the integrity of the election.

But it's very clear -- and the intelligence community has said this -- that it was Russian groups connected to Russian intelligence that was involved in the hacking of the DCCC -- the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- and the DNC. And I will say this. The DCCC spent $6 million trying to unseat me here in Texas, but an attack on them is an attack on all of us. And there has to be a response to this type of behavior. Again, this is the kind of...

KEILAR: But you say Donald Trump has said further investigation is valid. I mean, the message that seems to really be coming through from him is that he's casting doubt. I mean, do you agree with him that there is doubt about who did it? Do you agree with him that, until there is more investigation, you're not signing onto the agreement of who did this?

HURD: I think the hacking of -- I think the hacking of the DCCC and the DNC is very clear, that it was two groups connected to Russian intelligence. I think that is a very clear idea.

Now, what is a little bit more ambiguous is who within Russian intelligence OK'd this activity? How much did Vladimir Putin actually know? There is all this reports about a CIA report...

KEILAR: But didn't you see an intel community report that is saying this went up to very high levels?

HURD: So what we saw was two unnamed officials in the national intelligence apparatus saying there was a CIA report. We do not know what kind of report that was. Was that a piece of F.I., or foreign intelligence, from a single source? Was this a directive of an intelligence product that had all sorts of analysis? Was this a product that has an alternative analysis? And so having a debate when none of us know what that was, nor should we because it's a classified piece of information.

And if we really want to understand the plans and intentions of the Russian government, we have to have well-placed sources, human sources to do that. And to have those well-placed sources, that means someone is putting themselves in harm's way. And by having folks within the intelligence community leak this kind of information, that puts those people in danger.

And so I do believe the national intelligence apparatus needs to have an honest self-assessment about what are our capabilities to determine what happened in cases like this?

KEILAR: But how do we do that if you're saying we shouldn't know this information, and, yet, also casting doubt on the fact that it's two unnamed intelligence officials? Which I mean, of course it is, right, because this is sensitive stuff. You're a former undercover CIA operative.

HURD: Absolutely. And that's why you have intelligence oversight committees to do that. That's why you have members that have been on these committees for a long time that understand the nature of working on intelligence. And so there are some things that we can have an open dialogue on.

You know, what is an appropriate response to a hostile government that tries to influence information concerning our election or who hacks information of a -- an American company or entity? What is an appropriate response there? Those are some of the conversations we should be having out in the open and can have out in the open, because determining what our response is going to be is also a form of deterrence. And this is where a lot of the conversation should go.

[17:25:27] But what an individual source may or may not know, that's something that should be handled within the existing infrastructure of the intelligence community, because I think they're best able to handle it. Ask the tough questions of the intelligence community, but ensure that we're protecting sources and methods so that we don't put someone's life in harm's way who is trying to help us better understand this crazy world we live in.

KEILAR: All right, Congressman Will Hurd of Texas, we do appreciate it. Thank you for being with us today.

HURD: Thank you.

KEILAR: Coming up, U.S. sources say that Russia has tested an apparent anti-satellite weapon. Is it preparing for a war in space? You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KEILAR: Our breaking news: Germany has issued a wanted notice and reward for a 24-year-old Tunisian national, under urgent suspicion in the Christmas market attack. Germany security officials say the suspect is tied to a pro-ISIS network that is operating there.

[17:30:17] And I want to bring in now CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen to talk about this; along with CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd -- he is a former CIA official; and CNN military analyst, retired General Mark Hertling.

Peter, there is this manhunt going on, but the fact that he has ties to a network in Germany has raised concerns that he could seek refuge with other people, right?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. And the network of ISIS sympathizers in Germany, you know, is relatively large. They've said 800 Germans have gone to Syria. You know, you can add to that the thousands of fellow travelers and sort of supporters who are part of that.

So it would be, you know -- I think you've got to presume that there's a network that he can disappear into. We saw that with the Paris attacks, the Brussels attacks. People in the Paris attacks disappeared for months into sort of a supportive network.

KEILAR: So Phil, how do officials there counter that?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Look, we're talking about the opportunity he has to flee. There's also an opportunity for a security service here.

He's got two avenues to go to. The first is, we have released photographs of him now. If he goes out in the general public somebody eventually is going to recognize him.

And the avenue we were just talking about, if he starts to touch a network that's affiliated with ISIS, presumably the Germans or other Europeans are aware of these individuals. As soon as one of them talks, as soon as one of them e-mails or texts, when he goes back into their network, if he's absorbed and they start conducting those kinds of communications, that's an opportunity. So I think either way he goes over the course of, let's say, 48 to 72 hours, his opportunities to stay dark, I think, are going to be limited.

KEILAR: What has come to light here in the last 24 hours is information that German authorities, General Hertling, were familiar with this man. Not just one contact or two contacts, but he had been facing deportation; he had gone to court. They saw that he had too many aliases to be certain about where he was, and he was then released back into society, even though at one point he had been denied asylum.

Do you consider -- and I want you all to weigh in on this. Do you consider this major failures on the part of the Germans, or is this a matter of drinking out of a fire hose when you are talking about potential threats?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), UNITED STATES : Yes, that's the second time you've said that in the show, Brianna. I'll confirm what you just said.

First of all, let's start off this way. My experience with the German intelligence and security forces is they are very good at the federal and state level. But they have had close to a million refugees come into their country this year alone in a country of 70 million population. They've had problems with transliteration of names. The name Mohammed, as an example, can be spelled about six different ways when you're talking about file checks.

So I don't want to say it's a failure, but they have been drinking from the fire hose and they've been attempting to treat these people, as they've spread the refugees out over various states within Germany, with dignity, respect and incorporate them into the population, but it's tough. Sometimes, as Phil will probably tell you, people get past the authorities. And I think this is probably a situation where that happened, even though he had been arrested and potentially on the way to deportation.

KEILAR: The misspelling of names, Peter. I mean, that in itself -- and the fact that he seemed to have so many monikers. There were opportunities to be in contact, certainly, or to have some surveillance over this person. But perhaps he wasn't deemed dangerous enough.

BERGEN: I mean, this happens repeatedly in the United States, and we have a very efficient police structure. We saw that in Orlando. Omar Mateen was interviewed twice by the FBI before he carried out the most deadly attack at the Orlando nightclub. We saw that with Major Nidal Hassan, who was known to the FBI, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood. The people who come out of the blue are the exceptions. We saw that in San Bernardino with the couple who killed 14 people. They were not known. But that's very unusual.

KEILAR: That's a very interesting point.

And Phil, we know that is he Tunisian. But we don't necessarily know -- you know, it's raising concerns about refugees and some of the risks that could be posed. Obviously, most of them come into countries and are not a risk at all. But this is, of course, creating fears. What can we extrapolate from his coming from Tunisia, if anything?

MUDD: Not much. Let's be clear about a couple of issues here. We're talking about refugee flows. This is different than a refugee flow from Iraq and Syria.

If you look at the cases of instability in North Africa. Those individuals often come across boats into Italy. Tunisia has also been a tremendous pipeline into Iraq and Syria for ISIS. But in that case you're not talking about millions of people; you're talking about hundreds and thousands. So let's separate out what's coming up from North Africa into Europe and what's coming up from ISIS into Syria.

[17:35:12] If you think that we can look at that wave of people and somehow determine among refugees who is thinking, a year or two down the road, that they might join ISIS, that is not a workable proposition. I see the debates on screening refugees in the United States, and I think they're nuts.

The question is not who comes into the country. The question is can you look at people once they come in and determine whether a refugee is going south or not? I think that's what we ought to focus on.

KEILAR: Nuts. Which I know is a technical term.

MUDD: Nuts. Yes.

KEILAR: We appreciate you sharing with us. Gentlemen, thank you so much to all of you. I appreciate your insight.

And coming up, U.S. sources say that Russia may have deployed killer satellites and they've just tested what they believe is an anti- satellite weapon. Is Moscow getting ready for a war in space?


KEILAR: Breaking news. Germany has posted a wanted notice and reward for a Tunisian man suspected in the deadly Christmas market attack. Authorities have linked him to a pro-ISIS network.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is in Palm Beach, Florida, where President-elect Donald Trump is spending the holidays. What is Donald Trump and transition officials, what are they saying about the attack, Jeff?

[17:40:08] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, Donald Trump is offering his first reaction to that attack, calling it an attack on humanity.

He also summoned a group of generals here to Mar-a-Lago as a picture of strength. As he is now just 30 days away from taking office.


ZELENY (voice-over): In Florida today, Donald Trump receiving his first intelligence briefing of the week, two days after a Christmas market rampage in Germany raised new fears of terrorism around the world.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's an attack on humanity is what it is. It's an attack on humanity. And it's got to be stopped.

ACOSTA: At his Mar-a-Lago retreat, Trump meeting with his incoming national security chief, Michael Flynn, and other generals, while making his first comments on the Berlin attack that killed 12 and injured dozens.


ACOSTA: Trump's aides were sending the signal that the president- elect is keeping apprised of the heightened holiday alert. He drew fire from the intelligence community earlier this month for saying he sees no value in receiving the presidential daily brief, or PDB, every day.

TRUMP: I don't have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years -- could be eight years, but eight years. I don't need that.

ACOSTA: Set to take office in just 30 days, Trump's advisers are mindful of the optics surrounding his security briefings. Trump, who proposed a Muslim ban one year ago before softening his position later, was asked about it again today.

TRUMP: You know my plans all along. I've been proven to be right, 100 percent correct. What's happening is disgraceful.

ZELENY: Yet, in the face of rising challenges with global terror threats, Trump started his day once again still defensively tweeting about his victory in the Electoral College. "I would have done even better in the election, if that is possible, if the winner was based on popular vote. But would campaign differently."

He went on to boast that he spent far less money on his win than Hillary Clinton did on her loss.

His tweets often may be designed to change the subject. And one subject the transition is eager to change, concerns about conflicts of interest. The latest example, two of Trump's sons signing on with an

inauguration event promising access to the president-elect for a million-dollar donation. Transition officials said today that Eric and Don Jr. would not participate. But it raised questions about pay- for-play, which Trump often railed against on the campaign trail.

TRUMP: Drain the swamp. We're going to drain the swamp of Washington. We're going to have fun doing it. We're all doing it together.

ZELENY: But "drain the swamp" may no longer be a Trump signature line. At least that's what former House speaker Newt Gingrich told NPR.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I am told he now disclaims that. He now says it was cute, but he doesn't want to use it anymore.

ZELENY: That so-called swamp also may not be draining. His former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, announced today he was setting up a consulting shop a block from the White House, inside the same building that houses the Trump transition office.


ZELENY: And a parade of Washington also came here to a very windy Mar-a-Lago. And the CEOs of Boeing and Lockheed Martin were among them.

Now, Brianna, you will recall earlier this month when Trump called out the Boeing company for the cost of Air Force One. Well, today the Boeing CEO came for a meeting and came to the cameras, as well, saying he's going to lower the cost.

Now Trump hailed that as a victory. And Trump advisers said this is the kind of show you're going to see once he takes office, either here in Florida or in the White House, bringing corporate CEOs in one by one -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Is it real or is it rhetoric? We will find out. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much in Palm Beach.

I want to bring in our experts now and also, I want to talk about some final numbers that we just got in. These are the final, official, national popular vote totals for the election. Because New York state actually just had some revised, certified results.

So what we can now see is that Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by almost 3 million votes in the popular vote. She got 48.2 percent to 46.1 percent, which leads me to what Donald Trump was tweeting about today. Twice he talked about this, fixating, it seems, on the past and the fact that he didn't win the popular vote: "I would have done even better in the election, if that is possible, if the winner was based on popular vote but would campaign differently."

I mean, Rebecca, what do you make of him tweeting about this? Isn't it -- he won. Why not move on? REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He did win. And I'm sure many

of his advisers and allies wish he would move on, because he's going to be the president, and it's a little bit unseemly, unflattering, for the president-elect to be fixated on these election results still.

But we know Donald Trump, and if we know anything about him, it's that he's competitive. He cares about optics; he cares about what people think of him and whether they think he's truly a success.

[17:45:10] And clearly, he worries that this could possibly dent his momentum going into the White House and also dent his reputation as a winner and raise some doubts among some even of his supporters about his victory. And so he wants to go into the White House with the wind at his back, saying that he has a mandate, that he won in a landslide while clearly that just wasn't the case.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And this is going to hang over Donald Trump's presidency because Democrats are going to seize on this for the next four years, that he did not win the popular vote. So if he can make the case that, look, this would have been a different election if I had run based on popular vote, not trying to campaign in those states that have electoral votes, then I would have won.

That's the case he's going to make going forward, but clearly the fact that he is not the winner of the popular vote is something that his critics are going to use against him for the next four years.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: But to Jeff Zeleny's point, I think what's more likely to hang over his presidency is the fact that he has all these conflicts of interest that he is not taking care of right now. He was supposed to have a press conference this month, it didn't happen. It's supposed to happen next month --

KEILAR: And when is it going to happen, yes? We don't know.

KUCINICH: Who knows? We don't know. They won't say. So until they get that in check, that's going to continue being a problem, be it him, be it his children and his businesses. In a half-blind trust or whatever they're talking about now, isn't going to cut it.

KEILAR: And to that point, it strikes me he's sending out these tweets and you have some people looking at this saying, he kind of looks insecure. Why is he doing this? And yet there's this big story. You mentioned conflict of interest. And we're seeing that now his sons, who were going to be a part of this charity that seemed to be raising money based on access to the President, not the President- elect because this was to happen after the inauguration, they're now distancing themselves from that.

What are the chances that, even something like this, stirring up this old story, is a distraction?

KUCINICH: It could be a distraction. I think both are right, right? I think that he is thin-skinned and he is worried about his reputation. But also, I mean, maybe he is trying to distract for it because, look, it's a big blinking red flag, so.

RAJU: But it is a red flag because Don Jr. and Eric have played advisory roles for the President going forward. And I'm sure even though they may not take a formal role in the administration, Don Jr. himself was helping with the selection of Cabinet nominees.

KEILAR: That's right, yes.

RAJU: The Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, probably would not be the Interior Secretary nominee if it were not for him. And those raised those concerns as complications.


KEILAR: And this is an event, you know, bring in, donate, half a million to million dollars and, look, you'll get this access. So, Phil, I want to talk to you about the President-elect's day to day because he was flanked by a number of military officials, and he met in person with his National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, who we know has been briefing him.

Why is it important, though, for Donald Trump -- and you tell us this as someone who put together these briefings. Why is it important that he gets a briefing, not just from one of his advisers?

MUDD: It's not important, it's critical. There is a religion of intelligence and there is a commandment that we're talking about, and that is you separate out the information from the decision. Let me explain why, Brianna.

Let's talk about a highly contentious issue, that is whether we should have signed a deal with Iran on their nuclear program with other countries and whether Iran is complying with that deal. If you are in a policy position, like the National Security Adviser, and you oppose that deal, any human being, human nature is such that you're going to look at the intelligence and say, I want to potentially find intelligence that shows I'm right, that shows Iran isn't complying with the deal.

You've got to separate out that policy conversation with the intelligence. Does it say they're complying or not? What are the facts on the ground? And then pass it along to the advisers, to the President, for them to decide what to do. Intel is one thing. Policy is another. There is a bright line between them.

KEILAR: All right, very good point. Phil Mudd, Jackie Kucinich, Manu Raju, and Rebecca Berg, thank you all.

And coming up, Moscow tests an apparent anti-satellite weapon and it may have deployed killer satellites that could target American space craft? Is it getting ready for a space war?

[17:49:18] And what is North Korea getting ready for? The U.S. spots new activity at a chemical weapons plant there as Kim Jong-un oversees a combat drill by fighter pilots.


KEILAR: Sources say Russia has recently tested what is believed to be an anti-satellite weapon. That is a growing concern for the U.S. which relies on satellites for both military and commercial uses. CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr has been looking into this.

And tell us, Barbara, what you've been learning.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, why is this so significant? It's because of what you just said, satellites run everything from your laptop computer to the military's ability to drop precision bombs. So if those satellites are taken out of commission, that can bring things to a halt. And Russia is one of the countries out there that is testing weapons that can bring down, can destroy both commercial and military satellites that the U.S. runs.

So the big concern about this latest test is, is Russia really making progress in being able to do this? One frightening scenario, it is believed that Russia has kamikaze satellites essentially. That's the term that is used inside the U.S. military, basically Russian satellites that functions as weapons themselves. They kind of sidle up to U.S. satellites out in the space and blow up and can destroy a U.S. satellite.

Growing concern, a new test. This high tech technology could pose some very serious threats, Brianna.

KEILAR: And on another topic, Barbara, tell us about North Korea and the concerns about North Korea tonight.

STARR: Always a concern about provocations there, but a new concern tonight, Brianna. U.S. intelligence satellites in the last few days, we are told, have noticed activity at a North Korean chemical weapons plant, resumed activity. Now, what they don't know is what's going on inside. They are not at the point that they can say the North Koreans are producing chemical weapons at this site again. They haven't done so since 2014, but they do believe some activity, perhaps the power turns back on, some activity at the site. S

[17:55:12] So to determine what North Korea may be up to here, now a top priority. U.S. satellites will keep watch on this facility. And there is concern as the United States goes into a new presidential administration, there could be moments of vulnerability in the minds of the North Korean regime. They could take advantage. They could conduct another missile test and underground nuclear test. So a lot of eyes peeled on that regime, as always -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

Coming up, a man wanted -- or I should say, a wanted notice and a reward for a Tunisian man who is suspected in the deadly Berlin Christmas market attack. German authorities are linking him to a pro- ISIS network. Can an urgent manhunt prevent another slaughter?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KEILAR: Happening now, breaking news. Soldier of ISIS. A manhunt is under way as German investigators identify a suspect in the Christmas market truck attack, a Tunisian asylum seeker believed to have ties to a pro-ISIS network in Germany. He was arrested as recently as August. Why did a German judge release him?

[18:00:03] Attack on humanity. President-elect Donald Trump makes his first public comment on the Berlin attack, backing away from his earlier characterization of it as an attack against Christians.