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Condemning U.N. Resolution; Expanding America's Nuclear Weapons; Aerospace Giants on Costs; Trump's Foreign Policy via Twitter; Snowden in Touch with Russia. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired December 22, 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] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Unprecedented moves by president- elect impacting diplomacy, the economy and the arms race.
This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
Donald Trump tweeting that he wants to expand America's nuclear capability. And two aerospace giants now are fighting each other after the president-elect tweets that one fighter jet program costs too much, challenging its competitor to do better.
And Trump putting pressure on the White House going public with his disapproval of an impending U.N. Security Council resolution that condemns Israel's settlement activity. The Israeli government asking him to weigh in.
We get to Trump's involvement in the U.N. resolution in just a moment. But I want to begin with the latest on the search for the suspect in the Berlin market attack.
Our CNN's justice correspondent is Evan Perez and he joins us now love. Good evening, Evan. Evan, there's new video of the truck attack tonight and we have learning that Amri was well-known to German intelligence. What else can you tell us about Amri and the massive manhunt to find him?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Don. He is well- known and several months ago, the German intelligence agency they actually provided information on the suspect to the United States and the United States added him to the no-fly list.
Now we're told that German authorities have identified him as part of a group of Jihadist supporters operating in central Europe. Now this is a network that was helping to recruit fighters to join ISIS in Syria. And the intelligence agencies in Europe and here in the United States have found that some of them were communicating with suspected ISIS members back in Syria.
Now the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies are still working to see what information they have to help with this manhunt.
And we saw in the attacks in Belgium and in France in the past year that the NSA and the FBI were able to provide key assistance to help find some of these suspects.
Now working with the NSA is often controversial in Germany, but with this attack and with the manhunt that still ongoing, that view may change. The fact is, Don, that the intelligence agencies both here and in Europe are very concerned that ISIS still has some capabilities, some command and control capabilities, that they are still able to communicate and direct attacks in Europe.
Now here in the United States, the FBI is also looking closely at ISIS supporters who are already on their radar to see if what happened in Germany is inspiring anyone to do the same thing here, Don
LEMON: So, Even, they knew enough about him to alert the U.S. Why did they let Amri out of their sight?
PEREZ: This is a problem that we've seen repeatedly in Belgium and in France with the legal system, in Germany it appears the same way. It appears that every time he got arrested for something, the judges would let him go.
He did serve three years in Germany -- I'm sorry. In Italy for destroying property while the time -- during the time that he was detained there. But that clearly did not stop the Germans from allowing him to stay there. They did have some trouble apparently trying to return him to Tunisia.
There's a lot of, apparently, a lot of cracks that he fell through in this case, Don.
LEMON: Interesting. So, in the wake of this attack, Evan, is there any increased risk to the U.S. over the holidays?
PEREZ: Look, I think one of the things I heard from talking to people today, is that everything is lit up. All the chatter that they -- that they typically look for.
And look, it happens every time around this time every year because of the approaching New Year's celebrations, the Christmas celebrations that we have and, of course, Don, you know that the inauguration is less than a month away.
So, they were expecting this. The U.S. intelligence and U.S. law enforcement was expecting to start seeing some of this and it's happened. We don't know whether or not any of these plots will turn out to be anything, whether any of this chatter will turn out to be anything. Right now they say they have no known credible threats here in the United States.
LEMON: All right. Thank you, Evan Perez. I appreciate that. I want to bring in now CNN contributor Michael Weiss, the co-author of "Inside the Army of terror -- ISIS Inside the Army of Terror," and Chris Swecker, a former assistant director of the FBI who was also commander of FBI operations in Iraq in 2003.
Michael, I'm going to start with you. Because today we learned that the German intelligence and informant in the ISIS recruiting network that Amri and others in the network talked about driving a truck filled with gasoline and a bomb into a crowd. Why didn't they just roll him up when they arrested those five key members of the terror network in November?
MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, that's the question of the hour. I mean, the network that was being run is by a guy called Abu Walaa. Abu Walaa had two subordinates, one of whom was a German-Serbian guy who ran a kind of ad hoc Islamic center out of his own apartment.
His girlfriend was a German national who disappeared for several weeks and came back in the neighbor said all of a sudden she was wearing a veil. I mean, the apartment had become this recruitment and indoctrination center for Salafist Jihadism.
We don't know how many people attended these conferences or these sort of sermon events at this apartment. We do know, though, that Bogeness, the name of the name who ran the apartment and Abu Walaa, they were recruiting people to either go off to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS and fight on the Middle Eastern battlefield or -- and this is with particular relevance to Amri, they gave him a choice.
[22:05:05] You can either use Hijrah and immigrate to the Middle East and fight with ISIS there or you could conduct a terrorist operation on German soil. Abu Walaa have said to have personally signed off on that choice for Amri.
So, this was a guy who was on the radar. Abu Walaa had been under surveillance for something like three years. He had a Facebook page, and it's still active as of 24 hours ago. Twenty five thousand followers, all of his videos. His YouTube, his sermons.
You know, he was -- he never showed his face. He was always wearing this kind of black cloak and hood. But he was -- he was proselytizing openly on social media for all of this time. And the Germans knew that this guy was bad news.
One of the people that he sent to Syria, the reason that they had first, you know, realized that Abu Walaa was a security threat, a guy defected from ISIS, came back from Syria and fingered Abu Walaa as the number one ISIS recruiter in all of Germany.
LEMON: So, Chris, the question if all of this is out there as Michael said that he's proselytizing on Facebook, at least Abu Walaa, why wasn't anything done about either of these people?
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Yes, it's -- I mean, it's a puzzle. Apparently in Germany and other places in Europe, you almost have to be on the prescipim of an attack before you can get yourself arrested or detained.
You know, we talked the other day about whether this was an intelligence failure and I think -- I think all of these facts support that. I mean, not just all of the things that Michael was talking about, he was traveling with forged documents, he was -- he had a pretty extensive criminal record, a reasonably serious criminal record.
There were plenty of reasons to detain him until they figured out what was going on.
SWECKER: His own home country or supposedly his home country claimed they didn't know him, that he wasn't a Tunisian citizen. So, instead of just detaining him and trying to figure it out with proper grounds to detain him, they just let him go.
LEMON: Yes. Chris, I have to ask you, because you've been involved in many manhunts, the informant also told German intelligence that the terror network promised to hide Amri after an attack. Is it likely he's still in the area or would he try to get as far away as possible?
SWECKER: I think he would try to get out of Germany as quickly as possible if he is in fact being supported by a network which I think time is starting to sort of lead to that conclusion, the amount of time that he's been on the run.
You know, look at the Paris attacks. They got out of town pretty quickly. A lot of enforcement operations took place after that. They were shaking the tree, law enforcement and counterterrorism officials shaking the tree all over Europe, and I think what that did was became sort of a catalyst to more action on the part of the terrorists.
So what I'm afraid of, we're going to see the same thing. They are kicking the ant hill all over the place. These guys are going to accelerate any plans that they have and we may be in for a very rough season here, Christmas season.
LEMON: Michael, from a recruitment standpoint, does Amri fit the profile and what is that profile?
WEISS: Yes, I mean, the petty crime, destruction of property. He was on, actually, he was on German intelligence's radar because they thought that he was trying to, I think conduct an armed robbery for the purposes of making money to conduct a terrorist attack in future or to stockpile arms or something.
It always starts this way, right. The analog to Abu Walaa, is a guy -- his nickname was father Christmas or Papa Noel. He lived in Molenbeek, Brussels, he was the ring leader and the recruiter for the main Paris attackers including Salah Abdeslam and Abdulhamid Abaaoud.
And this guy it was the same thing. He was the kind of fusion model between gangsterism or Mafia-style street and Islamism. And it seems to me that Abu Walaa and the network that's being run in Germany is a very similar phenomenon.
LEMON: Yes. I hear Chris agreeing, Chris, saying, what's going on?
SWECKER: Yes. It seems like when ISIS is out there recruiting or sort of casting around looking for a susceptible individuals out there, it seems to fall on people who have criminal backgrounds, who are petty criminals, or in some cases career criminals.
We saw that in the United States, the Tsarnaev brothers were sort of petty drug dealers and had some brushes with the law, the same thing with the Chattanooga shooter. There is pretty extensive -- the Garland, Texas pretty extensive criminal records on their part. So, it seems like that's sort of the model recruit for them.
LEMON: Yes. Mike, I want to ask you, the two in Germany in a different plot, apparently planned, a planned attack on a mall, are authorities across Europe poise for more attack?
WEISS: Of course they are. I mean, look, Europe has graduated second only to the Middle East itself. Countries such as Tunisia where Amri comes from originally, Europe has graduated more Jihadist, foreign fighters into ISIS than anywhere else in the world.
[22:09:58] France is the number one feeder. Germany I think it's something like 890 close to 900, people who have gone over to Iraq and Syria and joined ISIS of which something like a third have returned and another third have been killed.
It depends on who you ask. European security services, in my estimation, tend to downplay or underestimate the true number of sleepers or operatives running around the continent.
ISIS defectors, including those who still have context informants working within ISIS' foreign operations, who I'm in touch with all the time, say that the numbers are closer to the hundreds.
There are people running around in all countries, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy looking to wage these attacks. And the difference between a year ago and now is they are held in a higher -- to a higher standard. There's more of a premium on these operatives who have been trained up in Syria and Iraq because it's impossible now to get across that border.
So if you've been dispatched back into Europe, you know, you don't want to conduct an operation that's not going to be successful. So they are lying in wait, waiting for that opportune moment when they can actually really do something of significant impact.
Now, in this case, it doesn't seem like Amri made it over to the Middle East, but again, he was given that choice, make immigration or stay here and conduct an attack in Germany.
LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.
Up next, President-elect Donald Trump sidestepping the White House and weighing in on behalf Israel against the Security Council resolution condemning Israel's settlement activity.
LEMON: The Israeli government calling on Donald Trump to intervene ahead of a resolution vote on a U.N. resolution condemning its settlement activity. I'm joined now by CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott.
Elise, good evening. Thank you for coming on tonight.
[22:15:00] ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Don.
LEMON: This has been an extraordinary day centering around a U.N. vote about Israel. Tell us what happened.
LABOTT: Well, basically, Don, the U.S. has been planning to vote on this U.N. resolution, the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity calling it illegal. Usually the U.S. for years has kind of protected Israel with its veto power at the U.N. Security Council.
But we understand that President Obama was prepared to let that resolution pass, either by abstaining or by voting in favor of it. The Israelis have been watching what's been happening for weeks, and they've been warning the Obama administration not to do that, imploring them really.
And said, listen, if you don't let - if you don't stop this resolution, if you plan on letting it go ahead, we're going to have no choice but to reach out to President-elect Trump and an Israeli official told me that's just what the Israeli government did.
They did reached out to the president-elect, asked him to intervene. You saw today, President-elect Trump issuing a statement, calling on the U.S. to veto this resolution, saying it was not helpful to Israel.
And we do understand that there was a call between President-elect Trump and Egyptian President Fattah el-Sisi who offered the resolution in the first place. And after all this flurry of diplomatic activity the Egyptians ended up pulling the resolution off the table, Don.
And we don't know the fate of this resolution. We know that there are still discussions going on, the U.S. could still be expecting a vote. But the intervention from Donald Trump did seem to succeed.
LEMON: How is all of this playing in the White House, Elise?
LABOTT: Well, they are being very careful about what they say. I mean, clearly, you know, President-elect Trump has been speaking out about foreign policy issues. There are some officials that say, look, it's unusual but everything in this campaign has been unusual.
Others are a little but more upset. But from the Israeli point of view, you know, some people are saying, oh, yes, this is unprecedented for president-elect to weigh in.
From the Israeli's point of view, they think that by allowing this resolution to pass, the Obama administration was actually tying President-elect Trump's hands for when he comes in to the White House.
He has said that he does want to negotiate what he called the ultimate deal between Israelis and Palestinians, and a U.N. resolution basically declaring a settlement is illegal and kind of putting the thumb on the scale on one of the most sensitive issues in that peace negotiations could have affected Donald Trump's leverage with the Israelis or the Palestinians. So, they were really grateful for his interference, Don.
LEMON: So, let's just for classification. So, what is next? Will there be a vote on the resolution, Elise, and how will the U.S. cast its vote?
LABOTT: Well, we don't know if there's going to be a vote. The U.N. -- the Arab league, all of the Arab states met today to discuss what was happening. The suspicion is that perhaps they could introduce a tax that could maybe a little less strong or it could just, you know, fall apart altogether.
I suspect that that's probably what will happen. President el-Sisi who introduce that resolution, if he is not going to give his full backing, I don't know how it could go ahead. But the U.S. is looking definitely, Don, to put its finger on the scale before it walks on the door on the peace process.
Secretary of State Kerry was expected to lay out his vision for a peace deal. You remember he had those failed peace talks. This administration wanted to say its peace, if you will, some of it was a parting shot to Prime Minister Netanyahu who President Obama didn't have a good relationship and part of that was because this administration was vehemently opposed to settlement.
So I don't necessarily know if they are going to have that opportunity because, clearly, the Israelis are looking forward to the next administration where they feel Donald Trump will be much more receptive to their concerns.
LEMON: Elise Labott, thank you very much. I appreciate it. Merry Christmas to you, by the way. Now I want to bring in defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, author of "Electile Dysfuntion: A Guide for Unaroused Voters," and CNN global affairs analyst Aaron David Miller, vice president for new initiatives and a distinguished at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. he served both republican and democratic secretaries of state on the Middle East.
I'm looking forward to this conversation. Thank you, gentlemen for coming on this evening. Aaron, I'm going to start with you. We're used to hearing that we have one president at a time. Were you surprised that the president-elect intervened?
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean, I think it's fair to say, you know, Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Don, that "we're not in Kansas anymore." I mean, I've been through four transitions. Republicans to republicans, republicans to democrats, democrats to democrats and democrats to republicans.
And in the last 25 years, I've never experienced anything quite like this. You have a president-elect not yet inaugurated intervening in realtime, not just with public declarations about an ongoing U.N. Security Council resolution but also responding and enlisting the support of foreign leaders.
[22:20:00] So I think, yes, in terms of process and structure, this represents an unprecedented change. I think the real question -- and we're going to find out four weeks from tomorrow and in the days ahead of that, is whether or not to what degree this represents a fundamental change in the substance of American policy towards the Middle East.
LEMON: Alan, why do you say the president-elect had to weigh in on this vote before he took office?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, "ELECTILE DYSFUNCTION" AUTHOR: Well, because you have a lame duck president who is trying to tie the hands of his successor. I wrote an article before we knew who was going to be president addressed to both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump saying don't allow the president to tie your hands.
Remember, U.N. resolutions can't be changed. Once the United States does not veto or votes for it, it's there forever and it makes it much, much harder to have a peace process when the Palestinians believe falsely that they can get a state through the United Nations rather than through direct negotiations.
Donald Trump did exactly the right thing. He stood up for himself and he said, don't tie my hands. I want to make these. I want to go see it. The president of the United States is acting very undemocratically in his last days in office.
Eighty eight senators told him not to do it. The vast majority of the House of Representatives don't want him to do it. The American public is not in favor of it. He wouldn't have had the guts to do this when he was still running for office.
But as a lame duck president, he now feels he can tie the hands, he can get even with Netanyahu and he can create his own private personal legacy, but in the end, the legacy will be that he will have made it much more difficult to have a two-state solution and a peaceful negotiation.
LEMON: Aaron, the same question for you. Do you think the president- elect had to weigh in on this?
MILLER: I mean, I think Alan raises some good points but I don't see it playing out quite that way, Don. I think had this resolution been introduced, and I suspect it still might although that the odds against that I think are increasing because President el-Sisi frankly haven't been caught between the Israelis and the Americans I think he's going to wash his hands of this.
I think Alan is right in a sense. But I think this would have played out in a different way. It would not have tied the next administration's hands. It would have happened as the president of the United States would have voted for it and within minutes or hours of that vote, the president-elect would have disowned it and disavowed it, and when he became president he would have tried to send an unmistakable message that, in effect, the terms of that resolution did not reflect his policy.
And once again -- and this is why I think it was a fraud enterprise. Once again, we would have sent mixed signals to our allies and our adversaries on what it is American policy actually represents.
I think it was very hard at the 11th hour and I think Alan is right about this, to try to institute, no matter how frustrated the current president is, to try to institute a -- or implement a significant change in policy.
DERSHOWITZ: But let's not be fooled to thinking that this was done by Egypt. The United States is behind this resolution. They are the ones who are pushing it. The Obama administration is pushing it. The Arab countries are reluctant to do this. This is coming from the United States. This is coming directly from the Oval Office and from Secretary Kerry.
So, let's not think that this was something that the Israelis persuaded the Egyptians -- the Egyptians couldn't care less. The poll shows the Palestinians on the streets don't even care very much about this.
And one of the reasons it's such a bad resolution at the U.N., it encourages begets boycott investment and sanction against products produced in the West Bank. It would also states that the boundaries would be the 67 boundaries which resolution 242 of the Security Council gave much more flexibility. This is a very bad resolution but badly motivated...
LEMON: Alan, for those words not oppose to the resolution and are concerned about the precedent that this sets because of one president at a time, Donald Trump is not the president of the United States yet.
DERSHOWITZ: But the -- that's true, but the current president should not be tying the hands of the future president in this way.
MILLER: That's true.
DERSHOWITZ: Where I disagree is that U.N. resolutions aren't undoable.
DERSHOWITZ: Yes, President Trump would get up and say I don't agree with it but it would become the Security Council resolution. And no future president can undo that. That's why it would be wrong for this president to try to impose this on future presidents.
LEMON: Wrong or not, is it his prerogative, Aaron, for him to do this, even if you think it's a bad move?
MILLER: The administration -- the current administration? LEMON: Yes, sir.
MILLER: Yes, I mean, I think -- I think pressure has been building, momentum has been building in an effort to have some sort of resolution, some sort of speech by the current administration, to put his fingerprints on eight years of failures, frankly, to address the Israeli and Palestinian issue.
LEMON: Let him make a speech.
MILLER: Yes, I think -- I think it was the president's right to do this. I argued earlier that I think an 11th hour move on settlements, particularly given the language in the first paragraph, which talks about not accepting the legality of the Israeli settlement which raises a whole thorny issue which the last three administrations have sought to dodge.
[22:25:10] Yes, I mean, I think in the end it probably wouldn't have succeeded even if the resolution had passed. I also, though, given the U.N.'s credibility here...
LEMON: I've got to run.
MILLER: ... I'm not sure this would have had much of an impact frankly, on the new administration going forward.
LEMON: It's going to be the last word. Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah. Thank you, gentlemen.
DERSHOWITZ: Merry Christmas.
MILLER: Thank you.
LEMON: Up next, Donald Trump goes nuclear tweeting that he wants to strengthen and expand America's nuclear capability.
LEMON: President-elect tweeting today that he wants to strengthen and expand America's nuclear capability. That comes hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he wants to do the same with his country's nuclear program.
I want to bring in now Ambassador R. James Woolsey, and chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former director of Central Intelligence, he's also advised the Trump administration, and Bob Baer, intelligence security analyst and a former CIA agent.
Good evening, gentlemen. Thank you so much. Bob, to you first, today a defense ministry meeting -- at a defense ministry meeting by a Putin made an alarming comment about nuclear weapons. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We need to
strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complex as they can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Bob, Putin has been trying to restore Russia's place in the global hierarchy. How do you interpret this new statement?
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: He's on the move. This man is going to be testing us the next four years. You even look -- you look at the agreements in the Middle East, the one yesterday made between Iran and Iraq and Syria and Turkey.
It's amazing. He is on the move. After taking Aleppo, Eastern Europe, the fighting has picked up there and he's going to challenge, you know, our nuclear treaties with the United States.
LEMON: Ambassador, do you agree with that?
R. JAMES WOOLSEY, PRESIDENT, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Yes. I think Putin -- Abraham Lincoln grew up on a farm next to an old farmer who used to say, I don't need much land, just what adjoins mine. That's Putin and that's historically been Russia for much of its history.
And he's a -- I agree with Bob, he's on the move. He's a problem. We are certainly not going to help deal with that by getting weaker. We have gotten quite weak over the course of the last eight years.
LEMON: Let's talk about the president-elect because a short time after Putin's remark, ambassador, Donald Trump tweeted this which is a bombshell. "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."
He says greatly strengthen but it's vague. Is he talking about new weapon systems upgrading the weapons we have. How do you read this?
WOOLSEY: I think they might have used a different -- might have used a different verb than expand that suggests a numerical increase and that may not be the main thing we need.
But we've gone eight years here with a very minor attention to modernizing our nuclear forces and taking good care of them and taking new steps to improve their survivability and the rest.
LEMON: So you take issue with the expand part?
WOOLSEY: I imagine what we will find out, he's not really talking about numbers. He was talking about capability. And that's fine. I think we do need to modernize the forces and we need to get some people back that have gotten out of the armed forces and are needed to be trainers and instructors to others. We have let a lot of things slide.
LEMON: Same, I have a follow-up question, but Bob, I heard you reacting to the tweet. What did you -- what did you think?
BAER: I think he's responding to the Russians. So much for this supposed honeymoon between Putin and Trump. It's just it's not happening. And, you know, it sort of makes me reassess the hacking, the Russian hacking, wasn't so much to support Trump as it was to mess with the American elections.
LEMON: Yes. All right.
BAER: Putin reason that out.
LEMON: Let's -- let's put out this clarification and I want to read it here. You see this is a very tiny print. This is President-elect Trump was referring to the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it particularly to and among terrorist organizations and unstable and rogue regimes.
He has also emphasized the need to improve, that's what you said, and modernize our deterrent capability as as vital way to pursue peace through strength. Is that what you were saying? It's a a -- do you think this is more like a contradiction rather than a clarification?
WOOLSEY: No, I don't think it's a contradiction. we let our important capability which is our deterrent, our nuclear deterrent underlies our NATO, it underlies our alliances, it underlies the confidence that the countries like Japan have in us to -- and South Korea to protect them with our deterrent.
Otherwise, if we don't do this, we're going to find the world is moving even more rapidly toward proliferation and the next time you...
LEMON: If you -- if you look at both -- not to cut you off.
WOOLSEY: Go ahead.
LEMON: Pardon me. But if you look at it on its face and just look at the original language of this, it would appear that it's a nuclear arms race. This is an arms race because both are saying that we need to expand. You know, Putin is saying that. Donald Trump is initially saying that. He -- is this...
WOOLSEY: Well, race suggests that it's just compare it even, compare and similar institutions and similar modernization steps. I don't look at it that way. I do think it ought to be something where we're moving quickly and decisively in order to modernize and improve survivability.
LEMON: Yes. WOOLSEY: We have to be confident that Japan, South and NATO will trust us to deter the Russians from using the mainline force and certainly nuclear force.
LEMON: Bob, if you have a quick answer to that question, yes or no, about the arms race because I want to ask you something else. Do you see it as such?
BAER: It's an arms race. I think it's going to turn into that. I think Trump intends to turn foreign policy on its head. I mean, all these tweets. Everything he's said about the Middle East is unprecedented. It truly is. I've never seen anything like it in the 30 plus years I've been doing this. It's amazing.
LEMON: That's frightening, you know, given the assessment that you just said. But I have to ask you this, I think it's important to ask you about Edward Snowden today.
[22:35:00] Congress released a report on Edward Snowden discloses that Snowden has been in touch with Russian intelligence. What do you make of that? Does that slam the door to any type of repatriation or pardon for Edward Snowden?
BAER: You can't pardon him. The moment he set foot on an airplane on his way to Moscow, he was under control of KGB. I just got back from Moscow you don't do anything in that country, and especially an American contractor who would work the National Security Agency.
They met him as soon as he got off that airplane and started debriefing if they didn't do it in Hong Kong. He is under their control. He is not going to leave Russia without their permission. Russia, it remains a police state and that's the end of the story. He's not coming back. He is not going to be forgiven for this. I just, I do not believe that.
LEMON: Thank you, Bob. Thank you, ambassador. I appreciate it.
Coming up, more of our coverage of Israel asking Donald Trump to weigh in on a controversial U.S. resolution.
LEMON: Israel's government making an unorthodox move asking President-elect Trump to weigh in on a controversial U.N. Security Council resolution that condemns settlement activity.
I want to bring in now CNN political commentator Alice Stewart, a republican strategist, political commentator Bakari Sellers, Salena Zito, a columnist for the New York Post, and political contributor Hilary Rosen.
Good evening to all of you. Thank you for coming on, especially this holiday season.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Don.
LEMON: I like -- I like the sweater there, Bakari. Well, change...
[22:40:03] BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Holiday shopping today.
SELLERS: A little holiday shopping.
LEMON: You belong in a J. Crew catalog. So, Hilary, you heard Elise's reporting, first of all, let's talk about this -- I'll talk about that next because I want to talk about the nuclear arms race. We'll discuss that.
But you heard Elise's reporting that the Israeli government reached out to the president-elect ahead of the U.N. Security Council vote. One president at a time was tested today, wasn't it, Hilary?
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it was. On a substantive matter, I actually agree with President-elect Trump. I know Alice is fainting now. That look, a...
LEMON: No, she's smiling.
ROSEN: The only -- the only way we're going to have peace in the Middle East is direct negotiations between Israel and its neighbors. I don't -- I do think the U.N. Security Council is trying to box out Israel and I think the Obama administration was trying to get in their last stand on this.
So substantively, I agree with Mr. Trump. On the other hand, I do think that Israel is jumping the gun a little bit here and that the Obama administration has to -- has to act until January 20th.
So, I think that the real problem for me is that a new president who isn't allowed to create new foreign policy but I don't think you ought to be doing it by tweeting.
I think you ought to be doing it by discussing it with the country by discussing it with experts, and by communicating in real-time, in real conversations with our allies. Tweeting is just -- it just feels, just a little reckless to me.
LEMON: Yes. Alice, you want to respond to that?
LEMON: I want Alice to respond because she addressed Alice directly and I'll let you respond, Bakari.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure, I agree with Hilary on that with regard to Donald Trump's position on this. And look, to be honest, for the last eight years, this administration has not been friendly to Israel. Israel is our greatest ally in the region and it hasn't -- President Obama has not been a friend to Israel.
So, I don't blame Israel for trying to circumvent the current administration and going to president-elect and that was wise on their part. They felt as though they were under the gun and reached out to Donald Trump. What he does from here moving forward, whether he expands it more in more of a policy initiative remains to be seen.
LEMON: And the tweeting part, Alice?
STEWART: The tweeting? That's how he communicates. He's done that throughout the entire campaign.
STEWART: And it's been effective for him and I think it's initial, it's a quick, instant way for him to get his message out and make people aware of where he is on a certain issue and in this case it was effective.
LEMON: OK. I want to get the other, get the other panel. Bakari, you wanted to respond. Go ahead.
SELLERS: Yes. I mean, I think Alice is just flat out wrong when it comes to Barack Obama and his relationship with Israel. I was just in Israel last week and I had an opportunity to speak to only Ambassador Dermer, but Ambassador Shapiro.
I met with the speaker of the Knesset and everyone is standing arm in arm and saying although there may be some personal differences between Bibi Netanyahu and Barack Obama, no one can discount the fact that the president and Israel have signed a $38 billion over the same year MOU.
No can discount the fact that the iron dome is because of the president of the United States, the country or state nation of Israel now has a missile defense system which protects them against Hamas rockets daily and Hezbollah rockets daily.
And so, that's all because of Barack Obama. So, I think it's very disrespectful to say that the relationship is flawed. but I will say that there is a great deal of uncertainty over there.
You know, traveling to the north in the Golan Heights and borders of Syria in Lebanon with former generals of the IDF, you understand that people fo not know what the foreign policy of Donald Trump is and it's breeding a great deal of uncertainty.
And so, when you can just pick up the phone call and ask the president of the United States to tweet something to dictate what the U.N. does, imagine how the world looks us -- looks at us with that.
LEMON: Hey, Salena, I want to ask you, because Donald Trump's foreign policy via Twitter continued today when just after Russian President Vladimir Putin pledge to enhance his country's nuclear forces. And he tweeted this, "The United States must greatly strengthen and
expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."
And a newly named White House communications director, Jason Miller quickly clarified and release a statement that reads in part, "The President-elect was referring to the threat of the nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it particularly to and among terrorist organizations and unstable and rogue regimes."
He has also emphasized the need to improve and modernize our deterrent capability as a vital way to pursue peace through strength. What's your reaction to that?
SALENA ZITO, WASHINGTON EXAMINER STAFF: Well, I mean, the problem with the tweet is, you get 140 words and that's it. And he didn't expand...
ZITO: Or characters. And he didn't expand on it. And so, I think that this is probably something we're going to see a lot of, right? He's going to say something on Twitter and you're going to have someone from either Sean Spicer or Jason expand on it and give more of an explanation because there's not enough dimension for -- people can read all kinds of things into 140 characters and, you know, this is the new world that we have.
[22:45:07] LEMON: That is...
ROSEN: It's just -- it's just disrespectful.
ROSEN: It really is. It's disrespectful to the American people who are looking for leadership and particularly if you're going to make significant changes.
We have a START Treaty with Russia on nuclear disarmament. We have modernized our nuclear capability under President Obama significantly. So to say that it's been languishing is simply not true.
LEMON: Hilary, to that point, when you talk about the START Treaty...
ROSEN: And our START Treaty though, -- yes.
LEMON: But let me get this question, because his supporters, Donald Trump supporters may read it differently. They may like the bold moves but Vladimir Putin may not read the same thing into the supporters in those 140 characters what the supporters are reading into it and it could lead to issues when it comes to foreign policy or nuclear weapons.
ROSEN: Exactly the point.
LEMON: Go on.
ROSEN: That's actually my fear, Don. You know, we think now maybe Putin wants to renegotiate that treaty. Maybe he sees, you know, a different kind of a deal in Donald Trump, somebody who wants to increase our nuclear capability, giving Putin an excuse to increase his.
So, you know, there is so much involved here and there have been years and years going back to Ronald Reagan's worth of negotiations over the trading of nuclear capabilities with Russia and other countries around the world.
So, I just think it's disrespectful to the process, to the American people and, frankly, when it comes to nuclear weapons, dangerous to try and communicate foreign policy by tweeting.
LEMON: Security analyst Bob Baer told me moments ago, he said this was a nuclear arms race. We'll discuss that, coming up.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: I'm back now with my panel. Alice Stewart, to you, first. Because respected security analyst and former CIA operative Bob Baer, I had a conversation with him just moments ago and he said that he believes that this was a nuclear armed race. What's your opinion?
STEWART: Well, I think we have to look at the chronology of how this all unfolded today. It started with Putin to talking about the need to strengthen the military potential of the nuclear weapons, followed by Donald Trump who is saying we need to look to enhance our nuclear weapons, potential which was clarified by Jason Miller to say it more of a deterrent.
So, I think this was a way -- Putin began by saying they want to strengthen their nuclear potential. Trump responded by saying we need to beef ours up in order to act it as a deterrent.
And is the symbol of peace through strength. The only way you can stand up to Putin who is threatening to enhance their nuclear potential is to show strength. And I don't think this is the beginning of an arms race, but I think this is Donald Trump, in a way, showing that he's not going to let Putin walk away and step on us with regard to nuclear weapons.
LEMON: Bakari, it looks like you're not buying it, are you?
SELLERS: No, I'm not buying it. The reason being is because, I mean, Russia for all particular purposes a gas station with nuclear weapons. I mean, that's what the country -- that's what the country is right now.
I mean, we had sanctions on Russia, we have sanctions on Russia which have crippled its economy. Russia has a crippled economy. If John McCain and Lindsey Graham and John Flake and many others come together in a bipartisan pill and put -- in a bipartisan bill and put more sanctions on Russia, economic sanctions on Russia, they will continue to be crippled.
The question is will Donald Trump sign that? It's the question of -- and the tweet today, and even Jason Miller's explanation of it, I don't know if he wants to get more nuclear weapons, which I believe is absurd. I don't know if he wants to strengthen the nuclear triad or modernize the nuclear triad. No one really knows what they are talking about.
LEMON: Well, he says -- he emphasize the need -- he says they emphasize to improve and modernize our deterrent capabilities is what he said. I mean, he's saying modernize, but exactly what aspect of it...
SELLERS: What does that mean? I mean, are we going to -- are we going t modernize the nuclear triad? Are we going to get nuke? And my only point is that we're losing focus of the greatest nuclear threat we have on the earth today, which is Iran.
And we have to make sure that we strengthen the Iran deal, we strengthen countries around it and we have to make sure Iran is farther away in 10 years away after this deal is up from the nuclear weapon and the...
LEMON: Hilary, I let you weigh in but I want to move to domestic issues, quickly, go ahead.
ROSEN: I was just going to say I think Iran is an important point, but it almost makes it seem like Donald Trump doesn't know that we actually are modernizing our nuclear weapons capabilities to the tune of many billions of dollars, and he might have been able to be more effective in pushing back on Putin by actually talking about what we do have.
And it makes me wonder whether he even knows what we do have, whether they're even there. And so when you hear the president of Russia say something, the first thing you might want to do is actually step back and think about, you know, what we have in the U.S. and how you can leverage it in the most effective way.
LEMON: Let's move on to domestic issues for as much as we can get in here. Salena, this is for you. The U.S. has lost 5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000. Donald Trump is assembling his American desk and he has named economist Peter Navarro to head up a trade council. Carl Icahn is going to be a special adviser on regulatory reform. Is the formation of an American desk exactly why Trump's base voted for him?
ZITO: Yes, absolutely. I mean, throughout the campaign, he talked about trade, he talked about the impact that it's had on manufacturing. Although he didn't talk enough, I think, about the impact the technology has also had on those jobs.
But, you know, this is -- these are the types of people that his supporters want, people that are outside of Washington who are known for being, you know, strong about regulations, about lifting regulations, and about China's currency and how they manipulated and it hurts American manufacturing.
So, I think his voters, his supporters and some of the people that are unsure about him are seeing that he's playing out what he talked about, and they're going to be happy with these choices, at least from the start.
LEMON: Let's talk about it in regard to trade, Alice. President-elect Donald Trump is also working on delivering his America first promise. The transition is discussing a proposal to impose tariffs as high as 10 percent on U.S. imports.
This is at odds with the republican establishment.
[22:54:57] For example, earlier this month, the House Speaker Paul Ryan told CNBC that trump's goal on spurring U.S. manufacturing could be accomplished through, quote, "comprehensive tax reform." How will the establishment and the Trump administration find common ground on trade?
STEWART: Well, that's what they're working through right now is trying to find common ground on this. And it's not a secret. Trump made it quite clear throughout his campaign that he did want to renegotiate some of these trade deals. NAFTA, he doesn't think that as beneficial to America.
He wants to make sure there is these bilateral agreements are beneficial to America and American workers, and that's not a surprise. As far as that 10 percent tariff, look, this is -- this is something that's a proposal, it's being discussed. He said he could do it through an executive action or by a broader tax plan through Congress.
And I think that's what they're going to work on and talking about finding common ground. But at the same time, if he wants to do it alone with an executive action, he can do that.
But the key, this is all part of this package to make America better for American workers, and in terms of buy American and hire Americans, and that's the goal. That's the focus of his economic package. And I think with Icahn and Navarro, they're on a good first step.
LEMON: Bakari, I know you're not buying it but I have to go. I'm simply out of time. So, thank you. Thank you all very much.
ROSEN: Me, neither. Chalk me up as to not buying it, either.
LEMON: All right. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Straight ahead in our next hour, President-elect Donald Trump sidestepping the White House and weighing on behalf of Israel against a Security Council resolution, condemning Israel's settlement activity.
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