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Update on the Berlin Attack Suspect; A Showdown Vote in the United Nations Security Council On Hold; Record Number Of People Signing Up for Obamacare Coverage for 2017. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired December 22, 2016 - 15:00   ET


[15:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hour two, you're watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin.

I have breaking news for you that we now know that the suspect behind the truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin was known not only to authorities in Europe but also right here in the United States.

Yes, officials now, they are dogged by these myriad questions here over how this man, his named Anis Amri, was able to take a truck full of steel -- so it was like a battering ram -- and carry out on of Germany's worst terror attacks while on the radar of law enforcement. When you look at his rap sheet, it is a laundry list of red flags. You see it here. So ties so a terror recruiting network. Suspicion of plotting an attack, arson, assault and fraud.

And according to investigative files obtained by CNN, German authorities not only knew he had contacts with these pro-ISIS operatives but that he had quote "spoken several times" about launching attacks in Germany. Now the manhunt is on not just for him but anyone who may have helped him slip away.

For the latest on the breaking story here in the U.S. side, Evan Perez is with me, our CNN justice correspondent.

And so, Evan, what specifically did the U.S. know about this guy and what did they do about it?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, what they first did was put him on a no fly list. And this is based on information that they were able to get them from their counterparts in Germany. German intelligence has found that he was part of a group that as you mentioned was a recruiting network, a network that was helping to find and send fighters to send Syria to join ISIS. And that was the big concern here.

There were also some members of this group that were in touch with people in Syria, people who the intelligence agencies in Germany and the United States believe were plotting and directing attacks in the continent. Now, that reminds us of this capability that remains even though we know that there's a lot of pressure on ISIS in Syria and Iraq. We hear a lot about that. What we don't hear is the fact that despite all that pressure they are getting there's still this command and control, this ability to direct attacks which we were told by officials is a big concern that remains, especially for Europe where there's a lot of active plots that officials are -- that these intelligence agencies are tracking right now, Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK. Evan, thank you.

We have heard now from the suspect's father. He is speaking though he is refusing to put his face on camera. He says his son was imprisoned for an arson attack on a school. His father also stressed that he had no idea his son was planning this attack in Berlin.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My son who is away is Anis. I have not spoken to him in a long time. It has been about seven years since he left home. I have not spoken to him directly for that long. I do not even have haze his cell phone. But he has been talking to his mother and siblings. They communicate with him every three to four months. I swear he has not sent us any money since he left, not to me or to his siblings.


BALDWIN: You heard his father say the suspect had stayed in touch with his brothers. They are talking now, too, saying they are also shocked by what's happened.


WALID AMRI, BERLIN SUSPECT'S BROTHER (through translator): No human being wishes for something like this to happen. Anis never told us about his life or who he was as a person. When he left Tunisia he was a normal person. He drank alcohol and didn't even pray. He had no religious beliefs. My dad, my brother and I all used to pray and he didn't. Maybe he got into this when he was in prison where he met Algerians, Egyptians and Syrians.

ABDELKADER AMRI, BERLIN SUSPECT'S BROTHER (through translator): He doesn't represent us or our family. If he is watching now I just want to say may God guide you for putting us in this situation. Your father and mother are trying. People have left their jobs to come and see us. You have caused so much chaos. What can I say?


BALDWIN: So we are hearing from the suspect's family. What more do we know about him?

Erin McLaughlin is live for us there at the market which has reopened in Berlin.

Erin, as you know, that law enforcement, they are putting pieces together on his background. What are they finding and how does this wider terror network then play into the investigation?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, at the moment it's unclear. Authorities here are being very careful about what information they are sharing, seemingly not to compromise the nature of this ongoing investigation. But the information we are learning about Amri's background and his connections to a pro-ISIS network, recruitment network that was operating here in Germany, well, those details are potentially telling.

Now, we know that in November German authorities arrested five senior members of that recruitment network. CNN has had an opportunity to take a look at the 345 page investigative file associated with that case. In that final Amri's name is mentioned several times as someone who wanted to carry out attacks and critically members of that network offering to hide him and that has to be a consideration tonight for authorities in this ongoing manhunt, the possibility that there are more members of -- that ISIS recruitment network throughout potentially helping him.

We know there have been raids carried out predominantly here in berlin as well as in the cologne area. No arrests, though, made so far, no key arrests as far as we are aware. This manhunt very much ongoing. Authorities saying that he is armed, potential armed and dangerous - Brooke.

[15:05:55] BALDWIN: We will follow up with my next guest about your point about this network and this group whose real purpose is to hide people like him from authorities.

You are at the market, you know, Erin, where we are getting closer and closer to Christmas. How many people are you seeing out and about? I know these markets are so, so popular where you are. What are people there telling you?

MCLAUGHLIN: Brooke, the market that's just behind really as symbol of resilience of the German people in the wake of this attack. And people have gathered here, the kiosks are open selling mulled wine as well as small gifts but there isn't that sense of Christmas cheer that you would normally get from a market like this. People are there with a purpose. They are there to mourn the 12 lives lost in this horrendous attack. There are small makeshift memorials kind of sprinkled throughout the market, people taking time to light candles, to leave notes, to gather and mourn and reflect on this tremendous loss.

I spoke to one customer who told me she's there because she believes in hope. And it's that kind of sentiment, that kind of resilience and solidarity that we are hearing from Germans in Berlin tonight.

Erin, thank you so much. Erin McLaughlin in Berlin this evening.

Let's bring in now CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank, also the editor-in-chief for "CTC Sentinel."

Paul Cruickshank, you know so much about this. I want you to just begin with the group the suspect was tied to, was led by a man known as the imam without a face. Who is he and tell me about the network which was essentially a terrorist pipeline, right?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Abi Wallah, a 32-year-old Iraqi who is the pinnacle of this ISIS group network in Germany, the man without a face but actually CNN has actually obtained an image of him, of his face. He was at the pinnacle and he had a number of deputies among him. And the five key leaders of this network were actually detained and charged back in November. German security services went after the leaders after this group, but they didn't go yet after the foot soldiers. And Anis Amri, the truck attacker, the suspected truck attacker was one of the foot soldiers, one of the people that had been indoctrinated, radicalized by this network. And there was a police informant that the Germans had in the network for months and months. And he was able to give all the details back to German investigators about how this organization was run and reveal that Anis Amri himself, on several occasions, expressed a desire to launch an attack and that several senior members of the network were very keen on sanctioning that and providing him with shelter if he wanted to prepare that.

This is a network, Brooke. And I'm just being going through the document. It's quite extraordinary that was really efficiently run. We are talking about the sort of bureaucratic structure where the different regions of proselytizers would report up to Abu Wallah, who had kind of the more national overview of the organization. They even had a common curriculum to radicalize people to join ISIS which they would preach in study sessions on the fringes of mosques and apartments, even in offices. And all of that amount in to a concerted attempt to persuade people, either to go and join ISIS in Syria, but if they couldn't get there to strike in Germany.

BALDWIN: So if this down to having a curriculum is who could potentially be - I mean, from what I'm hearing from you, could be the ones helping Anis Amri get as far away as possible and keep him safe. How does Germany and Europe find him?

CRUICKSHANK: It might be tough because the glass half empty here is that he is tied very closely part of this ISIS recruitment logistical network so there are plenty of people it would appear in Germany that could offer him an apartment to stay in, a safe house. And if he just stays put, he doesn't go out and that's what the ISIS sympathizers in Europe have instructed, then, it's going to be very, very difficult for the German security services to figure out where he is after the Paris attacks, we saw with Saleh Abdeslam, he was --

[15:10:31] BALDWIN: Four months, right?

CRUICKSHANK: Four months, Brooke, yes. Four months. So, you know, this could take some time. Glass half full is they have a massive amount of detail about this network through this police informant. They have mapped it all out so they know possible safe houses. They know the phone numbers. They understand how all these extremists interrelate with each other. And that gives German security services a big advantage in terms of trying to get hold of this guy. But the bad guys may already have had a plan for his escape and a safe house and that plan would have involved a safe house that they would hope the Germans wouldn't know about. So it will be a big challenge.

BALDWIN: What do you make of - you know, so Evan Perez has been reporting that this Anis Amri also, he was known to U.S. intelligence before the attack. They put him on a no-fly list, right. They were aware of these Jihadist supporters. What do you make on that piece of news on top of everything you're telling me that the U.S. was aware?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, it would have been quite simply the Germans informing the Americans, right? So the Germans would have collected all this information from the police informant. And, of course, when they have evidence that somebody is a risk, dangerous, potentially of course as a matter of standard protocol they are going to inform the Americans of this. And so, I don't think that the Americans necessarily had independent information separate from the Germans.

But interestingly the American information suggests that there was they think, some communication between this Abu Wallah network back Syria, Iraq and ISIS. And, of course, that stands to make sense given the fact that they were funneling Germans to go and join the group that they would have all sorts of connections over there in the so- called caliphate.

BALDWIN: Paul Cruickshank, thank you as always for your knowledge. It's much appreciated here.

Coming up, is it a show of force? What is this about? Russia's Vladimir Putin and president-elect Donald Trump both making very public statements within just hours of one another about each country's nuclear weapon arsenal. We will talk about that.

Also, the next White House press secretary was just named a little while ago. We will tell you. He will be in charge of spreading the message under the Trump White House.

And later breaking news in Syria, the regime declaring complete control over Aleppo as the final rebel fighters have been evacuated.


[15:16:41] BALDWIN: A showdown vote in the United Nations security council at this hour is on hold. The vote is on a resolution calling for Israel to stop building settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem. It was delayed by the Egyptians who sponsored the resolution in the first place. Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and president-elect Donald Trump publicly denounced the measure.

So let's go to Elise Labott, our CNN global affairs correspondent and CNN global affairs analyst Aaron David Miller. Thank you both so much for being with me.

Elise Labott, with Egypt -- and I know John Kerry was set to address the U.N. before the vote. What happened?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We understand, Brooke, that the U.S. was prepared to let this resolution pass. You know, for years the U.S. has protected Israel at the U.N. with its veto power, giving it cover. But this time, you know, President Obama has been vehemently opposed to Israel's settlement policy, calls it an impediment to piece peace. We understand he was going to allow that to go through. But overnight, there was flurry of diplomatic activity. Prime

Minister Netanyahu reaching out to Israeli president al-Sisi who is the one that put forth the resolution to begin with. In term, president Sisi put that on hold. And you have the added dynamic of president-elect Trump weighing in calling for the resolution to be vetoed and now we don't know really what is going to happen. The Arab league is meeting as we speak to discuss what to do about the resolution, the text could be amounted. It could not be put forward, but certainly, a real flurry of diplomatic activity and high drama at the U.N. which we don't usually see.

BALDWIN: I know you meant Egyptian president al-Sisi.

And Aaron, we have -- Netanyahu has issued this statement before the cancellation saying quote "the proposed resolution is bad. It's bad for Israel, it's bad for the United States and it's bad for peace." Donald Trump meantime called it extremely unfair to all Israelis.

Now, obviously, he is not quite in the White House yet. You know, there -- is there any indication there has been communication between Netanyahu and Trump or the transition team on this very issue?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean, Elise laid it out pretty well. I don't have any information that there's been contact. But it wouldn't surprise me, either through the (INAUDIBLE) U.S. ambassador, the nominee, Mr. Friedman or perhaps even through Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to Washington.

But I'm not even sure you needed Israeli pressure on this one. It seems to me, Mr. Friedman could have simply called Mr. Trump and advised him of the resolution. And it seems it is another indication that, you know, as Dorothy said to her little dog when they landed in Oz, "we are not in Kansas anymore."

The president-elect clearly is determined to show through any number of moves during the transition that in effect there's going to be a sharp break with the policy toward Israel of his predecessor. And I think this is unprecedented. And certainly, for a president-elect during a transition to openly oppose an act of diplomacy at the U.N. in real-time in an administration. It's remarkable.

BALDWIN: Remarkable, but Elise, we are also seeing reporting -- and maybe this is your own reporting, this was just told to me in my ear, that the Trump team did give the White House the heads up.

[15:20:06] LABOTT: They did. The communications director spokesman Jason Miller who just named today for president-elect Trump's team at the White House for communications did say that they did give the White House a heads up that they were going to do this. And if you remember back in 2008 president-elect Obama was asked a lot of questions about the foreign policy of the Bush administration. He said there can be only one commander-in-chief at a time.

President-elect Trump obviously not following that tradition. But I mean, look, this would have been a very dramatic development for the U.S. to give this parting shot to the Israelis on their way out the door, secretary of state John Kerry was going to lay out his big vision for Middle East peace. You know, he had the failed bid for peace talks. And so the U.S. was really looking to put its finger on the scale as it left.

Now, how would that change president-elect Trump's calculation? It could even have pushed him more into the arms of Israel. We have been talking about how he would have a very Israeli-friendly policy. David Friedman obviously supports settlement expansion, annexation of the World Bank, not supportive of the two-state solution. But president- elect Trump himself said he wanted to remain neutral in the Middle East peace.

So a move like this by the Obama administration could actually cause Donald Trump to harden -- its positions and have a dramatic relations on the way forward.

BALDWIN: What do you see as we move ahead in the new administration, Aaron?

MILLER: You know, I think four weeks from Friday there will be -- president Trump will be the president of the United States. Had this resolution come to a vote and had the U.S. voted for it or even abstained, the problem is that hours after the vote had occurred the president-elect would have been communicating that, in fact, that is not his position. The U.S. opposes the resolution. And I think Elise on this one is absolutely right. You would end up with a situation in which the Trump administration could even acquiesce willingly in addition to Israeli moves on the ground around. And that simply going to confuse and confound both our adversaries and our allies. It's very difficult to take a step like this with four weeks to go in an outgoing administration, particularly one that is different than its successor.

BALDWIN: All right. Aaron David Miller and Elise Labott, thank you both.

Coming up next, speaking of the next president here, Donald Trump, he sent out a tweet just a little while ago about strengthening and expanding U.S. nuclear capability in what would be a dramatic shift in foreign policy. What's that about? And also just the way in which he communicated this.

Plus, a record number of people signing up for Obamacare coverage for 2017. What that means for the president-elect and Republican Congress who are promising to repeal it.


[15:26:21] BALDWIN: The number of Americans signing up for Obamacare is soaring. Federal officials say a record number, 6.4 million, have signed up for affordable care act policies for next year. That's nearly half a million more than one year ago. This is all happening despite president-elect Donald Trump's campaign promise to repeal president Obama's signature policy.

In a twist, a big chunk of signups reportedly are coming from states that Trump won, Florida, Texas, Indiana, Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania all posting huge numbers for sign ups.

Let's go to Hawaii. CNN's Athena Jones is standing by where the president is on his holiday vacation.

We know, Athena, that President Obama is taking note that nearly 700,000 just signed up last week but the numbers of first-time enrollees are down.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brooke. In terms of first-time enrollees the administration says that often time people who are enrolling for the first time wait until the last minute to sign up. And so, the enrollment period goes to the end of January. We know how the human service secretary Sylvia Burwell that the administration plans to ramp up its advertising and outreach efforts to reach those folks starting next month. They expect to see those numbers and they hope to see those number is right.

And you mentioned the president saying last week today 670,000 people signed up in a single day. He called it the biggest day yet. So they have really been touting these numbers. The White House encouraging people to continue to sign up even though Republicans are planning to repeal this bill. They don't plan for that to kick in right away. There is going to be a transition period. And the thinking among the folks at the White House is the more people sign up, the more people benefitting from this bill, the harder it might be for Republicans to repeal it. So they are really touting those numbers and telling people sign up. 20-million plus people are already enrolled in this law -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: I know we are hearing those numbers. But, you know, you covered Capitol Hill and you are in Washington, do you really think that that would be a reason for Republicans to say "OK, you're right, we change our minds"?

JONES: That doesn't look like that is going to be the case. We know that Republicans on Capitol Hill have this at the top of their agenda come January. The first week of January already 50 hours of debate are scheduled on a budget reconciliation bill. I don't want to get too far in the weeds but that would be the vehicle to reveal Obamacare. And so, they are going to be working on this from the beginning.

Now, we have seen some indications from president-elect Trump that he might be open to keeping some of the law's most popular provisions like keeping young -- allowing young people to stay on their plans until the age of 26 and preventing discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions like asthma, cancer, diabetes. But it's not clear if those provisions will, in the end, be kept.

We also know, though, that the Democrats, congressional Democrats are ready to fight this. They are going to be holding press events with people who are benefitting from the law to try to continue this drum beat of what it will mean to people who are benefitting from the law to lose it. So a lot of activity next year on this effort to repeal the law. Now replacing it as we know is going to be a much tougher and more lengthy process -- Brooke. BALDWIN: OK. That's right.

Athena Jones, thank you so much in Hawaii.

Let me move along and bring in my panel here. I have with me Bob Cusack, editor-in-chief of "the Hill" and Julie Page, chief White House correspondent with "the Associated Press."

Let me just - let's go ahead and let me tell everyone this. President-elect Donald Trump is offering signs that he wants a change in the U.S. nuclear program. Earlier, this was the tweet and I wanted everyone to see this together. The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.

So now, there has been a follow up statement. This is coming from Jason Miller, the communications director.