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Manhunt for Suspect in Berlin Attack; Trump's Billionaires; NC Legislature Fails to Repeal "Bathroom Bill". Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired December 22, 2016 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:10] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Armed and dangerous. We are learning more about the suspect on the run in the deadly Berlin truck attack.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: The billionaires club. President-elect Trump transition adds another wealthy name to his team and causes some controversy.

ROMANS: Repeal rejected. Lawmakers let a deal fall apart and North Carolina's bathroom bill remains law.

Good morning. And welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

MARQUEZ: I'm Miguel Marquez. Good morning. Good to see you.

It is December 22nd. It's 4:00 a.m. here on the East Coast.

This morning, an intense manhunt underway for this man, a suspect in Monday's semi truck attack in Berlin that left 12 people dead and 48 injured. His name is Anis Amri. He is a 24-year-old native of Tunisia who immigrated illegally to Europe and was denied asylum. German authorities are offering a 100,000 euro award and they are warning he may be armed and dangerous.

Joining us live from Berlin with the latest on the investigation, journalist Chris Burns.

Good morning, Chris.

CHRIS BURNS, JOURNALIST: Good morning, Miguel.

That is where it stands. And, in fact, we've got some headlines like this. "Why did they not hold him longer in detention?" That is the big question. Did Anis Amri, was he released too soon?

The German authorities did not have the papers they needed to keep him and to send him back to Tunisia. So, they had to release him under German law.

But this guy is a hardened criminal. His past, he had -- was accused and tried in absentia of violent robbery in Tunisia, and then other crimes in Italy where he was held for four years in prison and then released and then he went to Germany where he's been charged with assault and then he was -- he did not show up in court for that.

So, that was his past. Why was he not kept longer in detention? That is the big question.

At the same time, Berlin is trying to come back to normal. Over my shoulder, the Christmas market is going to be opening today. But, as we speak, there are huge concrete blocks that are being lain right around the market to be sure that such an attack that happened three days ago killing 12 people does not happen again.

Back to you, Miguel.

MARQUEZ: Chris Burns for us this morning in Berlin, thank you very much.

ROMANS: Donald Trump, the president-elect, speaking out on the Berlin rampage, condemning it as, quote, "an act on humanity". The president-elect pivoting away from the earlier description in a news release that characterized it as the slaughter of Christians in particular.

For the latest, let's bring in CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He is at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Miguel, Donald Trump making the first comments about that rampage at a Christmas market in Berlin. As he met in Mar-a-Lago with his senior national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and an array of generals, trying to show a sign of strength, signaled that he is on top of this heightened alert during the holiday season. This is what he said about that attack.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: That's an attack on humanity. That's what it is. It's an attack on humanity and it's got to be stopped.

ZELENY: An attack on humanity. Donald Trump making the case that his team is going to go aggressively after the fight against terrorism, but giving no specifics after meeting with generals and other top advisers here in Mar-a-Lago.

Donald Trump also met on Wednesday with two key CEOs, from the Boeing Company, first and foremost. Of course, you will remember earlier this month, Trump going after the Boeing Company saying they are charging the American taxpayer too much to refurbish Air Force One. So, he invited the Boeing CEO down here to Mar-a-Lago for a one-on-one face to face meeting. And he faced the cameras and said he indeed would try and bring the costs down.

Trump advisors say this is something that the president-elect wants to do once he takes office, to bring business leaders in part public relations, part negotiations, but clearly wanting to make the case that he is trying to fight for the American taxpayer, part of that populist appeal there. Now, advisors to Trump say he's going to take most of the next several days off, but he still has two key cabinet positions left to fill. Veterans Administration, and the Department of Agriculture and then his cabinet will be full. He takes office 29 days from today -- Miguel and Christine.


MARQUEZ: Thanks to Jeff Zeleny.

Another job that the Trump transition is working to fill in is the second in command at the State Department. It is turning into a struggle. The leading candidate is former ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton. It is unclear if the blunt and opinionated Bolton could muster enough votes for confirmation in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Sources say that even Bolton's would-be boss, Secretary of State nomine Rex Tillerson, has reservations about him, sources tell CNN. The search for deputy secretary of state has expanded to a handful of other lesser well-known names from the foreign policy establishment.

[04:05:06] ROMANS: President-elect Donald Trump naming billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn to his administration. Icahn will be a special advisor on regulatory reform. Translation, he is going to find and get rid of rules and laws he thinks hurt business. Icahn told CNN earlier this month, quote, "I'm not anti-regulation, I'm anti-the stupidity of some of the regulations and it has run amuck." He said he wants to let entrepreneurs create jobs and support communities.

Democratic National Committee ripping this nomination, saying, quote, "This is a quid pro quo 25 years in the making. In the early 1990s, Icahn came to Trump's rescue as his casino business was failing business. Today, Trump made Icahn the regulatory czar of his administration," end quote.

Icahn has a long history of financing Trump casinos, two mortgages and bond holdings most recently. He closed the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City after a labor dispute.

MARQUEZ: The transition team is said to be talking about quickly imposing tariffs on foreign imports using executive action soon after Mr. Trump takes office. That's according to multiple sources with knowledge of these discussions. It is a prospect that is alarming business groups and the Republican establishment. They fear it would ignite a trade war and hurt U.S. exports. Sources differ on whether the talk on tariffs is serious or just a trial balloon to gauge reaction.

ROMANS: Or just part of the Donald Trump beginning of negotiations.

MARQUEZ: He puts out every possibility and then picks the one he likes.

ROMANS: That's right.

All right. Donald Trump's adult sons have been removed from the charity that critics said was poised to offer presidential access for big money donations. Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump had been listed as directors of the Opening Day Foundation, a conservation non-profit. TMZ obtained a draft invitation to a foundation event on January 21st.

Now, that invite offered a private reception with the president-elect and a hunting trip with Trump's sons in exchange for donation at a half a million or a million dollars. Since then, the group has put out a new invitation with no reference to the hunting trip or the reception. A spokesman for the fund-raiser declined to answer questions from CNN about any involvement by Trump's sons.

MARQUEZ: And former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is set to start up a political consulting firm with Ben Carson's campaign manager, Barry Bennett. Lewandowski said in a statement that he considered multiple opportunities within the Trump administration but decided he can, quote, "best help him outside the formal structure of government." Lewandowski managed Trump's campaign until he was fired after the primary, then he became a paid political commentator for CNN through the election.

ROMANS: All right. The final tally on the presidential race is in now. And the winner of the popular vote remains Hillary Clinton. The latest numbers crunching gives the Democrat 48.2 percent, compared to Trump's 46.1 percent of the pie, reflecting a difference of 2.9 million votes. The president-elect venting on Twitter Wednesday, saying he would have done better in the election if the winner was based on the popular vote, though he would have campaigned differently.

It is harder to campaign with Electoral College in mind than just the popular vote. But interesting. Donald Trump still on twitter showing his mind is back on the election that he won.

MARQUEZ: Most presidents are. We will see if and when he gets to the job of being president.

ROMANS: Governing.

MARQUEZ: A plan to repeal North Carolina's bathroom bill derailed. What went wrong? We'll have that next.


[04:11:41] ROMANS: North Carolina lawmakers meet, but can't agree to repeal the state's so-called bathroom bill. People in the gallery chanted "shame" as a gavel came down and lawmakers headed home following the special session. Republicans and Democrats blame each other for breaking a bargain and failing to repeal this controversial bill.

Let's get more now from CNN's Nick Valencia.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miguel and Christine, after nine hours of caucuses and lawmakers going in and out of recess, the North Carolina legislature was unable to reach consensus on about whether or not to repeal House Bill 2. The legislature adjourned without coming to a conclusion on what to do. So, for now, House Bill 2 stands as law in the state of North Carolina.

In their closing statements, Republican leadership pointed at state Democrats for playing politics. Democrats for their part pointed right back at the Republicans. It was reported earlier this week that both parties leadership agreed to broker a deal in Charlotte if that city council was able to rescind their nondiscrimination ordinance, then Republicans would clear the way for repealing House Bill 2. That's anything but what happened here today in Raleigh.

There has been no shortage of drama between the Republicans and Democrats here in the state. That promises to continue. There still is no clear date set when they take up the special session to discuss House Bill 2 next -- Miguel, Christine.


MARQUEZ: Thanks to Nick Valencia.

South Korea's constitutional court opening hearings this morning on the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. Lawmakers impeached Park for her role in a corruption and an influence-peddling scandal. Prosecutors alleged she shared classified information with a close friend who also used relationship to embezzle millions of dollars for charity. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has signaled that he will run to replace Park if she is forced out.

ROMANS: All right. To Mexico now, the death toll rising to at least 33 in the explosion at the fireworks market in north of Mexico City. Families and loved ones in a state of shock here as the search continues for victims who may still be trapped under the rubble. This as investigators try to figure out what caused the deadly blast.

CNN's Leyla Santiago has more from the disaster zone.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Miguel, it is the unknown that is sort of feeding the anxiety and desperation for families still searching for their loved ones. It is also the unknown fueling the investigation for a lot of people here that are sorting through the debris trying to figure out exactly what caused.

But the state government officials are not commenting on that right now. They have told me that they are focusing on the dozens of victims that they are now trying to support as a result. We should mention this is a massive market. About ten football fields and 300 vendors, all of which the government tells me had permits at the time of the explosion. And this is where children and families came for Christmas and New Year's Eve to get ready for the holiday season.

But now, this is now an area where there's a search for answers -- Miguel, Christine.


MARQUEZ: Thank you very much.

Here at home, a parishioner has been charged in connection with torching a predominantly black church in Mississippi.

[04:15:03] Police say Andrew McClinton, a member of Hopewell Baptist Church in Greenville, set the fire on purpose. They are trying to figure out if he's also the one who wrote "vote Trump" on the side of the 111-year-old church. The pastor says last month's blaze mostly destroyed the sanctuary. So far, a motive has not been released.

ROMANS: All right. Fifteen minutes past the hour.

There's warning in Russia amid tension with Turkey and the U.S. A live report on the murder of that Russian ambassador.


ROMANS: Evacuations from eastern Aleppo resumed Wednesday after a brief delay. No reason was given for this temporary halt. But the International Red Cross said snow has been falling in the region and many people were struggling to stay warm. Syrian state TV confirms 20 buses departed the region. The Red Cross confirming all hospital patients had been evacuated from eastern Aleppo.

MARQUEZ: And the 7-year-old girl who brought the plight of Aleppo to the world is safe. Bana Alabed meeting with Turkey's president in Ankara. She was captured on camera appearing to speak in English. Bana thanked President Erdogan for supporting the children of Aleppo and rescuing them from the war. The little girl made headlines around the world for her tweets about living in the war-ravaged city.

ROMANS: Israel's ambassador to the U.S. backing Donald Trump's plan to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. The president-elect repeatedly vowed on the campaign trail to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv. The Palestinians are warning that action could derail any chance for peace.

CNN's Oren Liebermann with the very latest.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These are significant because who they come from.

[04:20:01] The Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, he is considered one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's closest confidants and one of the few members of his inner circles. So, this would be highest level endorsement or one of the highest endorsements we have seen yet of Trump's plan in the promise to move the embassy from where it is now, in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

What is it that Dermer said? Here are the comments he made, part of the comments he made, at an embassy party for the holiday of Hanukkah. He said, I hope that next year, the U.S. ambassador to Israel lights the menorah in his embassy in Jerusalem where the Maccabees lit it 2,200 years ago."

Moving the embassy and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would break with decades of U.S. foreign policy which has held the final status of Jerusalem is open to negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Jerusalem has always been intentionally an open-ended question especially because it's one of the most sensitive and one of the most complex questions in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

How is it that Palestinians have reacted to the idea of moving the embassy to Jerusalem? Predictably, they're furious. PLO Secretary General Saeb Erakat has said moving the embassy may violate international law and he also said the PLO would consider revoking their recognition of he state of Israel. As such, moving the embassy may have some very adverse effects on relations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as relations between the U.S. and Palestinians, and perhaps if it spreads to the wider region, adverse effect on relation between the U.S. and the regions Arab states.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, Israel.


MARQUEZ: The Russian ambassador gunned in an assassination in Turkey will be laid to rest today in a funeral to be attended by President Putin. Ambassador Andrey Karlov was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer this week as cameras rolled. Karlov was speaking at a photo exhibit in Ankara. His murder prompting a stern warning from Russian and Turkish officials who said they will not bow in the face of terror.

CNN's Matthew Chance is live for us in Moscow.

Matthew, what's the mood there?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The mood is pretty sorrowful, as you can expect. I mean, Russians have seen these images of the ambassador being gunned down in Ankara so publicly. At the moment, there is a live event under way. The funeral process has begun, there's a very somber ceremony underway.

The Russian foreign ministry in which Russian officials have been speaking about what an incredible person the ambassador was, the Russian foreign minister saying he made great contributions to the development of relations between Russia and other countries.

And Vladimir Putin is already. In fact, the Russian president is expected to say a few words as well afterwards. After this is over, the coffin is going to be taken to the main cathedral in the center of Moscow called the Church of Christ the Savior. And there is going to be a huge funeral procession overseen by the orthodox patriarch of Russia.

So, this is a very state event, and obviously, the Russian public and Russian officials are taking this extremely seriously, indeed, but they're saying they're not going to let the assassination get in the way of the process of normalization of relations between Russia and Turkey, which is, of course, where in a low point last November when Turkey shot a Russian plane out of the skies. Recently, they have been rebuilding the relationship, cooperating over Syria. That, the Russians say, is going to continue.

MARQUEZ: Speaking of relationships, the U.S./Russian relationship also coming into focus on this. Russians say the relationship is frozen. The U.S. sort of pushing back yesterday, saying that they cooperate and talk with Russians on a whole variety of issues. What are you hearing now?

CHANCE: Yes, the U.S. pushed back and said, look, the Pentagon had been in touch just recently with the Russians in Syria to make sure we have air safety in Syria. John Kerry, the secretary of state, called his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, as well on Tuesday. It's nonsense to say basically that there's no contact.

But the Russians have said, look, this morning, a few hours ago, few minutes ago, and they said, look, we see these as minimal contacts. We've got no business to business contacts. No contacts with the parliament, no cultural contacts, no contacts with public organization and none of that is our fault. It's the American fault.

We asked them whether that was going to change they thought under Donald Trump because, obviously, he is in the White House a couple weeks from now. They said, look, we have not expected things to change in a second. But we do hope for more constructive relations.

And I think that sums up what the expectations are in Russia here. It's been pretty bad with the United States under President Obama in the past couple years. Russians hope that can turn around with President Trump in the White House.

MARQUEZ: The palace intrigue continues. Matthew Chance for us in Moscow -- thank you very much.

Big storms coming and they may hamper the holiday travel.

ROMANS: Uh-oh.

MARQUEZ: Uh-oh is right.

Meteorologist Allison Chinchar has the forecast.


ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And we're talking a look at some of the winter storm watches and warnings we have in place because we're going to have not one, but two separate systems impacting the western half of the country. The first one is going to bring some much-needed rain to areas of the desert southwest, including cities like San Diego, Los Angeles and even as far east as Albuquerque.

[04:25:08] And some of those higher elevations could actually get some much-needed snow pack as well. Now, the forecast accumulations, most of these areas, we're talking about 1 to 2 inches of rain. That may not sound like that much, but for these areas, that's enough to cause flooding and even potential for landslides.

Now, that first system begins to trail off toward the east, bringing heavy rain Christmas Eve to cities like New York, Boston, even around Philadelphia. Then the next system begins to make its way. This is going to be the much more potent system because this has a chance to bring us severe weather across the central U.S. just in time for Christmas Day.


ROMANS: All right. Everybody, be careful out there. Allison Chinchar, thank you for that.

The suspect in the Berlin truck attack, no stranger to terror investigators. More on his troubling past.


MARQUEZ: He just might be the most wanted man in Europe. The suspect in the deadly Berlin truck attack.

ROMANS: President-elect Trump's three-prong plan to save jobs: taxes, regulation and energy.

MARQUEZ: Finger-pointing in North Carolina. Both parties blame the other as a deal to repeal the bathroom bill falls apart.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Miguel Marquez.

ROMANS: Nice to see you this week again.

MARQUEZ: Nice to see you.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is Thursday. Twenty-nine minutes past the hour.

This morning, an intense manhunt is under way for this man, a suspect in Monday's semi truck attack in Berlin that left 12 dead and 48 injured. His name is Anis Amri. He's 24-year-old native of Tunisia.

Now, he immigrated illegally to Europe and was denied asylum. He was arrested carrying forged documents but released because authorities couldn't establish his identity beyond doubt. German authorities are offering a 100,000 euro reward and they're warning he may be armed and dangerous.

Joining us live from Berlin with the latest details on the investigation, journalist Chris Burns.

Good morning. You know, and some of these reports, this is the guy who spent sometime in prison.

CHRIS BURNS, JOURNALIST: Good morning, Christine.