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Manhunt for Suspect in Berlin Attack; Trump Taps Carl Icahn to Bust Regulations; NC Legislature Fails to Repeal "Bathroom Bill"; Duke Player Intentionally Trips Opponent. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 22, 2016 - 05:00   ET


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Armed and dangerous. We're learning more about a suspect on the run in the deadly Berlin truck attack.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The billionaire's club. Trump adds another wealthy name to his team and cause some controversy.

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

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Miguel Marquez.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is so nice to see you this week.

MARQUEZ: Good to be here.

ROMANS: This week as we wait for Christmas. It is Thursday, December 22nd. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And this morning, an intense manhunt underway for this man, a suspect in Monday's semi truck attack in Berlin. An attack that left 12 people dead, 48 injured. His name is Anis Amri. He is a 24-year-old native of Tunisia. He immigrated illegally to Europe. He was denied asylum. He was arrested carrying forged documents but then released because authorities couldn't establish his identity beyond doubt.

German authorities are offering 100,000 euro reward and they are warning he may be armed and dangerous.

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

Good morning, Chris.

And what is ironic and sad and aggravating and frightening is that you say this man's papers finally came through yesterday.

[05:00:00] CHRIS BURNS, JOURNALIST: Yes, absolutely. In fact, here is a picture of him here in one of the tabloids here in Berlin, saying they knew him. They did nothing.

That's not exactly right. He was being tracked. But he was released because there was an extradition order, there was an order to deport him to Tunisia. He did not have the right papers. The authorities were waiting for that. They got a passport yesterday. Of course, that was too late.

You see what happened over my shoulder here at the market which, by the way, is reopening. Concrete blocks surrounding it trying to come back to normal. But the manhunt continues.

And what we've heard of late is that there was a search of a refugee house in western Germany where he spent time. We don't know the results of that. But this is one of the searches going on in western Germany. It is a manhunt involving hundreds of German police. It is going beyond the authorities on alert across Europe -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Chris Burns for us. This man is a hardened criminal, done time in Italy. They knew who he was and now he is on loose wanted for that attack. Thank you, Chris Burns.

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

For the latest on that, let's bring in CNN's Jeff Zeleny 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.


ROMANS: All right. Jeff Zeleny with the countdown.

OK. So, we are learning more. This is filling out the people who will have the ear of Donald Trump. He is naming billionaire investor Carl Icahn to his administration. Icahn will be a special advisor on regulatory reform. Translation, he will find and get rid of rules and laws that he thinks hamper businesses.

Icahn told CNN earlier this month, quote, I'm not anti-regulation, I'm anti-the stupidity of some of these regulations and it has just run amuck." He says he wants to let entrepreneurs to create jobs and support communities. The 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. Today, Trump made Icahn the regulatory czar of his administration," end quote.

Icahn has a long history of financing Trump casinos through mortgages and bond holdings. Most recently, he closed the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City after a labor dispute there.

MARQUEZ: Getting it together. The transition team is said to be talking about quickly imposing tariffs on foreign imports, using executive action soon after taking office. That's according to multiple sources with knowledge of those 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 talk of tariffs is serious or just a trial balloon to gauge reaction.

One other sign that Trump is planning to get tough with China. He's named economist Peter Navarro to head his new National Trade Council. Navarro is regarded as a hawk with very long, sharp talons on China.

ROMANS: Yes. His book is called "Death by China".

MARQUEZ: With a knife, with the Chinese (INAUDIBLE), and it's stabbing America.

ROMANS: Even the ministry of China was asked about it.

MARQUEZ: Subtle, a very subtle indication of where he is on China.

ROMANS: All right. Another job the Trump transition is working to fill. It is turning out to be a bit of 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.

MARQUEZ: 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.

The invite offered a private reception with the president-elect, then he would be president, and a hunting trip with Trump's sons for donations of a half a million or a million bucks. Since then, the group has put out a new invitation with no reference to the hunting trip or reception. A spokesman for the fund-raiser declined to answer questions from CNN about any involvement by Trump's sons.

ROMANS: All right. Let's break down all of the latest on the Trump transition as this picture fills out. We are joined this morning by CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan live in Washington.

Good morning.


ROMANS: Now, you got to think that Donald Trump is at Mar-a-Lago feeling rather vindicated. He's got, you know, markets up strongly on the Trump bump as they are calling it.

When you look at what happened in Berlin in particular, this horrible case of a hardened criminal in prison and illegally in Germany. He'd been in the hands of authorities. They let him go on a paper work snafu and there's this terrible terrorist attack. This is the thing that Donald Trump has been saying I'm right. I'm right, to be strongly, strongly cautious about Muslim immigration.

In a way, Donald Trump, the news flow seems to be just validating him at this point.

KOPAN: Yes. I mean, I think Donald Trump is very good at spinning any news cycle as validation. I mean, keep in mind, every time there was an attack of this sort, we often heard an "I'm right" type statement come from the Trump camp.

You know, he's going to have to have to be careful with this as we move forward through his presidency. He has sort of ascribed blame for certain attack to the people in command. And, you know, to a certain extent, a lot of experts will tell you, there is an element of being unable to stop everything.

So, we are going to have to see what happens over the next four years, but certain, he's already had some things he point to as clear victories, especially on the economic front, the jobs issues. And he is very good to say look what I have done. This is a clear example of my work.

MARQUEZ: Tal, does the transition seem to be calming down and get into a bit of a rhythm? I mean, you had Donald Trump come out and say something that seem to indicate that he was going to continue with his efforts to have the Muslim registry and sort of this extreme vetting of Muslims. And there was the statement about the slaughter of Christians with regard to the attacks in Europe.

And then they kind of walked all of that back. You are seeing more moderated statements coming out of his camp. What is your sense of how the transition is changing as we he move closer, 29 days now, until he is president of the United States?

KOPAN: Well, there are a few levels on which to unpack that question. I mean, the most public version of this, of course, is the -- as many mentioned, almost reality show like search for cabinet, which is really different than any past presidents and in some ways, the most open we've ever seen watching people come in and out for interviews.

Now, behind the scenes, his staff is also liaising with various agencies, trying to get their arms around a massive bureaucracy, trying to figure out what is going on at all these different agencies. They're going to have to report back to the teams that he's putting in place to lead these agencies. We have little insight into how that process is going although it seems like it is getting underway and they have named a staff for that.

But you are right. They put out statements and I don't know if we can say they moderated them, because they are barely day or two old. When asked about them, Trump was sort confused by the question. It is not unreasonable for a president-elect to not approve every press release personally.

ROMANS: Right.

KOPAN: But there does seem to be a bit of a messaging disconnect at times happening here.

ROMANS: We know more about who is going to be advising him. Peter Navarro who is well known China hawk, somebody who spent much of his career saying China is getting the best of the United States and the United States has to be tough with China.

[05:10:07] Carl Icahn, who is, you know, an activist investor, a billionaire, has known Donald Trump for years. You look at the cabinet here, it's a billionaire cabinet.

And my question is, at what point -- I mean, this is really incredible. I mean, the entire George W. Bush cabinet which at the time was talked about being full of millionaires, the entire cabinet is worth 1/10 of what the commerce secretary of this cabinet is.

Will they be friendly to business? Which is what everyone assumes. And does that necessarily mean friendly to business is good to workers? That's going to be the question, Tal.

KOPAN: Absolutely. That is the big question. Forgive me, the billion dollar question.

You know, one of the things for the way Trump is assembling his cabinet is they have differing views on some really key issues. You know, he has run as a strong immigration hawk, but some of his cabinet picks who will be involved in discussions about immigration have said things about it that are slightly different than some of the more hawkish members of the cabinet.

The Justice Department is very much in line with that. But the labor nominee has said things in line with immigration. It is interesting to see once he has assembled this team what the disagreements are within them.

And remember, different agencies have to work together on certain topics like Labor and Treasury and Commerce. You're going to have to put together as the Obama administration calls it a whole government approach to some things. So, we're going to have to kind of watch these and what the actual administration policy is once implemented versus the rhetoric we heard going into it. It is still very TBD.

ROMANS: All right. Tal Kopan, TBD. Come back in a little bit.

MARQUEZ: A lot of moving parts.

ROMANS: We got to talk about.

KOPAN: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Plan to repeal the North Carolina bathroom bill derails. We're going to tell you what's behind that collapse, next.


[05:15:07] MARQUEZ: North Carolina lawmakers meet, but cannot agree to repeal the so-called bathroom bill. People in the gallery chanted "shame" as the gavel came down and lawmakers headed home following a special session. Republicans and Democrats blame each other for breaking a bargain and failing to repeal the controversial bill.

We 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.


ROMANS: All right. Nick, thank you for that.

The death toll now rising to 33 in the explosion at the fireworks park north of Mexico City. Families of loved ones in a state of shock as the search continues for victims who may be trapped under that 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. And it is also the unknown that is 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.


ROMANS: All right. Leyla Santiago, thank you for that.

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 influence-peddling scandal. Prosecutors alleged she shared classified information with a close friend who also used their relationship to embezzle millions of dollars intended for charity. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has signaled he will run to replace Park if she is forced out.

MARQUEZ: Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip postponing their Christmas travel plans. Buckingham Palace announcing both have heavy colds and won't be able to travel to the royal country estate in Norfolk.

CNN's Max Foster joins us live from London with more.

She is 90 and he is 95. This has got to be a concern, Max.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a concern. They've got to be very cautious in the situation, very cautious, particularly for him at 95 years old.

What was interesting and perhaps alarming to some yesterday was the train station was set for a couple to get on the train and go up to Norfolk and even the royal protection officers were ready to go. But, literally, minutes before arriving at the train station, it was all cancelled. And there was a vacuum of information, which is what was going on. And then the palace announced a couple hours later that they both have heavy colds and won't be traveling to Norfolk yesterday.

The question is, will they go today or tomorrow morning? This tradition of going to Sandringham has continued for decades. She's very keen to do it every year. She gets all of her close family around for Christmas Day and it's something that the whole family looks forward to.

I'm told she is still determined to go. At the moment, though, the flag, her personal flag is playing above Buckingham Palace. So, we know she is in. And as to whether or not they are feeling better, is whether the flag comes down and they head to Norfolk or they stay here. That is a signal of there is more than of a concern of their health than there is at the moment.

The palace is playing it down slightly, but they need to do that because at the moment, they are just colds. Whether or not there are complications that come at the back of them.

[05:20:04] MARQUEZ: Well, we hope they get better soon and in the British style, we wish them a happy Christmas to you, too. Thank you.

ROMANS: I love the phrase "heavy cold".

MARQUEZ: Happy Christmas.

ROMANS: Happy Christmas. Heavy cold.

MARQUEZ: Heavy cold, happy Christmas.

ROMANS: I have a terrible cold here.

All right. Duke star Grayson Allen with another controversial play. Will trip another player land him on the bench? Coy Wire has the answer.


ROMANS: All right. Oklahoma's football coach speaking out for the first time after video released of a star player punching a woman more than two years ago.

MARQUEZ: Coy Wire has this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Good morning, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miguel and Christine.

Coach Bob Stoops and other Oklahoma administrators are facing a lot of criticism for the punishment they gave running back star of the team Joe Mixon. The graphic video of the 2014 incident released Friday by Mixon's attorney shows the woman slapping and shoving Mixon, and Mixon punches her in the head so hard, he broke several bones in her face. She had to have her jaw wired shot.

Mixon did not serve any jail time nor did he lose his scholarship for this incident. Instead, he received 100 hours of community service and suspended from the team for one year. Critics say he should have received a much harsher punishment, but Stoops says he wanted Mixon to have a chance to redeem himself.


BOB STOOPS, OKLAHOMA HEAD COACH: Two and a half years later, it is fair to say it isn't enough. And that's positive in that is the way the things have gone in the last two and a half years that really the only thing that's ever acceptable anymore is dismissal.


[05:25:02] WIRE: The woman has a civil lawsuit pending against Mixon. Oklahoma plays in the Sugar Bowl against Auburn on January 2nd. Mixon will play.

Duke's Grayson Allen is at the center of controversy again. Look at this, he stuck his leg out and trips an opponent in last night's game. That's the third time in the last year that he has intentionally tripped someone. Allen got a technical foul and then on the sideline, he threw a mini temper tantrum.

On the bench, Coach Mike Krzyzewski said it is unacceptable what he did, but he didn't how or if he would punish Allen.

Finally, the Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith, one of my favorites, is getting into the Christmas spirit. He dressed like an elf for yesterday's news conference. His team playing the Pittsburgh Steelers on Christmas Day. Don't expect a lot of holiday spirit in that one.


STEVE SMITH, BALTIMORE RAVENS: It's going to be joy. Not a lot of peace.


WIRE: That is going to be a huge game, guys. The winner likely clinching a spot in the playoffs. The loser likely eliminated. Can't wait to see that on Christmas Day.

ROMANS: That's quite an elf on the shelf.

MARQUEZ: I want to see more costumes. That's becoming a thing. I saw someone in a Pikachu costume the other day as well, yes?

WIRE: Yes, I agree, maybe part of your EARLY START show.

MARQUEZ: I think the three of us tomorrow. Are you on tomorrow? Tomorrow, we're all on it.

ROMANS: I'll dress as me. You can be something.

MARQUEZ: I will be a unicorn.

WIRE: I'll do it. Don't mess with me now. I will do it.


ROMANS: Nice to see you. "Bleacher Report".

All right. Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

The suspect in the Berlin truck attack, no stranger to terror investigators. We've got more on his troubling past and the manhunt, ahead.


ROMANS: This might just be the most wanted man in Europe right now. The suspect in the deadly Berlin truck attack.