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German Authorities' Knowledge of Alleged Christmas Market Attacker Examined; Donald Trump Continues Filling out Cabinet; Interview with New White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway. Aired 8:00-8:30a ET

Aired December 22, 2016 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D) DELAWARE: -- the questions we're going to be sifting through to make sure that we understand how German intelligence failed to intercept this particular radicalized individual.

CHRIS BURNS, JOURNALIST: Amri, a native Tunisian, arrived in Germany a year and a half ago, his father telling a radio show in Tunisia that his son headed to Cologne after spending almost four years in an Italian prison. Italian authorities say he was convicted of damaging state property, assault, and arson in September, 2011. But they note he was considered a petty criminal. In Germany he was quickly placed under surveillance, believed to be in touch with radical Islamists. In June his request for asylum in Germany was denied even as he was unable to return to his native Tunisia because he didn't have a valid passport.

Two months later Amri was arrested after being caught with fake papers but was released. He was still considered a risk by authorities with known links to a radical preacher.

REP. WILL HURD (R-TX), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: The Germans are a very good service and they're going to put all of their resources to find this person and this killer and bring him to justice.

BURNS: Now police warning that Amri could be violent and armed, and offering an over $100,000 reward for any information leading to his arrest after finding his I.D. in the truck that killed 12 and injured nearly 50 this Monday.

Authorities believe Amri is part of an extensive extremist network inside Germany recruiting for ISIS. Authorities say the ring leader of this network is this man, Abu Walaa, arrested in November on terrorism charges.


BURNS: All right, so who dropped the ball here? Or were German authorities' hands tied? That's what they're going to have to tell us or they have to figure out. In the meantime, the streets are coming back to normal here, Chris, Alisyn. We've got the Christmas market here that just reopened. The lights are on. The shops are open. But it looks very, very different today. You've got heavy concrete blocks all around this market that were just laid this morning, and you've got a lot of police with weapons, with guns. It looks very different than it did just a few days ago.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Chris, thank you for all of that reporting.

We do have some breaking news now, so let's get to CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank as well as Phil Mudd. Paul, what have you just learned?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, we have obtained sections of a 345-page investigative file into this so-called Abu Walaa network, the radical ISIS recruiting network in Germany, to which this suspect belonged. The suspect mentioned several times in the file, and most notably discussed that the file talks about him discussing attacks inside Germany. There was a police informant providing investigators with details, and he told the investigators that this suspect months before the attack, had actually discussed launching attacks inside Germany, and had been supported in that wish by senior members of this network who provided him with some lodgings inside Germany.

These extraordinary investigative files also reveal that according to the police informant other members of the network discussed launching truck attacks inside Germany, to load those trucks with gasoline, with bombs, and to drive them into crowds. German investigators, German security services, aware of all of this before the attack.

And so many, many questions now for why these warning signals were not heeded and how this attack was able to get through. The investigative files also reveal that a senior member of this ISIS recruiting network, a German Serbian tried to help the alleged perpetrator of the Berlin truck attack to leave the country in late 2015 or early 2016. So these are really quite explosive new details about this alleged attacker wanting to launch an attack months before the actual attack itself and that the Germans being fully aware of this.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: So, Phil, let's bounce it back to the United States. Would that have happened here? You know, is there a different bar here for when you hold somebody based on their chatter and their affiliations?

PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: A couple questions, Chris. First is the question of numbers. One of the challenges you have, one of the boring challenges in the intelligence business is resources. Every case involves people, wiretaps, money. So the question when you're dealing with numbers is who gets over the bar to spend those resources?

To answer your question, from the American perspective, we have two characteristics here.

[08:05:00] One, an individual who was in contact with a known terrorist network that went down in November in arrests, two, an individual who evidently was talking about a violent attack. In the American context, with the fewer numbers we're dealing with compared to Europe, that would be a serious case. In my world, that merits application of resources, including things like putting an informant on him and potentially listening to his phone. That's a high-end case.

CAMEROTA: Paul, there was some reporting that as we know, before this guy made it to Germany, he was in Italy. He was in jail there, for four years. Because of assault, arson --

CUOMO: Of a school.

CRUICKSHANK: Right, vandalism. And the Italian authorities, and maybe the German authorities based on what you're saying, tried to send him back to Tunisia. But Tunisia didn't want to take him. So --

CRUICKSHANK: That's right. I mean essentially the Tunisian said not our problem, Alisyn. And we're not able to furnish the Germans with the necessary proof that he was actually a particular individual with a particular identity. And then for both the Italians, and the Germans, they were in a kind of catch-22 situation because they couldn't really prove that he was anybody in particular. And how do you possibly have legal proceedings against somebody you don't even know who they are?

CUOMO: Well, two questions. The first is what are you hearing from your sources about how they're explaining this to themselves about how it got through? And what are they learning about this idea that this wasn't a one-off? That this may have been part of multiple plots and attacks around the holidays?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, here's the reality. I think Phil can speak to this as well. Security services have to prioritize. And so they clearly went after who the members of this cell they felt were the most dangerous, the senior leaders. They've got them into custody. That was a big success for the German security service just a few weeks ago in November. But some of the foot soldiers in all of this were not brought into custody, a case not yet kind of built up against them. And so the problem was, the cause of this likely prioritization, there were other dangerous people that were still at large. So I think that's one of the realities facing security services in Europe right now at a time when they're overstretched.

CAMEROTA: Phil, do you have any sense of how many people we're talking about? How many people are at large? How many people are taxing the security services? Dozens? Hundreds?

MUDD: If you're talking about western Europe, you're talking about hundreds into thousands. And again, that's in stark contrast to the United States. We talk about threat in America. When I was in the business, and even today, talking to my friends and European security services, we sit on much less threat than they do. So, if you look at Europe, hundreds of thousands, in each of those cases, Alisyn, you've got two choices as an intelligence professional. You can put an informant up against them or you can listen to the wires. That is things like phone calls and e-mails.

Behind each of those cases you've got to have somebody do the technical work. You have to have the lawyers file the documents. You have to have analysts analyze the data. And you have to have an investigator in the field running that informant. Boy, that's 10, 20, 30 people per case. So you can see going back to Paul's point why some of these cases don't happen. You cannot follow hundreds of people at a time with that level of resource commitment. It's not going to happen.

CUOMO: This also shows what happens when you get one wrong. As Phil often tells us, they only have to get it right once. You've got to get it right every time. Gentlemen, thank you very much. We'll check back with you if anything changes in this investigation. Appreciate it.

President-elect Trump is making big promises. He says he's going to take care of ISIS, and quickly. He says that what we're seeing in Berlin is proof that we need some kind of ban. Two new names were just added to his administration in an effort to boost the economy. We're going to talk about all these developments that are going on with his newly appointed Kellyanne Conway, special counselor, right now. Let's bring in CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny live at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. We've got you with the reporting. And we've got Kellyanne coming up to give us some answers.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. Donald Trump making his first comments on that German attack, calling it an attack on humanity. That was after he had his first intelligence briefing of the week yesterday right here at Mar-a-Lago. But this morning, Chris, we are getting a clearer sense of his economic policy, his economic vision, particularly on trade. He's going to have a new counsel of trade in the White House, which is going to be led by Peter Navarro. Peter Navarro is a hardline critic of China. He is an economics professor at U.C. Irvine, and Donald Trump took a lot of his ideas to the campaign trail as part of his America first agenda.

Now, Carl Icahn, the New York billionaire investor, also will be joining this administration in terms of overseeing regulatory reform. Those are two key names we're getting.

[08:10:00] But Chris, this morning we are also learning that the Trump transition team is exploring the idea of taking an early executive action on foreign imports, imposing a five percent, perhaps tariff on any foreign imports coming into the U.S. Now that is going to create quite an issue in Washington. Pro-trade Republican groups, the Chamber of Commerce, congressional leaders and the House and Senate Republicans are opposed to this idea. So that could be one of the early fights there. And that is one of the things that Kellyanne Conway in her new position as counselor to the president, she'll be working specifically in the West Wing, going from campaign manager to counselor, Donald Trump just announced that a short time ago here. So that is a key position here. Now only two more cabinet positions left to fill, then this team is pretty much complete. And 29 days from today, he takes office.

CAMEROTA: Jeff, thank you very much. So as Jeff just reported Kellyanne Conway has a new role. We will speak to her live, next.


CUOMO: President-elect Donald Trump officially naming his former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway as his White House counselor. She joins us now with the latest on the transition team's plans. Congratulations to you, Kellyanne Conway.


CUOMO: So, what does this mean, counselor? You've taken on a reputation as the grandmaster of communicating and spin for the Trump team.

[08:15:00] What will you do as counselor?

CONWAY: Well, the portfolio will be whatever the president wants it to be. But it won't, it is likely to include communications and it is likely to include data and strategy. But the rest will be up to him.

I'm just really pleased and frankly very humbled Chris to take on this role in the West Wing near the president and to be supportive of the Senior Team that he already has in place, colleagues of mine that I've worked together very closely with throughout the campaign and the transition. And I think it's incredibly important to be a cohesive team --

CUOMO: Mm-hmm.

CONWAY: -- of counselors and advisors who very much believe in this man's agenda and know he's going to do many great things very quickly as president.

CUOMO: Well, let's talk about what he's going to do quickly. Let's put your messaging skills to the test. We saw what happened in Berlin. The President-elect says it proves that I am 100 percent right. He answered in the context of, are you still thinking about a ban.

According to James Woolsey, according to our Intel experts, not only would a ban of Muslims in general by region, by disposition arguably be illegal but they all say there is concession that you would be giving the enemy what it wants for this to be us versus them. Would you still consider a ban?

CONWAY: Well, he's talked about the ban and he's made it much more circumscribed even in the course of the campaign. So, I would commend everybody to see what he's actually said about it and what's on his website in terms of how to defeat radical Islamic terrorism.

What he says there Chris is very clear, that we need better vetting policies. There are countries as you and I speak that are training, harboring and indeed exporting terrorists to places like Nice and Brussels and now Berlin, Germany and certainly Paris and the United States of America. In San Bernardino and of course the radicalized lone wolf terrorist in Orlando killing 49 innocent people in May of this year.

So people know here and abroad that terrorism is meant to feel like the "new normal." But we don't need to accept that. ISIS is a relatively new player.

CUOMO: Mm-hmm.

CONWAY: On the terrorism front across the globe. It was created in part because of the vacuum that was left in how we got out of Iraq. And in part because it's not always --

CUOMO: Right.

CONWAY: Taken seriously by the leaders we currently have.

CUOMO: You can screen based on what someone does. What I'm asking you is are you comfortable screening based on what someone is? That they're being a Muslim becomes a trigger for your policy? He's gone back and forth about it based on the level of criticism. What are you saying today?

CONWAY: Well, he hasn't gone back and forth. He doesn't go back and forth on anything based on criticism. I mean if you're us, and certainly if you're him, you are impervious to naysayers and critics in terms of them changing policy.

But he's talking about this. I mean you're going back to over a year ago and what he said about the ban versus what he said later about it when he made it much more specific and talked about countries where we know that they've got a higher propensity of training and exporting --


CUOMO: I've got you. I'm just; I'm just asking a simple question of whether or not being a Muslim will be a trigger.

CONWAY: We also know something Chris that --

CUOMO: That's my question.

CONWAY: No. It's not Chris. And you're asking the same questions different ways. And he has responded to this many different times including the debate --


CUOMO: Will being a Muslim be a trigger? Will that count as something that you're going to look at in your policy?

CONWAY: That in and of itself?

CUOMO: Yeah.

CONWAY: No. But however, let's also -- I mean, I should say in addition, let's also address something that he had talked about very early on that also is clearly true. Especially in countries like Germany now which are facing a popular uprising against allowing an influx of refugees who aren't being vetted, into the country.

CUOMO: Mm-hmm.

CONWAY: And we know that ISIS has threatened/promised to hide as Syrian refugees or otherwise. They've promised to do that. They've promised that they can do that. That they will just sort of blend in I think were the words some of them used.

CUOMO: Mm-hmm.

CONWAY: I mean, this is, we've got to start taking terrorism seriously. Why are we not? Why does Hillary Clinton refer to these terrorists as our "determined enemies" in her speech in accepting the nomination for president of her party which ultimately was a failure?

Why did she refer to them as our "determined enemies" when Donald Trump refers to them as radical Islamic terrorists who must be defeated --

CUOMO: Right.

CONWAY: And not contained.

CUOMO: That's all --

CONWAY: And not mollified.

CUOMO: Right. The talk is great, strong talk.

CONWAY: He won.

CUOMO: The question is, no question it helped him in the campaign.

CONWAY: It's not just strong talk.

CUOMO: Well, it is at this point because I don't know what your policy is to end it quickly.

CONWAY: Well, go look at the website. Pull it up. I'll tell you what; you can hold me over the break. Pull it up and read it.

CUOMO: I've looked at it. There's nothing on that website that is distinguishable --

CONWAY: Nothing?

CUOMO: From what we're doing right now in a concrete way.

CONWAY: That's not true.

CUOMO: I'm saying he's promising to end the war on ISIS quickly. What will you do that we're not doing now that will be so decidedly conclusive and quick?

CONWAY: In addition to what I've already said several times which is just stronger, better vetting policies, not looking the other way when there's evidence of terrorism and wrongdoing.

[08:20:07] In addition, getting our allies more involved. And even those countries that aren't necessarily ones that we deal with on a regular basis. Get them involved to help defeat ISIS.

I mean, where are, you know there's strength in numbers. And unfortunately you see Germany now added to the list of European countries that have fallen victim to ISIS, to radical Islamic terrorism. And so hopefully we can get a more cohesive and collaborative responses from some of our allies and from some countries that we don't normally deal with in defeating radical Islamic terrorism.

They will retreat. They will be contained. They will be defeated. Not just by talk but by action. And you know Donald Trump is constantly criticized here and elsewhere as, oh my God look he doesn't even have the evidence yet and he's saying that it's ISIS. He's been right every single time. And he's not saying it to be right.

He's saying it to remind us that the world is a dangerous place and anybody who accepts this as the "new normal" is just not, they're giving in. They're completely acceding to those who don't believe in freedom; don't believe in girls and women having rights. Don't believe in democracy. And have made very clear that they're there to destroy Europe and America.

I mean, why all the skepticism about somebody who won as president and commander in chief in large part because he had a stronger message? He had a more decisive pro-America, anti-terrorist message.

CUOMO: Well, it sounds like a lot like what we were hearing from the other side in terms of what you do to stop terror. But we've been fighting it for 15 years for a very simple reason as you know Kellyanne, it ain't easy. It's complex.

CONWAY: That's right.

CUOMO: We've tried a lot of different things and the question is what will we do differently now? We'll have to wait and see. Let me ask you about something else. The story that came out that there was a plan to auction off access to the president and the sons around the Inauguration weekend until the Center for Public Integrity blew it up and now it's going away. Were you aware of that solicitation of what was going on and the son's involvement?

CONWAY: Look they're all going to do whatever they need to do under the law to comply with what are major changes to their family and to their family's businesses and certainly to their father's status as President of the United States. But I think we should go back and look at what Don Jr. and Eric have done and wanted to continue to do which is raise money for charities.

The Eric Trump Foundation is 10 years old. It has done enormously great work in many different corners --

CUOMO: It's the same thing the Clinton people said when they were defending their allegations of pay for play. They were selling off a $1 million trip to hunt with the boys and hang out with the president. That sounds like pay for access.

CONWAY: I don't know how they're the same, how that's the same as Bill Clinton giving a $1 million speech in Russia and then Hillary Clinton while Secretary of State turning around and giving 20 percent of the US uranium interest away. Little bit different.

CUOMO: It's paying money --

CONWAY: Very, very different.

CUOMO: To get to power.

CONWAY: Sorry, very different than worrying about "Friends of William Jefferson Clinton" getting the contracts after Haiti suffers a devastating hurricane in 2010. Very different than allowing foreign governments to come into the State Department like it's some concierge for money --

CUOMO: So, paying $1 million to hang out with the president is OK?

CONWAY: I didn't say that. I'm answering the question --

CUOMO: I know you're not answering it.

CONWAY: I'm saying that the Clinton Foundation --

CUOMO: You're answering it by going after the Clintons.

CONWAY: No you mentioned --

CUOMO: I'm saying what's your answer?

CONWAY: You mentioned the Clinton Foundation. You said it was the same. I'm telling you it is absolutely not the same.

CUOMO: I'm saying you're giving the same defense --

CONWAY: You may not like the answer Chris.

CUOMO: As they gave when you made the allegations about the Clintons --


CUOMO: They said we do lots of great work! We took these meetings. There's never been a direct connection between what she did at the State and what was going on at the foundation. You're now saying basically the same thing. Eric Trump does great work --

CONWAY: No, I'm not.

CUOMO: With his foundation and paying a lot of money of money to hang out with the president is OK. CONWAY: When you let me know that Eric Trump's foundation took $100 million or so from Saudi Arabia which doesn't treat women and girls the way we treat women and girls here, then we'll talk. Until then, the idea of really equalizing these two where they were going around the world and getting money from foreign countries that then would give rights to telecommunications and uranium --

CUOMO: Right so let's say that was worse --


CUOMO: It's close to Christmas; I'll give you a gift. Let's say that's worse. That doesn't make this OK. And it is interesting that Eric Trump is backing away from it now. Don Jr.'s backing away from it now. If it's all OK why are they backing away?

CONWAY: Because they support their father and they know that will never get a fair shake in the Trump administration and that's unfortunate. I think this conversation shows that. To actually compare the two, the idea that these folks are trying to help people in need and those people are going to suffer now because folks are pointing out what they think to be improprieties. I didn't say I necessarily agree.

[08:25:02] I just think that they will always do the right thing. I know them well. They will always do what they perceive to be the right thing regardless of whether, who has a comment about it, who doesn't have a comment about it. That shouldn't even come into play. What comes into play is legalities and appearances.

And I've got tell you these are incredibly brilliant talented young men who are going to continue with the Trump Corporation and the amazing business that their brilliant father has built and the tens of thousands of people that he has employed over the years. And I suppose if they have to suspend some of their charitable giving then hopefully it will be made up in the great works that their father does as President of the United States.

CUOMO: Kellyanne Conway, congratulations to you on the appointment.

CONWAY: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Best to you and the family for Christmas.

CONWAY: Thank you. Merry Christmas.

CUOMO: To you as well.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President-elect Donald Trump's pick for ambassador to Israel has several controversial positions. We will discuss those with former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAMEROTA: President-elect Donald Trump wants hard-line lawyer David Friedman as ambassador to Israel. Friedman has a number of controversial ideas that deviate from U.S. policy over the past few decades. Let's discuss it.

Joining us now is former independent senator and former Democratic vice presidential candidate, Joe Lieberman.