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Berlin Suspect Killed in Milan Shootout, Pledged to ISIS; Israel Calls on Trump to Intervene in U.N. Vote on Settlements; Trump Shares Friendly Letter from Putin. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 23, 2016 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: And they knew that because they had a police informant inside the terrorism network he belonged to, the jihadi recruitment network he belonged to in Germany, feeding them back all kinds of details. We have been reporting some of that detail, clearly the fact he wanted to launch an attack and other members of his circle wanted to launch truck attacks in Germany. But I think this is quite stunning because it shows it was really very many months, indeed, that he was on the radar screen of German security services.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A list of the most dangerous Islamist threats. People asking this week how he slipped through the cracks. It sounds like more an issue of being dropped through the cracks in this case.

CRUICKSHANK: That appears to be what happened here. Bear in mind the Germans did go off to the key figures in this recruiting network, the teachers, proselytizers, including the leader of the organization, an Iraqi with links back to ISIS. They were all arrested in November. But they didn't go after some of the foot soldiers in the movement, the youngsters who were being brainwashed by this network, and the worry is that there are other people connected to this attacker still at large who may have been inspired by what they saw him do and may want to do exactly that somewhere, sometime somewhere in Europe.

BERMAN: Paul, the significance of the video we are seeing today of Amri pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, likely that it was recorded before the attack because he didn't know he was going to survive the attack. He could have been shot by a policeman. It likely would have been uploaded to ISIS before the attack. I think they probably held on to it until they were sure he was dead or his operations were over. That suggests that he did have some contact either in ISIS or close to ISIS, because that's the only way you would be able to get a video to that terrorist organization. So, that just underlines the fact he was part of a network with close ties to the ISIS terrorist organization. What remains to be seen is whether he was getting significant instructions from ISIS external operations operatives in Raqqa. They may well have been aware he was about to do something before he did it. What he's given them here, unfortunately, for everybody, is a big propaganda win. This is exactly what ISIS has instructed their recruits to do, to upload these videos claiming allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. We have seen that in a string of other attacks across the west including in Germany back in the summer.

BERMAN: Paul Cruickshank, a lot going on.

Thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

CRUICKSHANK: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: More breaking news. A dramatic incident in Malta coming to a peaceful end. Two hijackers diverted a Libyan plane and threatened to blow it up with more than 100 people on board. Malta's prime minister says the two male hijackers are probably of Libyan nationality and were in possession of a hand grenade. The men spoke to negotiators by phone for several hours on the tarmac before releasing the passengers and crew and finally surrendering to authorities. This video shows one of the hijackers was taken into custody. A motive behind all this not yet clear. At one point, during the standoff, a man appeared at the top of the staircase of the plane with a solid green flag, which in Libya signifies allegiance to the late Moammar Gadhafi.

Coming up, Donald Trump sharing a very friendly letter he received this morning from Russian president Vladimir Putin. And Donald Trump issued a very interesting and nuanced response.

Also ahead, the president-elect weighing in on the debate about Middle East settlements on a request to do so from Israel. And there is breaking news about what the United Nations might do about this issue in just the next few hours.


[11:37:30] BERMAN: Still more breaking news. Israel expects the United Nations Security Council could vote on a resolution demanding an end to its settlements. That vote could happen this afternoon in just a few hours. President-elect Trump weighed in yesterday saying the United States should vote against the issue in the Security Council.

I want to bring in Oren Liebermann from Jerusalem.

Oren, what are you learning?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, a number of countries reintroduced this resolution after Egypt pulled it yesterday. That includes New Zealand, Senegal, Venezuela and Malaysia, who wanted to see this go forward yesterday. After Egypt pulled it, they put it back on the agenda this evening.

The Israeli government firing off a shot at President Obama's administration the likes of which we have never seen before. Let me read it. This coming from a senior Israeli official says, "President Obama and Secretary Kerry are behind this shameful move against Israel at the U.N. President Obama could declare his willingness to veto this resolution in an instant but instead is pushing it. This is an abandonment of Israel, which breaks decades of U.S. policy of protecting Israel at the U.N. and undermines the prospects of working with the next administration of advancing peace." But the statement goes on to accuse President Obama of cooking this up

with the Palestinians and working behind the Israelis' back.

As for a Palestinian response, this is nearly as interesting. First it says, "We have nothing to say about this." But it goes on to say, "No president has troubled Palestinians in the U.N. more than President Obama."

It seemed it was expected this may go through with an abstention or a yes vote from the U.S. Now we will find out what their expectation is today. They are working feverishly as we heard from a number of Israeli officials to see what they can do to stop this from happening. But as of right now it looks unlikely and this may be voted on just 24 hours after it was pulled.

BERMAN: All right, Oren Libermann.

Key developments now on this breaking news.

Joining me here in New York, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you for being with us.


BERMAN: Let's talk about the news. It is your understanding the Security Council will vote on this resolution condemning the settlements this afternoon?

DANON: The council is scheduled to meet within a few hours this afternoon to vote on this shameful resolution, one-sided resolution. The Palestinian state that will use the transition period to put forward a resolution against Israel. It will happen in a few hours.

BERMAN: Have you been told by the United States how it intends to vote, whether it intends to vote yes, no or abstain?

DANON: As of now, we don't know what is the position of the U.S. We expect the U.S. to veto such a resolution.

BERMAN: You hope the U.S. vetoes the resolution?

[11:40:12] DANON: We hope and we expect. Because this is the policy of the U.S. administration for years. In 2011, ambassador vetoed a similar resolution. Look at the language. It is exactly the same resolution denouncing Israel. Also in 2014, the U.S. voted against a similar resolution. That's why we expect for our friends, from our greatest ally, to stand against those who push the resolution forward.

BERMAN: I wonder if you can help explain some language reported from Oren Liebermann, quoting a senior Israeli official who accused President Obama and Secretary Kerry of being behind what he called this shameful move against Israel at the United Nations. You think President Obama and Secretary Kerry are orchestrating this vote on settlements this afternoon?

DANON: I don't know what you meant by orchestrating.

BERMAN: He's saying they are behind this shameful move.

DANON: I know in two or three hours, my good friend, Ambassador Samantha Power, will have to vote. She will get the order from the president, whether she will join countries like Venezuela or Angola or the Palestinians while bashing Israel in the Security Council. This is the time where we ask our friend to use veto power. When you have those power exactly for those moments when you need to stand by your ally and protect them at the Security Council.

BERMAN: Israel has been very consistent in calling on the United States to veto this, to exercise its veto power. You have been very consistent on that. That policy is clear. What is new is the statement from Israeli official we just got in saying that President Obama and Secretary Kerry are orchestrating this vote, they are the ones pushing for this vote.

DANON: The one who draft the resolution are the Palestinians. They are trying to avoid direct negotiations with us. It's easier for them to come to the U.N., to come to New York, rather than to meet Prime Minister Netanyahu and negotiate with Israelis. They are the ones who drafted the resolution. The U.S. policy, we will know in few hours whether there's a change in the policy. It's important to say the change because for years, the U.S. stood by Israel at the U.N. That will be a major change of U.S. policy if it will change in few hours.

BERMAN: The U.S. has stood by Israel at the U.N. But this administration and others, too, have questioned the expansion of settlements.

DANON: That's legitimate. We have disputes. But that's what you have negotiations for, to argue about the disputes. We had negotiation with the Egyptians. We signed peace treaty with Egypt. Same with Jordan. To come to the U.N. And decide about the disputed issues like the settlement, like Jerusalem, the resolution saying we cannot build homes in our capital in Jerusalem? Do the American people really think the Jewish people cannot build homes in Jerusalem? This is the language of the resolution.


BERMAN: This is also --


DANON: Read the resolution.

BERMAN: It also includes the West Bank as well.

DANON: The Jewish community in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. If the U.S. will vote about it, it's actually telling the people, the Jewish people in Israel, you shouldn't build Jewish homes in Jerusalem.

BERMAN: This is an area we have been consistent. I want to ask one last time on the issue of whether you blame the

president and Secretary Kerry for bringing this to a vote, whether you think they are behind bringing this to a vote.

DANON: I have hope, no blame. I hope the U.S. will stand by Israel and will support us at Security Council.

BERMAN: Let me ask about the next president, President-elect Donald Trump. How much was he responsible for the delay of this vote? How did he help Israel yesterday?

DANON: We appreciate the statement President-elect Trump issued yesterday where he said the policy of the U.S. should be to stand by Israel and to allow us to negotiate with the Palestinians. But you see, the U.N., we have the vote today. It didn't happen yesterday. It will take place today. That's why you have the veto power and that's why we expect from the U.S. to use the veto power.

BERMAN: Do you think he was decisive in getting the Egyptians at least temporarily to withdraw the resolution?

DANON: I don't know. I think people in the world listen to the president-elect about his future policy and care about what he's saying.

By the way, we have seen that across the board. Major Democrats went publicly against these resolutions. 88 Senators say they called the president to veto such a resolution. So, it is not a partisan issue.

BERMAN: Do you think that the construction of settlements in the West Bank is helpful to the peace process?

DANON: I think the construction of the Jewish communities is not the obstacle to peace. We evacuated Jews from Gaza more than 10 years ago. We took out all the settlements out of Gaza. Look what's happening today in Gaza. If we can actually negotiate with the Palestinians, we will talk about everything. Prime Minister Netanyahu said I am willing to negotiate about everything. But not with the Security Council. Not through one-sided resolution where we see the rest of the world getting against Israel.

[11:45:09] BERMAN: If the United States does, in fact, vote yes on this resolution or abstain, what will the relationship between Israel and the United States be after that vote?

DANON: The relationships are very strong. We share the same values. We are the strongest democracy in the area. We look forward to continuing to work with the American people.

BERMAN: Ambassador Danny Danon, happy Hanukkah. Thank you for being here.

DANON: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: Really appreciate it.

DANON: Thank you.

BERMAN: Coming up, breaking news this hour. We have a lot of breaking news this hour. As we just learned, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent President-elect Donald Trump a letter, a very friendly letter, and the president-elect today has a very, very friendly response. That's next.


BERMAN: All right. We have more breaking news. This hour we learned Russian President Vladimir Putin sent the next president of the United States, Donald Trump, a letter. In it, the Russian leader called for a stronger relationship between the two countries, and this is happening even as both sides are weighing in on expanding their nuclear weapons capability, and as the president-elect said, let there be an arms race. He said that just this morning.

Now, Sean Spicer, who will be the White House press secretary, he came here on CNN trying to clarify that. Listen.


SEAN SPICER, INCOMING TRUMP WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He is going to do what it takes to protect this country. And if another country or countries want to threaten our safety or sovereignty he's going to do what it takes.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: Sure. But he's not waiting until another country threatens us. He's making proclamations before.

SPICER: He's making it very clear, other countries and companies, Carrier and other, going to make it clear he will be an active president that will get things done.

[11:50:03] UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: Meaning use nuclear weapons if need be?

SPICER: No. He will not take anything off the table. What it means is he's not sitting back and letting another country act.


BERMAN: Let's talk about this now. I want to bring in Matt Bennett, Democratic strategist, senior vice president and co-founder of the think tank, Third Way; and Steve Cortez, an adviser to Donald Trump, or was an advisor during the campaign, close to the Trump transition; and Ed, senior White House reporter, with "Politico."

Guys, we have a lot of news going on. I wish we had hours to discuss it all.

Let's talk Russia first. I guess we'll talk nuclear weapons quickly then we'll talk, you know, my friend, the Russian leader, wrote me a letter.

On nuclear weapons, first, "Let it be an arms race." Matt Bennett, that is the extension of an exchange yesterday between Donald Trump and Russia over expanding nuclear capabilities. Your reaction?

MATT BENNETT, DEOCARTIC STRATEGHIST & SENOR V.P. AND CO-FOUNDER, THIRD WAY: Well, this is exactly what people like me, who opposed Donald Trump in this race, feared. Which was, he was going to shoot from the hip without having any idea what he's doing or talking about, in fact, doing it before becoming president and we have a tradition in this country president-elects don't try to make foreign policy as this one apparently is, and he is saying things that are incoherent to the world and to the Russians and that is very, very dangerous.

BERMAN: i'm not sure if it's incoherent as open to interpretation? Right? When he's talking about strengthening nuclear capability, expanding nuclear capability, Steve Cortez, some look at that and say, oh, he just means modernize. Is that how you read it?

STEVE CORTEZ, FORMER DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: Right. It certainly is how I read it. By the way, really not even new policy. The current President Obama talked about this.


BERMAN: Steve, let me cut you off right here. Yes, it is the Obama policy. Not part of the Obama policy is let it be an arms race which is how Donald Trump expanded on it this morning.

CORTEZ: Right. You're right. That part is new. I think what he means by that -- Sean Spicer alluded to this -- we will not be outmatched, outgunned literally by anyone in the world. I think in recent years unfortunately America has not been feared by our enemies and haven't really been trusted by our friends. Israel, in particular, talking about a lot today, that's going to change. It's already starting to change with President-elect Trump --


BERMAN: Who is outgunning us --


BERMAN: Who is outgunning us on nuclear weapons?

CORTEZ: Nobody is. The point is nobody will. That won't happen whether Russia, states aren't necessarily nuclear, but ill-will towards us, like Iran. We're not giving $1.5 billion in cash that mean us harm and Israel harm. Not out-gunned by Russia, China, by anyone. He's making a statement America's security is one of the key reasons he won this race. I think it's prosperity and security. Those dual goals are incredibly important to him.

BERMAN: Edward, let me ask you about the next step going on here. The Russian leader -- the Trump transition released it -- Vladimir Putin wrote Donald Trump a letter last week, congratulating him, and saying he looks forward to an improved relationship with the United States. And there's a picture of the letter. I'll read to you part of the response from president-elect Trump today. He said, "A very nice letter from Vladimir Putin. His thoughts are so correct. I hope both sides are able to live up to these thoughts and we do not have to travel an alternate path."

I have to be honest, when I read that language from Donald Trump I was surprised, because that language from a man, a candidate, who was very, very kind about Russia, and about Vladimir Putin, that seems to be drawing a little bit of a line. That's an implicit threat that I hope things are good, or else?

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: And in the context of talking about increasing our nuclear arsenal, I think people could say what does an alternate path really mean? It seems overall President-elect Trump is looking for a very different relationship with Russia and certainly we know Vladimir Putin is looking for a very different relationship with the United States. What the Obama administration has done in its relationship with Russia has been very rough on the Russian economy, through the sanctions, on many people who are close to Putin, through those direct individual sanctions and overall limiting the Russians influence, moving in geopolitical affairs not just about the United States but all over Europe a rise of leaders who are more amenable to working with Putin, people who do not seem like they would be as quick to rush to condemning him on something like the invasion of Crimea, or any of the other things he's done that has troubled Barack Obama and troubled Angela Merkel and other European leaders.

BERMAN: I was surprised, though, to see Donald Trump's language. First time I'd seen him sort of draw a line when it comes to Russia.

Moving on to Israel. Fascinating what's going on at the United Nations. We believe, in just three hours, there will be, we think, a vote condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

You know, Matt Bennett, Israel -- we have a statement from Israeli officials saying that President Obama and John Kerry -- accuses the president and secretary of state of being behind this vote, orchestrating this vote. Now, we don't have reason to know whether or not that is, in fact, true, but it does raise questions. At a minimum, it's been said they may vote yes on this resolution or abstain, showing this White House is willing to make a policy statement, a significant policy statement, that changes U.S. policy just a matter of a couple dozen days before the next president is sworn in?

[11:55:49] BENNETT: Well, it changes it some. And the ambassador was right in the previous segment that the U.S. had voted against this kind of resolution before. Don't forget that the Obama administration has been putting intense pressure on the Netanyahu administration for years to stop the settlements. In fact, early in the administration, Joe Biden got on his plane and went home when some settlements that had been stalled were announced they would go forward while he was in the country, and he was furious about that. This has been a real sore point between the United States and Israel for a long time.

BERMAN: Right.

BENNETT: The other thing is, here, again, you have the president- elect still weeks away from being sworn in as president acting as president, trying to make foreign policy. Again, that is just completely -- not only unprecedented, it is outrageous, and not how we do things as Americans.

BERMAN: A minute left, guys. I want to get Edward and Steve in.

Edward, first you. You cover the White House and know about this. This would be a heck of a parting statement from the Obama White House. Yes?

DOVERE: Certainly, and, of course, coming from the end of 7.5 years of overlapping leadership between Netanyahu and Obama, which has been very troubled and rough. Of course, you know, it was not that long ago we were spending months talking about the speech that Netanyahu gave --

BERMAN: Right.

DOVERE: -- to the joint session of Congress and went behind the White House in scheduling that with Republican leadership in the House. Then that infuriated the White House and felt to them like the worst possible thing that could happen, other than Netanyahu winning re- election, which they were very much against. So, it's not surprising we get to this point as Obama's leaving and Netanyahu looking for an advantage.

BERMAN: Steve, 10 seconds for a quick response from you.

CORTEZ: Sure. We're going to become an ally to Israel again. We'll stop coddling Iran, support them in the United Nations, we're going to move our embassy to Jerusalem. The United States will once again be a real friend and ally to Israel under President Trump.

BERMAN: A lot of change. A lot of developments.

Gentlemen, thanks for being with us.


BERMAN: Up next, the suspect in the Berlin Christmas market attack is dead. This, after a shoot-out with Italian police. Still, there are a lot of questions that remain.

Stay with us.