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Berlin Market Attack Suspect Killed in Shootout; Trump's Twitter Diplomacy Takes on Nukes, Jets, Israel; Putin: Nobody Believed Trump Would Win 'Except Us'. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired December 23, 2016 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[05:58:12] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY this Friday, December 23, 6 a.m. in the east. We begin with breaking news. The search for the Berlin Christmas market attack suspect comes to an end near Milan in Italy. Police there say officers killed Anis Amri in a shootout.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Investigators say Amri pulled a gun when police stopped him at a checkpoint and opened fire. We have every angle of the breaking news covered for you, beginning with CNN's Chris Burns, live with the latest from Berlin.

Chris, what have you learned?


Well, this is what we know so far, is that Anis Amri had taken a train from Savoie in France, from Chambery, the town of Chambery, to Milan to the main train station in Milan, from where he took another train to a suburb, and that is where the police checked -- want to do an identity check with him. And instead of pulling out his documents, he pulled out a .22-caliber pistol and started firing.

And then police shot back and killed him, but not before one of the police was injured in the shoulder in the gun fight.

That's where it stands right now. German and Italian authorities very much in contact. At the same time, though, that does not mean that the pressure is off over here in Germany. There could be other Anis Amris. He was part of a network. And German authorities are very much watching for that right now.

Back to you.


CUOMO: All right. I'll take it. Ben, stay with us. Also joining us now, CNN terrorism analyst and editor in chief of "CTC Sentinel," Paul Cruickshank.

Paul, you've been on -- in front of this reporting right now. Does it come as a surprise that he made it this far? And what do you make of how it ended?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: I don't think it comes as a surprise, because this individual was being supported by a network, as we understand, a network which could have smuggled him out of the country, given him some assistance.

He had spent a number of years in Italy before moving to Germany. So presumably had a number of contacts there who could help him, as well.

But this does not seem to be an intelligence-led shootout. They just got lucky, it seems, that the routine patrol last night, that he decided instead of handing his identity papers, to -- to try to go out in a blaze of glory, so to speak, by attacking Italian police. Fortunately, the Italian police were able to return fire and to take him out.

So this removes the threat from him, but there's still concern that this wider network poses a threat to Germany, poses a threat to Europe.

Overnight, there were two arrests in Duisburg, and the Germans are looking into whether those two individuals arrested overnight were plotting to launch an attack on a shopping mall and Christmas market in northwestern Germany. That area, Duisburg, by the way, was really ground center for the recruitment efforts of this Abu Walla ISIS recruitment network linked to the Berlin truck attack.

So worrying times, still, as we head into Christmas.

CAMEROTA: Right. So Chris, that -- that aligns with your reporting, as well. This wasn't an intelligence-led capture and shootout.


CAMEROTA: They stumbled upon him.

C. BURNS: Yes. This was -- yes, this was very much a lucky shot. There really is no indication at this point that Italian authorities have been waiting for him, especially in a small town, a suburban station outside of Milan. That is not very likely. And he was just met by a couple -- three Italian police.

But at the same time, this was a huge dragnet going on, and it was going on across Germany and across Europe. They were busting down doors in Germany, in East and West Germany, looking for this guy.

And at the same time, the searches -- other searches going on that managed to stop another attack at the largest shopping mall in Europe, in western Germany, that also has a Christmas market. They arrested two Kosovo -- Kosovar brothers who live in Germany; and they foiled that attack, as well. So the story is not over here either.

CUOMO: Ben Wedeman joins us now on the phone from Italy. What are you hearing about the circumstances surrounding this shootout?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, what we understand from the Italian police and the Italian interior minister this morning was that at 3 a.m. in the morning -- that was nine hours ago -- a police patrol outside Cesto (ph), San Giovanni train station in the suburbs of Milan, northern Italy, stopped a man who was, they say, was acting suspiciously.

They asked him for his I.D. He reached into his backpack and, rather than pulling out his passport or an identification card, he pulled out a .22 caliber pistol, opened fire, shot one of the policemen in the shoulder and then, according to the Italian media, he took cover behind a car and continued to shoot. But one of the Italian officers fired back, shooting him fatally.

Now, we understand that, on his body, they found ticket stubs, train ticket stubs which would indicate that he came from Germany via France to Italy, stopping first in Turin. Then he went to the central train station in Milan and then went to this train station in Cesto (ph), San Giovanni in the suburbs, which would indicate that he is going, well, the suspicion is what was he doing? Who was he going to meet in this particular spot.

CAMEROTA: And, Paul, what's the answer to that? What has your intelligence reporting tried to figure out about where he was going?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, we don't know that yet. It may well be that he had a network of contacts in Italy, as well, a country that he spent a number of years in.

And when it comes to these extremist networks in Europe, they really don't respect any borders of -- that there's a network of individuals who have radicalized, spread out across the European Union.

He was heading south, perhaps in an attempt, one could speculate, to try to go back or at least try to get into Syria, to perhaps link up with ISIS. That we know that in December of 2015, he was absolutely determined to go and join ISIS in Syria. He was preparing for it. He was getting fit, going on long hikes. He was -- he was really, really desperate to go and join the group.

[06:05:11] So, perhaps he felt that, after having launched this attack, that he could try to attempt that. But it would have been quite difficult, obviously, given he was the most wanted man in Europe. But this is somebody who'd -- over the past several years has used numerous aliases, numerous sets of identity papers, forged documents. And maybe he felt that he could flee southwards and get to the Middle East.

CUOMO: So, Paul, let's knit together everything we're hearing this morning from Ben Wedeman, saying that there was -- the investigators are looking at why he was trying to get to where he was going, who he was looking to link up with. Chris Burns saying that the authorities in Germany are still worried about these other arrests and how this may be knitted together.

And what you're hearing and we're hearing from our friends in French intelligence, that they are on alert, as well. How real is the concern that, maybe around the holidays or maybe as a past model we've seen, that it's never just a one-off in Europe. That there is usually some kind of concerted effort to have chain attacks?

CRUICKSHANK: The system is blinking red in Europe right now, Chris. There's just a lot of concern about plotting activity right across the continent. Particular concern about Christmas markets, outdoor events. ISIS are really putting out a clarion call for the followers in Europe to launch attacks. They've been trying to infiltrate operatives back into the continent.

We are now on really maximum alert level throughout Europe, and the public is just going to have to be really, really vigilant as they sort of go about their everyday business.

CAMEROTA: Chris, we've learned through intelligence sources that they believe that this guy was part of a larger network there in Germany. What are people on the ground telling you about that?

C. BURNS: Well, absolutely. In fact, I mean, we -- CNN obtained nearly 350 pages of German intelligence papers that show that Ani Amri was very much plugged into this organization that was led by Abu -- sorry, Abu Walla, who is now in custody. He was a hate preacher who had organized -- had an organization that was proselytizing, recruiting, training people to do just what we saw happen here at that Christmas market on Monday.

So, yes, I mean, he's plug into this -- this network that could have -- very well have others.

I mean, you mentioned about how other parts of Europe could be also facing the same kind of threat. I was in Zazpool (ph) just last week, and I saw how they -- they have a huge Christmas market there, and they were blocking all kind -- all the bridges leading into the Christmas markets with huge semi-trucks. And they had cement blocks, and they had checkpoints. And we're probably going to see a lot more of that around Europe now.

CUOMO: Yes. Some of our intel sources from France, we're talking about their Christmas markets that they have there, along some of their main promenades in Paris.

Ben Wedeman, the Italian investigators are slow to give all details, because they say this is an active investigation. What are you hearing about what they're still looking for? Is this about a broader connection or other planning?

WEDEMAN: Well, the feeling is that, because Anis Amri spent so many years in Italy, specifically in an Italian prison, six in total, that he has contacts here and probably contacts of a criminal nature, if not an extremist nature, as well. So they're going back to look at everyone he might have come in contact with in prison, where those people may be at the moment.

But in the immediate term, what Italian authorities are doing, certainly, since the attack in Berlin, is further heightening the level of alert and the level of security in major Italian cities. I mean, actually, the level of alert has been quite high, going back to the beginning of 2016 with the "Charlie Hebdo" attacks in Paris. But, certainly, since the later -- the November attacks in Paris of last year and the attacks in Belgium, that you have seen a heightened level of security, and it's only going to get higher as a result of what happened in Berlin.

But, yes, the Italian authorities, intelligence is really working this around the clock. I've seen Italian intelligence documents that are basically top secret. And when you see the level of surveillance that the Italian intelligence maintains on suspects, it's quite impressive in terms of telephone numbers, transcripts, all of that information. So, they're definitely in overdrive right now to prevent anything happening here in Italy that might have happened elsewhere in Europe.

[06:10:05] CUOMO: All right. Ben, Chris, Paul, please keep working your sources, and we'll check in with you throughout the morning.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, guys, for all the reporting.

Well, another big story. Russian President Vladimir Putin talking about Mr. Trump and the president-elect's tweets. What Vladimir Putin is saying this morning. That's next.


CAMEROTA: In the past 24 hours, President-elect Donald Trump using his favorite medium, Twitter, to issue groundbreaking news on nuclear weapons, military jets and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. CNN's Boris Sanchez is live at Trump's vacation estate in Mar-a-Lago with more.

Good morning, Boris.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Alisyn.

Yes, throughout the campaign, we saw Donald Trump used unconventional methods to get his method -- to get his words across to the public. Specifically, his controversial use of Twitter. Now, he's continuing that just weeks away from the inauguration with some controversial tweets about international relations.


SANCHEZ (voice-over): President-elect Donald Trump shaking up international relations weeks before taking the oath of office. On Twitter, Trump tweeting that the U.S. "must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until the world comes to its senses regarding nukes," bucking almost 50 years of historical precedent against nuclear proliferation.

This pledge coming hours after Vladimir Putin spoke about strengthening Russia's arsenal, prompting concerns about the possibility of a reignited nuclear arms race.

JOHN KIRBY, SPOKESMAN, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: It's difficult to know what to make of it all. We're committed to our new START obligations with Russia and to, again, maintaining a strong, modernized nuclear deterrent here in the United States. SANCHEZ: Trump's team attempting to clarify the president-elect's

tweet hours later, saying that he actually meant he wants to prevent the threat of nuclear proliferation, the opposite of what he initially tweeted.

Trump also openly undermining President Obama and signaling a major shift in diplomatic policy in another unprecedented move via social media, calling for the Obama administration to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity just hours before the scheduled vote. A senior Israeli official telling CNN the Israeli government reached out to Trump directly, asking him to intervene. Egyptian President Abdul El-Sisi putting the vote on hold after taking a call from the president-elect.

KIRBY: Nobody here felt boxed in by a tweet from the president-elect, and he's perfectly entitled to express his views on these kinds of things.

SANCHEZ: Trump then using Twitter to take aim at a major American company, defense contractor Lockheed Martin, threatening to replace the Pentagon's costly new F-35 fighter, made by Lockheed, with a less expensive plane made by Boeing, costing Lockheed Martin and its shareholders millions in market value.

Despite backlash, Trump's team signaling that the president-elect will continue his use of Twitter.

SEAN SPICER, TRUMP NOMINEE TO WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He has a direct pipeline to the American people to talk to them in a way that no one's done before. I think it's fascinating.


SANCHEZ: Trump also used Twitter yesterday to mock criticism of the caliber of entertainment he's expected to have at his inauguration. He tweeted out, quote, "The so-called A-list celebrities are all wanting tickets the inauguration. But look at what they did for Hillary. Nothing. I want the people."

Now, Trump's camp has confirmed some acts that will be at the inauguration: the Rockettes, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and a former performer on "The Voice." Not exactly the caliber of entertainment we've seen at previous inaugurations, but, Chris, I guess the president-elect is a huge fan of the Rockettes.

CUOMO: Good to know. Boris, thank you very much.

So, how will world powers interpret our president-elect's tweets? As whimsy or real warnings? We're getting that answer, in part, right now in an annual televised address. Russian -- Vladimir Putin is talking about Trump.

He just said, "No one thought Trump could win, except the Russians." That is a loaded statement, to be sure.

CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is live in Moscow with the latest. Matthew, unlike our president-elect, Putin is a man who measures every word and likes to make suggestions and implications through what he says. How's it working for him this morning?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, right. And he doesn't tend to use Twitter as a means of communication. He prefers to go with these lengthy, multi-hour-long annual press conferences to drop his particular bombshells.

He's been speaking about a range of issues of interest to us, some not of interest, as well, about the Russian economy, but he's been speaking about the hacking allegations. Again, categorically denying that Russia had anything to do with them, saying that, you know, this was backing up on what Trump had to say. So he was quite right to say that it could have been any other country or just somebody on a couch sort of reflecting the position of Donald Trump there.

He was pretty vicious, I have to say, about the Democrats when he was asked about this hacking allegation. That's saying that the current U.S. administration always tries to find a scapegoat for his failings.

"Democrats," he said, "lost the presidency, the Senate, the House of Representatives. Am I really to blame for that? Are we responsible for everything? It shows that the current administrations has systemic problems. If you lose," he said, "you should lose with dignity."

And so he's really unleashing, I think, in quite a vicious way on the outgoing Obama administration; at the same time, preparing the way for a better dialogue, perhaps, with the new incoming Trump one -- Chris.

CAMEROTA: OK. Thanks so much for all that reporting.

Let's discuss it with our panel. We want to bring in CNN political analyst and columnist for "The Washington Post" Josh Rogan; CNN political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast" Jackie Kucinich. And we'll get to Nick Burns there in a moment.

Jackie, great to see you this morning. Let's just start by dissecting this tweet that the president-elect sent out. He said the United States must "greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."

Obviously, words matter from the president and the president-elect.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Particularly nuclear proliferation.

CAMEROTA: Indeed. And people parse it to within the punctuation mark. So what does that mean?

[06:20:02] KUCINICH: Well, it apparently doesn't mean what he said it means, because his campaign has -- campaign, excuse me, the -- his waiting administration...

CAMEROTA: Administration. KUCINICH: ... had to come in and fix it for him. Yes, exactly.

I mean, Trump has sort of been all over the place on nuclear weapons. Remember, he said he didn't like them, I think to Anderson Cooper during -- during the election. He also said that South Korea and Japan should perhaps look into getting them, in order to -- so the United States didn't have to protect them.

But this is certainly alarming. Experts that "The Daily Beast" talked to were sort of scratching their heads, and maybe their heads were just exploding, for lack of a better term. Because this is just so unorthodox what he's done and, frankly, a little scary and dangerous.

CUOMO: Right. The unorthodox part, what we call "unconventionally" these days, that's not really the concern. It's about their impact; and very often they're confusing, and they lead conversations in different directions.

So Nick Burns, let's bring you in, former U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, former State Department official, former U.S. ambassador to NATO. Great pedigree, perfect for this conversation.

What is the concern about, when a message is put out from the president-elect to be president very soon, that requires constant corrections?

NICK BURNS, FORMER U.S. UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Well, Chris, there's two concerns. One is the substance, and you're asking about this. This is rather an extraordinary tweet, 140 characters on nuclear weapons.

Since the Reagan administration, we've been trying to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world by treaty to achieve nuclear stability, to achieve peace and to make sure that nuclear war is not in our future.

And this tweet is very ambiguous. It's hard to know what he says. But you really don't want to state nuclear policy on Twitter.

Second, Chris -- and we've talked about this before on your show -- I think you can't -- you cannot have two presidents at a time. President Obama is president until January 20. President-elect Trump is interfering with the workings of the U.S. government. In every transition in which I participated, the president-elect is not out there, tweeting or talking about these issues or commenting in real- time. I think it's confusing to foreigners, and it's not right.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Josh, you know, we in the press have been cautioned, and a little ridiculed, not to take the president-elect literally. That was our big mistake, they said, during the campaign. We took him literally; his supporters didn't. So, when a tweet like this comes out, how are we supposed to know whether to take it literally?

JOSH ROGAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think we have to take the president-elect and the future president's words as they are. There's no such thing as relative literalism. It doesn't exist. OK? What he says matters, and he should mean what he says.

On the broader point, I think this sort of tweet about nuclear policy, and in my reporting what I've turned up is that it really shows that Trump's sort of, you know, shoot-from-the-hip foreign policy, nuclear policy, you know, calls into question, really, what -- whether or not he's going to be able to establish this sort of new bromance of Vladimir Putin, as he says he will.

I mean, if he's really responding to Putin saying that Russia is going to build nukes by saying that America is going to build nukes and starting an arms race, you know, how long is that real detente between the U.S. and Russia going to last, if it can all be destroyed by a comment and a tweet, and then the policy changes?

So on the one hand, you have Vladimir Putin giving a press conference about how great is it that Donald Trump is president; and on the other hand, you have Donald Trump tweeting, "Wait a second. You know, maybe we're going to build a whole new nuclear arsenal." And that's sort of directly a shot across Putin's bow.

CUOMO: Nick, something that's different here is that there's this talk there may be a detente. I think that the concern should be way farther down the line of that type of analysis, which is, have you ever seen before where Putin is echoing the same political message as an incoming administration? You know what I mean? He is motivating, in his press conference this morning, the same attacks against the left that Donald Trump and his supporters have.

When's the last time we saw that, and what does it mean?

N. BURNS: I don't think we've ever seen it in the U.S. relationship with Russia or the Soviet Union before that.

"Truth" and "Putin" are not two words you usually use in the same sentence. I've been following the press conference this morning. He's, obviously -- you can't depend on what Putin is saying. We have clear, compelling evidence that the Russians intervened in our elections by hacking into the Democratic National Committee.

CUOMO: You think that's what Putin was getting at when he said...

N. BURNS: And Republicans said that. Every Republican accepts that.

CUOMO: Do you think -- Nick, do you think that's what Putin was getting at when he said nobody thought Trump could win except us?

N. BURNS: He's trying to cover up for the fact that Russia intervened in our elections. And he's doing his best in his press conference this morning. I don't think anybody there believes him, and we shouldn't believe him.

CAMEROTA: We can listen to a little bit of that, Jackie, just so that you can hear Vladimir Putin, in his own words, talking about Mr. Trump. Listen to this.


PUTIN (through translator): Regarding the president-elect, Mr. Trump. There's nothing new about that. During his election campaign, he mentioned the need to strengthen the nuclear capabilities of the States on strengthening and expanding the capabilities of armed forces. There's nothing new about that.


CAMEROTA: So, Jackie, he seems to be quite sanguine about the tweet: there's nothing new here, nothing to see.

KUCINICH: And that's what's so dangerous about this tweet. Because, clearly, the other countries are reading them.

But, I mean, look at also what Vladimir Putin did. He spent some time denying the fact that Russia was involved. And then he does this wink and a nod thing at the end, by saying that no one thought Russia -- no one thought Trump would win except for Russia. So, it's almost like he's purposely muddying the waters.

But, yes, this is just -- this is so unprecedented it's sort of hard to even wrap your mind around. This sort of closeness that Trump is setting up with someone who cannot be trusted.

CUOMO: So, Josh, how do you respond to the criticism from the Trump transition team that the media just doesn't like the president going on Twitter, because it's getting around them. It's a direct line, as we heard recently from the new press secretary. What do you make of that criticism?

ROGAN: Well, I think that's partially true. I think it obscures the greater issue, which is it's not just a concern for the media. It's a concern for people in government who want to be involved in policy. It's a concern for lawmakers. It's a concern for voters. It's a concern for foreign countries. I mean, the -- making policy over Twitter is hugely disruptive for everybody.

So, it's not just a way to get around the media. It's a way to get around all the processes that we consider to be good policy making.

You know, and just to follow up on what Jackie said, you know, I think the most shocking part of Putin's presser was he said that -- he noted the same statistic that President Obama noted in his press conference, that 30 percent of Republicans are now pro-Russia and pro-Putin. Right?

President Obama, in his press conference, said you know, if Ronald Reagan knew that, he'd be rolling over in his grave, you know. Putin is not -- he's denying interfering in the elections, and then he's publicly sort of trying to drive a wedge in U.S. politics by criticizing Democrats, criticizing the DNC, criticizing Hillary Clinton and President Obama, and praising Republicans as being a pro- Russia party. That's pretty amazing just by itself.

CAMEROTA: Right. Panel, thank you very much. Please, stick around. We have many more questions this morning.

CUOMO: All right. So there's big breaking news coming out of the investigation in Germany about that attack on the Christmas market. The search is over. The man responsible, the authorities say, is dead, shot near Milan in Italy. More on that dramatic showdown.

Reports of a hijacked plane are also just coming in. Stay with us on a very busy morning.


CUOMO: The search for the Berlin Christmas market attacker is over, say the authorities in Italy. They are reporting that Anis Amri, the man that authorities were looking for, was killed in a shootout with police after they stopped him at a train station in Milan.

The officers say the suspect at this checkpoint pulled a gun when asked for identification and led to the shootout.

Twelve people were killed, dozens more injured Monday when police say Amri plowed a truck into that busy Christmas market. We are staying on top of this, because there are other arrests and concerns at how broad this network was.

CAMEROTA: And we have more breaking news for you at this hour, this out of Malta, where there are reports of a hijacked plane landing.