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Berlin Market Attack Suspect Killed in Shootout; 111 People on Hijacked Plan in Malta; Trump's Twitter Diplomacy Takes on Nukes, Jets, Israel. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 23, 2016 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, this is what we know so far as far as Anis Amri at this Christmas market with that truck of 25 tons into this Christmas market on Monday. He fled. He hid for a while here in Berlin, and then he made his way somehow to Chambery in southeastern France; and it is from there that he took a train to the central station of Milan early this morning.

[07:00:22] From there, he took another train to a suburb just outside of central Milan. That is where police saw him and asked him for his identity papers. This seems like it was completely by accident that they found him, that they met him.

He, instead of pulling out his papers from his rucksack, he pulled out a gun, a .22 caliber pistol, and started firing. He shot one of the police, Italian police in the shoulder. Another police agent shot back and killed him.

The Italian interior minister says without a doubt this is Anis Amri. We're not sure exactly how he was identified, but they did have his fingerprints off of the truck here at the market to go from -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Chris, thank you very much. Stay with us to weigh in on this conversation.

Let's bring in CNN terrorism analyst and editor in chief of "CTC Sentinel," Paul Cruickshank. We also have CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd.

Paul, you and I have been corresponding off-camera here about the reporting. The concern is it's not just this guy. It's not just this market. And you have different countries now weighing in on what the plots could be, how these are related and who's responsible for this guy getting that far away, even French intelligence authorities saying, "He must have gone through France to get to Italy. Did he go through Paris? Did we miss him, too?"

What is your take?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, yes, he went through France. We know that now. And then on by train to Italy, a country he spent quite a few years in and was imprisoned in for quite a few years, as well.

He could have been wearing a baseball cap, some sunglasses, something to disguise himself. That made it easier for him to travel all the way to Italy from Germany, despite being the most wanted man in Europe.

It remains to be seen whether he was getting help from this ISIS recruitment, a logistical network that he was part of inside Germany. A lot of questions: why did he go back to Italy, a country he spent all that time in? Was he on his way to the Middle East, perhaps, in an attempt to join ISIS as a sort of all-conquering hero, in his imagination? He had been desperate to go and join them last Christmas and had been prevented from -- from doing that.

So there are a lot of questions on how he managed to get all the way to Italy. Could he have been wanting to launch another attack, perhaps in Italy, a country that imprisoned him for all those years? He still had a gun. Might he have wanted to go and hijack another truck somewhere there? It's far from clear, though, Chris. We'll never know the answer is, given that he is now deceased.

CAMEROTA: So, Phil, sometimes law enforcement, as you know, get their man through good gumshoe investigation; sometimes they get lucky. And today, this one, seems like a lucky break. You're disagreeing. Why?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: There is no luck in this business. Come on. The man went down. Can you give the law enforcement guys some credit? Look, one of the things we talk about...

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I think that is great.

MUDD: One of the things we talk about in this country, seriously. If you look in New York City, for example, where you are. If you see something, say something.

There are two options for this individual and this case. That is, go to what you know. The people who radicalized you, the people who have a network of individuals who are trying to funnel terrorists into Syria. Or to go to what you don't know. Hoping that somebody sees you, hoping that somebody sees something unusual. In this case, law enforcement is trained to say, if you see something unusual, obviously, outside of a train station, stop them.

Obviously, there's some luck involved here, but there's some great policing in terms of saying if something looks odd, especially in this tense situation, Europe, do something about it. Same thing I'd say for New York City, Alisyn.

CUOMO: And look, there are a lot of unknowns here still. There's a lot of was this attached to other ones? Are there other people involved in this plot who may be involved in other ones?

Ben Wedeman, that takes us to Italy. What are you hearing from the authorities there? They've been very cautious not to give out too many details about this altercation with this suspect, because they say there is a broader investigation. What could that mean?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, probably, what that means is that, indeed, there were individuals to whom Anis Amri was going to. He spent several years in Italy. He arrived at the beginning of 2011. He spent years in prison, six prisons in total in southern Italy. So he had context. He knew people. And it's widely believed he was radicalized during his stay in the Italian prisons. And therefore, clearly, he was returning to where -- the part of Europe he knew best, and that was Italy.

[07:05:07] Now, the question is, why did he, when he arrived in Milan at the central train station, why did he go to this train station, Cesco (ph) San Giovanni, on the outskirts of Milan? It would appear that perhaps -- and this is probably the lead that Italian investigators are pursuing -- is that he knew someone. He had a contact in that working-class neighborhood. And, clearly, they want to get to the bottom of that.

But Italian intelligence has decades of experience following terrorist organizations, going back to the 1970s with the Brigate Rosse, the Red Brigades. During the '80s, there was a problem with Palestinian terrorist organizations; hard, far-right extremist groups operating here. So the Italians have a lot of experience in dealing with a variety of kinds of terrorists. And this is really very much within the context of what they have been working with for years.

So, yes, they're clearly running up these leads; and this neighborhood outside Milan is one area they're going to look very closely at.

CAMEROTA: So about those leads, Paul, you were reporting yesterday that there were these active raids happening in different towns and cities. What -- what is happening with the wider network that he was connected to?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, there were two arrests of two Kosovo nationals overnight in northwestern Germany in the exact same area where this ISIS recruitment network, the so-called Abu Walla recruitment network, was most active, trying to brainwash youngsters and proselytize and to recruit them for is.

And those two individuals, according to German investigators, were potentially planning to launch an attack on one of the largest shopping malls in Europe, in that area of northwestern Germany. And, also, potentially, against a Christmas market. And so, they may well have had a connection to -- to the Berlin attacker, because they were operating from the same area, an area where this Abu Walla recruitment network has radicalized towards violence a generation of young German extremists.

And this is a reminder that the system is blinking red when it comes to the terrorism threat in Europe right now. And it's really all across western Europe. You think of Belgium, Holland, the U.K., France, Italy, Spain. We could see something happening in any one of those countries and more. ISIS are putting out a clarion call for their sympathizers in the west and any operatives that have managed to get in there to launch attacks during the holiday season, because they think that's going to traumatize western populations and change the subject at a time when they're losing ground in Syria and Iraq.

CUOMO: Phil, quick button: any lessons for intel back here at home from what's going on in Germany, Italy and abroad?

MUDD: Yes, I'm going to have one question going forward in the next couple days. That is, with somebody who has this kind of background, the characteristics that people like me would say would put you in the top tier of terrorists. How did you determine to prioritize him to the point where you missed this attack?

You don't want to judge a counterpart. There's a brotherhood amongst us intelligence professionals. But how did you decide this guy didn't deserve top priority? That's the lesson I want to learn.

CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, thank you all for your reporting and, Phil, your expertise. Great to talk to all of you this morning. We'll check back through the program.

We are following more breaking news, though, right now that we want to get to. This out of Malta, where there are reports of a hijacked plane landing with more than 100 people onboard. Let's get the latest from CNN foreign correspondent Ian Lee with the details. They're still onboard. Is this still unfolding, Ian?

IAN LEE, CNN FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alisyn. This was an internal Libyan flight going from Suba in the south of Libya to Tripoli, when we are hearing that the plane was hijacked.

Reuters is reporting that the hijackers refused for the plane to be landed in Libya. It was diverted to Malta.

Hearing from the prime minister that currently the security services have secured the area. Not much details about what is going forward on the tarmac at this moment, but we do know that there was 111 passengers on the plane, according to the prime minister, 82 males, 28 females and one infant.

The prime minister having an emergency meeting to discuss this ongoing situation. The plane coming from Suba (ph). Suba (ph) is an area in southern Libya that has experienced some recent turmoil. There was a conflict between two warring tribes. So things to take and consider as this story develops.

CAMEROTA: Ian, we -- do we know with any clarity what's happening on that plane right now?

LEE: We don't. We haven't heard what is taking place. Presumably, there are negotiations taking place to get these people off the plane. But it is important to note that this plane was hijacked and the hijackers allowed it to land at an airport.

So, going forward, this is something that we have seen in the past. A man in Egypt last year hijacked a plane. That plane landed in Cypress. So, it rules out -- well, it doesn't rule out, but it does make it seem less likely that these are people intent on killing them. They might have some sort of political demands instead of just trying to carry out a terrorist act.

CAMEROTA: Understood. That's important. Thank you, Ian. CUOMO: Also an interesting trajectory going from North Africa off

shore to Malta. Leaving an Arab stronghold and then landing in a Christian one. Odd, the circumstances. So we'll see what that means.

Coming up, the latest on the shootout with the Berlin market attacker. Plus, more on that hijacked plane, behind what could be the motive.

Also, President-elect Donald Trump taking to Twitter on important policy issues. Nuclear build-up. Israeli settlement. Also now tweeting in defense of his sons' fund-raising. Next.


[07:15:24] CUOMO: resident-elect Donald Trump liked it use Twitter and Facebook during the election to get directly to you. He is holding true to that method now about very sophisticated policy decisions, also. Nuclear weapons he's talking about on Twitter. Military jet contracts. Settlements in Israel and what the U.S. should do before the U.N. These are heavy topics that are being dealt with in a very brief fashion. All still weeks before he is actually president of the United States.

CNN's Boris Sanchez live at Trump's vacation resort in Mar-a-Lago with more -- Boris.


Yes, anyone who thought that Donald Trump might change his rhetoric on social media after the election, in a series of eyebrow-raising tweets yesterday, he proved them wrong.

Some very controversial tweets about international relations that are continuing a conversation about how the president-elect handles himself on social media.


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 Abdel 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: Now, I should tell you, Alisyn. There is a report that Trump responded to questions about that tweet to a journalist on another network, saying, quote, "Let it be an arm's race. We will outmatch them at every pass."

Interestingly, this comes just a few hours after Vladimir Putin's state-of-the-union press conference in Russia, in which he said that Trump's comments about nuclear armament are nothing new, that it's something that he mentioned repeatedly during the campaign, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Boris. Thank you. You've given us a lot to talk about.

So joining me now is the Democratic senator from Delaware who sits on the Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator Chris Coons. Good morning, Senator.


CAMEROTA: OK. Let's talk about Mr. Trump's tweets that have caused quite a stir this morning. Let's just start with what he is saying about the nuclear arsenal. He is tweeting, "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."

How do you interpret that, Senator? COONS: Alisyn, this is just remarkable. This is demonstrating, once

again, Donald Trump's ability to sort of grab the wheel of the bus and jerk it sharply right or left, and then really dominate the news of the day.

But I think the American people deserve a more thoughtful and deliberate consideration of something as fundamental to our safety and security as nuclear proliferation than a 140-character tweet in the middle of the night.

[07:20:06] My advice to President-elect Trump would be to put down the phone and start getting your daily security briefings and consult with career professionals.

We have spent decades reducing the size and lethality of Russia's nuclear arsenal and our nuclear arsenal. And nuclear nonproliferation has been a core tenet of American foreign policy for decades under presidents of both administrations -- of both parties.

So my hope is that this administration will take a slightly more settled, seasoned, measured view of an issue as dangerous and difficult as expanding our nuclear arsenal.

CAMEROTA: And why do you have hope about that? I mean, given -- I mean, you know...

COONS: Because I choose to.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, Senator, this is what's confusing, and it's certainly confusing to cover, because then the transition team, after he sent out this tweet, his transition team said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. He meant to prevent any sort of nuclear action." So they were doing what you suggested and taking a more measured tone.

And then this morning on a different morning show, Mr. Trump called in to Sean Spicer; and Sean Spicer related it to the host, who then said that, actually, what he said was "Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass."

Now, this was a game of Telephone. So, it's hard to know here, Senator, what to take literally.

COONS: Well, Alisyn, you know, in international relations, as in business, predictability is important. And conducting foreign relations by tweet in the middle of the night without consulting national security advisors, without preparing them carefully, can lead to dramatic and dangerous misunderstandings around the world.

CAMEROTA: Right, but that's what happening.

COONS: What I've always heard...

CAMEROTA: I mean, Senator, just to -- I hear you.

COONS: That's exactly what's happening. CAMEROTA: And I understand that that's what you want. I mean, you

want a more measured approach, but that's not happening. These things are being tweeted out.

So what does Congress...

COONS: That's right.

CAMEROTA: How does Congress respond?

COONS: Well, my hope is that the Foreign Relations Committee will begin to communicate with the senior leaders of the Trump administration -- Rex Tillerson and others -- as they come in about the dangers that this is posing to the United States' position in the world.

Kellyanne Conway, the third campaign manager for Donald Trump, was successful, in no small part, in the last weeks of the campaign, because she got him to stop tweeting in the middle of the night. You may remember the 3 a.m. Twitter war he got into with a former Miss Universe and how that harmed his standing in the polls many weeks out before the election. And in the last couple of weeks before the election, he largely stopped doing this.

My concern here is that this is going to unsettle our allies and embolden our enemies. We're dealing with a very dangerous world, where there's lot of different developing crises, and we can't have a president who tweets one thing at 5 a.m., and then his press people walk it back at 7. And then he tweets something else at 9 a.m., and then his secretary of state walks it back at 10 a.m. That's just going to lead to chaos in our international relations.

And I'll remind you, just in the last 48 hours, he's tweeted something defending his sons. He ran criticizing Hillary Clinton for what he called the pay-to-play politics of the Clinton Foundation. Yet, his own sons have been caught up in a similar potential entanglement...


COONS: ... that they have appropriately walked back.

He's tweeted about weapons platforms, the difference between the F-35 and the Super Hornet.


COONS: He clearly misunderstands the significance strategic difference between a latest-generation fighter attack jet and something that's now decades old.

I am very concerned about how the president-elect is conducting himself. And if I have one piece of advice for him, it's put the phone down and stop tweeting about vital national security issues.

CAMEROTA: We are going to get into the latest wrinkle with his sons and any conflict of interest in our next segment. But are you concerned that at this point, President Obama is a lame-

duck president and that the president-elect is already sort of starting to set policy before he's inaugurated?

COONS: Of course. He's already setting policy in areas where I don't believe he is thoroughly briefed and I don't think he's had the benefit of the advice of the career professionals in the Department of Defense and the intelligence community and the State Department.

By all accounts, he's skipping briefings, and the transition team has not made as much progress as they should in terms of connecting to these important, nonpartisan career professionals.

He was tweeting about the U.N. resolution and trying to affect U.S. policy under President Obama just in recent days. And, in your earlier segment, you reported that the prime minister of Israel reached out to the president-elect to get him to try and influence actions at the United Nations. We should only have one president at a time.

And I do think, although I also support the idea that we should veto that resolution at the U.N., I think we needed to give the administration, the Obama administration, the current White House, time to absorb what was happening at the U.N.

They were surprised that the Egyptians introduced that resolution. It's now successfully been pulled back.

But frankly, in the remaining weeks until he becomes president at the inaugural, my hope is that the president-elect would stop tweeting about international matters and focus on filling out his cabinet and on the important transition matters in front of him.

CAMEROTA: Senator Chris Coons, thank you very much. Happy holidays.

COONS: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: More of the president-elect's tweet making a big impact. How his words have cost a U.S. company billions overnight. That's next.


CUOMO: President-elect Trump's Twitter habits taking his message around the world in 140 characters or fewer. And that creates a lot of controversy.

Joining us now is CNN political commentator and assistant editor of "The Washington Post," David Swerdlick; and senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner," David Drucker.

We have two active cases to deal with, gentlemen. Let's start with what just happened this morning. There's a tweet about nuclear arms and building them up until the world comes to its senses about nukes, which is, of course, a paradox within its own tweet. Then Sean Spicer is on MSNBC's morning show. He's on the phone with

the president-elect. The co-host gets a chance to talk to the president-elect. He supposedly says, "Let it be an arm's race. We will outmatch them at every pass."

Now, this is a complicated thing to cover, because did he mean this answer as an official statement, or was he talking to a friend on the phone after an interview with his press secretary? But what do you make of this mode of communication?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR; So, if the latest statement was "Let it be an arms race," I mean, that's really already ratcheting it up from the tweet.

CUOMO: But again, be fair. Was he talking to someone he considers a friendly and not meaning it as a policy? And that's what's weird about talking to someone in their pajamas.

SWERDLICK: Right, Chris. I mean, that is a possibility, and probably, we need to know more information.

But one of the things that I think the president-elect needs to get his hands around a little more is this idea that a month from now, these won't be thought bubbles; these won't be campaign slogans. People will be looking to his statements to see what the policy of the United States is.

If you go back to that tweet, I read it as a sort of general "peace through strength" type of statement. The problem is, is that 140 characters or a comment to another journalist on the phone doesn't give people a clear picture -- allies, adversaries, the American people - a clear picture of what you're trying to do.

One thing it doesn't tell us, for instance, is that we're already undergoing an upgrade to our nuclear arsenal to the tune of billions of dollars.

CAMEROTA: David Drucker, I'll just read it, for people who missed his tweet. I'll just read it so everyone knows what we're talking about: "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."

How do you interpret that?

DAVID DRUCKER, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": How do I interpret that? I have no idea how to interpret that.