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Trump Prompts Concerns About Nuclear Arms Race; Suspect in Berlin Christmas Market Attack Killed; Ivanka Trump Harassed on Airplane. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 23, 2016 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Ian, we know you're staying on it. We're watching those live pictures. Do us a favor. Monitor the picture. See if you can get some assessment and reporting of what this procedure is that we're seeing here. Come back to us and we'll get to it, OK?

All right, also breaking, the manhunt is over for the Berlin Christmas market terror suspect. It ended not in Germany, in Italy, near Milan. There was a shootout. Officers shot and killed the suspect. We are told an officer got hit as well. We get the latest from CNN's Ben Wedeman in Rome. What do you know now about the circumstances surrounding the shooting and the implications for this broader network that may be at play?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, we understand from the Italian police that at 3:00 in the morning outside a train station in the Milan working class suburb of San Giovanni, a routine police patrol stopped a man who they said was acting suspicion and asked him for some sort of identification. Instead of identification he produced a .22 caliber pistol, opened fire on the policemen, wounding one in the shoulder, and then running behind a nearby car to take cover.

In the meantime one of the other police officers went behind that car, fired two shots, hitting Anis Amri fatally in the chest. Now they say that in addition to finding this .22 caliber pistol on his body, he also had a small knife as well as several hundred euros.

Now, the chief of police in Milan just held a press conference a little while ago, stressing that when Amri was stopped outside this train station, he was by himself. But now, obviously, the focus of the immediate investigation is going to be on this working-class neighborhood of Milan. Why did Amri who traveled from Germany through France into Italy, first to the city of Turin, and then he went to the central train station in Milan, and then ended up outside this train station in a suburg. Why was he there? That's what they want to know right now. Chris?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Ben, we understand. Thank you very much for all of that reporting.

Let's discuss it further with our panel. We have CNN military analyst Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, CNN counterterrorism analyst Philip Mudd, and CNN terrorism analyst and editor-in-chief of "CTT Sentinel" Paul Cruickshank. Gentlemen, thank you very much for being here. Paul, do you have any reporting on why he went to Italy?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: In that scenario, scenario number one, he was trying to get shelter from contacts inside Italy. After all he had spent a number of years there before moving to Germany. Scenario number two, he wanted to go to Italy to launch an attack there. He may have had some animus against the Italians for putting him in prison. And scenario number three, he was going to Italy as a way station to either go and try and join ISIS in Syria. Milan is a hub for the Balkan route, but Milan is also a hub for getting down to southern Italy and a possible way to get into North Africa. I think those are the three scenarios they're going to be looking into. It's not clear whether we'll ever know why exactly he traveled south to Italy because he's now dead.

CAMEROTA: Yes. General, we do -- this man's travels were notable. He started in Tunisia. Then he made his way to Italy. He got into trouble in Italy. He spent four years in Italy for arson, assault, vandalism. He got -- when he got out, the Italians wanted to deport him to Tunisia. But the Tunisians would not take him back. He then made his way to Germany, wreaked havoc there obviously with this terror attack, and now has been killed in Italy.

You know, this is what obviously people fear, that terrorists are not stopped at the borders throughout Europe and that the home country won't take them back. Explain how you see this.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, you hit it right on the head, Alisyn. First of all, the Schengen zone, that opportunity to travel through all countries of Europe, was established several decades ago, and it allows this kind of travel.

The criticality of all of this, though, is the information sharing between countries that have very good intelligence and security agencies and those that might not be as robust or even as mature. And I think we've seen this in this area. And you've also seen, frankly, some OF the countries who were accepting more refugees, immigrants, and potential terrorists as a base of travel to get into other countries. When I was commanding in Europe we used to track ratlines. As Paul just mentioned the Balkan ratline was a big one. How do terrorists move from the Middle East, through Europe, into the western part of Europe? And you know, all of those things are what the intelligence sources are looking at. And sometimes, you know, this one's going to raise a lot of questions because this guy was well known. But sometimes you just miss the key ones.

[08:05:00] CAMEROTA: Phil, how do you do it?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Look, I think there's a question here that we're missing. The conversation is the wrong conversation. In Europe, you have hundreds of thousands of refugees accepted for humanitarian reasons by people like Chancellor Merkel in Germany, who I think will be proven by history to have been a terrific humanitarian.

You can't, if you want to take those humanitarian steps, screen people on the front end. You can't go to the outside government in Syria and say, hey, these people are coming across. Can you give me your records on whether they're criminals? The question becomes, if you can't screen them on the front end, what are your processes on the back end? And I think the question here will be, not whether they -- this individual is deported but what are your measures to detain someone indefinitely with this kind of record? You can't stop the refugees coming in, Alisyn. You can have bigger questions about what you do once they get in the country they're arriving to, same questions we would face in the United States.

CAMEROTA: Look, I hear you, Phil, and obviously what you're saying is totally compelling and makes sense. But then it forces people to be reactive after a terror attack which is what we're seeing now happening in Germany and Italy. So, Paul, what are authorities doing now that they know more about him, and the wider network?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, the thing is they've known quite a lot about this wider network for quite some time because they've had a police informant inside the network for months and months and months who was feeding back all kinds of information about the fact that Amri wanted to launch an attack in Germany, that others in the network even wanted to launch truck attacks --

CAMEROTA: So why couldn't they crack down on it if they knew all that?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, that's the burning question for the German government, for the German security services. What they did do is they went after the leaders of this network. In November they arrested five of the key figures, the senior figures in the network. But they did not go after, at that point, the juniors, the foot soldiers of the network, the people being encouraged to launch attacks. And we don't know the reason for that. Perhaps they hadn't quite collected enough evidence to move against these individuals. Perhaps they'd lost track of them.

It appears that this individual was not recently under intent though it was at a certain point under surveillance. So there are going to be a lot of questions about all kinds of missed opportunities in terms of preventing this attack. But as we move forward, there's concern that others in this network could strike, and, in fact, just overnight, there were arrests of two Kosovo nationals in northwestern Germany very near to where this recruitment network was operating.

CAMEROTA: So, general, what do you think when you hear that authorities did know that they were planning -- they had hoped to pull off some sort of mall or Christmas market attack and they knew beforehand?

HERTLING: Well, one of the things you have to concern yourself with, too, from not an intelligence standpoint, Alisyn, but an operator standpoint. I was involved in an action in 2012 against a terrorist cell in Frankfurt. And what happens is you know the intelligence coming in. You see the operators. You may not have enough information yet to arrest them because they haven't done anything wrong. But the other thing is, as the chief operator, you have to balance whether you strike and get a large target, or strike and just get one individual.

So perhaps there was more intelligence being gleaned that would lead to a bigger network, to an unraveling of the network, and that's always a consideration when you're going after targets. So sometimes you say, why didn't we get this one guy?


HERTLING: Where the answer would be, well, because we were hoping he would lead us to a cell of 100. And sometimes you miss it.

CAMEROTA: Phil, very quickly, in the U.S., when people have information, when authorities have information that somebody is trying -- thinking about planning a Christmas market attack, what happens?

MUDD: If you look at that characteristic plus the individuals who are in touch with this person, you go two places. Number one, informants, and number two wires. That is phone, e-mail, Internet, et cetera. This individual would have been at the high end of the surveillance. And I think there's one bottom line question here, Alisyn. Was this a question about resources, because the Germans had higher priorities? Otherwise you can't explain this one.

CAMEROTA: Phil, Paul, general, thank you very much. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, so police in Little Rock just made an arrest in a deadly case of road rage. Do you remember this one? There was someone stopped at a stop sign, person behind him didn't like how they were driving, opened fire, killed the kid on your screen. Gary Holmes is accused of firing that deadly shot into the car at that stop sign. Investigators say the suspect has no relationship to the victims. Investigators say he was turned in by family.

CAMEROTA: JetBlue says it removed a man from a flight with Ivanka Trump and her family after the man apparently lashed out at the soon- to-be first daughter. This was a man seated in front of Trump, and he says that the family -- the family tells CNN that the man told Ivanka, quote, "You ruined our country. Now you are ruining our flight."

[08:10:06] The man's husband, Matthew Lasner, in a now deleted tweet, had also said, quote, "Ivanka and Jared at JFK T5 flying commercial, my husband chasing them down to harass them." Ivanka told a JetBlue staffer on the plane that she did not want to make anything out of the incident.

CUOMO: You know, look, this is one of the ugly realities. I grew up in that kind of situation. This is what happens when the family becomes exposed to politics. Yes, these aren't kids, they're all adults. But --

CAMEROTA: Still you don't -- even adults don't want to be harassed on a plane even if they're not connected to politics. That's horrible.

CUOMO: It's wrong. There's something to respectful disagreement. And to a lot of people on the left, I really think that message of heal thyself needs to be heard. Be this change that you want in political discourse that you keep complaining about on the right.

Donald Trump taking on a possible nuclear arms race, Aerospace contractors, and a quick change to decades of historical precedent, all in 140 characters. Is he making more trouble than he is sense? Next.


CAMEROTA: President-elect Donald Trump using Twitter to announce some major changes in U.S. policy. Mr. Trump making surprise comments about nuclear weapons, military jets, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict four weeks before the inauguration.

[08:15:03] CNN's Boris Sanchez is live at Trump's vacation estate in Mar-a-Lago with more on all of this.

Hi, Boris.


Yes. Anyone who thought that Donald Trump might tone down his tweets after the election was proven wrong yesterday. The president-elect taking to Twitter with some very questionable comments about American policy overseas and now the conversation continues about the way that Donald Trump handled his twitter account.


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 re-ignited nuclear arms race.

JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: It's difficult to know what to make of it all. We're submitted 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, 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 al-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.

MARQUEZ: 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, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY FOR PRESIDENT-ELECT TRUMP: 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, it's being reported that on a phone call with the journalists at another network, Trump responded to the tweet saying something to the effect of, quote, "Let it be an arms race, we will outmatch them at every pass."

The interesting thing about this, Allison and Chris, is that it comes just a few hours after Vladimir Putin's state of the union press conference with reporters in Russia in which he said Trump's comments about nukes are really nothing new. He also added later on that relations with the United States could not be worse.

CUOMO: All right. Boris, best to you and your family for Christmas. Thank you for all the great reporting this year.

Now let's get to the bottom line with CNN's political analyst David Axelrod.

Let's start with the problem with Twitter playing out in real-time. Taking a serious, sensitive subject, trying to break it down into 140 characters, it creates confusion. Then, he goes on the phone at MSNBC and he says let there be an arms race, we'll beat them.

Now, we have to figure, Axe, was he talking about that as a policy position? Was he talking to a friend on the phone? How do you make sense of all this?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's not -- it's almost more important how the world makes sense of all of this. You know, during the campaign he at one point suggested that perhaps Japan and South Korea should become nuclear powers. He suggested -- he said in answer to a question as to about nuclear weapons if -- why do we have them if we're not going to use them. Well, you know, for half a century, presidents from Kennedy through Reagan to Obama have made nonproliferation the focus of our policy. We have the ability to destroy the planet a thousand times over. The

nuclear -- our nuclear arsenal is in the process of being modernized, so he apparently did not know that when he tweeted. But what signal is he sending the world and what does it mean for the world if proliferation, and not nonproliferation becomes the order of the day?

The bigger -- the other issue here, Chris, is just temperament. You know, even as he was being elected president November 8th, almost two- thirds of Americans said they -- they doubted he had the temperament to be president. And this is one of the concerns, because, right now he sends a tweet.

[08:20:02] We talk about it. It upsets people. And he move on.

But in 28 days, he's going to have control of a nuclear arsenal, and when you press send on one of those, there's no deleting the account. There's no deleting the tweet, or the attack. And so, that is what is a real source of concern here.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about something else that has gotten the attention of the international community, and that is a statement that he made about what was going to go on at the U.N. Egypt wanted a U.N. resolution saying that the settlement -- the Israeli settlement, in Palestinian territory, are illegal. And that they should end.

Mr. Trump sent this out, "As the United States have long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations. This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position, it's extremely unfair to all Israelis."

David, how do you feel about him basically eclipsing whatever President Obama was planning to do about this?

AXELROD: Well, it's -- it's awkward at a time when the administrations are trying to work together on transition, but there are bigger implications here, Alisyn. One is that this comes on top of his appointment of an Israeli ambassador who has been an avid advocate for settlements in -- you know, over the green line and in disputed areas and also they have signaled that they're going to do what other presidents have which is move the embassy, the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Also, a hugely fraught issue in that region.

So, in a very tense region, before he's become president, he's sending a signal that will really unsettle no pun intended the situation there, and you know, these are very, very meaningful gestures, and you wonder how much thought has been given to them before he acts.

Obviously, Prime Minister Netanyahu called him and asked him to do this. He did it. But I wonder how much consultation there's been among his people about whether this was wise.

CUOMO: Let's ping pong back to the Russia Putin situation again for a second because again, I think we got to know more about the context of what the president-elect meant when he said, let there be an arms race. You know, very often these kinds of statements, they're all about context.

You know, it's one thing if you're talking to me off camera or somebody you expect some discretion from. It's another one if you think you're addressing the American people directly.

But, let's look at it in the context of what Vladimir Putin said to his people this morning. Nobody thought Trump would win except us. This is a man who loves to speak in code. Do you think he was dropping a hint there?

AXELROD: Well, I think he was -- I think Vladimir Putin is reveling in all of this speculation about what role he played in the American election and how a larger role he played in the election of Donald Trump. His -- he has great investment in the notion of instability in the Western alliance in questions about democracy itself. So, he is -- he is a preening peacock right now with all of this talk.

What is concerting, obviously Congress has to grapple with what happened during the election, what is concerning is the interplay between him and Donald Trump and what it means for American policy and that -- that remains to be seen.

CAMEROTA: You know, David, I think that many of Mr. Trump's supporters feel that they like this about Donald Trump. His unpredictability. The idea that he would keep foreign leaders like Putin, and in China, and in North Korea guessing.

You never know exactly how he feels. You know, you don't want to set him off. That sort of feeling -- I mean they see that as a strength.

AXELROD: Yes. He has been very, very consistent. He said throughout the campaign that he wants to be predictable in international relations. He doesn't want foreign leaders to know exactly what he's thinking. The problem with that is people act on what you say.

CUOMO: Right.

AXELROD: I said on this show, markets go tumbling based on what a president says and we've seen it just in the last 48 hours. We've seen markets tumble for Lockheed Martin. We've seen the world unsettled by what he's said on a couple of different matters.

It is dangerous, there are consequences to this. He's not a candidate anymore. When you're president of the United States, your words have enormous weight.

[08:25:00] And so, people may enjoy the spectacle now, but if it results in a war, if it results in some tragic misunderstanding, then they're going to have a different attitude.

CUOMO: Right. I mean, I really think it's a question of what we're talking about in terms of content, in terms of what his followers like and don't like. It's one thing to mess with politicians, mess with the process over here. It's another thing to be talking about a nuclear arms race. You know, there's a good story that I'm sure you've heard, Axe, about

President George W. Bush when he was introduced to the nuclear arsenal that he was amazed by how many weapons we have and he was quoted as saying, "What do we need all these for?"

You know, the idea of suggesting a nuclear arms race not only doesn't make a lot of sense given the threats that we're dealing with in today's world of terror, but it really speaks to a severity that is much different than just talking about a company keeping jobs, or you know, asking for a different bid.

AXELROD: Well, as I said, we have an arsenal that can destroy the planet, you know, a thousand times over. So, President Bush's question is a very apt one. The real concern is that if these weapons proliferate, it increases the likelihood that some non-state actor could get a hold of one of them, or someone, you know, there can be a conflict that's triggered by misunderstanding.

We saw that in the early '60s. How close we came to that. This is serious business. This is not a matter for impulsive tweets. And, you know, this is going to be a very concerning four or eight years if the president conducts foreign policy in this way.

It's not when you say, well, it matters what the context is, sometimes people don't wait for the context. Sometimes they act on the words. So, you know, I know -- I had a smile when Sean Spicer, the new press secretary, said I found this fascinating. Fascinating is one way to put it. Frightening is another.

CUOMO: Right. But again you got to give Trump --

AXELROD: -- hopes --

CUOMO: You've got to give him the benefit of let's see how he explains what he's quoted as saying on MSNBC because again, there's one thing about being on the phone with someone you trust, another one context -- the message you want the American people to hear.

AXELROD: How would you like to be this morning Jim Mattis and Rex Tillerson reading the newspaper and watching the news?


AXELROD: Because they are the ones who are going to have the line responsibility for this. They're the ones who are going to have to pick up the phone and explain to foreign leaders and military leaders and diplomats --


AXELROD: -- what the president meant. I'm -- I wonder if all -- they both were reveling in the -- in the joys of private life as they heard what their future may hold.

CAMEROTA: David Axelrod, thank you very much. Happy holidays.

AXELROD: Merry Christmas to you guys.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. You too.

All right. We've been discussing this. Everyone wants to know exactly what Mr. Trump means in his tweets. We will ask the new, newly minted press secretary, Sean Spicer, who is here with us live, next.

CUOMO: You make him sound like a coin.