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Israel Denounces U.S. Abstention at U.N.; Berlin Market Attack; Actor Carrie Fisher in Hospital; Putin's Letter to Trump; Favorites of the Holiday Season. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 24, 2016 - 05:00   ET




GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Israeli leaders fume over the United States abstaining its vote in a controversial Security Council resolution, condemning Israeli settlements. CNN is live from Jerusalem ahead.

Plus remembering the victims: hundreds gathered in Berlin to remember the lives lost in Monday's terror attack at a Christmas market.

And from Russia with love: the U.S. president-elect Donald Trump receives a letter from Vladimir Putin. We'll tell you what Donald Trump had to say about that letter.

Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers around the world. I'm George Howell. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


HOWELL: Good day to you.

First to Israel: leaders there are furiously denouncing a U.N. Security Council resolution, demanding an end to the building of settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, insisting that Israel will not comply. He accuses the United States of colluding with the United Nations in what he calls a move to, quote, "gang up against Israel."

Fourteen Security Council member nations approved the resolution Friday. The 15th member, the United States, abstained from a vote in a rare move rather than vetoing it.

Despite failing to veto the U.N. resolution, the Obama administration is denying that it turned its back on Israel. President Obama's deputy national security adviser told CNN the United States felt it had very little choice.


BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Bipartisan policy of the U.S. government for decades has been to oppose settlements. The reason we took this step is because, for years, we have seen an acceleration in the growth of these settlements.

Frankly, if these current trends continue, the two-state solution is going to be impossible and the peace that people say that they want, that we badly want for the people of Israel, a secure Israel living side by side with a Palestinian state, that goal will become impossible under the current trends.

That's why the president took the decision that he did today.


HOWELL: A very different response though from the U.S. president- elect, Donald Trump. You see the tweet here, "As to the U.N., things will be different after January 20th."

Again, that's when Donald Trump will take the oath of office to become President of the United States.

Before Friday's vote, Trump had called for the U.S. to veto that measure. He even personally spoke with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Egypt's president. Egypt initially sponsored that resolution.

Following the story, CNN's Oren Liebermann joins live this hour in Jerusalem.

Oren, good to have you with us. Netanyahu reached out to Trump, hoping that that would sway the balance; that vote was delayed but still not ending the way some might have hoped.

What is the Israeli reaction?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No surprise here that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is furious, not only at the U.N. Security Council resolution but also President Barack Obama for not casting a veto on this one and stopping it from going through.

But as you said, the U.S. made it very clear, this, for them, was about settlements and a call to end settlements.

Israel's position and specifically Netanyahu's position has been that settlements are not the obstacle to peace. And we got a hint of that in Netanyahu's response; worth noting that we have never seen a lashout like this from the Israeli government at the American government.

Here's part of what Netanyahu's office had to say.

"The Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the U.N., it colluded with it behind the scenes. Israel looks forward to working with President-Elect Trump and with all our friends in Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution." Netanyahu making it very clear there he's done working with Obama. He's done pretending like the two get along. We're seeing that relationship deteriorate very quickly in its final days as we see the buildup of the relationship between Netanyahu and Trump -- George.

HOWELL: And, again, some have suggested that it's a parting shot from the U.S. president, Barack Obama. But of course the administration not saying that. So you indicate that that is the Israeli reaction.

What has been the Palestinian reaction to this?

LIEBERMAN: For them, this is a reason to celebrate. They were very much hoping this would go through. They were not in past weeks and months all that optimistic that it would. But they are very happy this went through. Many Palestinians had given up hope that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and President Barack Obama could make any mark on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And they are glad that he did in this move at the end.

Let me read for you part of the statement from the Palestinian ambassador to the U.N., Riyadh Mansoor (ph).

He said, "After years of allowing the law to be trampled and the situation to spiral downward, today's resolution may rightly be seen as a last attempt to preserve the two-state solution and revive the path for peace." -- George.


HOWELL: Oren, also, when it comes to this resolution, what is the practical application, the practical meaning of what happened?

LIEBERMAN: That's perhaps the most difficult question, also probably the most important question.

What difference will this make?

The answer may very well be almost none. The resolution at the U.N. Security Council is a nonbinding resolution. It's effectively a recommendation and guidelines. For it to have practical effect, it needs followup moves at the U.N.

President-Elect Trump has indicated that he'll stop any of those follow-up moves from going through. So at least for the next four years, this resolution may not really change anything on the ground in terms of the conflict.

HOWELL: Oren Liebermann live in Jerusalem this hour. Oren, thank you for the reporting. We'll stay in touch with you.

Moving on now to Europe. Italian police ended a manhunt across the continent when they killed the main suspect in the Christmas market attack that happened in Berlin.

Anis Amri was suspected of slamming into a truck into a crowd of people Monday, killing 12 people, wounding dozens of others. Hours after Amri was killed, video then came to surface of him pledging allegiance to ISIS. Following the story, CNN's Nina dos Santos is live in Milan with this developing situation.

Nina, I know you have been in touch with your sources there.

What more are you learning about the investigation?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What investigators are trying to determine is why this individual was at this rather random location in the northeast of Milan. We're essentially in a satellite town. As you can see, I'm in a parking lot behind a station.

What was he doing here when they stopped him at random and he pulled out a gun on them?

Senior Italian counterterrorism sources are telling me today is that he had all the quote-unquote hallmarks of being a man on the run alone. That's crucial information because what they're trying to find out with whether or not he had any kind of links to anybody the immediate area.

Did he decide to come here because he had someone who could help him?

What we know so far, according to this same source, is that he seemed to have had a backpack that had been hastily packed. All three pairs of trousers he was wearing, he was actually wearing them one underneath the other.

He had only 1,005 euros. That's just over $1,000. He had a toothbrush and some shaving foam. No cell phone. No I.D. No credit cards. So this paints a picture of someone who had to leave hastily.

He made his way through the train network via France into Northwest Italy to the city of Turin then on to the main central station in Milan before probably arriving here by bus.

It seems as though police have found CCTV footage of him alone through two of the Italian train stations, Turin and Milan. They've decided for the moment not release that to the press.

But again, it points a picture of somebody who, at the moment, from what we know, doesn't seem to have been in the company of anybody. Of course they're trying to find out whether he had links here. Remember that this is a individual known to Italian authorities. He spent four years in jail in this country -- back to you.

HOWELL: Nina, thank you. So the new news there, you pointing out from your sources there that investigators believe he was on the run alone. We'll talk more about that with our guests just following your live reporting.

Also want to ask you about these officers involved. The officer that fired the fatal shot didn't even realize he was up against such a wanted suspect.

How are these officers doing? DOS SANTOS: That's right. The officer that fired the fatal shot wasn't the one who was injured. He was actually an officer that had only just recently completed his training. He was 29 years old. He's only transferred to this part of Northern Italy just a few months ago. He's being called the hero of the day here.

What essentially happened was that Amri was stopped, asked for his I.D. papers. And he produced a pistol, immediately began firing at the first officer, who was struck in the shoulder and wounded. That officer is in hospital after having undergone surgery. We hear that he's likely to be released later on today.

It was the second younger, less experienced officer, who managed to hide behind the police car's door and then fire back; upon a second bullet, he hit Amri. That was the bullet that fatally wounded him.

These two officers have been congratulated by the great and the good, the political world, also the security forces, we've seen the prime minister of Italy, even the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, claiming that they're heroes.

But back here in Italy, there's also concerns that now people know their faces, they could become targets because this is a country that does have substantial issues with jihadi networks as well.

So there's concerns that perhaps they are public faces now as a result and they need to be careful. For the moment, they say that they'll be spending Christmas with their families and --


DOS SANTOS: -- they're essentially lying low.

HOWELL: CNN's Nina dos Santos live for us following this story in Italy. Nina, thank you so much for your reporting. We'll stay in touch with you as well.

U.S. federal authorities are warning Americans to be vigilant for potential threats during the holiday season. They've issued a warning that ISIS sympathizers continue aspirational calls for attacks on holiday gatherings, including targeting churches.

Officials say there is no specific threat at this point. But they have issued the warning out of an abundance of caution.

Joining me now is Glenn Schoen. He is a security management consultant and has worked on terror-related issues for more than 30 years.

It's good to have you with us this hour. Let's first talk about this new reporting that we just heard from our correspondent, Nina dos Santos. The significance of where Amri was killed. Nina's saying that investigators believe that he was a man on the run alone. But they're trying to find out if he had other connections in northeastern Milan.

How important is it to determine who he might have known and why he was there?

GLENN SCHOEN, SECURITY MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT: Quite. Of course, the Italians have several concerns as this is concerned, meaning that they're looking at is it possible that this person was hooking up with a network there to hide?

Meaning there is a network in Italy that might facilitate this person that is not just criminal but might have terrorist links?

And secondarily of course, is it possible this person traveled to Italy not to lie low or escape to yet another country or perhaps go back to North Africa but to strike in Italy?

At the same time that the Italians are look at thing at this, a similar investigation is taking place in Germany. There are several new aspects there that the Germans are looking at as well.

This morning, there was news that they are investigating at least one homicide in Hamburg that occurred in October that is possibly tied to Mr. Amri. So Germany as well as Italy is still trying to run these investigations down.

HOWELL: In the past, Amri involved in situations like arson, a petty criminal who spent time in prison but then radicalized apparently in prison, spending time there in Italy. Let's talk about that.

When it comes to the petty criminal who becomes the jihadi, the situation of these prisons, where many become radicalized, how are investigators, how are authorities going to start dealing with that?

Because it does seem like a continuing theme.

SCHOEN: Well, it certainly is. You point out two important aspects. One is the prison aspect. The other is increased tie-in we have found, particularly since -- I'm using the royal "we" -- but since last year, where petty criminal and organized criminal networks are really facilitating jihadi terrorists the last few years within Europe.

That used to not be the case so much. Now we're seeing they're really making use of these networks both for hiding and for logistics but also for moving money and simply taking over smaller pieces of these networks so they have a hidden, ready-made infrastructure they can use for larger attacks.

This was found in France and this was found to be the case in Belgium. And now the Germans are basically looking at the similar situation.

Going back to the prisons, that is being dealt with in different ways. One is, of course, the old classic of monitoring the prisoners better, putting so-called snitches or intelligence agents in prison to find out from individuals.

Are they talking to one another?

Are they recruiting?

On the other hand, we're seeing the move the last few years as we've seen in Belgium, France, Netherlands, Denmark, other countries; where we're getting separate wings for terror suspects, where they're held in more isolation and there's more significant monitoring so that radicalized people coming in don't spread that message to nonradicalized prisoners.

HOWELL: Glenn Schoen, live for us in The Hague, following this with insight; Glenn, thank you so much. We'll continue to keep in touch with our correspondent and investigators to learn more about where Amri was killed. Thank you.

Russia and Syria are exchanging congratulations and thank yous over the retaking of Eastern Aleppo from rebels. Reports say that the Russian president Vladimir Putin called Syrian president Bashar al- Assad on Friday.

A Kremlin statement quotes Mr. Putin as saying the following, quote, "This success was possible, thanks to mutual efforts of all who came together in the fight with international terrorism in Syria."

They're claiming Aleppo may well be a major turning point in the Syrian civil war.

"Star Wars" actress Carrie Fisher is in intensive care in a California hospital. The 60-year old suffered cardiac problems during a flight from London to Los Angeles. A passenger tweeted --


HOWELL: -- that he had been sitting in front of Fisher on the plane and saw emergency personnel take her away after the jet landed.

We spoke to Michael Musto, a columnist at about it. Here's what he had to say.


MICHAEL MUSTO, OUT.COM: I just am praying that she will be fine. We are all rooting for her. Carrie is show business royalty and has been from the second she was born. Her father was this great singer, Eddie Fisher. Her mother is Debbie Reynolds from "Singing in the Rain."

Of course, Eddie Fisher dumped Debbie Reynolds for Liz Taylor, one of the most famous gossip stories of all time. And that all made Carrie stronger and funnier.

She became one of the wittiest writers and commentators about the show business scene, whoever lived, quite frankly. And obviously also is an actress from "Star Wars" and so many other things. She has done Broadway; she's done novels.

She wrote the brilliant movie, "Postcards from the Edge" based on her book and has had an interesting life with some terrible relationships, some good relationships. But she is a decent person and is just one of the most hilarious people you'd ever want to meet.


HOWELL: Fisher recently reprised her role as Princess Leia in the "Star Wars" sequel, "The Force Awakens." She also just released a new memoir.

Still ahead, from Russia with love. Donald Trump reveals the contents of a nice letter he received from the Russian president. Stay with us.




HOWELL: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

The U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has made public a personal letter that he recently received from the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin. The tone of the letter was cordial. And Trump called it "very nice." CNN's Dana Bash has more.


DANA BASH, SR. U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A "Dear Mr. Trump" letter from Russia's Vladimir Putin released this morning by the transition.

"I hope that after you assume the position of the President of the United States of America, we will be able, by acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner, to take real steps to restore the framework of bilateral cooperation."

Today, Trump called it "a very nice letter from Vladimir Putin. His thoughts are so correct."

The date on Putin's letter, December 15th, more than a week ago. Releasing it now could be designed to lower the temperature after his own explosive comments hours earlier, threatening to engage in a nuclear arms race.

During a commercial break, Trump called a pajama-clad MSNBC host sitting on an oddly cozy set to report something alarming.

"Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all."

Trump's incoming White House press secretary explained.

SEAN SPICER, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There are countries around the globe right now that are talking about increasing their nuclear capacity. The president is going to put our nation's security and safety first.


SPICER: And he's not going to worry about how (INAUDIBLE) -- and he's going to do it.

BASH (voice-over): An unorthodox approach to just about everything should be a surprise to no one. It's what Trump's campaign was all about.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Things have to change. And they have to change right now.

BASH (voice-over): Now that change means threatening to roll back decades of diplomatic work on nuclear arms control and shaking things up on the domestic front, too.

Trump sent Lockheed into a momentary tailspin by tweeting about cost overruns for the Pentagon's new F-35 Strike Fighters.

TRUMP: These are crooked people.

BASH (voice-over): But some of Trump's harsh campaign rhetoric feels different now that the shoe is on the president-elect's foot.

TRUMP: You look at that foundation. It's pure theft and pure crookedness.

BASH (voice-over): He relentlessly attacked the Clintons on allegations of pay-for-play with their charitable foundation, which does good works like global health initiatives.

Now his son, Eric, suspended his own foundation to avoid allegations of pay-for-play, which Trump lamented on Twitter, saying, "My wonderful son, Eric, will no longer be allowed to raise money for children with cancer because of a possible conflict of interest with my presidency. Isn't this a ridiculous shame? He loves these kids, has raised millions of dollars for them and now must stop. Wrong answer."

And then there's how Trump spent his morning, on the links with Tiger Woods, an enviable outing for any golf enthusiast yet curious since Tiger was a regular part of Trump's anti-Obama campaign riff.

TRUMP: He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods. No, think of it. We don't have time for this.


ALLEN: But golfing with Tiger Woods.

Typhoon Nocten is closing in on the Philippines and still gaining strength.


HOWELL: For those of you who celebrate Christmas, it's Christmas Eve in many parts of the world. The Christmas spirit gets pervasive and it runs across the full spectrum of pop culture. Our digital team put together this piece about some of the top grossing and most played movies and songs of the holiday season. Here's CNNMoney's Frank Pallotta.


FRANK PALLOTTA, CNNMONEY MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: It's that time of year again. There's frost in the air, snow on the ground and Jimmy Stewart is wishing old buildings and loans a Merry Christmas.


PALLOTTA: The holiday season decks the halls with a potent amount of pop culture, everything from the Grinch to Kevin McCallister.

But just how big is the season for your holiday themed TV, film and music?

"Billboard" ranked the tune that is bound to get stuck in your head. It's the number one Christmas song of all time, Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You."


PALLOTTA: Aah. It was streamed almost --


PALLOTTA: -- 44 million times during the 2015 holiday season. Not bad for a song released in 1994.

As for the most popular Christmas song recorded by multiple artists, that distinction goes to -- no surprise -- Irving Berlin's "White Christmas."


PALLOTTA: On screen, holiday television programming reached more than 90 percent of American households in 2014. No doubt a favorite in those households was the Frank Capra-Jimmy Stewart classic, "It's a Wonderful Life." However, the film wasn't a theatrical hit at all and was so forgotten that the rights lapsed into public domain in 1974.

The film was subsequently shown over and over on TV during the holidays, not because it was beloved but because it was free.

The most lucrative Christmas blockbuster of all time is "Home Alone," which made $285 million upon its initial release in 1990 and that doesn't include the cash that came from constant TV reruns since it hasn't spawned a sequel that included a cameo from an unknown business man.


PALLOTTA: Ah, the holidays, a great time to spend with friends and family, even if they're not real. (VIDEO CLIP, "NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION")

PALLOTTA: Happy holidays, everybody.


HOWELL: Frank Pallotta, thank you.

And thank you for being with us for this edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell at the CNN Center in Atlanta. "INSIDE AFRICA" is next. But first, we'll have more news. Stay with us.