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Trump Criticizes Angela Merkel's Immigration Policy; Janet Napolitano Talks Trump's Homeland Security Picks, Immigration; Armed Man Storms Pizzeria Based on False News; Aleppo Residents Return Home to Mass Destruction. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired December 5, 2016 - 13:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And is there a dialogue between German officials, maybe you yourself, and others inside the Trump transition?
PETER WITTIG, GERMAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Yeah. We had our contacts, as it is our duty to stretch out our feelers, but you know, the nominations are not yet complete. So, we have to see how this team is being set up, but we have had contacts and me personally as well.
BLITZER: And so basically what you're saying what he said then, that it's disgraceful, Angela Merkel's policies since refugees. Since then that was then and now you're moving on, and the phone conversation was actually pretty friendly?
WITTIG: I'm sure the t
BLITZER: What about the whole issue of, he says, the United States has to vet the refugees because is, al Qaeda, al Shabaab, trying to smuggle in terrorists into the United States, and he said Germany, one of the countries in Europe just let anybody in?
WITTIG: Last year was an extraordinary situation. The most dramatic refugee flow since the Second World War.
BLITZER: How many people did you let into Germany last year?
WITTIG: Around a million.
BLITZER: A million people, and they just came in without any background checks?
WITTIG: No, no. They came in, in a -- not always orderly fashion. We just couldn't have shut off our refugee, our borders. It would have created a -- a basic, major humanitarian disaster. But now the numbers have gone down dramatically, and we are managing that much better, including from the point of national security.
BLITZER: Those million who came in last year, they are allow to stay?
WITTIG: A million. Some are allowed to stay, those who are refugees. Others just looking for jobs have to be repatriated. ,BLITZER: When Donald Trump, president-elect, says some may be
terrorists, what do you say to him?
WITTIG: We have meantime vetted them properly and our security services are very vigilant. They have been detected Islamic cells that were active there. So, we are much better in control than last year.
BLITZER: One bottom-line question. With Europe, with Britain now out of the E.U., how concerned are you, the entire E.U., eventually, is going to collapse?
WITTIG: No. And that will not happen. But we have to make sure that Europe stays coherent and resilient against challengers from the east, like a more assertive Russia, from the south, like instabilities in the middle east and in north Africa. And the leaders have to get together and I think they know what's at stake. And at stake is a peace project in Europe, eradicating war and conflict from the European continent and delivering unprecedented prosperity. That is what the European Union did for the citizens.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens.
Peter Wittig, German ambassador to the United States.
Mr. Ambassador, thanks for coming in.
WITTIG: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: Coming up, President-elect Trump promising several more cabinet announcements this week. Among key positions still unfilled, secretary of Homeland Security. The former of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano -- there you see her - she's about to join us live to talk about his picks, his immigration policy and a lot more.
We'll be right back.
[13:37:34] BLITZER: President-elect Trump has yet to announce his choice for Homeland Security secretary. Among those under consideration, Texas Congressman Mike McCaul, chairman of House Homeland Security; former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; and retired General John Kelly.
Let's discuss this, one of the biggest policy challenges facing the president-elect.
I'm joined by former secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano. She's now the president of the University of California.
Madam Secretary, thanks very much for joining us.
JANET NATPOLITANO, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA & FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Thank you.
BLITZER: Of those three candidates, who do you think is best suited to have your old job, secretary of Homeland Security?
NAPOLITANO: Well, I think what the president-elect needs to look for is a person who can multitask, because the Department of Homeland Security includes everything from counterterrorism to natural disasters to immigration to cyber security. And a lot of times these things are all happening at the same time. So, he'll want to find someone who can deal with multiple issues simultaneously.
BLITZER: What are the biggest challenges you believe, the biggest security issues, facing the incoming president?
NAPOLITANO: Well, I think there are several. I believe cyber security is a key issue. I think the -- the Russians and their activities in our election deserves a serious in-depth look, and that will not just be with Russians. That's just going to be an issue for the next secretary moving forward. Immigration, immigration enforcement, we heard a lot about that during the campaign, but now you have to really look at it as what the United States is going to do. What's the best thing for the United States to do? What's the fairest thing for the United States to do? And then, of course, counterterrorism. The rise of the lone wolf, lone-wolf terrorism. We've had several of those episodes. I think we can anticipate more.
BLITZER: As you know, the president-elect has promised a crackdown on illegal immigration. University of California announcing it will protect the privacy, protect civil rights of undocumented students. Are you potentially setting yourself up for a fight with the new administration?
NAPOLITANO: No, not really. These students are the so-called Dreamers. These are young people brought here by their families at a young age. Almost all of them are in DACA, the deferred action program that was set up during my term as secretary of Homeland Security. They've passed background checks. They've passed criminal history checks. They have done well enough in school to be admitted to the University of California, which is not the easiest thing in the world to do. They should be the lowest priority in terms of immigration enforcement and we want to make sure that that is communicated.
[13:40:32] BLITZER: As you know, the president-elect also says he will halt federal aid to what is called sanctuary cities, set up to protect undocumented and don't comply with the federal government. What's your reaction to that?
NAPOLITANO: I think we should avoid those kinds of either/or fights. The plain fact of the matter is these are low-priority issues. And he said he wants to focus on violent felons and gang members. Those are the same priorities we had when I was Homeland secretary. And it's easier said than done. Put the enforcement will it should be and not waste our time with false conflicts.
BLITZER: As you know, Madam Secretary, some of the sanctuary cities, they don't hand over violent, convicted criminals, undocumented, to the federal government. Many times, they just release them into the streets. That's a serious problem. NAPOLITANO: Yeah. I think in the unusual circumstance where that is
going on, there needs to be a serious discussion between the Department of Homeland Security and those cities. But in terms of, say, the University of California, what we have said is, look, our police officers, their focus should be on campus safety. That's what we pay them to do. That's what their focus ought to be, and not on being adjunct immigration officers. We've been very clear about that.
BLITZER: And campuses across the country, the whole notion, if the president-elect decides to, sort of go full speed against these sanctuary cities, the University of California, is that going to be a sanctuary campus? All of your various campuses? What are you hearing about that?
NAPOLITANO: No. I think that for the University of California, use of labels like sanctuary, nobody really knows what's that means, to begin with. But that's not very helpful. I know, look, student documents are private documents under federal law. We're going to protect that privacy. Our police departments are going to focus on campus safety. They're not adjunct federal officers. I want to be clear about that.
On DACA, DACA was a good program when it was started. It's not a blanket amnesty. These are really good young people, students, who have passed all kinds of background checks. DACA ought to be continued.
BLITZER: There are the so-called Dreamers, as we all know.
Janet Napolitano --
NAPOLITANO: They are Dreamers.
BLITZER: -- the president of the University of California, former secretary of Homeland Security. Thanks so much for joining us.
NAPOLITANO: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, we're now learning new details about a very jarring incident at a Washington, D.C. pizzeria. An armed man storming the pizzeria, saying he was investigating a fake story. Details, when we come back.
[13:47:30] BLITZER: A very frightening moment for customers at a Washington, D.C., pizzeria when a man walked in with an assault rifle and allegedly pointed it at an employee. Police say the suspect told employees he came to investigate a fake online news story involving false allegations linking the pizzeria to a child sex operation. Patrons and the employee were able to rush out of the restaurant while the suspect fired his weapon. No one was injured.
Our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, is outside the pizzeria in Washington. And also, joined by Reuters White House correspondent, Jeff Mason. Joe, let's start with you.
What do we know about this man, I take it a 28-year-old, Edgar Madison Welch?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's his name, Wolf. He's from Salisbury, North Carolina. And he is locked up right now, but he is expected to appear in D.C. Superior Court in a little while charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.
Now, authorities say he was here over the weekend, walked in with a rifle. Apparently, that rifle was fired, authorities say. When they took him into custody, they found two additional weapons. And after they charged him, they sat down and asked him questions, and what he told them was a little surprising. Of course, he said that he came here to self-investigate, if you will, the allegations against Pizzagate. Pizzagate, of course, is that online Internet false rumor that has been going around for quite some time suggesting that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta, her campaign manager, were, in fact, involved in a child sex ring here. All of it totally false, but it started in late October and kept building through the election, and continues to this day.
There have been threats against this pizza institution here on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C., death threats. And the owner of this place had put out a statement in trying to clear the air, if you will. It says in part, "Let me state unequivocally that these stories are false and entirely false. There's no basis in fact to any of them. What happens is promoting false and reckless conspiracy comes with consequences. I hope those involved and fanning those flames will take a moment to contemplate what happened here and stop promoting these falsehoods right away."
Of course, Wolf, the question is whether all of this publicity and the arrest yesterday will help put an end to this or just fan the flames.
[13:50:05] BLITZER: Joe Johns reporting for us. Thanks, Joe.
Jeff, besides being a Reuters White House correspondent, you're president of the White House Correspondents' Association. This is an awful phenomenon, a fake story developing into a guy walking into a pizzeria with a weapon.
JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: That's right. And the keyword there is fake, as you and Joe said. There needs to be a way for people to make a distinction between actual news and fake news. When you don't make that distinction, both as a consumer of news and as purveyors of news, it can lead to difficult consequences.
BLITZER: The problem is there are so many people that believe these fake stories.
MASON: That's right. I think that's an issue for journalists. I think it's an issue for politicians. I think it's a very important issue for public figures as well.
BLITZER: I think you're absolutely right.
Jeff, thanks very much --
MASON: Thank you.
BLITZER: -- for giving us some perspective.
Coming up, "a destroyed wasteland," that's how our own correspondent is describing what's left of Aleppo, Syria. We'll go live to the front lines of the besieged city when we come back.
[13:55:15] BLITZER: In Syria, government forces are gaining ground in the battle for the city of Aleppo. The regime has been pounding rebel-held areas for weeks trying to retake all of east Aleppo. As rebel territory shrinks, could this signal a turning point in the bloody civil war?
Our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, has more.
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Driving through a destroyed waste land, until recently was one of the main battlegrounds in Syria. This district in Aleppo was rebel hands until last week when government forces moved in with crushing fire power.
PLEITGEN: 13-year-old Udai (ph) shows me where a rocket landed next to his house and describes the fear he felt.
PLEITGEN: "People were very frightened, he says. "Normally, we would hide in the basement. Luckily, that night, we slept on the first floor. That's when two rockets hit right over here.
Udai's (ph) little brother, Abdul Kareem (ph), is clearly traumatized by the horrors he's witnessed. He's still weak for living under seize for a week, with almost no food or water available much of the time.
As the rebels lost their grip on this place, many residents fled, trying to escape with their lives and not much more.
Now, they're coming back. Some haven't seen their houses for years.
This man left in 2012 when the rebels took this district. He's trying to salvage any belongings of what's left of his apartment. "I am very sad because everything is either destroyed or ransacked,"
he says. "We found these pictures under the rubble. The walls are destroyed, but we will come back here and rebuild."
PLEITGEN: The battle from Aleppo is far from over. Syrian government forces clearly have the upper hand, taking about half of the territory in the past week alone and continuing to push their offensive with massive firepower.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Like in so many districts that have been taken back, there is massive destruction in this part of eastern Aleppo. But there's no denying the shift in momentum in favor of the Syrian military and also the boost in morale that many of their soldiers have gotten.
(voice-over): Troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Assad tell us they believe they can capture all of Aleppo, Syria's most important battle ground, very soon.
"The rebel headquarters was right here," he says. "So, the loss of this district was a big blow to them. And you could see how our shelling was pounding them. And that shows their morale is collapsing."
Rebels left behind a makeshift cannon when they fled here last week.
So far, the opposition hasn't found a way to shore up their defenses in the face of the massive and possibly decisive Syrian government offensive.
BLITZER: Fred Pleitgen is joining us on the phone. He's in Aleppo.
I want you to be really careful over there, Fred.
We know the Syrian military is getting help from the Russians, Iranians, Lebanese, Hezbollah. Who is helping the rebels?
PLEITGEN: Well, it looks like the rebels aren't getting very much help at all anymore. One of the things we're seeing, Wolf, is the enclave the rebels hold in eastern Aleppo is getting smaller every day. It seems the Syrian government made headway last night, once again taking more territory in eastern Aleppo.
Of course, the situation here is also getting worse for the civilians who are still trapped inside there. There's very little food, very little water. Also, very, very cold here in Aleppo.
One of the things we've been seeing in the about 48 hours we've been on the ground here -- I think you might have just heard at mortar being fired -- is exactly that. A lot of shelling going on, heavy weapons being used, a lot of aircraft in the skies, bombing 24/7. It doesn't let up at any point during the day or night. You can really see how the rebel-held areas in eastern Aleppo are under a complete assault night and day.
The Syrian government used to be hell-bent on trying to win it back as fast as possible. Certainly, doesn't look as though they'll be letting up any time soon -- Wolf?
BLITZER: This is the final battle, is that what we're seeing right now?
PLEITGEN: Well, certainly, looks that way for Aleppo and it certainly looks like diplomacy is going to have a very hard time. There are efforts in the U.N. to try and get a deal to stop the violence. People here really don't think that has a chance -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Fred Pleitgen, be careful over there.
He's in Aleppo. One of the few Western journalists courageous enough to get to that scene.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back at 5:00 p.m. eastern in "The Situation Room."
The news continues right now, right here on CNN.
[14:00:10] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, on this Monday. I'm Ana Cabrera, in for Brooke Baldwin.
Lots of new developments coming --