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Germans Arrest Wrong Man; New Manhunt for Berlin Attacker; Witness Account of Berlin Attack; New York Hikes Security; Seven Detained in Diplomat's Assassination; Russian in Turkey to Help Probe; War of Words Between Trump and Clinton. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired December 20, 2016 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Brianna, thank you so much.
Hi, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.
We are following news out of Berlin where police now say they arrested the wrong suspect and now this manhunt is underway after that truck plowed through a crowd of shoppers at a busy Christmas market just about 24 hours ago. In the end, 12 people were killed, dozens more injured.
Police did take someone into custody, but as we mentioned, in a shocking admission today, it was the wrong guy. They revealed they had the wrong person in custody. It's actually not the driver. So this person has been set free.
This means, of course, that the killer behind this chilling rampage is at large. The attack happened right around 8:00 Berlin time, so precisely this time yesterday. That tractor-trailer dragging some people here as far as 80 feet.
Let's begin in Berlin. CNN's Erin McLaughlin is there live.
Begin with how they got the wrong guy and there was also a body in that truck.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brooke.
Well, authorities now saying that it seems as though they arrested the wrong person and they're citing a lack of forensic evidence that was found inside that truck cabin. They said essentially there's no forensic evidence at the moment tying the suspect to the truck itself.
Now, this particular individual was arrested in the wake of the attack. He was arrested about a mile and a half away, described by authorities as an asylum seeker, probably, they said, from Pakistan. He's believed to have entered Germany December 31, 2015.
The entire time, though, he said that - denied any involvement in the attack and now it seems the evidence really backing that up. So that leaves authorities with any number of questions. They're saying - they're looking at any and all possibilities. The possibility there could be one or more attackers involved, potential for accomplices as well, and they're urging people, members of the public, to remain vigilant and on the lookout.
BALDWIN: All right, Erin, thank you so much.
With me now, someone who witnessed this horrific attack, streamed this video of the aftermath and the confusion live on FaceBook. He is Jan Hollitzer, who joins me now.
Jan, thank you so much for being with me.
First, just take me - it was this time yesterday when this truck plowed through all those revelers at that market. Where were you?
JAN HOLLITZER, WITNESSED TRUCK MASSACRE: Hi. I was finishing my work and was on my way back home and I passed the Christmas market on the other side of the street. And then I heard a big noise. The truck smashed the small booth on the market and I could hear screams and then I saw the truck came out on the market again on the street.
BALDWIN: I can't imagine the screams, the crowds, the kids. What did you then do?
HOLLITZER: I don't know about kids. I haven't seen kids. Yes, I was shocked like the other people around and, yes, you - in the first moment you don't realize that this could be an attack, maybe an accident. Then in the other second, you have the pictures in mind of Nice this year, it was also a lorry and a crowd and in Berlin it was a lorry and a crowd. And then you realize slowly that it could be also an attack.
BALDWIN: I understand you had a friend and a colleague in Nice and so that was part of, you know, a journalist instinct, pull out the camera and I would say very carefully not showing certain faces document what - what you were seeing.
BALDWIN: I want to go back, though, Jan, to the - to the news that law enforcement apparently had the wrong - had the wrong person and it's essentially back to square one.
HOLLITZER: Yes, that's right. And it's really scary that the driver of the truck is out there in Berlin.
BALDWIN: It is scary. Jan, thank you so much.
I want to begin there with my panel. Joining me now, Michael Weiss, CNN contributor and co-author of "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror," and Juliette Kayyem, CNN national security analyst and former homeland security assistant secretary.
So great to have both of you on.
And, I mean, just in the last little bit, Juliette, we've just learned again that law enforcement, they've let who they thought was the driver go because of forensics or a lack of a match. It's Europe. You hop a train, you're gone. I'm just wondering how they find this person. Walk me through a manhunt.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: OK. So, well, what they have now and what they only have now is eyewitness accounts. So at this stage, unlike last night, we are - they are going to have to go back, talk to individuals who may have seen the driver, what was his race, what was his ethnicity, what did he look like, was there one or two? Look at video cameras that may be on buildings and iPhones and everything else that might give you a visual of who this person is and then you figure out where he might have gone.
[14:05:23] So it appears, just as compared to last night, and this is why - this is why we have to wait as the facts unfold, that the dead passenger may very well likely be the original driver who his employer, remember last night was saying, I had lost contact with him.
KAYYEM: So this is how - where the investigation goes, eyewitness accounts, digital footprints, video cameras and forensics. And it's a manhunt.
BALDWIN: And so, Michael, it's - you know, was this person working alone? Was there a small network? Was this part of a cell? How far could this person have gotten? What are you - what questions are you asking?
MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, those and, I mean, look, if it was the driver who was working for this polish truck company -
WEISS: I mean this is a guy who then crossed the border from a foreign country into Berlin, premeditated clearly, and then, you know, got killed in the process of committing this act of mass murder. If it's not, then, as I said yesterday, there's a level of operational security and sophistication here because that means there's an unknown assailant running around -
WEISS: Who took the decision, not only am I going to wage an act of mass murder, but I'm going to hijack a truck, and not just any truck, but a truck with 25 tons of steel in it.
WEISS: So it's a battering ram of a vehicle.
WEISS: And kill the driver of the truck. I mean, so he will have had to have surveilled the truck and, you know, found a way to take it over and then, you know, plow into a bunch of people. That doesn't seem to me like some random, crazy, self-radicalized agent to me. That would suggest a level of planning, a level of, you know, coordination. Again, it's too soon to tell. And, look, nobody -
BALDWIN: We know they're investigating as a terrorist attack.
WEISS: They are.
BALDWIN: And, obviously, it's way too soon to know definitively.
WEISS: Yes. And nobody has claimed credit.
BALDWIN: Right. Right.
WEISS: I mean there have been false allegations ISIS -
BALDWIN: But that doesn't always match - necessarily match.
WEISS: Doesn't always match and sometimes it does take - I mean there have been al Qaeda attacks that have taken weeks if not months until they've come out and accepted credit for it. But, yes, something about this now and the fact that they got the wrong guy, let him go, it's a little worrisome.
BALDWIN: Juliette, what do you think, the way the attack was carried out, what does that say to you?
KAYYEM: Well, I agree with Michael. I mean, look, it does - it's not crazy to think that this is tied to ISIS or a terrorist organization just simply because of the M.O. reflects what we saw in Nice and some of the writings of ISIS and others.
BALDWIN: Using the car as a weapon.
But now what we don't want is we don't want German officials, or even Interpol officials, to be only looking in one direction, because when that happens, they may miss the forest. And so this is why, you know, this - we're sort of at ground zero in terms of an investigation because you don't have - it appears that they just have no idea who it is. And this is disconcerting for not just the other European countries, but obviously here in the United States, which - who - where we're entering a really busy week with the holidays and a lot of mass gatherings and sort of what should be our positioning vis-a-vis whether this is a random thing or if this is part of an onslaught of attacks like this.
BALDWIN: Right. We're going to talk in a minute about what's happening just sort of on the domestic front in the wake of what happened in Berlin.
But last question to you, Michael, big picture, and by no means am I inferring these are at all related, but it's - I think it's noteworthy.
BALDWIN: You have what happened there. You have the gunman in Turkey, right, who takes down and assassinates that ambassador, yelling, "do not forget Aleppo." In Zurich, a gunman shot up a mosque. Fifty-two soldiers were killed in a suicide bombing in Yemen. ISIS claiming responsibility there. And another series of deadly shootings in Jordan. Again, they're not all connected, but what's it - what's happening?
WEISS: Well, they're not all connected but they are. There's something in the air now. And the loss of Aleppo - I mean you have to understand, this is an ancient Sunni Arab city. The fall of it to the Assad regime, but really to Iranian-built (ph) Shia militia group and death squads backed by Russian air power and, if "The Wall Street Journal" is to be believed, Russian special forces on the ground, this is going to be a rallying cry for a whole new generation of Sunni jihadists. There are going to be kids growing up looking to exact revenge for the fall of Aleppo.
And it behooves an organization - my co-author, Hassan Hassan, and I wrote an article about this, that the fall of Aleppo had nothing to do with ISIS, and yet it's the greatest gift to ISIS because now they can say, look, you've - our critics have always accused us, wherever we blow into town or we take over a city or a population center, we wreak nothing but devastation and mayhem upon that city. The coalition bombs us. The regime bombs us. ISIS was nowhere in Aleppo and it was still a Sunni city that fell. And it fell to the enemy.
So there's a fever pitch of sectarianism in the Middle East and it's going to lead to people becoming radicalized, people imbibing the ISIS and al Qaeda ideology and people wanting to conduct acts like this. And, you know, the most important thing, even though the U.S. didn't bomb Aleppo -
[14:10:05] BALDWIN: Right.
WEISS: In the ISIS conspiratorial matrix -
WEISS: We are just as guilty as Russia and Iran and Bashar al Assad. Never forget that. They - they - that is part of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi's sort of grand narrative.
WEISS: It's the U.S. and Russia, backed by Iran and all the Shia. That's painting a target on all of those entities' backs, frankly.
BALDWIN: Thank you. We're going to talk about that assassination in a couple of minutes. But for now, thank you so much.
BALDWIN: Michael Weiss, Juliette Kayyem.
In New York City, police are stepping up security. NYPD now moving highly trained teams to a number of high profile locations around the city. Let's go to Brynn Gingras, who can explain.
Brynn, when we say, you know, heightened security measures and, of course, it's a busy holiday time in New York, what do they mean? What are they doing?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, Brooke, in New York, the NYPD has this city covered. I mean there's always sort of a heightened security here, but certainly they sort of move around their units to make sure that certain areas have more security, like the Christmas markets, one of which we are standing in front of. There are about a half a dozen around the city that we're seeing heavily armed, highly trained officers, part of those counterterrorism units, here with their presence shown.
Now, of course, you're not seeing them right now. We have video for your viewers. But I can tell you, that's the point. According to the NYPD, they are scattering around, being unpredictable so that there's no pattern, really, that a terrorist or a potential terrorist could follow.
But let me show you this. You could see the NYPD cars, Brooke, they are also just parked around Columbus Circle, where this particular market is. And that's really just a barrier. That's another form, another layer of protection that the NYPD takes.
And I witnessed it for myself, Brooke. About an hour ago, there was a van who actually came up to this part of the circle, it parked right here. It really didn't have any markings on it. And those counterterrorism officers went right over to that van and said, you can't park here, what are you doing here and asked a lot of questions, made sure that he moved that van immediately. So they do take action.
We've also seen those officers going through the market talking to patrons, talking to vendors, asks questions, exactly, you know, what to be on the lookout for as they keep a watchful eye. It's important, Brooke, though, we should note, the NYPD says at this point, though, there's no credible threat against New York City.
BALDWIN: NYPD, they don't mess around. Brynn Gingras, thank you very much.
Coming up next, inside the home of an assassin. What Turkish state media says investigators have now turned up on the suspected gunman who shot and killed Russia's ambassador to Turkey. What we were just talking about a moment ago.
Also, the story behind the photographer, who was there, who documented the entire attack, snapping photo after photo of the killer in action, capturing the faces of fear in the room. What this man was thinking while the terror unfolded.
And the escalating feud between former President Bill Clinton and President-elect Donald Trump. The men trading volleys on Twitter as recent as minutes ago after Clinton suggested Trump, quote/unquote, "doesn't know much." Hmm.
I'm Brooke Baldwin and this is CNN.
[14:16:39] BALDWIN: All right, now to the latest in the assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey. The number of people now being held for police questioning has grown to seven. You have the gunman's parents, other family members, his roommate, they've all been detained and questioned here. And according to reports on Turkish-run media, links to terror have been discovered at the assassin's home, including books on al Qaeda. So you have that.
There is also this development, that 18 Russian special agents are now in Turkey's capital to assist with this investigation. Meantime, in Moscow, foreign ministers from Russia, Iran, and Turkey are holding talks on Syria, and specifically discussing what's been happening in Aleppo. We know that the gunman in Turkey had shouted "do not forget Aleppo" after killing the Russian diplomat.
So I want to bring in CNN's senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward, who will join us from Moscow, and Mustafa Akyol, an opinion writer based in Istanbul. He is also the author of "Islam with Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty."
So, Mustafa, thank you so much for being with me. I just want to begin with you. There in Turkey, in apparently what was found in this gunman's home, al Qaeda literature, but also material from a cleric now living in the U.S. What do you make of that? What do Turkish officials make of that?
MUSTAFA AKYOL, OPINION WRITER, "NEW YORK TIMES" AL-MONITOR, HURRIYET DAILY NEWS: Well, personally, I can't make anything at this point. The assassin, I mean he sounded like an al Nusra or al Qaeda affiliate. He wanted to avenge Aleppo. So that's one apparent explanation of what happened. And there's certainly anger at Russia in Turkey among the Islamists, especially for what happened in Aleppo. That's one explanation.
The other explanation, though, that the Turkish government has been insisting since the incident is that this is actually not avenging Aleppo, this is a sabotage against Turkish/Russian relationship, which has grown in the past few months with friendship between President Erdogan and President Putin. And that second theory goes well with the emphasis on the U.S.-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen (ph), and his covert members in the police because Erdogan has been insisting that they are trying to sabotage many things that the government does and actually a lot of people in Turkey agree with that when it comes to the military coup of last summer, but they are now insisting that he was actually a member of that group, that cult and the intention was to sabotage the Turkish/Russian rapprochement. Which one of these theories are true? I mean it's hard to know at this point. As - as the investigation unfolds, maybe we will get more evidence and a clearer picture.
BALDWIN: Help us understand why then some people would be against the rapprochement and the relations between Turkey and Russia. Is it specifically because of their disparate stances on Bashar al Assad or why?
AKYOL: Well, if you look at the pro-government media in Turkey, the west is behind this conspiracy because the west doesn't want Turkey and Russia to come together because these are two independent powers. They suspect that actually the downing of the plane, the Russian plane back in November 2015 was yet another such a conspiracy. So there's a very conspiratorial interpretation of events. And I mean some pro- government newspapers pointed to the CIA. The government didn't say that, but I think that's the understanding here. Better that - that has any weight or not again remains to be seen.
[14:20:06] BALDWIN: Mustafa, stand by. I want to bring in Clarissa Ward. We have her now.
And, Clarissa, you're in Moscow. As we've been talking to Mustafa about the relations and perhaps maybe some of the - the motivation behind this assassination regarding the relations between Russia and Turkey. You're in Moscow. Foreign ministers from Iran and Russia and Turkey, they're all getting together to discuss what's happened, you know, in Aleppo and apparently that conversation has reached an impasse. Can you bring me up to speed?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically I think that all - well, I think specifically the Russian foreign minister and the Turkish foreign minister really wanted to show something of a united front here. They wanted to show that regardless of the horrible assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey in cold blood yesterday, that they weren't going to allow this to derail the relationship, that they were going to continue to push ahead, working together, working to improve the relationship. It has been a difficult relationship for some time now, but in the last six months, it has definitely improved exponentially.
Obviously, at the end of the day, you have Russia supporting the regime in the Syrian civil war and Turkey supporting the rebels in the Syrian civil war. But both sides were working closely together, specifically on the issue of a temporary truce in Aleppo that has allowed thousands and thousands of people to exit or evacuate from the eastern part of the city.
In terms of why these talks have come to an impasse, these are larger issues relating to what the Syrian opposition is willing to concede, what they're willing to accept. These are issues that are very difficult to hash out. But in terms of the Russian/Turkish relationship, which I have to say, Brooke, for a moment there last night, there was a flutter where people thought, could this escalate into something nasty? It appears President Putin and President Erdogan both trying to rein that in, deescalate the situation and emphasize that they're both working on the same song sheet, Brooke.
BALDWIN: And speaking of the unified front between Turkey and Russia, just last note, Mustafa had commented in a piece we read that the assassination could actually bring Russia and Turkey even closer together. We'll see. Clarissa and Mustafa, thank you both very much.
Coming up next here, though, back at home, this Trump Twitter war today, it is with Bill Clinton. See why the president-elect took a swipe at the former president.
We are also watching Wall Street today. The Dow Jones flirting once again with that magic 20,000 number. We'll take you there if it reaches the milestone.
[14:26:04] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I've never cast a vote I was prouder of. You know, I watched her work for two years. I watched her battle through that bogus e-mail deal, be vindicated at the end when Secretary Powell came out. She fought through that. She fought through everything. And she prevailed against it all. But, you know, then, with the end, we had the Russians and the FBI deal, which she couldn't prevail against that. But she did everything else and still won by 2.8 million votes. I'm very proud of her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Oh, dear. The election may be over, the needling has not stopped. Bill Clinton and Donald Trump are escalating this back and forth war of words. The latest salvo fired moments ago. Let's begin there.
I have A.P. chief White House correspondent Julie Pace, CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza, the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker," and CNN's own senior political reporter Manu Raju.
Julie Pace, you're first up to bat, but let me just set this whole thing up. You know, listen, the election's over. It's been over - over. Doesn't feel that way for these two guys. This back and forth started earlier this month with Bill Clinton saying, and I quote, "Trump doesn't know much. One thing he does know is how to get angry white men to vote for him."
Well, of course, Donald Trump tweeted his response writing, "Bill Clinton stated that I called him after the election. Wrong. He called me with a very nice congratulations. He doesn't know much," he goes on, "especially how to get people, even with an unlimited budget, out to vote in the vital swing states and more. They focused on wrong states." So that was the Trump, you know, tweet.
And apparently neither of these men have anything better to do because Bill Clinton just responded on Twitter. This is what he tweeted. " Here's one thing @realdonaldtrump and I can agree on - I called him after the election."
And we laugh, but, you know, this is how they're communicating in this forum of 140 characters or less, Julie. Don't they have bigger fish to fry? JULIE PACE, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ASSOCIATED PRESS: At
least Donald Trump does. You can understand the lingering resentment from the Clinton camp because Hillary Clinton lost the election. So, you know, Bill Clinton is going to be out there trying to explain away why that happened. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is now just a few weeks away from actually becoming president and he's cleared any last hurdle that was standing in his way, namely the vote of the actual electors yesterday. He is going to be facing huge challenges if you'd just look at what happened around the world yesterday. Massive national security issues are going to land on his desk very shortly and yet he's engaged in this debate over who called who with Bill Clinton. I'm so glad we finally have clarity on that.
BALDWIN: Ryan Lizza, what do you think?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I don't' think - Clinton in his defense, I mean he was just correcting one thing he got wrong, right? He was saying, Trump was right, that Clinton called Trump.
LIZZA: He didn't really escalate the, you know -
LIZZA: The fight. But, look, that interview that he did, it wasn't really an interview, but the comments he made at the bookstore that that local newspaper printed and the interview he did that we watched on tape there, look, you can tell that it's going to take a long time and understandably so for Bill Clinton to get over such a narrow loss. He noted that he won the popular vote by - or Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by, was it 2.7, 2.8 million votes and, you know, I think they're - they feel that there were some things beyond their control that were very unfair in the election that cost it, whether it was the Comey letter or the Russian propaganda effort. And, you know, if you know Clinton and you've watched him over the y ears, this thing, it takes him a long time to get over.
BALDWIN: Takes a while.
LIZZA: Yes, he holds on to these things. I mean, you know, so I don't think this is the last time we're going to hear from Bill Clinton about how he feels that Hillary was not treated fairly.
I know Republicans are like, get over it. you know, your woman lost. But at the same time, the Russia hacks, that's just thrusting this whole thing in the spotlight, I realize.
[14:30:07] LIZZA: Yes.
BALDWIN: Manu Raju, let's switch gears. Let's talk about what's happening on Capitol Hill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, today, rejecting calls for a select