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Urgent Manhunt for Christmas Market Attacker; Putin: 'Criminals Will Feel the Heat' after Assassination; ISIS Says it Inspired Christmas Market Attack; Trump in Twitter Feud with Bill Clinton; Michelle Obama "So Supportive of This Transition." Aired 5-6p ET
Aired December 20, 2016 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:04] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over to Brianna Keilar, who's in for Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Terror manhunt. ISIS says it is behind the deadly attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, saying it inspired the assailant who drove a heavy truck through a crowd with shoppers. Now an urgent hunt is on for the suspect.
Holiday security. New York City is stepping up security at holiday markets, and as Washington prepares for huge crowds at the inauguration, could the U.S. be next?
Wider plot? After the murder of Russia's ambassador in Turkey, Vladimir Putin vowing now to step up what he calls the fight against terror. But as Turkey detains a number of people for questioning, did the gunman act alone?
And Twit-fit. President-elect Donald Trump and former president Bill Clinton in a war of words over the recent election and its result. Will Donald Trump keep tweeting once he is in the White House?
Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Brianna Keilar. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KEILAR: Breaking news. ISIS claims it inspired the deadly Christmas market attack in Berlin, calling the assailant a soldier of the Islamic State who answered its appeal for attacks on countries opposing the terror group. An urgent manhunt is being stepped up for the suspect who steered a heavy truck through an open-air market, killing 12 people.
Authorities in Berlin have released a man detained after the attack. And there's now growing concern that the attacker is on the loose and very dangerous.
And a day after its ambassador to Turkey was assassinated on camera, Russia says it's determined to fight terrorism and will make no concessions. As the body of the slain diplomat was returned home, Moscow sent a large team of investigators to Turkey, where relatives of the shooter are among those being detained.
And as Donald Trump fires off statements blaming the latest violence on Islamic terrorism, it's not clear to what extent he is being briefed by U.S. intelligence agencies. This as the president-elect engages in a Twitter war with former President Bill Clinton over the election results. I'll speak with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. And our correspondents, analysts and guests are standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.
First to that Christmas market attack in Berlin, which ISIS now says it inspired. There's an urgent hunt now for the attacker, who is believed to be on the loose.
CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is standing by in Berlin, but we begin with the investigation and our Brian Todd.
Brian, tell us about what you're learning.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Brianna. We just got word of this claim from ISIS, the terror group jumping all over this tonight, ISIS claiming it inspired the attack in Berlin, saying the person who carried it out was, quote, "a soldier of the Islamic State."
This comes as German authorities are scrambling to find this attacker and possibly others involved.
TODD (voice-over): In Berlin, it now appears mass confusion at this chaotic scene may have given whoever was behind the wheel of this tractor-trailer truck when it killed a dozen people a head-start in getting away. Tonight there is a manhunt across Europe for at least one terrorist and an urgent call by police for witnesses to come forward.
PETER NEUMANN, ICSR (through translator): We do not know for certain if there was one perpetrator or several perpetrators.
TODD: Sources now believe the truck, packed with 25 tons of steel, may have been hijacked. The Polish man who normally drove the truck, officials say, was shot dead at close range in the passenger seat. His body was found, but the murder weapon has not been recovered.
And in a huge set-back to their investigation, German police now say their only suspect, a refugee they detained overnight, is likely not the person who, with this heavy truck, killed a dozen people at on outdoor Christmas market. A German security official telling CNN police did not find his DNA inside the cabin of the truck and have now released him. Police now believe whoever carried out this attack is at large, armed and dangerous.
RON HOSKO, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: It makes you wonder how much time have they lost? Because they had this person in custody so quickly, did they take their eye off of other possible subjects? Did they slow the surge of additional resources in that might be capturing video from the street? TODD: Tonight, ISIS is claiming it inspired the Berlin attacker. So
far, investigators have not uncovered any definitive links to the terror group. But for months ISIS has called on sympathizers to use trucks as weapons, and experts say ISIS is actively trying to recruit followers in Europe.
NEUMANN: The head of the domestic intelligence service in Germany here is convinced that I.S. is targeting refugees. It wants refugees to carry out attacks here, because it is conscious of the fact that this is a particularly politically explosive issue in Germany.
[17:05:01] TODD: Now, law-enforcement veterans who've taken part in manhunts tell us German authorities are now going to be heavily reliant on surveillance video, not only video of the marketplace but also video of the truck's previous movements, tracing those back as far as they can. German authorities are now also asking for the public's help, asking anyone with cellphone video related to this attack to turn that in -- Brianna.
KEILAR: And Brian, what concerns is this attack raising here in the U.S. tonight?
TODD: Lots of concerns that this could happen here in the U.S., Brianna. Law enforcement professionals we're speaking with saying that it puts now more pressure on U.S. counterterror and law enforcement to coordinate intelligence with their allies in Europe and elsewhere and puts pressure on them to harden some potential soft targets here. Public gatherings places, malls, places like that, of course, especially now during holidays.
KEILAR: They'll be so busy during the holidays. Brian Todd, thank you so much.
Let's go live now to Berlin. We have CNN senior international correspondent, Frederik Pleitgen, at scene of that deadly truck attack. And Fred, tell us what you are learning there.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna.
Well, certainly, the German authorities at this point in time say they're very concerned about the fact that they don't have anyone in custody. And they really don't really seem to have any new leads as to where they should be looking.
And I think one of the things that really concerns people here, not just the authorities, is the fact that they believe that whoever is still out there may potentially and, most probably, is potentially still armed. Because we have to keep in mind that the Polish person who was found on the passenger side of that truck had gunshot wounds. However, there was no gun retrieved here on the site.
And I can tell you, from being out here over the past 24 hours, that the Germans have a lot of forensic units out here, really searching through ever single inch of this area. And if there would have been a weapon hidden somewhere here, they probably would have found it. So they obviously believe that whoever is still out there is most probably still armed and most certainly very, very dangerous, just judging by the carnage left behind when that truck plowed through that Christmas market.
Now, at the same time, of course, the people that we're speaking to, Brianna, are also very concerned, as well. Many of them feel quite vulnerable. And it's interesting, because I was speaking to some before. And they said, "Look, normally, you would have a Christmas market like the one here. You would have that every day in Berlin, every day of the week. People would go there, and these places would be full.
Now most of the ones here in the city have been called off completely because of security concerns, because people feel so vulnerable being in these places, feeling as though they are soft targets.
KEILAR: You can completely understand that. Fred Pleitgen in Berlin. Thank you.
Joining me now to talk more about this is Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
Thank -- thank you, sir, so much for taking the time to be with us.
And you can't help but look at that scene there in Berlin, I think, in any city, and think this could happen here. So in the U.S., what are the concerns, and are we seeing stepped-up security as we're in the holidays?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: Yes. Of course, you're going to see stepped up security.
I think, you know, it's tragic. And yes, that can happen here. I think the key in all this is to understand that, when it comes to a terrorist attack like this, you know, driving a truck -- we're not talking about necessarily, you know, a ton of bombs or a ton of C-4 or anything like that. Driving a truck. It's really hard to screen against that.
Because ultimately, you have to screen somebody's heart and intentions, and you don't know when somebody is willing to do a terrorist attack until they take that first step.
The key on this, though, is this. Is understand it's like this is a moment in western civilization or in civilization in general where we need a Churchill moment. We're walking along the streets and basically saying, "We will prevail" instead of cowering.
So that's what we have to do, is understand that these attacks are meant to put fear in the hearts of people, to get them to stay in for Christmas and the holidays and to get them to be afraid of ISIS. We need to fight back hard but not be scared by these cowards.
KEILAR: We saw at Ohio State similar tactics, certainly not a deadly attack, where there was, certainly, a radical Islamic-inspired driver, attacker, who drove his car into people, many students, and there were injuries.
I mean -- I know -- I hear you saying you shouldn't stay home, but this is something that obviously has and could continue to happen here in the U.S. Or are you just saying people need to go about their normal day and just consider that this likely won't happen to them?
KINZINGER: I think, go about your day, you know, love your family, enjoy your life, but be vigilant. You know, look around for signs that -- that may kind of trip you a little bit and may make you question what's going on. We all have had those moments where we kind of see something; and it's like, that doesn't feel right.
And don't be afraid to talk to law enforcement about it. A lot of the times people are scared to go to law enforcement, because they think maybe they look like they're being too sensitive or too nervous. And it's usually --in fact, in almost every terrorist attack we've ever seen, especially in our country, there have always been some signs and, in some cases, people too afraid to go talk.
[17:10:02] So be vigilant but also enjoy the holidays, because don't let the fear of these cowards affect our way of life. Because that's all they're trying to do, is to get us to be scared of them and run away. And they don't have that power over us.
KEILAR: You know part of this has to do with the reach of the Internet. You have ISIS. You have al Qaeda. Terrorists who are saying to people who may be inspired by what they believe, "Do whatever you can. A car, a knife, take people out."
So, is there something -- is there more that needs to be done to stem that reach of the Internet when it comes to ISIS and other groups?
KINZINGER: Well, yes. It's going to be hard to stem of the reach of the Internet, because we all believe in the free flow of information.
What we have to do, though, you have some folks that are recruited into ISIS because they truly believe the prophecy of Baghdadi that this is the new caliphate, this is what's going to happen. When we defeat that caliphate, when we deprive them of territory, when we push them out of Raqqah, when we push them out of Iraq, those people that believe this is the new caliphate will begin to think twice, because the caliphate is not supposed to be defeated; it's not supposed to be deprived of territory.
Now, there are going to be some people that are just, in essence, suicidal and believe enough that they're willing to give their life for it. But a lot of folks that go and fight for ISIS and do these attacks believe they're fighting for something that was prophesied. And when they show otherwise, I think you're going to reduce the number that can be recruited. But unfortunately, this may be the new reality for some time.
KEILAR: But how do we make sense of that when, even as you've seen ISIS's territory diminish, you've seen attacks on soft targets? I mean, I'm thinking of not even necessarily sort of a semi-soft target, that -- the Turkish airport. You've seen these attacks happen even as territory is shrinking. You're seeing people not be dissuaded from carrying out these attacks.
KINZINGER: Yes, and I don't think shrinking the territory, even fully defeating the so-called caliphate is going to stop this altogether. But we've seen a reduction in the amount of people being recruited to ISIS because, frankly, not everybody is suicidal. They want to go fight for a cause. They don't necessarily want to be guaranteed to die for a cause.
But the other thing is, I mean, right now without ISIS being totally defeated, there's still going to be an argument in that circle that, in fact, "Hey, we can take -- we can have difficulties. We can lose some territory, but we're still going to ultimately prevail." You know, a new caliphate doesn't guarantee that you'll have no losses.
So I think defeating them in total, which could take some time, is what's necessary to deprive that recruiting ground.
But again, you know, the idea that you defeat ISIS, you still could have ISIS 2 someday, al Qaeda 3. I hate to say it: I wish I had better news. This is the new reality.
But we can prevail. We should prevail, and we will prevail. But we've got to have that Churchill moment in the streets.
KEILAR: You say this is the new normal. Stick around with us, Congressman Adam Kinzinger. We have much more to talk about after the break.
The Russian ambassador to Turkey who was killed, shot on camera. We'll have an update on that, live from Ankara next.
KEILAR: We're talking with Congressman Adam Kinzinger. But first, more breaking news. A day after its ambassador was assassinated in the Turkish capital, Russia is warning it will not make concessions to terrorists. It has sent a large investigative team to Turkey.
And CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is following all of this in Ankara for us. So what are authorities there, Nic, learning about the assassin?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, they're saying that it's a 22-year-old policeman, that he was training with the riot police over the past couple of years. They've arrested, or detained at least, several of his family members. Mother, father, sister, other close relatives and a former roommate. This is not unusual in Turkey. It doesn't mean that they're actually guilty, but this is typical of how the government will handle situations like this. Quickly arrest family members.
The -- the Russian investigators went into the building behind me here a few hours ago with -- along with their Turkish counterparts to investigate the crime scene itself. They didn't seem to spend too much time there. Investigation done according to government news agencies.
But they've been to his old high school, talked to his old high school friends, talked to his college friends, investigated the background of his family.
However, the headline that's emerging, and this came from the Turkish foreign minister talking to Secretary of State John Kerry. He said the Turkish foreign minister said this policeman was from the Gulenist movement, the movement that the government blames for the coup attempt last summer.
Now, of course, since then the government has removed tens of thousands of soldiers, airmen, policemen, schoolteachers, government officials from positions, locked some of them up, claiming that they're members of this Gulenist movement.
What this does at this particular time is, if you will drive, a greater wedge in the relationship between the United States and Turkey, because Turkey has been telling -- telling the United States to extradite Fethullah Gulen. And at the same time draws them -- draws Turkey closer to Russia at a time when it's building closer ties there.
So what's happening with this, the government hasn't presented that hard evidence that this gunman was from the Gulenist movement, but it does seem to be something here that can potentially drive a gap between the United States and the Turkish government.
KEILAR: And what's the latest from the Russian government on this, Nic?
ROBERTSON: Yes, Putin has been very clear. President Putin has been absolutely clear, saying that they're going to -- that they need to fight terrorism, that -- he says -- he's been saying this for a long time, that all countries have this common problem; it's terrorism. Russia is only one that's really fighting it. Russia is fighting it in Syria, and now everyone needs to join with Russia's plan to fight terrorism. So again, Russia also using this to its advantage.
We have heard from the Kremlin, as well, however, saying, "Look, this diplomat, this ambassador, was on Turkish soil. Therefore, Turkish responsibility to protect him." And they want more guarantees going forward that Russian diplomats here are going to be safe.
The narrative that emerges. Russia is strong on terrorism. This is about terrorism. President Putin saying we should get on Russia's plan to fight terrorism.
[17:20:10] KEILAR: All right. Nic Robertson for us in Ankara. Thank you so much.
We're back now with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. And Congressman, you're hearing publicly the stance from Turkey and Russia is that "This is not going to harm our relationship," but we know that, from reporters in the region, from Twitter, there's a lot of anger about this attack.
How concerned are you that these rising tensions between these two countries could have an adverse effect in the region and, specifically, against the fight on ISIS?
KINZINGER: Well, I think it's possible. I think, probably more than likely, though, this actually drives them a little closer together. Because, you know, if the -- if Turkey is blaming this on the Gulenists and, which, by the way, very well may be in the end. Who knows? But this is kind of their tendency, is to automatically blame Gulenists when anything like this happens. We haven't had proof of who actually was behind the coup yet. And then the Russians are saying this is terror.
The one thing I would say to the Russians is, if you do believe this is terrorism -- I think the mere act is terrorism -- but if you think this is, you know, radical Islamic jihadists doing this, maybe actually join us in the fight against terrorism instead of bombing innocent civilians in Aleppo and spending your efforts bombing hospitals with precision-guided munitions. Let's actually fight ISIS. Because a very small fraction of their attacks have actually gone against terrorists in Syria.
So if this is a turning point for Russia, great. We'd love to see them put bombs on targets against actual terrorists, but not if it's an excuse to kill more innocent people. But at the same time, we still -- our hearts go out to the ambassador's family. We take nothing away from this. But this is an opportunity for Russia to join us in the fight.
KEILAR: I want to talk about President-elect Trump. Because yesterday we saw a statement that he put out, and it called the attacker in Turkey a radical Islamic terrorist before we had any real details about the attacker and his motivations. What is your reaction to the timing of that? Is that appropriate?
KINZINGER: Well, he very well may be right. I don't think it's appropriate to put out that, especially -- it's one thing if you do it from a campaign, from a president-elect but definitely when he's sworn in, before you know all the answers to it.
The Twitter, I think, is going to be a tool that Donald Trump uses. I think he can use it effectively, but I think jumping to conclusions, probably at the end, one of these days it may backfire when we find out it isn't what he believed it was in the beginning.
And so I think he's got a really powerful tool to use, but I think he has to control the initial reactions on that. Because people are watching. When you're president-elect, it has way more impact than when you're a candidate for president. But when you're definitely president, it has a severe impact that, if it backfires, it actually could hurt relations with other countries in a big way.
KEILAR: Yes. Do you think he can control that? Because we haven't seen any desire to do so up until now. KINZINGER: You know, look, I think it's gotten more managed than in
the campaign. I think it's a little better. But I don't know the answer to that until he's sworn in.
I hope -- I think he has the potential of being a very good president, but I think, when it comes to things like this, you know, understanding that your words, your tweets, everything, has a massive impact that goes just beyond a campaign. It goes to actual relationships that our country has with other countries. I think he can use it very effectively, and I think we'll see after he's sworn in.
KEILAR: Congressman Adam Kinzinger, as always, thank you so much for joining us.
KINZINGER: You bet. Thank you.
KEILAR: Coming up, more of our breaking news. ISIS claims that it inspired the deadly Christmas market attack in Germany as the hunt is stepped up for the attacker. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
[07:27:32] KEILAR: Our breaking news. ISIS is now claiming it inspired the Christmas market attack, and an urgent manhunt is on for the assailant.
Let's bring in now CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen; CNN senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward; and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd. He's a former CIA official.
And to you first, Phil. German authorities now say that the attacker is at large. So what are they doing right now to try to find him and also, did they lose a lot of time here that really could have been helpful?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: The time is critical here. This is a nervous part of an investigation, because this individual has already gone over the edge. You've got to wonder when he's going to crop up like a jack-in-the-box, hijacking other trucks, start shooting people. Time is of the essence.
In the interim, there's a lot they can do. Obviously, they're looking for DNA and fingerprints in the vehicle, talking to people who were around that vehicle to see if they can get a description, asking people for cellphone footage. You can look at security cameras in the perimeter. I'd want to know where that truck came from and what the likely route was to determine whether there are cameras, for example, if they went to a gas station. Eventually you're going to open a tip line. Somebody knows their family member is gone. The guy in the apartment next-door is gone.
But until you've got a face or a name, this is sitting on a time bomb, because he's going to come out at some point and make a statement. And I hope he does that with security officials around and not the general public, because I think he's already over the edge. KEILAR: Clarissa, it's surprising to a lot of people that he could
have been in such a busy place and been able to sneak away. I mean, is that something that strikes you, or do you think everyone was hiding and there just wasn't a -- wasn't a chance?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No. I think it's really striking. It's borderline bizarre, I would say, Brianna. Because, of course, it was packed with people. And fine, in the chaos of the moment, and people are panicked and they're running away.
But you would still think that there were some people there who would have witnessed something. Not only that, you would still imagine that there were some police there guarding or protecting the fair in some way. Beyond that, we live in a world now where there are cameras absolutely everywhere.
So it is strange to me the idea that we still don't seem to have any kind of real picture, or at least one that's been made public, of who the attacker is.
In the example of "Charlie Hebdo" in Paris, we did see, within the day, French authorities releasing information about who the attackers were, the direction they were believed to have gone in. There was -- as Phil Mudd just mentioned, there was video, surveillance video from gas stations coming out. A lot more information that, first of all, was helpful in terms of the public being able to avoid certain areas and protect themselves but also, of course, very helpful in terms of getting investigators closer to a situation where they could potentially arrest or, you know, stop, at the very least, this attacker.
[17:30:25] So it does seem, more than 24 hours later, to have so many question marks and so many unknowns, it does seem very disconcerting, Brianna.
KEILAR: Yes, very scary! And we knew from the jump, Peter, this this was a certain M.O. You could see what the potential motive was here. But now you have ISIS saying that it inspired the attack. It's calling the attacker a soldier of the Islamic State. How do we read that?
BERGEN: They've said this multiple times before for people that they really have no formal connection with. So, for instance, Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at the Orlando nightclub, he was deemed to be a soldier of the Islamic State by ISIS. Of course, Omar Mateen had no connection to ISIS at all, other than being inspired by them.
So they're already claiming this, but we don't even know yet who this person is, so it's hard to determine if that -- even that claim is itself, you know, really kosher. I mean, we've seen other attacks. Clarissa just mentioned "Charlie Hebdo." Well, that turned out to be more associated with al Qaeda than with ISIS. So this is still a very open question.
KEILAR: Would it be unusual for ISIS to say this and then for it to turn out to not be someone inspired by ISIS? BERGEN: Well, they're taking a risk. I mean...
KEILAR: They could look silly or...
BERGEN: They've got nothing really to lose. I mean, it probably is somebody inspired by ISIS. That's usually the pattern. But in the Ohio State case where we had a very similar kind of attack where 11 people were injured three weeks ago with a vehicle, he was mostly inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, who of course, was an al Qaeda cleric, an American citizen.
KEILAR: Clarissa, you've talked to a number of people in Europe, across the region. How are they feeling? Are they on high alert? Are they very concerned? How are people in cities feeling there?
WARD: I think there is a very real fear when it comes to security officials about their ability, or lack thereof, realistically, to prevent every single one of these attacks from happening. For every five they thwart, how many, you know -- I mean, I don't know the exact numbers, but my point being, that for every one that they thwart there may be others that they're not able to thwart.
And the problem that you have in Europe, which perhaps our viewers in the U.S. don't understand so well, is that, because you have this sort of Schengen agreement which allows the free flow of people and movement from different European countries without having to go through any border patrols. So it's the same way the Paris attackers were able to go back and forth to Belgium and France, and it does raise the possibility now, with this attacker on the loose, that he could get in a car and drive somewhere else outside of Germany.
That means that Europe is always on high alert, specifically in the past year or so, as we have really seen an uptick in the number of attacks. And you can't isolate it to just one country. These men can move quickly. A lot of them have criminal records, criminal contacts, underground contacts that they know that they can call on, safe houses that they can go to. All of that making it much more complicated for authorities across Europe to do their job, Brianna.
KEILAR: Well, what can be done in the U.S. to try to prevent something like this?
MUDD: I could tell you a story, Brianna, but I don't think the story is very compelling.
For example, if you look at a parade route, you can say, "We're going to push out the perimeter and ensure that only pedestrians get within, let's say, a four-block area of a parade route." You can say, "We're going to license everybody who gets within half a mile. They've got to show a permit." You can put sand or concrete barriers in.
But let me lay out two problems for you, because I don't think preventing this stuff is possible. No. 1, if you look at recent terrorism, more likely, you're going to see backpack bombs or suicide belts in that event. You can't stop 500,000 people from carrying backpacks to an event. And secondly, let me not belabor this, but we're talking about
parades. How about tailgating at universities or NFL games overtime? Are you going to tell somebody you can't bring a vehicle into a tailgate event?
We look at these in isolation as if to believe that we can stop this kind of stuff in a free society, and the answer is pretty simple: you can't.
KEILAR: Yes, I thought that might be your answer. That's what we've been hearing all day. All right. Phil Mudd, Clarissa Ward, Peter Bergen, thanks to all of you. We really appreciate it.
And coming up, Donald Trump is reacting to the Christmas market attack in Berlin. Is he getting daily classified intelligence briefings while he vacations in Florida?
[17:38:51] KEILAR: Breaking news. We are getting some dramatic video that is just in, if you can even believe this. This is an explosion at a fireworks market north of Mexico City. Dozens of people injured by this explosion. Emergency responders are currently on the scene. We're going to continue to monitor this.
As you can see, just the explosions emanating from this market. So at this point you can even see some people, as the camera pans to the right side of the screen, and you can hear, obviously, the explosion of the firework market.
We are still getting details, of course. We know many people injured, but of course, this is a rapidly shifting situation as first responders are there on the scene. We're going to continue to monitor this, and we will let you know the latest as we get it.
We're also following other breaking news stories. ISIS is now claiming that it inspired the deadly Christmas market truck attack in Berlin that killed 12 people and injured dozens more. And President- elect Donald Trump was quick to react, even before all of the facts were in.
CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is in Palm Beach, Florida, where Donald Trump is spending the holiday.
And Jeff, this wasn't unusual. Donald Trump taking to Twitter.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He did indeed, Brianna. He condemned that terror attack in Germany, and then he went back to a topic a little closer to home. Politics. And he was tweeting directly at Bill Clinton.
[17:40:06] ZELENY (voice-over): As brazen attacks unfold across the globe, the president-elect started off his day showing that he has no plans to move beyond his combative campaign mode. Vacationing in Florida, Trump fired off back-to-back tweets aimed at
Bill Clinton: "Bill Clinton stated that I called him after the election. Wrong. He called me. With a very nice congratulations. He doesn't know much. Especially how to get people, even with an unlimited budget, out to vote in vital swing states. And more. They focused on the wrong states."
The soon to be 45th president was reacting to what the 42nd president recently told a weekly newspaper in New York, with Clinton saying Trump doesn't know much. The extraordinary back and forth continued as Clinton replied today with a tweet of his own: "Here is one thing Donald Trump and I can agree on. I called him after the election."
Responding to the attacks in Germany, Trump went further than any U.S. or European official, saying in a statement, "Islamic terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad."
At his Mar-a-Lago resort here in Palm Beach, Trump receiving briefings. Yet, it was unclear whether it was directly from the intelligence officials or second-hand through his transition team. Trump aides declined to say.
SEAN SPICER, CHIEF STRATEGIST & COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC (via phone): The president-elect is in regular contact with his national security team with regard to the developing situation in Europe and Turkey.
ZELENY: Transition spokesman Sean Spicer also vowing a quick response to such attacks during a Trump presidency.
SPICER (on camera): I think it's going to be swift and fierce. We've got to be able to call it what it is and then root it out by its very -- by the bottom. We cannot be -- being politically correct.
ZELENY: All this as Trump is holding court in a series of private meetings at his resort, including a dinner with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, the same Carlos Slim that Trump eviscerated on the campaign trail for his financing of the "New York Times."
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: The largest shareholder in "The Times" is Carlos Slim. Now Carlos Slim, as you know, comes from Mexico. We're going to let foreign corporations and their CEOs decide the outcomes of the -- you just can't do this. We can't let this happen.
ZELENY: Now, all of that is ancient history, Brianna. Carlos Slim came right here to Mar-a-Lago, had dinner on Saturday night with Donald Trump, as he confirmed in a tweet this afternoon, Donald Trump calling Carlos Slim a great guy. He is trying to build a bridge to some Mexican businesspeople, including this billionaire businessman.
But one other note, Brianna, on that classified briefing. We checked with transition officials throughout the day to see if Donald Trump did, in fact, receive the presidential daily brief today directly in the wake of the attacks in Germany. His advisers have not yet answered those questions. They say he received a briefing from transition officials. So that would have been second-hand information. Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, was briefed in Washington -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Jeff Zeleny there for us near Mar-a-Lago. Thank you so much.
Let's bring in our experts now to talk about this.
Phil, that's important, that distinction. Mike Pence, we know, has gotten firsthand this presidential daily brief and, yet, Donald Trump, it appears, may have not? Or his team is not saying that? What do you think about that?
MUDD: This word is misleading, Brianna. This word "briefing." It is not a briefing. It's a conversation. You have a binder of information that talks about global events, for example, the event we had in the South China Sea where the Chinese took an American underwater drone. You would have an update on what's happening in Europe over the past day or so in Turkey and Germany.
But what follows afterwards is an opportunity for an expert in the room -- that is the briefer -- who has spent years looking at global events, answering questions from the president and his advisers.
This idea that you simply present facts via an intermediary is only half the story. The real story is the ability to engage with a small room full of people, including the vice president and maybe the president-elect's national security advisor, to say, "Hey, briefer, what else do we need to know? I've got some follow-up questions." And then for those advisers to talk about how to act afterwards. It's really a conversation; it's not just a brief.
KEILAR: And you're certainly someone who knows that, as someone who was on the team that used to put together the briefing.
Jackie, we know that Donald Trump is being briefed by his own national security team on the attacks. What does that tell us about the role that his team is going to be playing in the White House?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, right now it tells us very little, because the Trump campaign won't tell us who it is. We assume it's General Michael Flynn, who has said some very controversial things, particularly about Muslims, particularly been critical about not saying radical Islamic terror. So that -- if that's the person that's in his ear, we're going to see a very aggressive tone in the White House.
And he really is insulating himself with his people. If he's not taking briefings or having conversations with folks outside of his immediate circle, with some of these career intelligence people who know the entire story line, not just, you know, whatever happened that day. [17:45:00] KEILAR: And, Peter, Michael Flynn has said things, we know
this publicly, that are just not true. Do you worry that, if he is briefing Donald Trump, he is misrepresenting some information?
PETER BEINART, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Yes, I think it's a very big concern. I mean, the first thing is that Bill Clinton was right. Donald Trump doesn't know much. He may be the most ignorant man to enter, in terms of policy, to enter the White House in our lifetime. He didn't know what Brexit was. He didn't know what the nuclear triad was. He didn't know who the leaders of ISIS, al Qaeda, and Hezbollah were. So he desperately needs people to tutor him.
And he also needs to make sure that he's is not captured by a bubble of people with General Flynn's kind of extreme views. I mean, to have one General Flynn in the room, fine, if there are competing views.
Remember how important it was in the lead up to 9/11 that the intelligence agencies were trying to get information to the President about the danger of an al Qaeda attack at a time when Bush's top advisers were more focused on Iraq. If you don't have that avenue at all to pierce that bubble, especially with someone who's very ignorant like Trump, it's dangerous.
KEILAR: Peter, you wrote about the different responses that we saw from President Obama and Donald Trump when it came to the attacks in Ankara and Berlin. Donald Trump really leaned into the idea before any information was out there that this was radical Islamic terrorism. What did you think of him doing that, of jumping the gun?
BEINART: Well, it's not only that he jumped the gun. I mean, first all, he probably should have waited until we knew for sure. But the tone of his statement was markedly different than the tone of the Obama administration's statement because it depicted it almost exclusively as a religious war.
The Trump statement never talked about an attack on Germans. It framed it as an attack on Christians. This, it seems to me, is straight out of General Flynn, right, who called Islam a cancer and a very, very dangerous way of framing these fights when we need Muslim allies. And I mean, it plays right into ISIS' hands. It's exactly the clash of civilizations that ISIS wants.
KEILAR: Should his team exercise more caution, Jackie? Can they?
KUCINICH: You'd think, but they don't seem to be willing to. They don't seem to be headed that direction. I mean, I agree with everything Peter just said.
The stakes are higher when you're President. And even when you're President-elect, the stakes are higher than being a candidate. We just haven't seen that shift yet from them because this is an administration that is going to lead from the top. We've seen that time and time again. And if Donald Trump isn't changing his tone, you can't imagine his team is going to either.
KEILAR: Jackie, Peter, and Phil, thank you so much for all of your insight. We do appreciate it.
We have much more ahead. We are covering multiple breaking stories from Berlin to Ankara, and we'll have much more when we come back.
[17:51:57] KEILAR: Former President Bill Clinton is among Donald Trump's latest targets on Twitter. And we're back now with our experts to talk about that and more.
I wonder what you think, Peter, because Donald Trump goes after Bill Clinton on Twitter. He says he doesn't know much. I know you just agreed with Bill Clinton on that front. But taking that he is now President-elect, he's insulting Bill Clinton, what are your expectations for how he relates to world leaders moving forward once he's in the White House?
BEINART: I think Bill Clinton probably shouldn't have said it, to be honest. I think that it's better for former presidents to reserve, I think, their remarks for when there's something really grave and important that they want to say if they're going to criticize at all.
But, look, we know in terms of Donald Trump's response, I mean, he does not have self-control, and he doesn't have people around him who are strong enough to impose that control. That was true during campaign and it's true now. And it is frightening because, among many other things, you know, when the President tweets something, that is essentially an order for lots of people in the government to start acting, to start doing things.
All kinds of things flow from a statement by the President of the United States. We're now in a position where we kind of have to rely on the Chinese to kind of not take Donald Trump's tweets too seriously, to kind of just laugh them off. But in an increasingly nationalist China, they may not do that. And it makes the possibility of conflict more dangerous.
KEILAR: It's so fascinating, Phil, because you see Bill Clinton there stirring the pot, and you see Michelle Obama saying that she's been supportive of the Trump transition. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: The words that we say moving forward, all of us, it matters, which is one of the reasons why Barack and I are so supportive of this transition. Because no matter how we felt going into it, it is important for the health of this nation that we support the Commander-in-Chief.
It wasn't done when my husband took office, but we're going high. And this is what's best for the country. So we are going to be there for the next President and do whatever we have to do to make sure that he is successful because if he succeeds, we all succeed.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: So she's saying there, Phil, we're going high. We didn't see that happen when Obama came in, but then you have Bill Clinton. Certainly, you could argue as Peter has, that he wasn't going high here, dealing with Donald Trump. How important is it to have this support and really the party allegiance just be pushed aside?
MUDD: I think it's critically important but there's a totally different way to look at this for someone who is a loyal American. George Bush was my President, Barack Obama is my President, and Donald Trump will be my President. Let's look at this differently because we've been talking about whether the President-elect will transition as he takes the responsibility of office.
Within the past few weeks after what we saw in the campaign trail, he told his followers, no, we're not going to lock her up -- proceed with --
[17:55:08] KEILAR: Oh, no, we're having a little technical difficulty there. Phil Mudd, unfortunately, has frozen for us.
All right. But I do want to talk about something else that we've seen, which is Donald Trump having a meeting, actually having dinner with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. This is someone that he slammed before. So what do you think about that?
KUCINICH: This isn't the first time Donald Trump has done this sort of thing and it just seems like everything is about a deal. And if Donald Trump thinks he can make a deal with Carlos Slim to, hashtag, make America great again, he's going to do it. And now, he's a good guy when he wasn't before. Barack Obama was a bad guy and now he's OK to Donald Trump.
He is very malleable to switching his mind and we've seen it again in this case.
KEILAR: Well, maybe it's good he's not holding a grudge. We'll say that.
KEILAR: Jackie, Peter Beinart. And thanks as well to Phil Mudd.
Now, coming up, we have breaking news. ISIS says it inspired the deadly attack on a Christmas market in Berlin. Now, an urgent hunt is stepped up for the assailant who drove a heavy truck through a crowd of shoppers.
[17:59:46] KEILAR: Happening now, breaking news. Terrorists at large. An urgent manhunt is underway as ISIS takes credit for the Christmas market truck rampage. Authorities say they have new leads tonight after letting their initial suspect go free.
Heightened alert. New York and other major cities are ramping up security, fearing that holiday events may be vulnerable to terrorists. We're getting new information about potential threats.