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Russia Says Dialogue with U.S. is "Frozen;" Aaron Hernandez IDed in 2012 Drive By Shooting; Richard Marx Helped Restrain Man on Plane. Aired 11:30-12p ET.

Aired December 21, 2016 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:02] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: But beside the point, what did you make of what Bill O'Reilly said??

CARL HIGBIE, CONSERVATIVE PUNDIT: You know, like, I generally agree with Bill O'Reilly but I really - I think he's oversimplifying it in terms of race and I think he's -- it is - it is a talking point for both left and right to singular (ph) race in this thing, but we -- let's look at the Electoral College and why it's there in the first place. It's so you can't campaign in the top five cities with their, you know, populous and then win the entire country.

I mean, Donald Trump won basically 96 percent geographically of America. So - and typically minorities are harbored most in the inner cities. So the issue is, is he's making the point that white working class are trying to be marginalized by doing away with the Electoral College system which would marginalize a large geographical area of the country. But I think he's oversimplifying for that segment.

BERMAN: Just to be clear, Errol's right, historically speaking the Electoral College was founded really based on a couple of things. One was to make sure in some cases that slave holding states did have as much representation as the northern states which did not hold slaves. The other issue, which ironically now, was that Alexander Hamilton and others wanted this body to be a buffer.

HIGBIE: But you used to have to own land, too, to vote, so.

BERMAN: Well and then -- then slaves, you know, counted as three- fifths. I mean, there's a lot of used tos here...


BERMAN: ... that historically doesn't apply and should not apply anymore.

HIGBIE: Agreed.

BERMAN: You know, Danielle, do you think at this point, you're a Democrat, do you think the Electoral College should go away?

DANIELLE MCLAUGHLIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it's not functioning as it was - it was designed to function, and one thing we can see with the most recent election is the Electoral College was meant to be a break on the sort of uneducated, unknowing populace which is the way the founders intended it, of course. What we have today with information technology, with the Internet, we are more informed, we have a robust media.

And so the idea that there are these electors on high that are going to make determinations about a president that regular folks can't make, I think doesn't make any sense anymore. So that's, I think, another reason to think about getting rid of it. Whether we can or not and whether this becomes yet another partisan issue, which I suspect that it will, is another (inaudible).

BERMAN: (inaudible), right? It might just be a ratings issue that is going on right. Let's talk about what the president-elect was doing this morning because I, you know, I was - I was surprised to see him bring this up. I don't think he was bringing it up because Bill O'Reilly brought it up last night. I'm not sure why President-elect Donald Trump decided to Monday morning quarterback an election he won, right? I mean, you don't often look back, you know, and argue over the finer points of an election which you won. The only thing I can think of, Errol, was maybe he wanted people talking about that rather than some of these stories that have come out over the last 24 hours about his sons maybe trying to, you know, grant access or sell access to a charity, you know, for a fundraising event.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's exactly right. When the conflict of interest questions get a little bit too hot, all of a sudden what he'll do is take his Twitter and reprogram the reporting of news channels, including this one, frankly, and have us talk about something else. So there's that. There's also this, you know, nagging question about whether or not he bothered to get any briefings -- national security briefings as the world is literally going up in flames depending on the corner of the globe that you are looking at.

So yes, it's a - it's tool of distraction. It seems to work pretty reliably for him and he'll do it as long as it works.

BERMAN: Let's not be distracted. Let's talk about the security briefings, Carl, because up until yesterday the transition team wouldn't tell us if he was receiving the classified intelligence briefings post these attacks that happened this week, you know, string of attacks around the world that concerns us all. They wouldn't tell us whether he was receiving the briefing from the intelligence service. They did say he was talking to his national security team. Today we do learn that he is getting the classified daily briefing. Is that is a good move on your -- in your opinion?

HIGBIE: Oh, absolutely. And it's true, like he's getting them today but doesn't get them every day. Look, I've sat through these briefings while I was in the military...

BERMAN: But can I just interrupt you quickly? The -- the issue in this particular case isn't every day. It is why not get one yesterday? Why not get one in the wake of these attacks which are so alarming and there is new information which one would think would need to be learned? HIGBIE: Right, but keep in mind that members of his staff did attend

briefings yesterday and they attend them every day like General Mike Flynn. And they inform him based on certain things that he may need to know.

Now, going back to what I was saying, I've sat in these briefings every single day when I was in Iraq and places like that, and oftentimes for three weeks you would have the exact same intel brief and the exact same power points. So, there's no need. If there's new information, I'm sure General Flynn is going to come up and say, hey, Mr. Trump, you have to attend to this and he'll immediately attend to it. But for him to sit there every day in monotony doesn't really make any sense.

BERMAN: But again, and Danielle, I'll let you jump in here, it's not the every day. In this case that's an issue, it's the now.



BERMAN: It's the in the wake of these attacks and it's the idea of not having a buffer. As qualified as Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, retired general, might be, why play a game of telephone? Why not get the intelligence directly from the source?

MCLAUGHLIN: I -- I agree. There are some - I think there's three things going on here. One is optics. E have - and it's sort of related to number two. Donald Trump is the least qualified candidate and now, you know, president-elect that we've had in the history of this country.

He has not been in...

HIGBIE: That's...


BERMAN: That's your opinion as a Democrat.

MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, I would say, and I will clarify, I mean, in terms of we have had generals who have served in the military or have had folks who have been in politics. So, I'm not saying he's not qualified within business and other things.

HIGBIE: You mean a billion (ph) dollar company doesn't qualify?

MCLAUGHLIN: So, I want to make that very clear. Well, I actually just said that it did. But anyway, as it relates to foreign policy, he doesn't have really any experience. So I think from an optics perspective...

HIGBIE: Where was Obama's foreign policy?

MCLAUGHLIN: and from a substantive perspective I think it's really important. [11:35:00] The second thing is that from a constitutional perspective,

there are fewer more important things that a president does than be the commander-in-chief. And so I think, Carl, your point is well taken. If it is repetitive, I can understand that, but I think folks in America might want to see because that power is so important and because we have so much going on, we have an ongoing Israeli-Palestine conflict, we have what's going on in Berlin, we have Ankara, we have, you know, press suppression in Ankara. There's so much going on. This world is really, I don't want to say falling apart, there's a lot going on. And we just -- we want to see he's taking it seriously and he's doing his job.

BERMAN: The optics matter here. It's different, right? We're not pre-election. Optics matter in the image you portray to the country as the image of a leader.

LOUIS: That's right. I mean, look, in South korea, you have an absolute level of upheaval that we barely even report on. We have, you know, people marching in the street probably as we speak right now. You have things that are going on in the Middle East. You have things that are going on all over the world and we know from bitter history that it was at a briefing that a prior president was told there's this thing called Al Qaeda out there that's planning to strike the United States. It didn't stand out enough. It wasn't handled properly. We know that.

Other presidents, like President Obama, take the same ten minutes that they got maybe the day before and then have an hour-long conversation about what it means and how to tweak the policy. If Donald Trump doesn't want to do any of that, that's fine, that's his prerogative. However, we have the right to ask, you know, maybe it would be better to do what your predecessors have done. And if - if you're not going to do it, please explain why.

BERMAN: Carl, last word?

HIGBIE: You know, but the other thing, too, is I want to point out that Obama in his first term only attended less than half of the intel briefings probably because he saw the same reasons, the repetiveness. But also, you know, we have somebody - you're calling Donald Trump not qualified, or the least qualified. President Obama served, you know, half a Senate term and had no foreign policy experience so I would argue that Donald Trump is exponentially more qualified than that.


BERMAN: I will say - I will say - I will say the one thing that qualified both of them is that they both won a presidential election.

MCLAUGHLIN: Absolutely.

BERMAN: And you're qualified when the American people pick you to be president. You will be the president, so you should learn how to do it. Guys, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it. Have a great holiday.


BERMAN: Nice to see (ph) you again.

Just in, we are getting word that Russia is now saying all dialogue with the U.S. is quote, frozen. What does that mean? That sounds like a major development. We're going to get details live from Moscow coming up next.


[11:40:43] BERMAN: We're just getting word that Russia is now saying that nearly all dialogue with the United States is quote, frozen. So what does this mean? We're going to go live now straight away to Moscow. CNN's Matthew Chance joins me right now.

And Matthew, what exactly is being said here?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, the -- the Kremlin spokesman - spokesman for Vladimir Putin confirmed this to me within the past few minutes, saying this when I asked him about U.S. relations with Moscow. He said this, "We've got nearly all levels of dialogue frozen. We don't talk to each other or at least do so at a minimum."

I think that underlines just how sort of bad the relationship has become between Moscow and Washington, particularly over the past couple of years over a whole range of issues that have divided those two countries, issues like the conflict in Syria of course, first and foremost, where Russia and the United States are basically on opposite sides of that conflict with the Russians supporting the government of Assad and the U.S. supporting certain rebel groups.

NATO expansion has also been an issue where they've fallen out. Crimea as well in 2014, the Russians annexed Crimea of course from Ukraine and have been subject on that issue to U.S. sanctions. Those sanctions were expanded as well recently and that's also angered the Kremlin.

BERMAN: Matthew, as I read this translation, you know, nearly all levels of our dialogue has been frozen. Now that I look at that a second time, it seems to me he's saying we have a chilly relationship, the relationship is not good. It doesn't seem to me, and correct me if I'm wrong, like he's saying, you know, Russia is freezing all relationships, cutting off ties to the United States.

CHANCE: Oh, no, no, I don't think it means that. I think he was characterizing...

BERMAN: Right.

CHANCE: ... you know, how the relationship is, how warm it is. Not very warm at all. The other thing to say is, by the way, this may be a temporary state because the expectation here in Russia amongst officials, amongst ordinary Russians is that once Trump's in the presidency that - that relationship is going to get a lot warmer than it has been under President Obama. BERMAN: Right. All right, Matthew Chance, stand by for a moment

here. I want to bring in David Rohde, a CNN global affairs analyst, national security investigations editor for Reuters. And in a way it seems like this Kremlin spokesman is stating a fact which is that the relationship between the United States and Russia right now is at a low point, is very, very bad.

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It is and, I mean, it's essentially the relationship between the Obama administration and some Republicans in Congress with Vladimir Putin. And I agree with Matthew, what matters is what is Donald Trump going to say when he becomes president and more importantly, will Putin say this, you know, in January? It's a lame duck administration. Putin can say things like this and it doesn't have much consequence.

BERMAN: Both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have actually said out loud since the election that they're looking forward to more normal and better relations. So in a way, they've said that they do expect things to get better and soon, right?

All right, David Rohde, stand by. We have some other news we want to tell you about right now.

New video being released by the Taliban shows a couple that was taken hostage while backpacking in Afghanistan in 2012 as well as their two children who were born in captivity. Caitlin Coleman, an America, and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, are seen in the video making an appeal to President Obama and President-elect Trump to help secure their release. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins me now with the details. Barbara, what do we know about this?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: What heartbreaking video to look at, John. These two small children now involved in this. The couple taken hostage by the Taliban back in 2012. What may be most interesting for U.S. intelligence officials is this is the most recent proof of life video of the family, because they do mention President- elect Donald Trump. They are appealing both to President Obama and to Mr. Trump to do something to get them released from the Taliban.

There is language in this video where they talk about what the Taliban want are some prisoners being held in Afghanistan, some of their people, to be released. This is something we have heard before in relationship to other hostage cases. The Afghan government right now not releasing any of the people that the Taliban want so, you know, it is difficult to see a way forward for this family in captivity by the Taliban since 2012.

[11:45:00] Let me quickly divert back to the subject of Russia. I want to mention that there are in fact a couple of cases where it is to both countries' self-interest to actually talk and, in fact, they do. Behind the scenes the Russian and U.S. military do talk about nuclear weapons testing, about the state of their nuclear weapons arsenal, where those weapons are. They do talk about deconflicting the air operations over Syria. They do talk more often than not about where and when exercises may be happening. There are standard notifications about all of that. There are restrictions since this relationship has become frozen.

There are not the routine visits, the routine communications, but like so many militaries, I just think it's worth reminding everybody in these cases, both these countries, when it is in their particular self-interest, somehow they do find a way to communicate. The cyberattacks, the most recent...

BERMAN: Barbara...

STARR: ... freezing of the relationship.

BERMAN: Barbara, thanks so much for those facts. Important information.

David Rohde, while we have you, I just want to get your quick take on that video with these parents with these children. Having been, you yourself were held hostage in Afghanistan for a long time.

ROHDE: You know, they - they make these videos, it's appalling. I mean, and I'm speaking on a personal level and I'm biased because I was held captive.

BERMAN: Right.

ROHDE: Those two children were born in captivity. This family has been held for four years. They were hiking. They were unarmed civilians when they were kidnapped. So it's, you know, it's -it's really terrible to see these videos, it's terrible that they continue to be held by the Taliban.

BERMAN: Period. Full stop. It's an awful thing to see. David Rohde, thanks so much for being with us. I appreciate it.

Next, chilling testimony in the trial of former NFL star Aaron Hernandez. A survivor says he saw Hernandez gun down two people in cold blood. We'll hear that.


[11:50:04] BERMAN: Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has been identified in court as the man who fired into a vehicle, killing two people in a 2012 drive by shooting in Boston. Two others in the car survived. They were in court for a pretrial hearing. One of them I.D.'d Hernandez. Some pretty horrific testimony coming out of that hearing.

Nick Fortuna is a trial and appellate attorney. Nick, thanks so much for being with us. I mean, I should note, Aaron Hernandez is in jail for the rest of his life, period, anyway.


BERMAN: This is for a whole separate case.


BERMAN: In a pretrial hearing, when you have someone I.D. you, you know, as the trigger man like that, you know, how damaging is this?

FORTUNA: It's devastating testimony for Hernandez. Sanches, who identified him, was in the vehicle. One of the issues that the judge has to decide is whether or not the identification was definite enough because he did say looks like him. I think the issue more was that English wasn't his first language rather than whether or not he knew that Hernandez was the shooter. Because he described everything that happened in detail there, he seemed to be a very good witness on the stand. In addition to that, which will buttress the testimony, Alexander Brady (ph) will also testify that Hernandez shot into the vehicle.

BERMAN: The judge will have to determine, though, whether Sanches, this withness, whether it's factual, evidence-based and not just opinion or something.

FORTUNA: Well, you're right, but - but also he'll have to determine whether it's prejudicial. And that -- that's they key here because if the judge thinks that there will be too much weight put on this testimony and it's not definite enough then it will prejudice Hernandez in determining whether or not he's guilty of shooting into the vehicle. Not that it's bad testimony for him, just that it has to be conclusive enough to warrant introduction into trial.

BERMAN: So we'll wait to hear what the judge says on that case. Meanwhile, Aaron Hernandez is already in jail for the rest of his life period so...

FORTUNA: I think this would be...

BERMAN: ... it's almost an academic argument.


BERMAN: Another trial, or another case that people are watching very closely, particularly people who watch HBO, Robert Durst, you know.


BERMAN; I am a billionaire, millionaire sky (ph) end of the family, you know, charged with murder or wanting to know if he's connected to the disappearance and murder of someone. Of course in the HBO documentary you hear him saying, "What the hell did I do? Kill them all, of course."


BERMAN: He said that out loud. We all heard him say it. Now apparently he's suggesting he was on drugs, he was on meth when he said that. What impact did that have?

FORTUNA: I mean, I think that's more for the defense to try to argue to the jury. Whether or not that evidence comes in that he was on meth at the time I think will be questionable. I mean, at this late stage there was no proof that he was on drugs at the time. The judge will look at the video. I think that he's trying to undermine the confession by saying he was on meth. I think there's a good chance it won't even come before the jury.

BERMAN: You think this will be settled, this case, or...

FORTUNA: No, no. I'm sorry. The testimony about -- that he was on meth. I think it's going to go to the jury, because at this point...

BERMAN: Right.

FORTUNA: ... you know, they want to prosecute him for the murder.

BERMAN: Nick Fortuna, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

FORTUNA: Hey, thank you. Thank you.

BERMAN: We really appreciate it.

FORTUNA: Thank you. I really appreciate.

[11:53:09] BERMAN: Up next, '80s pop star Richard Marx also now an action hero. An unruly passenger attacked flight attendants on his plane. You will not believe what he did about it. That's next.



BERMAN: To have so much talent in just one body. Richard Marx can not only sing like an angel, but he can also keep the skies safe. Marx reportedly had to help restrain a drunk and unruly man aboard a Korean air flight yesterday. The man allegedly struck a passenger and assaulted flight attendants. The report says they actually have to tie this man to a seat with rope.

CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas is here with more details of what went on with Richard Marx. Do tell.

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: All right, well he is exactly the guy that you want on an airplane...

BERMAN: Apparently.

MELAS: ... if something goes wrong, and the memes are pretty funny about using lyrics from his songs about it. But what happened was not funny. So, you're right. This man was on an airplane and as soon as they took off from Hanoi headed to Seoul he started acting unruly. He was attacking passengers, and Daisy Fuentes, his wife, actually took to social media and said that this took place for the entire duration of the flight and that it was pretty scary. But Richard had a rope, he got a rope somehow, and he tried to help tie down the unruly passenger, but he actually got free several times. Passengers were scared. And when the flight landed, authorities came onboard and they detained the man who they later said was drunk. But it was a pretty scary situation.

BERMAN: You know, Richard Marx and Daisy Fuentes, very critical of - of the procedures that were going on inside the aircraft at the time, yes?

MELAS: Very critical of the airline saying that they didn't know how to restrain him, that they also had a taser that they didn't know how to use. But the airline has since come out and released a statement defending the - the flight attendants, saying that they did everything that they could and that they didn't use the taser because there were passengers nearby that they didn't want to harm. Whether or not that's true, they're still saying that they did everything they could, but Daisy and her husband are both saying that this is ridiculous. This was -- put passengers' lives in danger, this lasted for hours, and that they weren't able to restrain him and that they should have done better. So...

BERMAN: Just goes to show, never mess with Richard Marx and a piece of rope because you don't know what could happen. Chloe Melas, thanks for being on. Really appreciate t.

MELAS: Thank you so much.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: All right, it is just about the top of the hour now. I'm John Berman, and the breaking news out of Germany, an urgent nationwide manhunt for a man believed to be directly involved in the deadly attack that officials are calling terrorism. We have new information about this suspect and his prior run-ins with the law.


BERMAN (voice-over): 12 people are now confirmed dead, nearly 50 others are hurt after somebody plowed a truck into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin. The suspect, a man from Tunisia whose I.D. was found inside the truck, apparently this man was already known to German police, he was arrested a few months ago.


BERMAN (voice-over): I'm going to go live to Berlin, bringing in journalist Chris Burns. Chris, we're now hearing that there is a reward, a reward for the capture or information leading to the arrest of this man and German authorities just released the name of this individual.

CHRIS BURNS, JOURNALIST: Yes. Yes, John. The authorities have -- are staging a nationwide manhunt. Hundreds of police are involved in that, and yes, this was the man that they believe was in that truck that crashed into the Christmas market. You can see over there they have turned the lights back on, as a matter of fact. That's a big surprise. And I might update here you, too, we're in the middle of a demonstration here.