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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Demonstrations in Berlin; Warrant Issued for Anis Amri; Fireworks Blast Kills 31; Queen Delays Christmas Travel Plans; Buckingham Palace Steps up Security; Russia Says Dialogue with U.S. is Frozen; Bill O'Reilly Says Left Wants Power From White Establishment. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired December 21, 2016 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:00:00] CHRIS BURNS, JOURNALIST: Believe was in that truck that crashed into the Christmas market.
You can see over there -- they've 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. These are the counter demonstrations -- demonstrators against the far right demonstrators who are on the other side. There's just a handful of the far-right demonstrators. And on this side is much, much bigger. And they are chanting against them. They're chanting against hate. They're chanting against Nazism. They're -- you have, as you can see, there's a sea of these little hand bills that are printed out with a heart saying that its -- love is more important than what these others are preaching. So it is very interesting to show. It's significant that we're showing many, many more people here are turning out than the small group of far-right demonstrators who are on the other side, protected by a huge police cordon to protect -- to pretend to protect and to prevent there from being -- being any kind of a conflict right now.
At the moment, it is peaceful. We see another -- a heart. A big heart up there in the air saying, "solidarity, not hate," if you can see that. They're chanting very, very loudly. We hope it stays peaceful, but they don't always stay peaceful.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right.
BURNS: I've been in this city for seven years. I know that sometimes it breaks out. And we hope that it stays peaceful. We'll keep an eye on it for you, John.
BERMAN: And, of course, obviously, no doubt, the police presence there to help with keeping things calm, but also because there is a killer who was on the loose right now. And, Chris, let me just read you some information about the warning we're getting from the German federal prosecutors office. They issued this wanted notice for a man named Anis Amri, a 24-year-old Tunisian man. A man born in Tunisia. And police are now offering 100,000 euros for information leading to his arrest. They say he is under urgent suspicion. His height, 5'8", weighs approximately 165 pounds. And this notice warns people that he is violent and armed. Again, that's significant, Chris, because of what's going on behind
you with hundreds of people on the streets right now demonstrating. They're talking politics. They're talking security.
BERMAN: But there's this manhunt underway.
BURNS: Yes. Absolutely. I mean there's a huge -- much larger police presence in this city and in other cities to prevent there from being any kind of other attack. They say, yes, this suspect is most likely armed and very dangerous. He's a very big man. He actually -- he actually had beaten that very, very large Polish truck driver, who he hijacked, to bring that truck and crash that into the market here. He beat -- they fought each other. He beat them -- he beat him and he shot him to death. So this is a very, very dangerous man.
He's also facing an assault charge that he didn't show up in court for. He's facing deportation. He was applying for asylum and it was rejected. So -- and he had links to (INAUDIBLE) elements and trying to recruit others. So a very, very dangerous man and he's out on the loose. And that is what the manhunt is all about tonight.
BERMAN: All right, Chris Burns for us in Berlin, where demonstrations are taking place behind him even amidst this breaking news, this warrant posted for this man and a reward of 100,000 euros for information leading to the capture of Anis Amri. ISIS is claiming responsibility for this attack, saying that this attacker is a soldier of the Islamic State, which often means inspired by, rather than specifically directed by ISIS, but we can't be sure.
Joining us now is Sajjan Gohel. He's an international security director for the Asian-Pacific Foundation.
And, again, we just got this wanted notice from the German federal prosecutors office, Anis Amri, 24 years old, a 100,000 euro reward for now 48 hours after the fact. They had the wrong guy in custody for the first 24 hour, but now it does seem that German officials are asking the public for help.
SAJJAN GOHEL, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY DIRECTOR, ASIA PACIFIC FOUNDATION: Well, it illustrates I suppose how desperate the situation is because this is an individual that carried out a devastating mass casualty attack. He potentially may not even be in Germany. There's been talk about a European-wide manhunt for him and as Germany's part of the Shengen (ph) zone, which allows travel across several European countries without needing to prove I.D., it may become a bigger problem than it was just confined to one country.
BERMAN: And, of course, there are questions, because this man was known to authorities. He was known and apparently turned down for asylum, which could put German officials up for some serious criticism right now. And, in fact, we're seeing demonstrations on the streets of Berlin tonight. GOHEL: Unfortunately, John, this case is too typical of what we're
seeing in Germany. There have been a whole host of plots and small- scale attacks this year in Germany involving individuals that have either been recent migrants or failed asylum seekers carrying out attacks on behalf of ISIS. They've been known to the German authorities. Unfortunately, we're seeing a picture now develop where Germany has been targeted. There's a sustained effort by ISIS to recruit and radicalize individuals. They may not necessarily be trained by the group, but they're motivated by the ideology and through the virtual realm they are downloading material, divents (ph), instructions. The Rumiah (ph) magazine, that ISIS produces, for example, spoke specifically about targeting Germany, Berlin, marketplaces, and using vehicles. And we're seeing that now being replicated with deadly effect.
[12:05:32] BERMAN: I want to tell you, Sajjan, I don't know if you can see it right now, that we have a picture of this suspect. A man named Anis Amri. This is our first look at this image that German officials are putting out. This is part of the wanted notice they are sending out across the country and, in fact, across Europe, offering a 100,000 euro reward for information leading to his arrest. They are warning he is armed and violent. And there's this urgent manhunt underway as we speak.
Born in Tunisia, a part of this wave of immigrants and from other countries refugees leaving certain countries and coming to Europe, especially Germany, over the last several years, and it is the -- part of a very heated political debate inside that country right now.
GOHEL: Very much so. Angela Merkel, with the best of intentions, with humanity and decency let in over 100 million Syrian migrants. Unfortunately, there have also been others that have come into the country that have not proved their identity, that have actually used fraudulent identification that they've purchased on the black market. We know that last week a 12-year-old boy of Iraqi extraction was planning to carry out nail bomb attacks at a marketplace in Ludwigshopin (ph). There was another incident in the summer where an individual that pretending to be an Afghan, but it was actually a Pakistani national, carried out a stabbing on the trains. And the list just goes on.
And, unfortunately, these incidents will only be exploited further by ISIS, who wants to create social tensions. And in the case of Amri, who was from Tunisia, Tunisia has contributed the most number of foreign nationals for ISIS and Tunisia is very much a hub for terrorism. And perhaps in an eerie similarity, the attack just now in Berlin carried out by Amri, you can draw similarities to the Nice attack, which also involved a vehicle, and that plotter was also a Tunisian national. Now, that may just be a coincidence, but we have seen similarities in the type of attacks across Europe.
BERMAN: They're certainly very similar in the way they were carried out. Sajjan Gohel, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.
GOHEL: Thank you.
BERMAN: Happening now, a search for answers after a deadly explosion ripped through a popular fireworks market in Mexico.
BERMAN: You see these pictures of explosion after explosion of the blast itself. We've also got some new pictures today of the aftermath. Thirty-one people now confirmed dead inside these explosions. That death toll, that number, just rising this morning. People in neighboring towns reported they could feel the ground tremble as the fireworks stalls exploded. The incident took place just about 25 miles north of Mexico City. Authorities and families are scrambling at this hour to find missing loved ones.
CNN's Sara Sidner joins us now live from the site of the explosion.
Sara, what are you seeing?
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is San Pablico (ph) market, known for pyrotechnics. People come in here just for the fireworks. And that's what's in here in the 300 stalls that were here. All of a sudden, most of them, gone, suddenly, after explosion after explosion and explosion.
I want you to take a look at what's happening right now. We are seeing a large number of people. You may be able to just see, as Jordan zooms in to those images there, that is where you can see many of the army and those guys in white are forensics, going in and looking. And we've noticed that they've been sort of concentrated in that area for quite some time. They're looking through the rubble.
What they are likely looking for is, a, they are making -- trying to make sure that there are no more charred remains inside of this devastated area here that's about the size of a football field, and, b, trying to figure out how exactly this fire started. Where did the explosions begin? We understand from authorities that it began with about six explosions, in succession, and then it just took off from there, one after the other after the other. It went on for a very long time. And you just showed some of that incredible video caught on tape by a passerby on the road, watching it as it's happening. People could feel it.
But I want to give you another example of how powerful this was, John. We are looking at chunks are concrete that are near the fence. And as my photographer pans down, you will see those chunks. That is from a building. Those explosion so strong they blew apart the concrete buildings that held these explosives, held these fireworks, and sent that flying, not only there, but across the road there were pebbles, but also these big chunks of concrete coming at people.
[12:10:16] And this was a time when the market was full. This was Christmastime. People here have a tradition of blowing off fireworks during Christmas. So you had mothers and fathers and children and aunts and uncles here. And now we understand there is a family that is still looking for their small child, not knowing where that child is. There are also three children who were so severely burned, they had to be medevac'd out of here and taken to Galveston, Texas.
BERMAN: Heartbreaking. And our thoughts are with the families right now.
Sara Sidner, thank you so much.
All right, this just in. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip suddenly postpone their traditional Christmas trip to their Sandringham Estate. We are told that they both have heavy colds. We don't know if they plan to leave later or if they are canceling this trip altogether.
Ian Lee joins us now from outside Buckingham Palace.
You know, Ian, the queen is 90 years old, her husband's 95. What are you learning?
IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John, and that's the reason people are watching her health so closely because she is 90 years old. Her husband is 95. But Buckingham Palace is downplaying this right now, and they're not saying if this trip is cancelled or if it's postponed. They're not giving us any real details about that, and it's not likely that they'll give us many more updates about her health. But she is still quite very active for someone who is in her 90s. She is showing signs of slowing down a bit, handing 25 of over 600 charities she's patron of to other members of the royal family, but still keeping quite a public presence for the people. She is known to have said that being seen is being believed. So she is quite adamant about staying in the public eye, John.
BERMAN: No doubt, but this will make news today, the news of the cold and the cancelled trip because it comes 24 hours after she did withdraw from some of those charities that she had been chairing.
Ian, I do understand you're getting some new information about security around Buckingham Palace today. Obviously concern about what's happening in Berlin and Ankara as well.
LEE: That's right, John. And this extra security is going to be around the changing of the guard, which happens every other day here in the winter at Buckingham Palace. There's a lot of concern about what happened in Berlin could -- and in Nice, France, could happen here as well. You have trucks running into large crowds. And this ramped up security isn't just for here. This is going to be going into Christmas, as well as New Year's celebration. A lot of extra alert because of what has been happening around the rest of Europe.
BERMAN: Ian Lee for us outside Buckingham Palace. Thanks so much, Ian.
Next, new people detained in connections to the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey. A new video of the chilling moments just before the killer fired the shots.
Plus, we have breaking news. Russia now says that nearly all dialogue with the United States is, quote, "frozen." What's the message behind that? And, President-elect Donald Trump talking about the election that he
won, saying his Electoral College win was more sophisticated than winning the popular vote.
[12:16:46] BERMAN: Surprising new information on the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey. The Turkish police officer who killed diplomat Andrei Karlov did not go through the xray machine when he entered the art center in Ankara. Security staff did give him a warning, but then the killer simply showed his official police I.D. and was allowed to pass through.
And in this new video, you can see the assassin standing right behind the ambassador for several minutes before he ultimately pulls out the gun. He looks like maybe he could be part of the ambassador's staff. Perhaps someone from the gallery. But, moments later, everyone would come to learn that that was not the case at all.
Nic Robertson spoke to the Associated Press photographer who was taking pictures of this before, during and immediately after the attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURHAN OZBILICI, ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOGRAPHER: I heard a shot, very loud. Bam, bam, bam. Whoo, I said, what just happened? What is -- horrible. So the people standing in front, they disappeared. They throw them onto the floor. And then they tried -- they were trying to hide them, to take shelter.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Were you afraid?
OZBILICI: I was shocked, but -- afraid, but not much. Not (INAUDIBLE).
ROBERTSON: But you're not afraid taking his picture? You've got a camera. He's got a gun.
OZBILICI: Well -- I'm very talented (ph) about -- in difficult situations, I'm calm. I have a responsibility to record it, the event. And (INAUDIBLE) lying on the ground. Not moving. And the guy wasn't -- he was making some political -- political motivating speech, but I could not understand. I said maybe they speak in Russian, in Russian. Some people were screaming, crying. So I could not hear well. Then he turned -- turned around the body, and from very close range he shot one more time.
ROBERTSON: On the ambassador?
ROBERTSON: Just to make sure he was dead?
OZBILICI: I think so. When I learned that the guy was killed, I was really shocked. Why they kill him? He did nothing. Took -- take anybody hostage. He was alone. They have to capture him alive. ROBERTSON: They could have done it (ph)?
OZBILICI: I don't know. I don't know what is behind -- reason -- motive behind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right, we do have breaking news. Russia is now saying that nearly all levels of dialogue with the United States, "frozen." A Kremlin spokesperson says, quote, "we do not talk to each other, or we do it at a minimum."
CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance joins me now from Moscow.
Matthew, what do you make of this statement?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's a scathing characterization, isn't it, of just what the state of the -- the relationship is between Washington and Moscow in these, the last few weeks of the Obama administration. Of course, over the past couple of years, the two countries, the two former Cold War rivals, have really fallen out over a range of issues, like the war in Syria being the most important one perhaps. Russia and the United States were on opposite sides of that conflict.
NATO expansion. Russia's been complaining heavily about the continued military presence of NATO forces very close to or on its borders.
[12:20:16] And, of course, the situation in Crimea, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and the U.S. then imposed sanctions on Russia in response to that. And so there's been this whole range of issues that has pushed this relationship virtually back to Cold War levels. And, you know, and that's what this Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, who's the main spokesperson for Vladimir Putin, was talking about, saying that, you know, as you just mentioned, that all -- nearly all leveling of dialogue now are frozen. We don't talk to each other. We'll do so only as a minimum. Of course, you know, that might change when Donald Trump becomes president in a couple of weeks' time. But, for the moment, the relationship is pretty bad.
BERMAN: According to both the president-elect and, you know, the Kremlin, it will change on January 20th.
Matthew Chance, thank you so much.
Next, Newt Gingrich says that Donald Trump is getting rid of one of his, quote, "cute phrases." A phrase that he used in the campaign to win the White House.
Plus, Bill O'Reilly under fire for saying that liberals want to take power away from, quote, "the white establishment."
And now, even though he has already won the election, Trump is weighing in on the Electoral College fight.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: Donald Trump aides now tell us he is receiving his classified presidential daily briefing today, which is interesting because they would not tell us yesterday whether he did receive it following the terror attacks that happened in Berlin, as well as inside Turkey.
[12:25:07] The president-elect, this morning, still finding time to tweet about the Electoral College. He writes, "campaigning to win the Electoral College is much more difficult and sophisticated than the popular vote. Hillary Clinton focused on the wrong states." Now, Hillary Clinton ended up with nearly 3 million more votes than the president-elect, but Donald Trump was the clear winner in the Electoral College.
As for the Electoral College, Bill O'Reilly has some controversial ideas about why it is being questioned. He believes the push to abolish it is about one thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: The left in America is demanding that the Electoral College system, put into place 1787, be scrapped. But there's a hidden reason for this. Talking Points believes this is all about race. The left sees white privilege in America as an oppressive force that must be done away with. Therefore, white working class voters must be marginalized. Summing up, the left wants power taken away from the white establishment. They want a profound change in the way America is run. Taking voting power away from the white precincts is the quickest way to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Joining me now is CNN political commentator, former White House political director under President Reagan and a big Donald Trump supporter, Jeffrey Lord. Also with us, Angela Rye, CNN political commentator, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Jeffrey, we just heard those comments from Bill O'Reilly. Do you agree there's some giant racial conspiracy here to do away with the Electoral College, that's why -- I mean, look, I can understand why people that support Hillary Clinton are complaining about the Electoral College because they wanted her to win. But I'm not sure that means there's some kind of racial conspiracy.
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm not sure that there's a racial conspiracy, per say. What I am certain of is that the Democratic Party, since its inception, has been the party of race. There is a culture of racism within the Democratic Party that has been there from the get-go. This is, as I've said many times, the party of slavery, segregation, lynching, the Ku Klux Klan. Now it's racial quotas, illegal immigration by skin color. They're obsessed with race. This is what they do. So in that respect --
BERMAN: But, Jeffrey, just on the -- on the idea of the Electoral College, right, do you think --
BERMAN: The questions that have been raised about the Electoral College in the last month, do you believe that they are exclusively about race, which is what Bill O'Reilly claimed?
LORD: No. No, no, no. I -- I don't think they're about race. I think they're about more or less conservatives, and working folks, regardless of their color. I mean I think the Democratic Party has the same disdain for the average black or Hispanic person as they do for the average white person. I mean they've become a party of rich, liberal elites. So that's their problem here. They carried -- right here, they carried my home state of Pennsylvania, which has a substantial black population in Philadelphia. They just didn't want to turn out for the Democratic candidate. That's the problem.
BERMAN: Angela Rye, I want to give you a chance to respond, both to what Jeffrey said, but also to Bill O'Reilly. I want your reaction when you heard what Mr. O'Reilly said.
ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So -- yes. Let me just deal with Bill O'Reilly specifically because I've asked Jeffrey repeatedly not to use this line of thinking. I don't understand where it comes from. We know that racism in this country is a bipartisan and a non- partisan issue. It has nothing whatsoever to do with party. And we know that a Republican Party, that they like to tout as a Martin Luther King kind of I have a dream party. It was -- it never existed. So I think that it's hogwash.
As it relates to Bill O'Reilly, what I will tell you very plain and simply is this, the Electoral College is problematic from its inception, and something that was built upon and designed to oppress certain people, whether through intent or by impact has to change. And I think that what you're seeing are folks who, thanks to Bernie Sanders, thanks even to Donald Trump, for being a more of a populist type of a candidate, to be -- to cause us to really begin to question some things that may have existed from the beginning of time, from the inception of America.
That does not make the thing right. If we say that we are a country where it's one person, one vote, then it needs to be one person, one vote. Everyone is not talking about overhauling the Electoral College in its entirety. People are also talking about proposals to reshape the way in which it's done. Maybe it shouldn't be winner take all. And we have some states, of course, in some congressional districts, that do just that. So I think that it is OK for us to ask questions, particularly when we know the Electoral College was built upon a system to protect the interests of slave states. That was a part of the compromise. And we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that horrible history.
LORD: Well, yes. I mean, the Electoral College, I mean let's remember the name of the country. The name of the country is the United States of America. And that famous quote from Benjamin Franklin, who emerged from the constitutional convention and a woman asked him, you know, what have you given us, Mr. Franklin, and he replied -- Dr. Franklin, and he replied, "a republic, ma'am, if you can keep it."
[12:30:05] This is a constitutional republic. It is not a direct democracy. The reason we have a United States Senate is to present states.