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Manhunt for Suspect in Christmas Market Attack; Interview with Senator Chris Coons; Trump Averaging One Former Intel Brief a Week;; Final Tally: Clinton Won Popular Vote by Almost 2.9 Million; Trump: My Plans Have "Proven to Be Right"; Israeli Ambassador to U.S.: Move Embassy to Jerusalem. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 21, 2016 - 18:00   ET


[18:00:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Why did a German judge release him?

Attack on humanity. President-elect Donald Trump makes his first public comment on the Berlin attack, backing away from his earlier characterization of it as an attack against Christians. Trump called it disgraceful and he tells reporters, quote, "You know my plans." He does intend to pursue the Muslim immigrant ban he promised during the campaign.

Frozen relations. A Kremlin spokesman paints a grim picture of U.S. and Russia ties one day after President Obama imposes new sanctions on Moscow. But Donald Trump says he wants closer ties with Russia under his upcoming administration. Are the frozen relations about to thaw?

And royal pains. Britain's Queen Elizabeth postpones her traditional trip to her country estate. Buckingham Palace says she and her husband are suffering, quote, "heavy colds." Could security concerns really be behind the very unusual change of plans?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Brianna Keilar and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

KEILAR: We are following breaking news. An intense manhunt underway right now for the man German investigators believe a truck into that Christmas market in Berlin killing 12 people. He's a 24-year-old Tunisian man who came to Germany as a refugee. Was known to German authorities and is believed to have ties to an ISIS recruiting network in Germany.

President-elect Donald Trump is calling the Berlin rampage an attack on humanity after earlier referring to it as terrorist slaughter of Christians. Trump was asked if he's re-evaluating that Muslim immigration ban that he campaigned on and he said, quote, "You've known my plans all along and they've proven to be right."

And just four weeks before Trump takes office, a Kremlin spokesman says nearly all levels of dialogue between Russia and the U.S. have been frozen. The State Department says it doesn't know what to make of that comment adding that it's engaged with Moscow on a wide variety of issues right now including as recently as yesterday at top levels.

And new tonight, a rare move by Britain's Queen Elizabeth. She is postponing her annual trip to her country estate where the royal family traditionally spends Christmas. In a statement Buckingham Palace says the 90-year-old Queen and her 95-year-old husband are both suffering heavy colds. There are, though, questions about whether security concerns may be behind this unusual delay.

We are covering that and more this hour with our guests, including a leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chris Coons. And our correspondents and our expert analysts are also standing by.

Let's begin with the manhunt for the suspect in the Berlin Christmas market attack. CNN's Erin McLaughlin is in the German capital for us.

So, Erin, we're learning a lot of new information tonight about this man.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. We have some new information about the main suspect's past. His father gave an interview to a Tunisian radio station. In that interview, he said that Anis Amri moved to Italy when he was a teenager. There, he spent four years in an Italian prison for armed probably charges. Once he was released from prison, that's when he made his way to Cologne, Germany, fell in with an Islamist crowd, now on the run and potentially armed and dangerous.


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): In Germany and across Europe tonight, a desperate manhunt. This arrest warrant issued by German authorities Wednesday for a 24-year-old Tunisian man Anis Amri. Now the only identified suspect of the Christmas market attack. His identity papers were found at the scene inside this stolen truck's cabin. It turns out Amri has been on the German authorities' radar for some time.

According to German intelligence sources, he arrived in Germany mid- 2015 and was involved in radical Islamic circles. He was linked to a leading figure of an ISIS recruitment networks and was arrested in August for trying to travel to Italy using forged documents but was let go by a judge. Amri also raised alarms when German intelligence believed he was looking to get a gun. Now raids are being carried out in the Cologne area where police believe he lived.

The German public is being warmed that Amri could be violent and armed. A Polish man found shot dead inside the truck has been identified as its original driver and the gun used to kill him has not yet been recovered.

All this raising new questions as to how the deadliest terrorist attack to strike Berlin will impact German Chancellor Angela Merkel's political future. In 2015, Chancellor Merkel announced Germany would admit nearly all Iraqi and Syrian asylum seekers. Triggering a human tidal wave through Europe. Germany accepted more than 800,000 refugees. Now a senior member of her own party admitting there is definitely a connection between increased terrorist danger and refugees.

[18:05:04] This year German officials said they foiled multiple terror plots but the country has seen at least two small-scaled ISIS inspired attacks carried out by refugees. As a result the far right has made gains on an anti-immigration platform. After the horror in the Christmas markets and with federal elections approaching in 2017, the woman many see as the linchpin holding Europe together could face the toughest battle of her career.


MCLAUGHLIN: And we're already seeing political fallout here in Germany from this attack. Legislators pushing for new laws that would give government officials more powers for things such as electronic surveillance. We're also seeing more police out on the streets paying particular attention to the main transportation hubs, as holiday makers trying to make it home for Christmas -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Erin McLaughlin, thank you for that report from Berlin. Let's get more now on this breaking news with CNN terrorism analyst from Paul Cruickshank.

Paul, what are you finding out about the man that Germans are now searching for right now? We're learning more certainly from this interview with his father.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: That's right. An interview given to Mosaique FM, a Tunisian radio station, where the father said that his son had left Tunisia seven years ago, traveled to Italy and actually got involved in an arson attack on a school and a robbery and had served four years in an Italian jail. So someone with a violent track record.

The question will be, at what point was he radicalized. When he got to Germany, the Germans were able to establish that he was very radical indeed and part of an ISIS recruiting network funneling one of the jihadists to Syria and Iraq. That they really did an intense investigation into him.

They've discovered he was trying to find a weapon at a certain point, at various points he was detained. In August that he was detained in the south of Germany on his way to Italy with some false papers. There was a sort of deportation effort to get him out of the country, but they weren't able to establish his identity with certainty, because as the Germans would put it, the Tunisians did not share full details with them.

So they're in kind of a Catch 22 situation when it came to him, but they didn't sort of carry on, it would appear, during a lot of intense surveillance. But this individual, part of this radical network we understand in Germany and the concern will be that they have the capacity now to either hide him in Germany, just like the Paris attack network hid Saleh Abdeslam, the -- one of the attackers in that plot for so many months, or they could perhaps smuggle him out of the country. So it made it more difficult for the Germans to apprehend him, given all that bad information.

KEILAR: So tell us more about this network, if this is a network that would not have had direct contact with ISIS, and if there's any thought that he may have had direct contact with ISIS.

CRUICKSHANK: Well, the leader of this recruiting network in Germany, an Iraqi, 32 years old, by the name of Abu Walah, went around claiming he was actually part of ISIS. He was arrested with four other senior leaders of this network in November of this year. So just a few weeks ago.

So with those kind of contacts, he would have had plenty of opportunity, perhaps to get in touch with senior ISIS operatives back in Syria and Iraq. So I think it's very plausible indeed that he could have had some degree of communication, though there's no proof of that yet back with ISIS in Syria and Iraq. They've claimed that this was ISIS inspired, that he was following on from their cause to launch attacks in the West. But we've seen no claim of responsibility by the attacker himself in terms of anything posted on social media or any video that he's uploaded.

And ISIS have actually instructed their recruits and the people that they're instigating to launch these attacks, you absolutely have to do this. You have to claim it for us because it's very, very helpful for us to take ownership. So far he's not done that. Will he do that in the hours ahead?

KEILAR: All right. Paul Cruickshank, stay with us. We're going to see more of you later in the hour.

Let's get more on all of this now with Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. He is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee so he brings that insight certainly to this discussion. And I know, Senator, you've heard about what I think a lot of people are looking at and saying how when this person was on the radar of German authorities, and who -- he had hand ties to this radical group, how did he slip through the cracks? What are you thinking about that?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, Brianna, that's a great question.

[18:10:01] That's one of the questions we're going to be sifting through to make sure we understand how German intelligence failed to intercept this particular radicalized individual. But we do also have to recognize what a big challenge it is across western Europe where we have a number of countries that don't cooperate as closely as they should and where we are providing support and assistance to their intelligence agencies to better understand these sorts of radicalized individuals that are both in some cases citizens of their countries and in other cases recent immigrants to their countries.

KEILAR: What does this say about this case that he was able to easily escape from the Christmas market, that initially German authorities arrested the wrong suspect, of course spending precious time until they realized this isn't a guy who's tied to this truck?

COONS: Well, I think unlike the French and the British, where there have been sadly for decades, they've had the experiences of terrorism incidents in their major cities, Germany doesn't have as large of a domestic police presence, and in particular, they don't use as widely surveillance cameras within major German cities as the French and the British do. That's partly because, you know, nearly half of Germany was under communist rule for decades where the Stasi, their secret police did surveil their citizens.

And so there's much more resistance in Germany to the kind of cameras posted everywhere that might have allowed for a very quick gathering of relevant evidence and for a very quick arrest in this case, as we have seen in other countries, in France and Great Britain and Belgium.

I do think in the United States, Brianna, we've got a challenge for the future in terms of striking the right balance between privacy and security. Between understanding how much we as Americans are willing to accept our government conducting surveillance in order to intercept potential terrorist threats and how much we're going to continue to defend our treasured civil liberties as citizens of the United States.

KEILAR: As we try to -- we know that this is a Tunisian national. We've had some experts who say that he should certainly -- there is a distinction between him and, say, a refugee from Syria or from Iraq. But make no mistake about it, this is something, as you know, Senator, is creating a lot of anti-refugee sentiment, building on what was already there in Germany. Is that something that you worry could actually help recruitment when we're talking about this recruitment network in Germany?

COONS: Well, I think what could help recruitment for radicalized jihadists is if we over respond. If we as a country, if our president-elect, if our elected leaders respond in a way that marginalizes, stigmatizes and attacks Islam as a religion, rather than holding up for our attention this very small number of radicalized jihadists, the suspect in this case in Germany is supposedly part of a Salafist network. This is an extremist view that is not held by the vast majority of Muslims around the world.

And I think it's important how we respond because there are, of course, a record number of refugees flooding into parts of western Europe, from North Africa, from the Middle East. And I think it is possible for us to continue to be sympathetic, welcoming, supportive to refugees who have been thoroughly and appropriately vetted, while recognizing the need to take strong action against those who really would do us harm and who've been radicalized.

KEILAR: How do we and how does Europe stop this? Obviously, there is U.S. military intervention in the region where ISIS is. But the reach seems almost uncontainable.

COONS: Well, there is spreading violence in the Middle East. As you know, the tragic civil war in Syria which has now claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, is going to produce consequences. I think the assassination of the Russian ambassador in Turkey was directly inspired by Russia's military intervention on the side of Assad. I think the tragic incident in Zurich, as it's further investigated and better understood, may well have been an outgrowth of right-wing reaction to Muslim refugees in the country.

And I think this incident in Germany as it's more thoroughly understood may also lead to some further questions about how we balance privacy and security. I think at a time when we have more refugees in the world than at any point since the Second World War, we need to keep supporting the international relief effort to reduce human suffering. But we're also going have to make some tough choices to bring conflicts in the Middle East to an end.

And I'm concerned that President Trump elect -- President-elect Trump, excuse me, is nominating some folks for senior leadership as his National Security adviser and in other places in his Cabinet that frankly may not see the challenges to our security posed by Russia and the challenges to our independence and to our liberties posed by Russian cyber security and by the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

[18:15:22] KEILAR: And we're going to actually revisit that topic, some of the president-elect's appointments and what it means for U.S. security. After a quick break, we'll be right back with Senator Chris Coons.


KEILAR: And we're back now with a leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chris Coons. We want to talk to him about bipartisan concerns over whether President-elect Donald Trump is being sufficiently briefed on national security. But first I want to get the latest from CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

And Barbara, this terror attack in Berlin really underscores the importance of these intelligence briefings.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It really does, Brianna. One of the concerns is if President-elect Trump is not getting the formal briefing from his government intelligence briefer every day, is he getting everything he needs? Is he getting that essential two-way conversation with intelligence professionals asking the questions, getting the answers, especially important given what has been happening.


STARR (voice-over): When President-elect Donald Trump addressed reporters today, he had his new National Security adviser right behind him. Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn in Florida, to discuss world events and staffing. The meeting was on the schedule before the terror attacks in Germany and Turkey. Trump began the day with an official president's daily brief, the PDB, his first of the week.

[18:20:05] Trump's staff insists he is getting some type of intelligence briefing every day and will be on top of things from day one.

JASON MILLER, TRUMP TRANSITION SPOKESMAN: He's very much up to speed in what's going on and fully ready for -- to be sworn in next month and take over the role as commander-in-chief.

STARR: A U.S. official tells CNN Trump is averaging one formal briefing a week, the same type of intelligence briefing that President Obama gets every day. Trump is also getting briefings on specific topics.

MILLER: The one thing I will say is that the president-elect is receiving numerous briefings, whether it's from his National Security team, with General Flynn and others, as well as the formal PBD.

STARR: The briefings come amid increasing global turmoil. The Kremlin today said relations with the U.S. have frozen, a day after President Obama imposed new sanctions aimed at Russia's involvement in Crimea and Ukraine. Sanctions the incoming president could reverse.

JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: The next administration will obviously have to make their own decisions about this. We hope that they will come to see the wisdom in not conducting business as usual with Russia.

STARR: All leading to the greater question, how friendly will the incoming president be to Vladimir Putin?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: I think when he calls me brilliant, I'll take the compliment, OK?

CHRISTOPHER HILL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR: He sure has to be more cautious about Russia than he appears to be. I mean, he needs to understand that their interests and their attitude does not align with ours.

STARR: Nowhere may that be more clear than the Moscow meeting of Russian, Iranian, and Turkish officials on what to do next in Syria.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (Through Translator): All three countries represented here are united.

STARR: But U.S. officials still believe the talks will not stop Moscow from continuing its military operations in Syria beyond Aleppo.


STARR: So next up may be Donald Trump's decision about how to fill these additional, critical national security jobs. He has yet to announce a nomination for director of National Intelligence, the top intelligence job, or who he will have as his White House advisers on counterterrorism and homeland security -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Barbara Starr, thank you so much. Reporting for us from the Pentagon. We appreciate it.

Back now with Senator Chris Coons. And I want to talk to you about certainly some of the concerns that you have talked about, about Donald Trump's National Security team. We saw part of that in Mar-a- Lago today. What specifically worries you?

COONS: Well, what worries me, Brianna, is, first, that Donald Trump, who is now a month away from being our president, has very limited previous experience in foreign policy matters, in particular in security and intelligence issues, and is foregoing his presidential daily briefing. Second, that he's got a number of folks in his potential Cabinet and among his close advisers, who have murky ties to senior leaders in Russia. And third, that President-elect Trump himself, in the course of the campaign, made a number of statements about Putin that are either naive or ill-informed or suggests that he's just blind to the threat that he poses to our way of life.

Russia has directly attacked our democracy in the course of this election with their cyber attack, and I think we are now seeing bipartisan calls by leaders in the United States Senate for a special committee that will investigate this, and I think it's important for us to recognize the very real threat to the United States posed by cyber security attacks from other nations, not least of which of course is Russia.

KEILAR: You know, that's a bipartisan call for that select committee. There's also a number of Republicans, including in leadership, who are opposing that. Do you think -- now that we -- we see Donald Trump getting the intelligence briefing today. We also know according to his team that he's going to increase the number that he's getting. There was this show of force with his National Security team there today. Do you think these are signs that he's taking these things more seriously?

COONS: Well, I hope he's going to take them more seriously. And frankly the first thing I hope he does is stop tweeting about evolving critical national security issues. He sent out an initial tweet about the three recent incidents around the world that mischaracterized the attack in Zurich. I think he would be well advised to take a briefing first and to tweet little or not at all.

And frankly, one of the challenges he's going to face is that he has directly gone against the advice -- the united advice of all 17 of our intelligence agencies that have concluded that Russia did attack our electoral system. That's going to create some real tension, Brianna, when he becomes president with the intelligence community that I hope he and his chose advisers will work to resolve.

[18:25:04] KEILAR: There's another aspect to the Russia story today, sir, and that's the spokesman for the Kremlin is saying the relationship between the U.S. and Russia is frozen. That is the word that was used.

The State Department says that's not true, basically. They're saying diplomatic engagement with Russia continues across a wide range of issues. You're a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Are relations with Russia frozen?

COONS: Well, Brianna, what they're responding to is the next round of sanctions. I led a bipartisan delegation to Ukraine in August. We went to the Czech Republic, Estonia, and Ukraine, to look at the impact of Russian aggression. They have illegally occupied Crimea and they continue to support in an appropriate military action in eastern Ukraine, and frankly, I think it is the right thing for President Obama to be stepping up pressure against Russia, to get them to keep their part of the Minsk Accords that could bring resolution to the conflict in Ukraine.


COONS: We do have a very strained relationship, and I think that's appropriate given Russia's actions.

KEILAR: So what do you think Russia is trying to do? Are they trying to set the stage for making relations look really bad right now and then maybe thawing them to curry favor with a Trump administration?

COONS: That's entirely possible. And while I understand the possible benefits of reviewing our relationship with Russia, of negotiating for a new sort of reset, I don't think that the Trump administration should step back one inch from our insistence that we not allow Putin to get away with the invasion and occupation of a neighboring country, that we not allow Putin to get away with the massacres in Aleppo, and the crimes against humanity committed by Assad, and in partnership with Russian troops by Hezbollah and Iranian troops in Syria.

So we have a strained relationship. I understand that President-elect Trump may try to revisit that relationship. But it's my hope that he won't step back from American commitment to human rights, to NATO, and to the territorial integrity to countries like Ukraine as well as our NATO allies in the Baltics.

KEILAR: Donald Trump has appointed -- he's picked David Friedman to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel. This is someone who supports moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Do you have concerns with that?

COONS: I do have concerns with that. I frankly have concerns about our longer term direction in U.S.-Israel relations. We have a very close, very strong military and intelligence relationship with Israel today and should continue to have such a strong relationship into the future. But I believe, and many others, a bipartisan range of senators believe that a two-state solution is the only way to preserve the Jewish character of Israel and the Democratic character of Israel.

Now I'm concerned that the gentleman nominated by President-elect Trump may not share that commitment to a two-state solution and his position on moving the embassy in advance of any negotiated resolution between the Israelis and Palestinians may suggest that he's not fully committed to a two-state solution.

KEILAR: All right. Senator Chris Coons, we certainly appreciate you talking to us tonight and making time.

COONS: Thank you, Brianna. KEILAR: Now we have some breaking news next. The latest on the hunt

for the man the German authorities believe carried out that deadly attack on a Christmas market in Berlin. What are his ties to ISIS? Plus a rare move by Britain's Queen Elizabeth is raising some questions tonight. Are there worries about the security of the royal family?


KEILAR: The breaking news this hour is the manhunt for a suspect in the truck attack on that Christmas market in Berlin that killed a dozen people. Investigators right now are looking for a 24-year-old Tunisian asylum seeker, previously known on multiple occasions to German authorities. They say he'd been in touch with radical Islamist groups and that he may be violent and armed. They're issuing a lot of caution when it comes to that.

So I want to get more from our terrorism experts. Paul Cruickshank, to you first. We just learned some new information. Tell us what you're finding out about this suspect.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Brianna, his father just gave an interview to a Tunisian radio station, Mosaic FM, saying that his son left Tunisia seven years ago, then traveled to Italy as an illegal immigrant. In Italy, he got involved in an arson attack on a school and a robbery and then got a four-year prison sentence.

After serving that, then moving to Germany. We know he arrived in Germany in July of 2015. And we know that, very soon after arriving in Germany, he came onto the radar screen with German security services as somebody that they believed was dangerous, radicalized, somebody part of an ISIS recruiting network. He was very close to one of the leading lights in that network, a Serbian-German national who was arrested just a few weeks ago in Germany with others part of that network.

All of these details significant, because these ties to these -- the recruitment network individuals in Germany suggest that there may be people there who can offer him, perhaps, a safe house, a hiding place, or even may be able to smuggle him out of the country.

It may be quite difficult, given all these details we're learning, for German security services to find him, especially when you think back to the Paris attacks and the fact that Saleh Abdeslam, the attacker who ducked out of that attack, went to ground in Brussels and was protected and hidden by the network there for four -- five, six months or so.

KEILAR: Michael Weiss, it seems to many people they look at the various contacts that German authorities had with the suspect, and they think how did they not get onto this guy? And yet it was interesting. Peter Bergen, our terror analyst, said it's strange that someone would do something like this, and there would not have been contacts with authorities and them. What do you think about that?

MICHAEL WEISS, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE DAILY BEAST": Yes, I mean, look, the network that Paul was just alluding to is run by a guy called Abu Walla. That guy is a leading Salafi jihadi. There was a guy who returned from Syria from the battlefield after defecting from ISIS, and he described Abu Walla as the No. 1 ISIS recruiter in all of Germany. He's been on law enforcement's radar for a long time. I think he was being surveilled for something like three years.

[18:35:13] His cell, his network has been involved on the attack on a Sikh temple in Germany. It has conducted armed robbery, getting money for use for terrorist operations. And one of the purported ways that they were looking to conduct a terror operation, according to the newspaper "Der Spiegel," was to take a large vehicle -- this time crammed with explosives, not with 25 tons of steel as the attacker used -- but drive it into a crowded area in an urban population center and detonate the vehicle.

So it does seem like -- you know, I never thought that this guy was your classic lone-wolf, a sort of nobody who came out of ether, having been radicalized to conduct an amateur operation. He was linked up with Germany's foremost ISIS network, and these are people who do have ties and do have contact with ISIS H.Q. back in Syria and Iraq, because they've been sending German fighters to go and join the jihad there.

KEILAR: Tara Maller, this is a real concern when you're talking about someone who is locked in with a network.


KEILAR: Do you think German authorities can find him quickly? Or is this going to be one of those protracted searches like we saw with Abdeslam?

MALLER: Hopefully, we'll see them recover him quickly. However, if the past 24 hours are any indication, we've seen a number of blunders. This is someone who was on law enforcement's radar. This is someone who the German officials had been monitoring and lost track of. This is somebody who's been having ties to ISIS in the previous months. We don't know the nature of those ties yet.

KEILAR: Is he directly...

MALLER: We don't know how closely connected -- if he was directed or if he was just a lone wolf and inspired. But this is something where there's been blunders.

In addition, they took somebody into custody yesterday who was the wrong individual. And also, from the time period where the truck was stolen until the attack carried out, where was law enforcement during that period of time? Why was no calls coming in from that point of time? So there have been a number of blunders,.

I'm hopeful that now with more intelligence assistance, both probably from the United States, the French, other European countries, they might have better intelligence to track him down. But he's on the run. He's armed, and he might have assistance. KEILAR: Tara, when you look at this suspect, and we're learning more

about his story, which Paul just told us, is that a conventional path to radicalization, do you think?

MALLER: We're not sure in this case how this individual, this suspect that they're looking for was radicalized. But usually, it's through contacts with individuals in the network.

In some cases it's not through contact; it's through online propaganda, radical jihadist online propaganda. ISIS magazines have been calling for knife and truck attacks for months. They've been calling for attacks on Christmas and holiday markets. You saw a State Department warning pointing this out. You've seen DHS come out with warnings about this, as well. Because this is available online -- Twitter, Facebook. These platforms need to crack down on this material, because it's reaching individuals around the globe, and that's how they're becoming radicalized, and through their peer networks and, in some cases, through family members.

KEILAR: Michael, is there anything unique to Germany that may be helping with the rise of ISIS there? Some have pointed to the rise of Germany's far-right movement, and they say that that has contributed to ISIS recruiting there.

WEISS: Yes. I mean, look, ISIS wants to strike at the west. Germany in particular has been a part of the association against ISIS, although it's not running bomber raids in Syria or Iraq. It's been arming the Kurdish Peshmerga and some of the weapons that it's been sending have wound up in the hands of the YPG militias, which is the main U.S. proxy in the fight for northern Syria against the Islamic State.

We've talked already about the enormous wave of refugees and this kind of open-door policy that Angela Merkel has implemented. Really, it was only a matter of time before somebody did sneak in under the radar, under the guise of being -- sort of fleeing a humanitarian catastrophe but was actually already had trained up or certainly ideologically predisposed to conduct a terror operation.

And yes, ISIS -- this is an important point -- they are students of geopolitics. They read the newspaper. They watch programs like CNN. They know that, if Angela Merkel is toppled from power, it will come to the benefit of these far-right, anti-Muslim movements. And this plays into the ISIS narrative beautifully, because they believe in a binary: there is the land of Islam and the land of disbelief. Muslims cannot belong in western Democratic societies, according to ISIS. So to have far right and, in some cases, neo-Nazi groups go around attacking refugees or basically building up walls, either physical or virtual, that plays directly into what Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been sermonizing for two, three years now.

KEILAR: Great insight from all of you. Michael Weiss, Paul Cruickshank, Tara Maller, thank you guys so much.

And just ahead, new questions about Donald Trump and conflicts of interest as he prepares to take office. And are there concerns about the security of Britain's Queen

Elizabeth? We have details of an unusual move by the monarch.


[18:47:38] KEILAR: New results in tonight from the election showing that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 2.9 million votes. This is an issue that apparently continues to really dig at President- elect Donald Trump, and CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta has more on this.

It's something that Donald Trump, even though he won the White House, can't seem to let go of.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not yet. Donald Trump also made some big announcements today, naming billionaire investor Carl Icahn as an advisor overseeing regulation reform.

But you're right: Trump was also once again defending his election victory, but his latest tweets on the subject come at an odd time, just as attention is moving away from his win in the Electoral College and toward much bigger questions about his business interests.



ACOSTA (voice-over): It's Donald Trump's favorite subject at his post-election rallies, not his upcoming agenda or his cabinet, but his victory.

TRUMP: By the way, as soon as the polls, the real polls came out, we won it in a massive landslide.

ACOSTA: But it wasn't a landslide. Trump's electoral win is modest by historical standards.

Still, the president-elect is pushing back on any critics who know he came up nearly three million voters short in the popular vote. "I would have done even better in the election, if that is possible, if the winner was based on popular vote. Would campaign differently. Campaigning to win the Electoral College is much more difficult and sophisticated than the popular vote. Hillary focused on the wrong states."

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: This is the football season. A team can have more yards and lose the game.

[18:45:03] What matters is how many points you put on the board. The Electoral College is the points.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But Democrats aren't buying it and accuse Republicans of inflating their election win to justify a broad mandate. Former Clinton campaign spokesman Jesse Ferguson wrote in "TIME"

magazine, "If we don't fight back against unfounded claims of a mandate or navel-gazing that this election was a total rejection of our party, we will be wondering why the Republican agenda has gained momentum in just a few short months."

Trump is restarting the debate over his election win just as questions are being raised about his business interests. The Trump family is distancing itself from a fund-raiser scheduled one day after inauguration, seeking donations of up to $1 million in exchange for hunting outings with Trump sons.

Transition officials maintain the sons won't be involved despite the fact that the group holding the fundraiser lists Trump sons, Don Jr. and Eric, as two of its directors.

JASON MILLER, TRUMP TRANSITION SPOKESMAN: There is no involvement of this with Don Jr. or Eric. Nor do they plan on being involved with it.

ACOSTA: And other questions about conflicts of interest are being raised, like the Kuwaiti government's decision to hold an upcoming event at Trump's new D.C. hotel, just steps from the White House.

Top Trump supporter Newt Gingrich says the president-elect doesn't even like his campaign catch phrase "drain the swamp" anymore.

GINGRICH: I'm told he now disclaims that. He now says it was cute, but he doesn't want to use it anymore.


ACOSTA: And as for that fundraiser that once mentioned Trump's sons, Don Jr. and Eric, are no longer listed as members of the group holding the event. Their names were removed.

And as for the Kuwaiti event at the Trump hotel, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S. tells me he would like to have some clarity from the State Department on whether it's proper to book events at Trump properties. He called this, quote, "unchartered territory", Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Jim Acosta, thank you.

Let's get more now with our political experts. We have Rebecca Berg, David Swerdlick, and Ron Brownstein joining us remotely but here in the wall.

And I wonder what you think, David, about Donald Trump today saying that this Berlin terror attack has proven him to be right. Or is that what he was saying? Can you try to help us make sense of what these brief comments were at his resort in Mar-a-Lago?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, Bri, when you look at him in conjunction with that tweet from a day or two ago where he talked about people in the civilized world need to change their approach to terror, I think that President-elect Trump just really runs the risk of overblowing the issue in a way that does not -- terrorism is serious, but the way that he is saying that he's going to handle it -- in a month, he's going to be the president and it's not how tough he talks about it, but what he does and whether he would change course from President Obama.

KEILAR: It's a concern many people have, and I mean, we're not just talking about critics, Rebecca. We're not just talking about Democrats. We've heard for instance, General Petraeus who is being considered for the secretary of state job at one point, saying, if you talk like this about Muslims or you lump them in with Islamists, you run the risk of actually helping recruitment. And they worry that Donald Trump, his rhetoric is going to have a very strong effect on that.

REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: That's right. One of the things that Donald Trump is going to need to begin to recognize, and it doesn't look like he's quite yet, is how much weight your words have when you are president of the United States. Not only domestically, but internationally, and words have effects on your relations with other countries, your words have effects on things you were trying to do as president.

Donald Trump doesn't really have a filter. He uses imprecise language. He hasn't even mapped out for us the exact plan he has in place for Muslims coming into this country, Muslims who are already in this country. He's been really vague by what he means by banning Muslims from coming into the country.

And so, he I think needs to come to the recognition of what his words mean and the weight that they carry when you're president of the United States.

KEILAR: But, Ron, with what he says today, it makes people wonder, is he going to be tough on immigration, as he teamed to be when he was campaigning. Which is it?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, it's a little hard to know exactly what he is pointing to. My guess, but it's a guess, is that he is where he ended the campaign, talking about extreme vetting and a ban -- a temporary ban on immigration from countries that they decide are essentially affected with terrorism, rather than the full-scale Muslim ban that he originally talked about. That was a position that he ended at. I thought that was what he was referring to today. But we don't know exactly.

And we do have this kind of a very unusual situation where you have a president-elect who is tweeting first, and maybe or maybe not consulting. You know, like for example, in the tweet on China, where unprecedented was spelled wrong, gives you a doubt that went through an exhaustive process of other aides before that was let loose on the world.

I think Donald Trump is going to resist being domesticated that we're talking about and having his every utterance kind of go through the exhaustive process we typically see for our president. [18:50:05] But it's going to be a coming of a wild ride not only for

domestic interests but for those around the world.

KEILAR: What did you think, Rebecca, of Donald Trump getting the presidential daily briefing today. He'd come under so much fire for not doing this regularly. It seemed like he was getting one a week, which was sparse. And now, his team is saying, three times a week. You had his national security advisor and others down in Florida.

Is this -- are they sensitive to this idea that he's not really waking up to the threats and responding to them correctly?

BERG: I think his team is extremely sensitive, Brianna, to the optics of this, right, because Donald Trump campaigned on being tough from national security perspective, tough from terrorism perspective. Understanding the world better than President Obama is what he said on the campaign trail. And so, they understand that his supporters might get a little skeptical if they don't see Donald Trump as treating this as a very important part of his job.

But I think the question remains as to whether he's going to be treating the briefings with the seriousness that I think they deserve because Donald Trump recently in an interview said that he thought he was smart enough he didn't need these briefings. We know from having spoken to his advisers in the past that he doesn't have a very long attention span for these types of briefings. And that is part of the struggle is getting him to focus and pay attention to these issues for a long enough period of time to have a conversation with him about it.

So, it's not clear to me that he is going to be actually taking these seriously. And I think he is going to need to show that. That's why having a press conference is going to be such an important test for him, because he hasn't for many weeks now since the throes of the campaign had a press conference where he's been forced to show that he understands what's going on and has thought through these issues. So, I think that is going to be an important test when it comes to that point.

SWERDLICK: He seems to think it is useful that President Obama takes these briefings most days and that Vice President-elect Pence takes these briefings most days. It would be nice to have an explanation as to why he doesn't think he specifically doesn't think these briefings most days, as the person the American people elected to take over their national security.

KEILAR: I'm going to have to leave it there. Thank you so much, David Swerdlick, Rebecca Berg, and Ron Brownstein. Really appreciate it.

I also do want to clarify something also quickly here earlier. CNN reported that Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is opening a new consulting firm in the same building as the Trump transition in Washington. Here's what we want to clarify. That new firm is actually located in the building where the transition office used to be located. The transition team has moved into new office space nearby. That happened a few weeks ago. And we certainly regret the confusion.

We do have breaking news ahead, new developments in the terror investigation into that deadly attack in Berlin. And is concern for the royal safety behind a very move by Britain's Queen Elizabeth?


[18:56:47] KEILAR: There is speculation tonight that security concerns may be behind some changes at the home of Britain's Queen Elizabeth. After the attack in Germany, police presence has increased around Buckingham Palace, especially around the changing of the guard ceremony.

Meantime, the palace says security concerns are not behind the decision by the queen and her husband, Prince Phillip, to delay their annual holiday trip to their country estate Sandringham. This is about two hours north of London. That's where the royal family traditionally spends Christmas.

In a statement, the palace says the 90-year-old monarch and the 95- year-old prince are both suffering from what they describe as heavy colds. There's no word if the trip has been canceled.

Israel's ambassador to the U.S. is calling on Washington to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This is a controversial move with major implications. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to carry this out.

Listen to what he told Wolf Blitzer back in March.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Will you recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?

TRUMP: Well, I'm going discuss that in an hour. But yes, I would.

BLITZER: When? How quickly after you become --

TRUMP: Fairly quickly. I mean, it's a process, but fairly quickly. I mean, the fact is, I would like to see it moved and I would like to see it in Jerusalem.


KEILAR: For more, we're joined now by CNN's Oren Liebermann from Jerusalem.

And this is a high level endorsement, Oren. So, what does it mean?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a very high level endorsement from Ron Dermer who's the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and he is considered one of Netanyahu's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's closest confidants and one of the few members of his inner circle. So, what does it mean? It means that Netanyahu's government, a right

wing government, supports wholeheartedly the move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, an American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Dermer said this at a Hanukkah party held by the embassy. He said, "Israel hopes next year when the new American ambassador to Israel lights the menorah to his embassy, he will light it in the same city where the Maccabees lit it 2,200 years ago. It would be a strong message against the delegitimization of Israel and of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital."

Jerusalem has always been one of those complicated issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts and one of the most sensitive issues. That, in fact, is why the embassy hasn't moved yet. The U.S. has always left Jerusalem open to final status of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. That's why such a move, moving the embassy from where it is now in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be such a game changer and such a break from decades of U.S. foreign policy.

KEILAR: And, Oren, quickly, what could a love like this overall mean for region?

LIEBERMANN: Well, the Palestinians have said they would be absolutely furious about such a move, considering it, in fact, a violation of international law. PLO Secretary General has said that the PLO would consider revoking their recognition of Israel and canceling agreements between Israelis and the Palestinians. Those are drastic threats. They may not carry through with those threats, but it's an indication of how significant the move would be. It could adversely effect the relation between the U.S. and the Palestinians and the relations between the U.S. and the Arab states.

KEILAR: Potentially huge consequences as you're outlining there.

Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem, thank you.

I'm Brianna Keilar. And I thank you very much for watching tonight.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.