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U.S. Plans on U.N. Settlement Vote in Flux; White House Ending Registry Program that Targeted Muslims; Putin Praises Ambassador at Funeral; Russia Blames U.S. for "Frozen" Dialogue; Expanding State Security in Germany Controversial; Death Toll Rises in Mexico Fireworks Explosion; "Jeopardy" Champ with Cancer Dies. Aired 11:30- 12p ET

Aired December 22, 2016 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And why? Western officials telling me that's because the Egyptian government, who proposed this resolution in the first place, has been under pressure from the Israelis. So obviously, a flurry of diplomatic activity going on behind the scenes. Now that vote has been put on hold. The Arab League, all Arab states meeting today to go over that text and so that vote and Secretary Kerry's speech on hold for now until everybody sees a new text.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just to be clear, the reason this was significant is people thought this might be virtually unprecedented stuff where the United States would split from Israel inside the united nations which is really something we have not seen before, correct?

LABOTT: It would have been a huge development by the Obama administration as they are walking out the door. You know, the relationship between the leaders, President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, has been fraught. Now you have President-elect Trump putting his finger on the scale. He was tweeting earlier today putting out a statement that the U.S. should veto this resolution. He has said that he would veto any action at the United States against Israel. So, you have to put this all in context.

U.S. officials tell me this has nothing to do with President-elect Trump, nothing to do with his very controversial ambassador he's appointed, David Friedman, who is vehemently opposed to settlements.

But clearly, there's a lot of diplomatic activity behind the scenes between Israel, the Israelis, and we have to see whether the Trump transition is reaching out to these parties to see -- to make their views known.

VAUSE: David Friedman, supportive of settlements and the right to build settlements in the West Bank.


VAUSE: Elise Labott, thanks so much. We will get back to you on this, I'm sure, because there are so many developments on this continuing today. We also have new developments out of Russia. A very somber President

Vladimir Putin joined mourners a short time ago at funeral services for his ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, who was assassinated in the Turkish capital by a Turkish police officer shouting about Russian involvement in Aleppo.

President Putin today praised his country's military performance in Syria. And he also said Russia's military nuclear capabilities need to be bolstered. This comes as Moscow blames the United States for frozen contacts between the two nations. The Kremlin told CNN any dialogue between the two nations is minimal.

I want to go live to CNN senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, in Moscow.

Matthew, a number of developments on this with the Kremlin speaking today.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORERSPODNENT: Yeah. That's right. First of all, the funeral that took place today. President Putin attending that, paying his last respects to the slain ambassador who was in place in Turkey when he was assassinated so dramatically on television. That's horrified many Russians and sent a very strong message to them that Russia's involvement in the Syrian conflict, since it's believed to have been connected with the Syrian war, is not without its consequences and costs. The president of Russia, Putin, didn't speak at the funeral but did speak later to a meeting of defense personnel, at which the following incredible statistics were disclosed by his defense minister. They say since they started their involvement in the Syrian campaign in September 2015, 35,000 terrorists, as they call them, have been killed, a total of 71,000 air strikes conducted by the Russian forces. These are incredible figures. Of course, we have to treat them with a high degree of skepticism. Not the number of dead, but the number of dead who are terrorists, because the Russians don't acknowledge that any civilians, not even one civilian, has been killed by Russian air strikes and that obviously is in contradiction to the dramatic and terrible testimony we have seen from the ground inside Syria.

VAUSE: Matthew Chance in Moscow, where I should note we will hear at length from President Vladimir Putin tomorrow when he delivers his annual hours-long news conference. Very interesting to hear what he says.

I want to bring in CNN's former Moscow bureau chief, Jill Dougherty. She's a consultant on Russia and a global fellow for the Woodrow Wilson Center.

I want to start with statements made by Putin on nuclear capabilities of Russia, where all of a sudden it seems to me he's talking about bolstering the nuclear capabilities of Russia. That feels Cold War- ish all of a sudden.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR & GLOBAL FELLOW, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Well, nuclear weapons are Cold War-ish, that's true. But I think what he's doing is he's answering the installation of an anti- missile shield by the United States in Europe and saying we are going to develop weapons that can penetrate that shield. So, if you look at it big picture, I think what he's saying is we have done a good job in Syria because if you look at the way the Russian army looked say -- or the air force, the military in general, looked in 2008 when they were in Georgia, they were in bad shape. He has reformed the military, he's poured a lot of money into it. They have new weapons. And part of why Russia wanted to do Syria and this operation was to be like a big advertisement for their weapons, and the efficacy of those weapons and also to show their military is back and able to really be disciplined, and it is true, they are in much better shape.

[11:35:24] But he's also kind of warning the United States that anything you develop, we can overcome. So, that's, again, all of this I think you have to look at it in terms of the incoming administration. Just a few weeks from now, these are all messages directed at the Trump administration, with criticism of President Obama. President Obama now is the bad guy and Russia is saying, look, we can start over, we can talk, et cetera, with the new guy.

VAUSE: It certainly seems as if that message has been received and has been for several months now with the way President-elect Donald Trump has been speaking about Russia and speaking about Vladimir Putin. You brought up the statements the Kremlin had made about this administration, the Obama administration, and the idea that the relationship was essentially frozen with only minimal contacts. In a way, they are only stating what is at one level the case. The United States and Russia have relationships that are chilly. I don't know if that's the translation for frozen but it's clear the relationship isn't good right now.

DOUGHERTY: I think what he's referring to, that was a spokesperson for Putin, I think what he was referring to is after Russia annexed Crimea and moved some troops into Ukraine, the United States decided to punish them essentially with the cold treatment, the cold shoulder, don't talk, and the U.S., the state department ended at least temporarily put on hold this presidential commission, the U.S./Russia bilateral presidential commission, which has been in existence for a long time. There are a lot of different baskets in that. They talk about agriculture, space, health and nukes. So, they put that on hold and the Russians have been saying essentially look, we want to talk, it's your fault. For a while they were saying it's your fault, America. Now they are saying it's your fault, President Obama. Again, with the new president, they are sending messages well, we can talk but we're strong.

VAUSE: The subject of talking, Vladimir Putin tomorrow will talk in extraordinary lengthy terms when he delivers the sort of annual sit- down news conference that goes on and on and on and on. It's like nothing we see here in the United States. Do you imagine he will address the issue of President-elect Trump and the incoming administration during this period?

DOUGHERTY: Oh, no question. As you said, it goes on sometimes three hours, four hours. And there's no way that he's not going to get questions about that. We'll have to see what he says. In the beginning, in a simplified form, everyone says Trump wants to be friends with Putin. That is true. But they don't necessarily trust that Trump will be able to follow through on all of this. So how he plays it would be very interesting.

VAUSE: Jill Dougherty, always great to talk to you. Thanks for your help.

Up next, we are just learning this morning that two Americans were injured in the attack on the Christmas market in Berlin. We have details ahead.

And then, there's huge manhunt for the suspect moving into another day. So many people are wondering why we haven't heard about surveillance cameras that capture footage of the incident. Why isn't there more footage?


[11:42:01] VAUSE: Germany's federal prosecutor says fingerprints of the Tunisian suspect, Anis Amri, were found on the door of the truck used in the Berlin attack. This, as the investigate continues largely without one resource that has been helpful in U.S. investigations and other European nations as well. We're talking about mountains of footage and data from surveillance cameras. It just doesn't exist in Germany.

Here's CNN's Brynn Gingras.




BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When a bomb exploded during the 2013 Boston Marathon --


GINGRAS: -- surveillance cameras showed the smoke rising over the finish line. But that wasn't all they revealed. For investigators, footage from street cameras exposed critical information, the faces of the Tsarnaev brothers, who set off the explosion, and the backpack they used to carry the bomb to the race. Those pictures wallpapered the city and aided the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. His older brother, Tamarlan, was killed in a gun battle with police.

While footage obtained from closed-circuit television sometimes depicts difficult moments to watch, each frame can be invaluable to investigators. It often leads authorities to the suspect, as it did in Boston.


GINGRAS: In Brussels, twin explosions at the airport and a train station in March were documented by passengers.


GINGRAS: Cell phone video revealed devastated wreckage through thick smoke. But it quickly centered around this image, taken by airport cameras. Three men pushing luggage carts, two of them suicide bombers who police believe wore gloves to conceal the detonators. After a manhunt, authorities arrested the third man, in the hat.

On a New York City street in September, closed-circuit television shows window store fronts shattering and people running for their lives. NYPD investigators were able to rewind the footage from street cameras and spotted Ahmed Khan Rahami (ph) in one location where a pressure-cooker bomb was found.

Law enforcement officials say surveillance video helps to create a time line of suspect's movements before they take action. Terrorists buying supplies in London before committing a series of attacks on the transit system in 2005. And camera footage obtained by, shows terrorists taking control of a Paris cafe during a series of attacks in 2015. One of those cameras revealing a dramatic moment when a woman's life was spared because a suspect's gun seemingly jammed.

Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.


VAUSE: Our thanks to Brynn for that.

Joining me, CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem. Juliette has worked in Homeland Security, both in Massachusetts and at the federal level for a long time.

The reason there aren't as many surveillance cameras in Germany is because of its history, right, with totalitarian regimes, with East Germany, with Communism before that, with the Gestapo in Nazi Germany. There are laws or had been laws on the books against constant surveillance. That appears to be changing a little bit.

But the absence of all these cameras really does set back an investigation at its early stages. There's a lot of information you don't know that we did know here.

[11:45:08] JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Exactly right. So, look, Germany is -- has a long history of fears of a central state and surveillance state so their decisions are based on their own history in the same way our decisions are based on our constitution and history. That will change. It needs to change, because when these attacks happen, very rare, almost no instance in which you can stop something from happening because of a camera, but after the fact putting the pieces together after the fact, in particular, was he with anyone beforehand, what direction might he have gone, what was he carrying and wearing. As you piece together the investigation, was he looking at the area, was he staking it out, did he try to grab another truck at some other stage. All of those things could be answered if you had a lot of images. We don't have them in this case. VAUSE: Don't forget, within the first 24 hours of this investigation,

they had a suspect in custody. Apparently, just the wrong guy. That in and of itself --

KAYYEM: The camera would have shown that that guy was actually four blocks away at that moment. In fact, it took 20 hours of sort of essential time for them to figure out he was not at the market at the moment that the truck came through.

VAUSE: I want to talk now about a completely different issue here in the United States. It has to do with the issue of immigrants coming to the United States and how they are monitored once here, because there was a law on the book, this program in place that did monitor people from certain countries for certain periods of time. There were points of contact with officials and government agencies and these people once they were here.

When you were working at Homeland Security, you essentially made the program dormant. Now we are learning today that the Obama administration is going to eliminate it all together. Explain what the program was and what this means.

KAYYEM: The program was a post-9/11 program and it was a country- based designation program that men of a certain age would be given sort of higher review. It wasn't a ban. It was just a higher review. Over time, when the Obama administration came into place -- I should say all of those countries were Muslim countries except for I think we put North Korea in there for good measure. So, when the Obama administration came in, it wasn't that they weren't tracking people or people who might be on lists. It was that technology had made a country designation obsolete. In fact, as we are seeing now, someone coming in from Germany might be a harm. You don't want to base it on country. You want to base it on specific issues where they traveled, are they part of a terrorist organization. So, we essentially suspended it. In other words, took all the countries off the list. We didn't repeal it because we never thought anyone would think this was a good idea again. Now the Trump administration making I would say coy but not yet direct references to a new registry. Now the president rightfully said it's obsolete, it makes everyone angry, it doesn't work. The threat environment has changed. We need to focus our efforts on specific individuals rather than giving a broad sort of Muslim brush. I should also say, religion is not on people's passports.

VAUSE: No, but this is something people are looking at saying the Obama administration is trying to slow down something that the Trump administration will want to do because he has said he does want to keep an eye on people coming in from certain countries. We will continue to watch this.

Juliette, always great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

KAYYEM: Thanks.

VAUSE: Up next for us, the death toll rising in the tragic fireworks explosion in Mexico. People there still searching for missing family members. We take you will live.


[11:51:42] VAUSE: The death toll is rising from huge explosions at the fireworks market north of Mexico City. Authorities confirm 33 people were killed. Forensic teams and desperate family members are still searching for more victims.

CNN's Sara Sidner joins us from the site of the explosions.

Sara, I understand you've spoken to some family members there.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPODNENT: Yes, I mean, there are families still looking for their loved one, because some of the people who were so devastated by this blast were charred so badly authorities couldn't figure out who they were and are having to do DNA testing.

I want to let you listen to a gentleman who came up to us. He was desperate. He had a picture of his mother, looking for her.


SIDNER: Where have you been looking for her?

JORGE AVALOS MIRANDA, LOOKING FOR FAMILY MEMBER (through translator): Yes. I have been looking for her in hospitals. I can't find her there. She is not registered anywhere. We've talked to ambulances. They don't have her there. We've checked morgues. They haven't found anyone with her characteristics.


SIDNER: And that's the story for quite a lot of people. Some people still standing outside the morgue, some at hospitals waiting to see the -- what has happened to their loved ones and if they're going to make it. We've also learned, John, at least eight children have been confirmed dead in this terrible blast.

And I know you're probably looking at the pictures of that blast. We've also learned something new. I want to give you a look at the scene here this morning. We've been talking to a stall owner as well as looking at some great reporting by the newspaper here, and what they said was the reason this may have happened, not because, but the reason why it was so bad and there was a chain reaction, is they have tried to change this market, in 2005, after a fire there. And then the vendors broke some of the rules and put their fireworks in places where they could catch fire if another firework stall caught fire. So, that may be one of the reasons why you saw this huge chain reaction -- John?

VAUSE: Those pictures are astounding.

Sara Sidner for us. Thank you so much, Sara.

Up next, a "Jeopardy" contestant who died from cancer before she could see her appearances on TV. Her final episode aired last night. Alex Trebek gave a touching tribute and details on her final wish. That's next.



[11:57:15] ALEX TREBEK, HOST, JEOPARDY: And our returning champion, a science content developer from Austin, Texas, Cindy Stowell, whose six-day cash winnings total $103,803.



VAUSE: A champion until the end. Cindy passed away earlier this month after a fight with cancer. But not before she put up quite a fight on "Jeopardy." Ended up with a six-game winning streak as "Jeopardy" champ. Her final episode on the show aired last night.

Host Alex Trebek shared how Cindy dreamed of competing on the show.


TREBEK: For the past six Jeopardy programs, you folks have been getting to know the talented champion, Cindy Stowell. To appear on our show was the fulfillment a lifelong ambition for that lady.

What you did not know is when we taped these programs with her a few weeks ago, she was suffering is from stage-4 cancer. Sadly, on December 5th, Cindy Stowell passed away.

From all of us here at "Jeopardy," our sincere condolences to her family and her friends.


VAUSE: That was Alex Trebek.

CNN's Rachel Crane joins me know.

Cindy, she didn't tell people about her illness.

RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, it's really inspiring her. She had a fever, was on pain pills during those tapings. She didn't tell any of her competitors, only a handful of producers and "Jeopardy" host, Alex Trebek. The show paid tribute to her last night as you just heard.

Also, they revealed and released a behind the scenes video in which Cindy, rather emotionally, spoke about her condition and where she would be donating the money.


CINDY STOWELL, JEOPARDY CONTESTANT HAD CANCER: It was kind of just a line in the sand that I drew. I wanted to donate a lot of the money to cancer research. Partly, because -- this is hard. And I'm sorry. Maybe I should pause or something like that. But I'm dying cancer, and I really would like the money that I win to be used to help others, and so this seems like a good opportunity.


CRANE: So touching hearing her words there. Her legacy is going to include a sizable donation. I mean, she won over $100,000 on Jeopardy during her six-day winning streak.

And this really was the fulfillment of a lifelong goal. She described how, in ninth grade, she auditioned for a junior tournament and didn't make it, so really making it on to "Jeopardy" before she passed was a lifelong dream.

VAUSE: What a champion, and not just how she won on "Jeopardy."

Rachel Crane, thanks so much for being with us.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[12:00:10] VAUSE: Top of the hour. John Berman here.

We have new and alarming developments --