Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Berlin Terror Suspect "Violent and Armed"; Trump Can't Stop Tweeting About Popular Vote Loss; Manhunt for Tunisian Suspect Anis Amri; Official: Amri Has Ties To Radical Islamist Groups; Merkel Govt. Facing Backlash Over Refugee Policies; Russian Ambassador's Funeral Set For Thursday; Aleppo's Bana Meet Turkey's President; Fireworks Market Blast Kills At Least 33 People; Trump Speaks Out on Berlin Terror Attack; Will Trump "Drain the Swamp"; Many Democrats Don't Want Hillary to Run in 2020; Big Boost for Trump's Plan to Move U.S. Embassy to Tel Aviv; Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip Postpone Holiday Travel. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired December 22, 2016 - 01:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:00:19] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN "Newsroom" live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour, armed and dangerous, a new suspect in the Berlin terror attack is on the loose.

Plus, the death toll is rising from the firework explosion at a market near Mexico City and a number of people are still missing.

And later, almost 3 million more people voted to Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump and the president-elect can't seem to stop tweeting about it.

Hello everybody, we'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm great to have you with us. I'm John Vause. We're now into the second hour of "Newsroom L.A."

There's an urgent search across Europe right now for a new suspect in the Berlin Christmas market attack. Anis Amri is a 24-year-old from Tunisia. His identity papers were found inside the truck which barreled into the crowd. Amri went to Germany last year and he's known to police.

He was arrested in August coming false document, but authorities were unable to deport him. They say he is linked to radical Islamist groups. The FBI is working with German authorities in this investigation. We get details from Brian Todd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A frantic manhunt and an urgent message across Europe warning people to stay away from this man and to help find him. German police say 24-year-old Anis Amri from Tunisia is now caught under urgent suspicion in the Christmas market attack in Berlin that killed a dozen people and wounded almost 50 others. Police say Amri's identification was found inside the truck along with the truck's original driver who had been shot at close range. As the search for alleged terrorist expands including raids by police in Northern Germany where he lived, there is growing concerns about his links to ISIS.

RALF JAGER, INTERIOR MINISTER, NORTH RHINE-WESTPHALIA STATE (through translation): He had contact with radical Islamist organizations. Various security services assessed him as a person who poses a risk.

TODD: ISIS has claimed responsibility for inspiring the attack and CNN has learned Amri has connections to an ISIS recruiting operation. Finally, would be terrorists to the group strongholds in Syria and Iraq.

Even more concerning, German officials once had Amri in custody. Official say he previously faced an assault charge and didn't show up in court. He was arrested this past August with forged documents according to a German security official. But when day tried to deport him, they couldn't.

Police say he had to so many fake names and papers that under a German law they couldn't send him back to Tunisia. Official tells CNN, Amri could be using one of those aliases and may have the help of a support network.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: The concern is because of his connections to this ISIS recruitment network he has contacts, resources, infrastructure to either help him hide or to help leave the country.

TODD: The possibility of accomplices for Anis Amri presents another challenge for police according to a former U.S. marshal whose work with the German to track prejudice.

JOHN CULL, FORMER U.S. MARSHAL: You have to be mindful that the suspect himself or his associates in his organization could be watching this broadcast as well. So law enforcement is going to be careful and sensitive as to what they're disclosing.

TODD: Now German authorities aren't saying much, only that Amri is 5'10" tall, weighs about 165 pounds and he is "violent and armed."

And another urgent concern now that Anis Amri's name and face are plastered all over T.V. screens across Europe, he and whoever he could working with might accelerate any plans they could have for a future attack.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And we're now hearing from survivors of Monday's rampage. One of them, an Italian man says he was hit by the speeding truck.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GIUSEPPE LA GRASSA, BERLIN ATTACK SURVIVOR (through translation): We were at the market and I just remember the sound of truck speeding up. It turned around to look for my wife and I suddenly found myself on the ground. The truck hit me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): What did you see around you?

LA GRASSA (through translation): I saw so many people on the ground motionless. We managed to go to the exit. The Paramedics took us to hotel and rescued us. He treated me and then a hotel car took us to the military hospital.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Live to Berlin now and Chris Burns is standing by. So, Chris, how this attack now change the balance in Germany between freedom on the one hand and security on the other?

CHRIS BURNS, JOURNALIST: Well, John, that's a good question because when you see headlines like this, this morning and in the context of what you just heard in the reports they knew him, they did nothing.

[01:05:06] Well, that's not exactly right. They did a lot, but they couldn't keep him for legal reasons. They had to let Anis Amri go. But there is plenty of blowback. There's plenty of political blowback.

And, let's talk to Dominic Thomas who is a professor, the Chair of the Francophone Studies at UCLA. You're also specialist on E.U. studies. Dominic, what do you think the blowback is going to be for Merkel, for Chancellor Merkel? What is that -- how is that going to hurt her?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CHAIR, DEPT. OF FRENCH AND FRANCOPHONE STUDIES, UCLA: Well, the 2017 will be the German general election and as we lead into that, other political parties primarily on the far right, the AFD, the Alternative for Germany and the smaller groups like the Fageda group, this anti-Islam groups have been using this particular attack as a way to build momentum going into that election.

BURNS: We even saw that last night. They were protesting both the Alternative, Ferguson and Fageda were outside the chancellory of Madam Merkel.

THOMAS: Right. And they're saying, you know, Merkel must go. Merkel has blood on her hands picking up on some of the rhetoric from the far right parties in the Netherlands and elsewhere have talk about this. President-elect Trump has weight in on these kinds of questions.

And so they're using the issue of migration and linking it directly to terror attack and to problems of security in Germany. This is a real problem now, but before Trump's to Merkel as she had been to this campaign of how she's going to position herself on these latest attacks.

BURNS: So it's not only internal politics, but its politics within Europe and also beyond even in the U.S. where President-elect Donald Trump is saying, "Look, I told you so."

THOMAS: Absolutely. And this carried out even to the demonstration last night, because even though the AFT with that, it's also important to note that other people showed up to counter that demonstration.

And they in fact picked up on some of the post-Trump elections. I mean, by saying, you know, no fear, immigrants are welcome here, no fear, no hate. So there's a counter to that as well, which was tangible last night.

BURNS: So that we haven't seen any polls yet. It's too soon after this attack was just three days ago. Life is trying to come back to normal. In fact, the lights on are behind us, lights are on at that market right.

THOMAS: Right.

BURNS: It's going to reopen today. The traffic is going through the boulevard behind us. That's the first time since the attacks. We're trying to come back to normal, but how is Merkel going to be able to keep the voters behind her? We're seeing that the -- her cabinet has moved a little bit to the right there approving a couple of things?

THOMAS: Yes, they don't think -- I think the very fact that Berlin is trying to get back to normal is both striking, but it's also I think a deliberate attempt to show that they refuse to give in to fear that life must carry on. The streets are open again. The market will be open later and other markets were open in Berlin at the time.

But you're absolutely right that just recently her cabinet has been talking about banning the full-face covering of Muslims. This is a clear attempt to appeal to some of the CSU, Southern Bavaria Party that has been talking about Islam and these kinds of questions.

BURNS: Horst Seehofer the head of the CSU that sister party in Bavaria, sister party to Madam Merkel's CDU saying after the attacks that we have to look again. We have to re-examine the refugee policy. What is that going to mean? How is that going to change?

THOMAS: Yeah, well, this is interesting because you're seeing this in other areas of Europe, all this people. The French election is coming up. The Dutch election is coming up where these questions have been talking about that there is a general Europe-wide move to the right and to the far right and to discussing this kinds of questions.

However, what Chancellor Merkel has been very careful to do if the de- link to this associate terror with migration, but obviously, it's a difficult case to make given the fact that the primary suspect in this particular case is somebody that entered Germany precisely through those lines.

BURNS: Thank very much, Dominic Thomas. Thank you. We'll talk a little bit more later about that.

Let's look a little bit more at the internal politics of this. We're talking to Kai Whittaker via Skype who is in Baden-Baden at the moment. Kai Whittaker is a member of Chancellor Merkel's CDU, Christian Democratic Union Party which is in power here. Mr. Whittaker can you hear me?

KAI WHITTAKER, BUNDESTAG MEMBER, CDU: Good morning.

BURNS: Good morning. Let's talk a little bit more about internal politics. We saw just yesterday that the -- that Madam Merkel's cabinet has approved two things banning the face veils for a public employees and also allowing more video surveillance in places like these behind me to try to track down anyone who does commit some kind of terrorist act. Do you see this as Madam Merkel moving to the right?

WHITTAKER: Well, we're just trying to improve the security policy in this country. There are laws that have been discussed for quite a while with our Coalition Labour Party. But then we have other measures which are still on the table, which could just help probably to prevent this attack.

[01:10:08] BURNS: OK. But do you think -- how much more is this going to drive the government to the right from these attacks where we even seeing Horst Seehofer I just mentioned saying that we have to re- examine refugee policy. How is that going to be re-examined? What do you think could change as far as that policy goes?

WHITTAKER: The problem is not within the Conservative Party, the CDU (inaudible) or Horst Seehofer and Angela Merkel. The problem is between the government, between Conservative Party and the Labour Party.

We have been discussing to declare the Northern African countries as so-called secure countries of origins so that people from those countries can't claim an asylum. That wouldn't help in that case because the suspect is from Tunisia.

And there are other measures which we need to get through parliament, which are in parliament not for settlements and Labour Party and the Green Party are constantly blocking us and now we have to keep up pressure on those two.

BURNS: OK. But, I mean, as far as any concrete measures -- I mean, as far as allowing more migrants, more refugees into Germany do you think the door is going to slam shut as the result of this?

WHITTAKER: In the past 12 months we have had several policy reforms on the asylum system, which helped to bring down the number of refugees. I think that was a successful conserved policy, but we must go ahead.

There are several other issues between -- we have to deal with. For example, we have one federal law on deportation, but there are 16 interpretations because each state is responsible for deportation and that can't be accepted any more.

If you look at the state of Berlin, the new government there just declared that they won't deport any refugee even if they're not allowed to stay in Germany. That is irresponsible.

BURNS: OK. And just the fact that at the moment, the chief suspect, Anis Amri, a long-time criminal in both -- in Tunisia, in Italy, accused in Germany as well. Is that any sense of relief to Merkel and her government that this was not a recent refugee?

WHITTAKER: Well, I don't think the question is whether it's a recent refugee or not. It just shows that the European countries have to work more closely together. He was a refugee in 2012 in Italy, committed some crimes (inaudible) there and then fled to Germany last year.

If we had a European asylum system that should never have happened that he was able to stay for over four years in the European Union and that's why Angela Merkel is right to keep on pressing other European countries to implement a European scheme.

BURNS: And finally, this is the probably the toughest question for you, but with this elections coming up in the fall in Germany, how much damage is this attack going to do to your coalition? How much do you -- could you risk losing votes and perhaps even losing power?

WHITTAKER: That is too early to say and I don't speculate on that. What we have to do now is to make sure that every measure is taken to protect the people of Germany and the Conservative Party has done so in the past 12 months. I said that we have several policy reforms on the table. Now, it's time for Labour and the Green Party to move so that we can go ahead with those policy reforms.

BURNS: Kai Whittaker, CDU member of the Bundestag here in Germany speaking via Skype from Baden-Baden. Thank you very much, Mr. Whittaker.

And we'll be watching this. As we discussed, we haven't seen a poll yet after this attack. But that will be very interesting to see how the public is reacting to this on a national level. Back to you, John.

VAUSE: OK, Chris, thank you.

For more now on the manhunt (inaudible) investigation, we're joined by security expert Aaron Cohen. He's a former member of Israel's Special Operation Counter Terrorist Unit.

Aaron, the question now is why was a failed asylum seeker with Amri's background actually walking on the streets and how many other Anis Amris are out there waiting to get behind the wheel?

AARON COHEN, FORMER ISRAEL'S SPECIAL FORCES: Well, those are all good questions. The attempt to the first part of it, the failed law enforcement is the reason why he was capable of being able to move around. He was obviously -- he was arrested in Italy and ended up in Germany.

[01:15:02] For whatever reason, the policies regarding counter- terrorism in Europe are still pre-teen. They just -- everybody needs to grow up in Europe right now regarding the terror threat. And it's no more Mr. Nice guy and -- with the immigration and with the Merkel. I mean, politics have to be completely weeded out and the policies and the law enforcement routines need to reflect a modern threat. So, that needs to be upgraded.

VAUSE: A new reality then?

COHEN: This is a home -- yeah, it's under framing of just the way it looks at.

VAUSE: On the other hand, does it sit easily with you that it was this guy's identification papers which were found in the truck. It old (ph) seemed to little bit too easy in some aspects. Could they've been planted there, a theory which is out there.

COHEN: I believe that this guy had help. I think he's part of the network. I think this is more sophisticated than everybody or that people want to talk about publicly. I think there are closed forums and groups where these guys are getting help and information, how to lease trucks and how to get these vehicles and how to do the logistical part of tearing out an act of terrorist, which is low tech and fairly easy to the do.

The trick is to keep from raising any red flags while you're committing or just before you commit the act of terrorist. So, these networks are out there. The stuff is durable and, again, this is the needs to be addressed all of Europe needs to come together and start looking at this picture in the macro sense of the fight here.

VAUSE: OK. We'll listen (inaudible) how in Germany right now, because apparently Amri is linked to Ahmad Abdullah al-Aziz. Abdullah is also known as (inaudible). According to some reports, he is the top ISIS -- recruiter of the top ISIS guy in Germany.

They call him the faceless preacher, but we managed here this photograph of him. Given the links does to Abdullah, does that indicate you to that, you know, he now has support there in Germany. He's in a safe house somewhere. You know, they'll be working to get him out maybe back to Iraq or on Syria or maybe out to another country or are they planning another attack?

COHEN: Well, I think that, first of all, this Abdullall al-Aziz is a very dangerous guy. He is somebody who's being looked at like I said by multiple governments because of his ability to inside terror. And the fact that he's linked to ISIS, mean he's directly connected to ISIS, means he's able to provide operational support to this guy on the run.

And I do believe that he is probably in some safe house hold up in secondary or third or tertiary location hold up just like we saw back in Nice when these guys were on the land and then ended up by getting gun down or getting arrested in Belgium.

And so, I believe he's probably still in Europe. I think it's going to be too tough for him to get to the Middle East right now. I feel like they will close on him at some point in the coming days or weeks. But this guy, Abdullah al-Aziz, he is a real terrorist. This guy -- his ability to incite and to be able continue to have this -- is would be lone wolves. So this is not how to define lone wolf, totally committed or somebody who just wants to jump into the terrorism act. He is someone like, I said who's being looked at very, very closely.

VAUSE: Like a German Anwar al-Awlaki, himself.

COHEN: The ability to be able to excite and recruitment from the assignment is so deadly that I wouldn't be surprised if every piece of communication that he is holding -- isn't be listened at some point. So -- but I think they're going to be close on this guy in the coming weeks if not sooner.

VAUSE: Yup.

COHEN: My concern is how do we make sure that we can do that quick enough and how does Europe get this -- get to Iraq together with the big boy hat on to be able to prevent further attacks because they could be a second one looming.

VAUSE: OK. Aaron, thank you. Appreciate it.

COHEN: Thanks John.

VAUSE: We'll take a short break here on "Newsroom L.A." It is 10:18 here on the West Coast. When we come back, families are pleading with the Mexican government to help them find their missing loved ones after deadly explosions at a fireworks market.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:21:02] RHIANNON JONES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: I'm Rhiannon Jones with your CNN World Sports headlines. We start with a huge match-up in Bundesliga, Bayern they're hosting the all star (ph) Leipzig in a battle of one versus two ahead of the game.

A minute's silence contributes to those that died in the Berlin attack on a Christmas market on Monday. Defending champs started confidently then it went from bad to worse. For Leipzig reduce the 10 in the first half, (inaudible) it ended for Bayern.

And update on Petra Kvitova following not shocking attack by an intruder her home on Tuesday. Her P.R. manager has confirmed to CNN that she weren't return to the tennis court for at least six months.

The two times Wimbledon champion spent almost four hours in surgery to repair the tendons and nerves in her left hand which is her playing hand. The operations such had gone very well and Petra is expected to begin rehabilitation in around six to eight weeks. Doctors say they are optimistic the 26 years old will play tennis again.

Many Formula One fans are anxious to find out who will take that much (inaudible) to vacant Mercedes seat. Well, no confirmation yet, but can tell you that Daniel Ricciardo has moved himself out. The charismatic Australian driver has said he's committed to Red Bull for the next two years. Mercedes are on the look out for a driver's team with Lewis Hamilton following the shock retirement of world champion Nico Rosberg.

That's a look at your sports headlines. I'm Rhiannon Jones in London.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Two hours from now, Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the funeral of Andrei Karlov, Russia's Ambassador to Turkey who was assassinated on Monday.

Karlov was delivering a speech at an art gallery in Ankara when he was shot dead by a policeman. Russia and Turkey have launched a joint investigation, 12 people have reportedly being detained.

Turkey's President Recep Erdogan says that the shooter was a follower of the exiled cleric, Fethullah Gulen. But Russia is urging Turkey not to rush to judgment.

One of the most heart breaking stories from Aleppo, Syria concerns a brave 7-year-old girl. Bana al-Abed used Twitter account to try and tell the world what was happening in Aleppo. At one point there were tweet that she may not survive. But, now Bana is safe in Turkey's capital and CNN's Muhammad Lila has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's the latest footage of 7-year old Bana al-Abed, not in war torn Syria but in Turkey's presidential palace in a carefully managed photo app with President Erdogan.

With the camera lens snapping away, Bana wearing new clothes smiles, kissing Erdogan on the cheek. He in turn kisses her hand. Later, she and her brothers sit on Erdogan's lap.

She looks to Erdogan and says --

BANA AL-ABED, FROM ALEPPO: I would like to thank you for the buses that you drive to Aleppo and help us to get out in Aleppo (ph).

LILA: The opulence of the presidential palace is a stark contrast to the doom's day scenario she and her mother had been warning about on Twitter for weeks. Living in an area controlled by the armed opposition, an area bombarded almost daily by air strikes and artillery, her family somehow managed to get an internet connection.

Her mother tweeting several times that each tweet would be their last. But, the tweets weren't their last. As the evacuations were underway, photos of young Bana surfaced smiling at a refugee camp run by a Turkish religious charity in Northern Syria.

At one point, her mother tweeted directly to Turkey's President and Foreign Minister saying, "Please, please, please, makes the cease-fire work and gets us out now." [01:25:02] Turkey's foreign ministry told reporters they were making special arrangements specifically for Bana and her family to be whisked out of Syria and straight to Turkey's capital, Ankara.

Many praise Bana and her family for offering a daring glimpse into the harsh realities of living through a devastating war.

AL-ABED: Stands with Aleppo.

LILA: But critics accused armed rebels of exploiting her to further a conflict that killed hundreds of thousands of people on both sides.

Today, Bana's only tweets were these. The official government photos of her smiling and safe.

Muhammad Lila from along the Turkish Syrian border, CNN.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: To Mexico now, the market where a deadly fireworks explosion happened is becoming a graveyard. At least 33 people are now confirmed dead from Tuesday's blast. Forensic teams are coming to through the chance rabble searching for human remains. CNN's Leyla Santiago is on the scene. Leyla?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, there are certainly a strong desire for not only the families searching for answers, but also for law enforcement and rescue crews who have spent much of the day in this market going through the debris trying to figure out exactly what led to this explosion.

When you ask government officials here they will tell you that the focus is on the victims and providing support. But, there really isn't much information as far as what caused it or what preliminary cause investigators maybe looking at right now. I know at this time a lot of families are asking the government to help them find their family members there.

I spoke to one woman who went to the morgue, who went to the hospital and it's still standing outside that fence hoping to get more answers. This is a market by the way that just nine days ago state government officials called one of the safest in Latin-America and is it massive.

We're talking about 10 football fields give or take and about 300 vendors that government officials tell me all had permits to be here as people came here to look for fireworks for Christmas and New Year, which is something that is very, very common. But in meantime, the investigation continues and the search for answers not only for law enforcement but also for families. John?

VAUSE: Leyla, thank you. We'll take a short break here.

When we come back, Donald Trump says he's staying on top of the terror attack in Germany, but he still tweeting about how he won the election. That's next on "Newsroom L.A."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:31:02] VAUSE: It has just gone 10:31 on the west coast. Welcome back, everybody. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause.

The headlines this hour --

(HEADLINES)

VAUSE: Donald Trump is speaking out publicly about the Berlin terror attacks but his comments may not be easing concerns about his command of foreign policy.

Here's Jeff Zeleny.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Florida today, Donald Trump receiving his first intelligence briefing of the week two days after a Christmas market rampage in Germany raised new fears of terrorism around the world.

DONALD TRUMP, PRSEIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's an attack on humanity. That's what it is. It's an attack on humanity.

ZELENY: At his Mar-a-Lago retreat meeting with his incoming national security chief, Michael Flynn, and other generals while making his first comments on the Berlin attack that killed 12 and injured dozens.

TRUMP: What's going on is terrible. We have intelligence here right now.

ZELENY: Trump's aides were sending the signal that the president- elect is keeping apprised of the heightened holiday alert. He drew fire from the intelligence community earlier this month for saying he sees no value in receiving the presidential daily brief, or PDB, every day.

TRUMP: I don't have to be told the same thing and the same words every single day for the next eight years, could be eight years. I don't need that.

ZELENY: Set to take office in just 30 days, the advisers are mindful of the optics surrounding his security briefings.

Trump, who proposed a Muslim ban one year ago, before softening his position later, was asked about it again today.

TRUMP: You know my plans all along. I've been proven to be right, 100 percent correct. What's happening is disgraceful.

ZELENY: Yet, in the face of rising challenges with global terror threats, Trump started his day once again still defensively tweeting about his victory in the Electoral College: "I would have done better in the election if that is possible if the winner is based on popular vote but would campaign differently." He went on to boast that he spent fare less money on his win than Hillary Clinton did on her loss.

Tonight, Trump is also settling another score he started on Twitter by questioning the cost of Air Force One. He sent shock waves by singling out the Boeing company.

Today, Boeing's CEO came to Mar-a-Lago to bring Trump something of a victory.

DENNIS MUILENBURG, CEO, BOEING: We're going to get it done for less than that and committed to working together to make sure that happens.

ZELENY (on camera): And, John, that's how Donald Trump plans to do business, by business leaders to him. Corporate CEOs are bracing to be called to the White House, part negotiation part public relations deal. You can call it "Art of the Deal," White House edition. But Donald Trump is trying to bring this populist appeal that he campaigned on to the White House, saying he's trying to save taxpayers money. John, that's also a big part of the show -- John?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

Joining me in Los Angeles, Democratic strategist, Matthew Littman; and in San Francisco, a member of the Republican National Committee from California, Harmeet Dhillon.

Matt, first to you.

The president-elect is starting to read the daily briefs once a week at least. That's progress, right?

[01:40:17] MATTHEW LITTMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Not really. Once a week is not enough. I think Mike Pence gets it every day. But Donald Trump has found time to do things with meet with Kanye West and Leonardo DiCaprio, "Vogue" magazine and football players. Why can't he get the national security briefing every day? The reason you get it, you are the commander-in-chief. I'm not sure why he is abdicating the responsible.

Harmeet, it is a question of priorities, isn't it?

HARMEET DHILLON, MEMBER, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE, CALIFORNIA: I'm pretty sure that President Obama is still the commander-in-chief right now. His priority right now is picking his top advisers and making sure he is ready to defend the country when it is his job next month and he is receiving defense briefings. There are over 100 of those he has received. It is a bit more complex than it appears in your presentation.

VAUSE: One issue is there is only one president at a time, but Donald Trump, as president-elect, is commenting and weighing in on a range of foreign policy issue, more so than any president-elect has done in recent times. And that seems to be creating a lot of confusion, especially if President-elect Donald Trump is not up on the intelligence. DHILLON: I don't think it's true he is weighing in more. This is a

phenomenon the media comments on every time the White House changes power and the fact he is not telling you about every briefing does not equate to him being ill-informed. In fact, I think from his choices for national security, defense and other top intelligence and security offices, I feel safer today than I did before this election.

VAUSE: Matt?

LITTMAN: But he is ill-informed. And there is a reason that you get the national security briefing. And there's a reason why Mike Pence is getting it every day but Donald Trump isn't. And they could tailor it to Donald Trump's small attention span but Trump seems more concerned with the fun aspects of the job and not being the commander- in-chief.

DHILLON: Oh, those are cheap shots. Matt, you know it. You don't know what briefings he's getting. You're just speculating on TV.

LITTMAN: He's not getting the national security briefings every day. Mike Pence is. He can get them every day. President Obama does. Donald Trump chooses not to. Said he doesn't want to because he's too smart for that.

VAUSE: Let's move on. There was a key part of the campaign, one of Donald Trump's favorite lines, you may remember what it was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: When we win on November 8th, we are going to drain the swamp.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Maybe not.

This is Trump adviser, Newt Gingrich, talking to NPR.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE & DONALD TRUMP ADVISOR (voice-over): I'm told he now disclaims that. It was cute but he doesn't want to use it any more.

UNIDENTIFIED RADIO HOST (voice-over): He doesn't want to use "drain the swamp" anymore?

GRINGRICH: I don't know. Somebody sent me that note last night. I wrote a tweet about the alligators are complaining, and someone told me they were tired of hearing the stuff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: And, Harmeet, you know, it is coming from Newt Gingrich, to be fair, but a lot of the actions with the appointments to Donald Trump's cabinet the millionaires and billionaires and Goldman Sachs, not getting rid of the alligators?

DHILLON: I guess you call every successful businessman in America a swamp dweller, because that's a popular rhetoric on the left. But I think he nominated people who have come up from the bottom and are willing to set aside their lucrative careers to hem their country. That's hardly the swamp. The swamp is corruption and lobbyists and political consultants who corrupt the process. But we have the opposite of that. We have a lot of outsiders. And I'm encouraged by that.

LITTMAN: So we don't. That's actually not correct. When Donald Trump was saying "drain the swamp" on the campaign trail, I suspect he meant get rid of the liberals in Washington. And now he is president- elect, he is finding out, to people "drain the swamp" meant what you're saying, get rid of the lobbyists, but the people who had access to Trump during the campaign are becoming lobbyists and selling access to Donald Trump. And his kids are involved in meetings that are critical meetings about the future of the economy and, at the same time, running the Trump company. The reason they are getting rid of the phrase "drain the swamp" is because they don't actually want to drain the swamp.

DHILLON: Speculation again. I think we're going to see what we're going to see after he is sworn in.

[01:40:04] VAUSE: OK --

LITTMAN: So the speculation is Corey Lewandowski becoming a lobbyist and selling access to the administration, or is he not?

(CROSSTALK)

DHILLON: He is not in the administration. That's the difference.

(CROSSTALK)

DHILLON: The people in the administration will be banned from lobbying. You know this.

(CROSSTALK)

LITTMAN: So Corey Lewandowski --

(CROSSTALK)

LITTMAN: -- selling access to the Trump administration. Isn't that what draining the swamp was supposed to be about.

DHILLON: He is not in the administration.

(CROSSTALK)

LITTMAN: Right. He was an adviser to Trump on the campaign. He set up the meeting between Trump and Carlos Slim a couple weeks ago. You don't see that as being a problem?

DHILLON: No, I don't. He is not the president yet. And number two, Mr. Lewandowski is not in the administration. I

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: Very quickly --

DHILLON: You may not like it. But if you had -- if your candidate had won, you would be right there, too.

VAUSE: Let's talk 2020.

DHILLON: Are you the swamp?

VAUSE: Let's talk 2020. A new poll came out. A Democrat saying that 62 percent do not want Hillary Clinton to run again. 66 percent want a new name on the Democrat side.

Matt, what does that tell you?

LITTMAN: I love Hillary Clinton. She got three million more votes than Donald Trump. I don't want her to run again in 2020. There will be plenty of good candidates. Seven or eight Senators and some governors and probably some famous people. There will be plenty of good candidates in 2020. Hillary will not be one of them.

VAUSE: Harmeet, 20 seconds.

DHILLON: I think it's great. They should run Hillary Clinton, it's fine to me. Any Democrat could lose. It's all the same to us.

(LAUGHTER)

VAUSE: Thanks to you both. We appreciate it.

LITTMAN: Thank you.

VAUSE: Donald Trump's move -- pledge to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv got a big boost from Israel's top diplomat, but such a controversial decision would upset diplomacy between the Israelis and Palestinians.

We get details now from Oren Liebermann.

BVGT

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, these comments are significant because of who they come from, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer. He is considered one of Benjamin Netanyahu's closest confidantes and one of the few members of his inner circle. So, this is one of the highest-level endorsements we have seen yet of the promise to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

What is it that he said? Here are the comments he made at an embassy party for Hanukkah. He said, "I hope that next year the U.S. ambassador to Israel lights the menorah in his embassy in Jerusalem where the Maccabees lit 2200 years ago." Moving the embassy and recognizing Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel

would break with decades of U.S. foreign policy, which held that the final status of Jerusalem is open to negotiations.

Jerusalem has always been intentionally an open-ended question because it is one of the most sensitive and one of the most complex questions in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

How have the Palestinians reacted? Predictably, they are furious. They have said it may violate international law and that the PLO would consider revoking their recognition of the state of Israel.

Moving the embassy, therefore, may have drastic consequences on not only Israeli/Palestinian relations but perhaps U.S./Palestinian relations and U.S. relations with Arab states in the region --John?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: OK, Oren, thank you.

It is 10:43 here in Los Angeles. We will take a short break. When we come back, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip still in London. They skipped a trip to their country estate for the Christmas holidays. We'll tell you why in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:46:47] VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody. 10:46 here in Los Angeles.

Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philips, are putting off their holiday travel for now. Buckingham Palace says the royal couple is not well, both have colds. They usually head to their Sandringham estate at Christmas time. The palace did not say if the trip is cancelled all together or maybe it's just been delayed

Richard Fitzwilliams is a royal commentator and a former editor of International Who's Who, a reference book.

Richard, thanks for being with us.

Is Her Majesty is expected to make the trip today? There was speculation it might be on in the coming hours?

RICHARD FITZWILLIAMS, ROYAL COMMENTATOR & FORMER EDITOR, WHO'S WHO: I sincerely hope so. We are expecting an announcement this morning as to whether or not the queen and the duke, who both have heavy colds, will be traveling either perhaps today or possibly tomorrow.

Of course, this is such an important time of year for them. It's worthwhile remembering that on Tuesday the queen hosted the traditional lunch at Christmas for the extended royal family. She announced she was stepping down from 25 patronages but that still leaves almost 600. And it is a time to reflect how robust both the queen and the duke are equally. The queen is 90 and the duke at 95. And obviously, at such an age, one is naturally concerned if someone is unwell in any circumstances. But clearly, we're hoping that the traditional festivities will continue as planned.

VAUSE: Explain to our audience, who may not be entirely familiar with this tradition, that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, they take the 10:44 train on the same day. They have been doing this as long as most people can remember and many people set their calendars by it.

FITZWILLIAMS: Yes, absolutely. Because what happens is a gathering of the royal family. This year, the duke and duchess of Cambridge will be staying with the Middletons, Kate's parents. But some 30 members of the royal family join the queen and Prince Philip at their Sandringham estate. And what we see on Christmas day is the church, at St. Mary Magdalene, and the royal family going to and from the church service. And then, of course, the pre-recorded queen's Christmas message. This is viewed by millions, some seven million in Britain, and with social media, it's impossible to estimate the audience. A very important message, particularly, one has to say. I mean, the queen is a deeply religious person. And this is a significant time of year. And it's also a time when she, as monarch, a symbol of national unity, presides over a deeply divided country after the Brexit vote.

VAUSE: Quickly there was speculation this was not a health matter and maybe a security matter.

[01:50:04] FITZWILLIAMS: That's something that one can't comment on. It's perfectly true that the cancellation occurred moments before the royal couple were expected to board the train from King's Cross. But I would say that we'll hear this morning that hopefully the festivities will continue as privately and publicly. They are of such importance. And little doubt at all that in her 90th year, the queen and the duke have broken every record going. My hope is they will continue to do so for a long time to come.

VAUSE: Absolutely.

Richard, we shall leave it there. And we wish them both all the best.

Thank you for being with us, Richard.

FITZWILLIAMS: Pleasure.

VAUSE: It is 10:50 here. We'll take another short break. When we come back on NEWSROOM, L.A., singing through tragedy. We'll go back to Berlin where activists and refugees have a message for the rest of the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:54:55] VAUSE: Song replaced sirens on Wednesday in front of the Berlin church where 12 people were killed in Monday's terror attacks. Hundreds, including refugees, sang to remind the world they are united and stronger than terrorism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: You've been watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. I'll be back with more after a very short break.

You're watching CNN live around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:00:09] VAUSE: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.