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THE SITUATION ROOM
New Video Shows Christmas Market Truck Attack; Security Files: Suspect Prepared in 2015 to Join ISIS; Egypt Delays U.N. Vote on Israeli Settlements; Trump, Putin Talk of Boosting Nuclear Capabilities; Cybersecurity Expert: DNC Hack Linked to Russian Military. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired December 22, 2016 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, terror on tape. New video for the first time shows the deadly truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market while security files show the suspect was well-known to German authorities and had discussed carrying out an attack.
[17:00:27] Nuclear showdown? The Trump transition team rushes to explain a tweet by the president-elect, saying the U.S. must expand its nuclear capability. This follows a call by Vladimir Putin for Russia to boost its nuclear forces, and it comes as experts link to the Russian military a cyberattack in the U.S.
Tariff threat. Sources say President Trump may act quickly to impose tariffs of up to 10 percent on imports. Will that boost jobs or boost the prices that you pay?
And Jet Blue it. A man is taken off an airliner after verbally harassing Ivanka Trump and her family on their way to a Hawaiian vacation.
Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Brianna Keilar, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KEILAR: Breaking news. New video gives a first look at the horrific truck attack on the Berlin market where the massive vehicle plowed into a crowd of Christmas shoppers, killing a dozen people.
And as police carry out sweeping new raids across Germany, we're getting stunning new details about the suspect. The 24-year-old Tunisian, Anis Amri's fingerprints were found inside the truck. Investigative files obtained by CNN directly link Amri to an ISIS network in Germany and show that he had previously discussed launching attacks. American officials say Amri was known to U.S. intelligence before the truck attack and had been put on a no-fly list.
President-elect Donald Trump today tweeted that the U.S. must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability. His message hours after Vladimir Putin called for boosting the strike capability of Russia's nuclear forces. These comments raise troubling new questions about the future of the relationship, even as Trump's transition team rushes to explain the statement.
And as president, Trump may act quickly on a key campaign theme. Sources say he may place a 5 or even 10 percent tariff on goods imported to the United States. Critics say that could start a trade war and raise prices for Americans. Supporters say it could boost jobs. I'll speak with State Department spokesman John Kirby. And our correspondents, analysts and guests are standing by with full coverage of the day's top stories.
First to that Christmas market attack. As an urgent manhunt intensifies, shocking details are emerging about just how much authorities in Germany and also here in the U.S. knew about the suspect. We begin the investigation with Brian Todd.
What are you learning, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, tonight we're told the chief suspect, Anis Amri, was known to U.S. intelligence before the Berlin attack. U.S. officials briefed on the investigation telling CNN Amri was put on a no-fly list, along with other members of a group of suspected jihadist supporters.
U.S. and German intelligence agencies believe some members of the group were communicating with ISIS operatives responsible for plotting and directing attacks. The sources did not say if Anis Amri was one of those communicating, but tonight it is clear to German officials he is the man responsible for the carnage at that Christmas market.
TODD (voice-over); Frightening new video, seconds before impact, newly-released dash-cam footage of the tractor-trailer truck speeding through an intersection in Berlin toward the Christmas market.
Tonight German authorities are more confident than ever that this man, 24-year-old Anis Amri from Tunisia, believed to be seen in this selfie video, was the driver of the truck that killed a dozen people in Berlin.
FRAUKE KOHLER, GERMAN PROSECUTORS' SPOKESWOMAN (through translator): We were able to find fingerprints on the outside of the truck, on the door, and the door pillar.
TODD: Tonight, jarring new information on Amri's ties to an ISIS recruiting network and what German authorities knew well before the marketplace attack.
According to German investigative files seen by CNN, an informant told police, quote, "Anis spoke several times about committing attacks." The files say members of that ISIS recruiting network backed the idea and discussed driving a truck loaded with a bomb into a crowd.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, the Germans dropped the ball here. Yet, that's not uncommon. And in fact, in the United States, we have pretty much all the lethal attacks in the United States since 9/11 involved somebody who was known to authorities. TODD: Italian police tell CNN Amri entered Italy in 2011 without any
I.D. They say he served almost four years in prison there for assault, arson and other charges stemming from a brawl at a refugee center.
BERGEN: I think this guy looks like a lot of the other murderers that we've seen associated with ISIS in Europe. Many of them are criminals. They've gone through the prison system. They may have radicalized there.
[17:05:07] TODD: After his release in May of last year, Italian police say they tried to deport Amri to Tunisia, but the Tunisians didn't accept him, because there were no reliable records on him.
Amri then slipped into Germany. His brothers say when he got out of the Italian prison, Amri was a different person.
ABDELKADER AMRI, BERLIN SUSPECT'S BROTHER (through translator): we always had our differences and didn't agree on much. When I wanted to discuss something with him, he would end the conversation and say, "Just send my regards to the family."
TODD: Tonight, a massive dragnet across Europe for the suspect. In Germany, several locations and a long-distance bus were searched, but Anis Amri remains at large, armed and dangerous.
(on camera): What are the Germans and other agencies doing right now to corner him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they're probably spending a lot of time going through the information that they have, the information from the Italians, from when he was in prison, who came to see him, who did he communicate? Did he receive packages from anybody? As a fugitive, there's two things you've got to have. You've got to have a place to hide and you're got to have resources, money.
TODD: Now, law enforcement veterans tell us German authorities have to be ready for a violent end to this manhunt. They say, given that Anis Amri allegedly shot and killed the truck driver, then used the truck to kill other civilians, he likely will not go out peacefully -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Brian Todd, thank you.
Let's bring now in CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank. So Paul, as we are showing our viewers, we have this new video of the truck attack on the Christmas market, just awful. You see it go by there. And you are actually getting new information about the suspect and the investigation. What are you learning?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: That's right. And this comes from that 345-page investigative file that CNN has obtained and that I've been reading through today, lots and lots of detail. There was a police informant in this network to which the suspected attacker belonged. He was feeding back all kinds of information to German investigators, including the fact that, on several occasions, Amri months ago talked about the desire to launch an attack.
But also, about a year ago, in the lead-up to Christmas, he actually was preparing to try and go and join ISIS. He was actually going on hikes, including one ten-mile hike, with backpacks to get into shape so that, when he got to Syria and Iraq, that he would be in good condition. Now, he was not able, then to travel to join the group in Syria and Iraq. And it appears that he may have become frustrated because of that fact. But members of the network were trying to help him logistically to get over there. And so lots of -- lots of information coming out from these files,
including the fact that other members of the network were discussing launching a truck attack inside Germany, perhaps putting gasoline bombs into the truck. All of this months ago coming into German security services, which begs all sorts of questions. Why didn't they intercept him?
Now, they did manage to arrest the five leading figures in this network in Germany in November. It was a very organized network, all reporting up to this charismatic preacher called Abu Walla, who was an Iraqi, a 32-year-old. And they were so organized that they had sort of subdivisions within Germany. And even a common curriculum for how to indoctrinate youngsters, if you can believe that, Brianna.
KEILAR: And what -- considering what they know about the network, Paul, did they have any sense, even broadly, of where the suspect could be?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, they haven't found him yet. And -- but the one thing they have going for them right now is that they have all this extensive information about this network, so they've got addresses. They've got phone numbers. They know how the network connects to each other. And all of that can give them a lot of clues in terms of where he might be hiding.
But the flip-side of that is that he is apparently being supported by a network, and they may have had a plan for him to get away and then to be ready to launch follow-on attacks. And then we saw after the Paris attacks, where Saleh Abdeslam, that attacker that ducked out of the attack, he was hid by four months by that logistical support network.
But the concern is that he may now move forward to launching another attack. He's considered armed and dangerous. He could hijack another truck somewhere in Germany. And these people want to go out in a blaze of glory. They desperately are seeking martyrdom so that they, in their idea, will go to paradise.
KEILAR: It's a scary thought. All right. Paul Cruickshank, thank you so much for your insight. There's some great new reporting. And joining me now to talk more about this is State Department spokesman John Kirby. John, thanks for being with us.
JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Happy to be here. KEILAR: And Evan Perez here at CNN has reported that the suspect was
known not only to German intelligence but also to U.S. intelligence, that he had been identified as someone who should be -- who should be on a no-fly list. Is there anything that you can tell us about him, what the U.S. government had on their radar?
KIRBY: I'm afraid not. This is an ongoing investigation. We want to get ahead of that. And I certainly can't talk to intelligence estimates here.
That said, it wouldn't surprise me if this was a cell that we had knowledge of. And certainly, we have robust information-sharing arrangements with our partners in Europe, such as in Germany. It wouldn't surprise me if -- we had some context on this individual or other individuals in the cells and were acting on that inside our own law-enforcement capabilities. But again, I just don't have much detail on this one.
KEILAR: Is the U.S. offering any assistance in searching for the suspect?
KIRBY: We have certainly offered assistance to German authorities in support of their investigative process here. And that offer is open and stands -- stands open. I'm not aware that there's been any direct assistance offered and provided. But as I say, clearly, we have had long-standing information-sharing arrangements with German authorities, which I'm sure is helping to bear some fruit in their investigation.
KEILAR: This suspect spoke several times about committing attacks. We know that now from this reporting about a police informant. He was well-known to German police. Many people are saying that this was a failure of German law enforcement, that he was able to carry this out. What do you think?
KIRBY: I think it's -- I think we need to be careful jumping to conclusions right now. I mean, this attack just happened, and the investigation is just underway. And by the way, it's not just an investigation of a terrorist attack. There's a live manhunt going on. And I think it's not helpful to try to get ahead of that right now or to try to jump to conclusions and cast aspersions. I think we need to let the German authorities do their jobs. They still have legitimate concerns about this individual being on the lam and potentially armed and dangerous. We need to let them work through that.
I am sure that they will be very thorough in their investigation, and that they will be transparent about it, as well. And if there's lessons to be learned, I'm positive that they'll adopt those lessons, and they'll speak about those lessons, and we'll move on.
As you know, Brianna, these terrorists only have to be right once. Authorities have to be right 365 days a year, every hour of every day. And it's really hard, if not impossible, to get every single thing right and to prevent every single attack. If an individual is willing to put their lives on the line in a suicide attack or an attack like this, be willing to have themselves killed, it's very, very hard to get in front of that.
KEILAR: Even if they are on the radar, they've talked about an attack much like the one they carried out--
KEILAR: -- they've almost gone through the deportation process, they've been identified as someone who should be deported, and then a judge releases them back into society.
KIRBY: Well, again, I think we need to let them work their -- worth their process here. The investigative process. And to figure out what they knew and what indications they might have had. Sometimes -- intent is very difficult to determine here in front of terrorist attacks. I'm not -- I'm not minimizing the fact that this guy was on the radar, and maybe they knew about some of his associations, but it's very difficult to go from that to being able to predict, you know, a certain specific attack on a certain specific day--
KIRBY: -- and a location. Again, I think we need to let them work their investigation before we -- before we, you know, jump to conclusions.
KEILAR: OK. On a separate topic, there is this showdown vote that is looming at the U.N. Security Council--
KEILAR: -- on a resolution that would condemn settlement activity in the West Bank, Donald Trump siding very much with Israel. And obviously, that's perhaps at odds with the White House, or it's unusual.
What's your perspective on this? What some people are calling an unprecedented situation where the president-elect is taking a position that really puts the White House in a bad spot?
KIRBY: Well, I won't speak for the president-elect and the positions that he might take on this. What I can tell you is, as you know, the draft language of that resolution went public last night. There was supposed to be a vote today. The Egyptians, who introduced the language, asked for a postponement. And so we are postponed.
KEILAR: Yes. Was the U.S. going to vote? Was the U.S. going to abstain?
KIRBY: Well, again, I'm not going to get ahead. We never preview our votes.
KEILAR: OK. And I certainly appreciate it. You know, we know that Egypt is delaying the vote. But what does it mean from your perspective as a member of the Obama administration to be boxed in by the president-elect? Was there some sort of notice given or-- KIRBY: Well, look, I don't -- again, without previewing what we may
do, if and when this resolution comes to a vote, nobody here felt boxed in by a tweet from the president-elect, and he's perfectly entitled to express his views on these kinds of things. But there was no boxing in of our purview or how we might deal with this going forward.
[17:15:18] We need to, again, let this process move forward. We'll see if it comes up again for a vote, and then we'll participate in the debate and the discussion and the vote itself. And then, as we always do, Brianna, after a vote, Brianna, we will explain that vote. We will articulate what position we took and why.
KEILAR: OK. John Kirby, stay with me here. We have much more to talk about, including talk from the president-elect and from Russia about increasing the amount of nuclear weapons. We'll be right back.
KEILAR: We're talking with State Department spokesman John Kirby about two breaking stories tonight, including that the Trump transition team is rushing to explain a tweet by the president-elect which says the U.S. must boost its nuclear capability.
That came after Vladimir Putin spoke about enhancing his country's nuclear forces.
I want to turn now to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. Many people are looking at this, Barbara, and they think that it sounds a little like the Cold War.
[17:20:00] BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It appears to. There is a lot of confusion about what either man was really talking about today. Vladimir Putin starting by saying the Russian military was the strongest in the world against any aggressor, something perhaps the U.S. military might disagree with.
But Putin came out and said roughly that the -- that Russia needs to strengthen its strategic nuclear forces, strengthen, expand. He wants to go against missile defenses in Europe. That's a bit of a slam at the U.S. Military which has put missile defenses -- putting missile defenses in Europe to protect them against Iran. Putin very unhappy about all of this, being very assertive on Russian nuclear forces.
Now, a couple of hours later, President-elect Donald Trump came out. Let's look at what he started off by tweeting. Mr. Trump saying also, and I quote, "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes." So Trump also talking about expanding nuclear capability.
But a short time later, the Trump transition team came out, trying to clarify what Mr. Trump meant, a lengthy statement saying -- and I quote again -- "President-elect Trump was referring to the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it, particularly to and among terrorist organizations and unstable and rogue regimes. He has also emphasized the need to improve and modernize our deterrent capability as a vital way to pursue peace through strength."
So they're emphasizing Mr. Trump's previous statement about trying to modernize the nuclear arsenal.
But look, Brianna, the bottom line tonight, both men put their nuclear cards on the table but they have yet to turn those cards over. We do not know what those cards might really be all about -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much.
We're back now with State Department spokesman John Kirby. So John, when you saw this tweet from Donald Trump and then you hear similar language from Vladimir Putin, what did you think of that?
KIRBY: Well, it's -- it's difficult to know what to make of it all. I mean, what I can tell you is that we actually, in the clarification that the transition team put out, I think we readily agree, that we need to work on ways to eliminate nuclear proliferation.
And if you look at the Iran deal, that's one very strong way that this administration has tried to deal with the proliferation threat, particularly from Tehran.
We have also been working over the last eight years to modernize the nuclear deterrent. We believe in a credible, strong nuclear deterrent, and there is in this country a strong, credible nuclear deterrent.
But at the same time, the president is focused on reducing inventory in accordance with the new START treaty that has been signed with Russia. So I can't make out the motivation for President Putin to say what he had to say. All I can tell you is we're committed to our new START obligations with Russia and to, again, maintaining a strong, modernized nuclear deterrent here in the United States.
KEILAR: All right. John Kirby at the State Department, thanks for joining us.
You know, it was a cyber security firm that discovered the attack on the Democratic National Committee and is now linking that breach to the Russian military, to the Russian government.
Joining me is Dmitri Alperovitch. He is the co-founder and chief technology officer of Crowd Strike.
And it's really great to have you here, because your firm is really at the center of all of this. So you investigated the hack on the DNC, and you found the evidence that linked what was going on back to the Russian government. Tell us specifically what you found.
DMITRI ALPEROVITCH, CO-FOUNDER & CTO, CROWDSTRIKE: Well, at the time when we investigated back in May of this year, we believed and we came out with the evidence that the Russian government was responsible. What we now have come out with is evidence that it's actually directly tied to the Russian military.
Because the evidence we uncovered is that, in Ukraine, the Ukraine artillery forces were using this mobile app for their -- on their phones to help with targeting of their Howitzer artillery missiles. And that app was hacked by the same group that we call Fancy Bear that broke into the DNC, that hacked the Ukrainians and were using that to track the location of those people and potentially use that to target them as well.
And when you ask the question of, well, who would be interested in targeting Ukraine artilleryman and hack into the DNC, Russian military becomes the obvious target.
KEILAR: That's how you do it, is you eliminate it. It's just a process of elimination. This hacking is clearly done as an enemy of this entity. This hacking is done as an enemy of this other entity, and you just see where they overlap, right?
ALPEROVITCH: Well, that and, if you look at the battlefield intelligence that's been collected here, it's very tactical. It's location of these units in eastern Ukraine that the Russian military is trying to suppress and trying to destroy with their own artillery fire.
So you also have -- have to have very deep operational communicational links between the Fancy Bear hacking groups and the Russian military. Because within minutes of finding the location, you have to direct artillery fire their way.
[17:25:06] KEILAR: So, when you hear Donald Trump cast doubt on where this is coming from -- he says maybe it's Russia, maybe it's China, maybe it's someone in their home -- and then you also look at the numbers, that roughly half of Americans aren't sure or don't believe that Russia is behind this, what do you think about that?
ALPEROVITCH: Well, I think it highlights that more evidence needs to come out. And this is one of the reasons we put out this report that establishes we believe with high confidence that it is, indeed, Russian military and, specifically, the Russian intelligence agency of the Russian military called the GRU, that's behind these hacks.
And, you know, we also encourage the U.S. government to come out with their evidence. I think it's a good idea for President Obama to commission that report, to do a full review of the election hacks, and hopefully it will be made public soon.
KEILAR: Is this your purview to know, when you're talking about the Russian military, who would have ordered the Russian military to do this? Is there a way to tie this up to the upper branches of the Russian government?
ALPEROVITCH: Well, we can't tell you, just from looking at the forensic evidence who made the order. We believe with a high degree of confidence that the Russian intelligence agency was responsible. Whether it was Vladimir Putin that ordered it or someone else, we can't tell you that. KEILAR: So you were watching this as it was going on. Because you
were hired to look at the DNC hack all the way back in the summer before -- before the summer -- the spring going into summer. And it was not until June, right, that you came out and said, "Hey, this is going on."
So that process where you were watching the -- what you believe now is Russian military caught in the act, what was -- what was that like as you're doing that?
ALPEROVITCH: That's right. For that month of May, we basically caught them in the act. We had our technology called Falcon employed on all the DNC computers and were watching everything that the attackers were doing while we were conducting our investigation, planning for the full cleanup and ejection of them from the network. So it was fascinating to watch them, literally, as they were moving around the network, doing various things and observing every action that they were taking.
KEILAR: And I know you needed to keep it secret so that you could then sort of button them out of the system, as well.
ALPEROVITCH: We couldn't spook them, so had to keep it quiet to not spook them.
KEILAR: It's fascinating and alarming. Thank you so much, Dmitri Alperovitch. Really appreciate you being with us.
ALPEROVITCH: Thank you.
KEILAR: And coming up, a man is taken off an airliner after verbally harassing Ivanka Trump and her family as they were on their way to Hawaii for vacation. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
[17:31:14] KEILAR: Our breaking news, new video giving a first look at that horrific truck attack on the Berlin market as German police are carrying out new raids hunting for the suspect.
I want to bring in now CNN Terrorism Analyst Paul Cruickshank, CNN Counter-Terrorism Analyst Phil Mudd. He's a former CIA official and Tara Maller, she is Senior Policy Adviser for the Counter Extremism Project.
So, Paul, I know that you have some new reporting, if you could share that with us about this suspect.
CRUICKSHANK: That's right. The network that the suspect belonged to -- were in direct contact with German ISIS operatives in Syria and Iraq. And one of the people doing those communications with (inaudible), a Serbian-German national, one of the lead figures on this network who is basically like a guru to Anis Amri, the attacker.
So he was in direct contact with ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Of course, ISIS had claimed that a soldier of the Islamic state carried out this attack. So as we sort through the degree of ISIS ownership of this attack, that's quite a significant new detail.
KEILAR: And Tara, Paul actually reported that Anis Amri wanted to go to Syria, was sort of frustrated he wasn't going, the network that he was dealing with in Germany was helping to achieve that end. So knowing now that there is this network that could be helping him, how much does that play into his ability to evade authorities?
TARA MALLER, SENIOR POLICY ADVISER, COUNTER EXTREMISM PROJECT: Well, first of all, a lot of individuals in the network have previously been arrested. So he's lost some of his support, which could have had to do with the timing of the attack, because he might have known that authorities could have been on his trail after those.
But let say he does have support. It's still very difficult and this is a term that Phil Mudd uses all the time, to go off the grid. It's very difficult for somebody to, for an extended period of time, not have any cellphone use, any computer use, or anything where authorities may or may not be able to intercept it.
So, I mean, it is problematic and troublesome that it's taken them this long because there were a lot of missteps in the previous parts of the investigation. Having said that, I think authorities will be able to eventually find him. And if he is in touch with other members of the cell, that will help them find him because presumably they may be monitoring some of those people.
KEILAR: Phil, how worried are you that this could, though, turn into something protracted or even eventually a trail that goes cold?
PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Not yet. I would give this another day or two, maybe through the weekend. Simple reason, what Tara was saying that is authorities in Germany aren't telling us what they know.
They know who the associates are, what their names are, where they lived and how they communicate. That is a web of knowledge that they're looking at now hoping that the subject walks into a place they already have under surveillance.
They're not talking because they don't want him to figure out where they have strengths and where they weaknesses. Give it a day or two or three, right now I think their web of knowledge is good enough that if I had to bet in Vegas, they'll pick him up pretty soon.
KEILAR: All right, let's hope so. All right, Phil Mudd, Paul Cruickshank, Tara Maller, thank you so much to all of you.
And coming up, details of Newt Gingrich's self-professed goof that earned him a smackdown from Donald Trump. Plus, what a passenger said to Ivanka Trump that got him kicked off of their flight?
[17:38:20] KEILAR: President-elect Donald Trump is said to be weighing a tariff of up to 10 percent on imports raising fear of a trade war even among some of his fellow Republicans. CNN's Tom Foreman is here with those details. And this was one of his core campaign promises that's why people are paying a lot of attention to it.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah and it fits in with a basic theme that Donald Trump pushed time and again on the campaign trail. He said under his administration things will be different, and now it looks like he is out to prove it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Tonight, President-elect Donald Trump is signaling he is ready to turn some of his tough talk from the campaign into action.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: China is responsible for nearly half of our entire trade deficit. They break the rules in every way imaginable.
FOREMAN: Sources tell CNN that Trump is considering taking executive action to place at least 5 percent tariff on goods imported to the United States. One source says a rate of 10 percent is on the table.
TRUMP: Let me tell you what does it. Good old fashioned tax.
FOREMAN: Critics warn such a proposal could set off a trade war. But, Peter Navarro, who Trump has named to lead the new White House Trade Council made clear the president-elect, will not back down when it comes to what he sees as unfair trade practices.
PETER NAVARRO, TRUMP NOMINEE TO NATIONAL TRADE COUNCIL: The tariff that Trump proposes is not an end game and the purpose is not to just put tariffs on. It's to use it as a negotiating tool to stop China's cheating.
FOREMAN: But the plan could face headwinds in Congress, including from Republicans. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said Trump's goals would be better achieved through reforming the tax code.
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: It's consistent with our goal to make American businesses, the American products more competitive in a global economy and we believe the best way to achieve that goal is through comprehensive tax reform.
[17:40:06] FOREMAN: As Trump seeks to draw hard-line on trade, he is also taking a tough stance with his own allies who say he no longer cares for his drain the swamp campaign theme.
TRUMP: We are going to drain the swamp.
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I'm told he now disclaims that. He now says it was cute, but he doesn't want to use it anymore.
FOREMAN: Trump tweeting, "Someone incorrectly stated that the phrase drain the swamp was no longer being used by me. Actually, we will always be trying to drain the swamp." Prompting Newt Gingrich to walk back his earlier comments.
GINGRICH: So I want all of you to know, I goofed. Draining the swamp is in.
FOREMAN: This as Trump's family takes a step to avoid potential conflicts of interest. Eric Trump telling the "New York Times" he will no longer solicit donations for his personal charity to avoid pay for play allegations saying, "As unfortunate as it is, I understand the quagmire."
Newly appointed counselor to Trump, Kellyanne Conway, told CNN this decision is going to have negative consequences.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: The idea that these folks are trying to help people in need, and those people are going to suffer now.
FOREMAN: A defense reminiscent of the one made by Bill Clinton when the Clinton Foundation came under attack during the campaign.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We're trying to do good things. If there's something wrong with creating jobs and saving lives, I don't know what it is.
FOREMAN: Ivanka Trump also in the spotlight unexpectedly tonight after a man was removed from a JetBlue flight for reportedly making disparaging comments toward her and her husband Jared Kushner as they were getting ready to take off for a vacation in Hawaii.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: JetBlue issued a statement saying, "Look, we don't take people off planes willy-nilly, they only do it when they feel like something may escalate even into flight. That's what they felt in this case. They put that passenger on the next flight." As for the Trump campaign they simply said, "Look, its unfortunate. The circumstances speak for themselves." Brianna?
KEILAR: Tom Foreman, thank you so much for that.
Let's get more now with our experts. We have Rebecca Berg and Jim Acosta and Phil Mudd with us.
So, you have, Rebecca, Trump's transition team considering this tariff on foreign -- this tariff on foreign imports. And, clearly, Donald Trump wants to deliver on his America's first campaign theme.
But in a way, isn't he splitting the baby, because one of the effects of this could be a lot of people who go to places like Walmart, buy things for their kids to go back to school, and the prices could go up.
REBECCA BERG, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Exactly. And so that's why, Brianna, you are hearing Republican leaders already trying to send warning signals to Donald Trump that this is not something they will necessarily support. And, in fact, they would probably oppose it because this is not a traditional Republican position at all.
And so Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are trying to take a proactive stance in favor of tax reform, trying to emphasize to Donald Trump and his team now that, "They think that will solve most of the problems that Donald Trump is trying to tackle with this tariff and we will send the same strong message that he is looking at."
But, Republicans really going to be wary of this, and if Donald Trump does take executive action on it, as his team is suggesting he might in some of these reports, that would be as well very controversial because Republicans, as we all know, have been a little bit wary of President Obama taking executive action.
KEILAR: They don't want to be side-stepped on this. I mean, he has a Republican Congress. So there's that issue at home. What about when it comes to foreign policy, Jim? What would the complications potentially be there?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The critics have already been saying, you know, this could spark a trade war. This could spark a global recession. You know, there's going to be some hyperventilating over this.
President Obama did tariffs back in 2009. He slapped tariffs on Chinese tires and there were some analyses that were done on this that shows that, yes, they did save some jobs, but the price of tires went up. And so as you were saying, Rebecca, about the cost of goods that we like, how about iPhones that are ...
KEILAR: These are things we notice. Tires and iPhones, right?
ACOSTA: iPhones get expensive. People aren't going to like that. And, you know ...
BERG: And Ivanka Trump's own clothing is manufactured in Asia, we might note.
ACOSTA: There are a number of Trump products that are made overseas.
ACOSTA: And so this could be an issue. Now, we understand that what they're talking about in the House is more of a border adjustment tax, you raise tariffs on goods coming in, you lower taxes on goods coming out and I think that that could be a wash in the long run. But Donald Trump acting unilaterally, that sounds like something that Republican choose to criticize President Obama before.
KEILAR: It would be remarkable. All right, Phil Mudd, check out this Donald Trump tweet. He says, "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes." Your reaction to that.
MUDD: Well, if you think on the substantive side anybody has any idea what that means. Let me disabuse you of that notion. Let's go to the style side for a moment. We're just talking about China.
We have a deal-maker in chief moving into the Oval Office telling the Chinese with a phone call from the Taiwanese president, with his comments about the drone the Chinese captured and returned recently, with his comments on tariffs telling the Chinese, "I got cards to play."
[17:45:14] He is seen as a softy on Russia. What's he telling Putin today, I'm looking at the timing and the style. I look at this as a deal-maker saying you want to play cards on nuclear, I can play cards too. I think this has to do maybe with a message to somebody he is supposed to be affiliated with, that is Vladimir Putin. I'm not a pushover. Be careful where you go on this one.
KEILAR: Substantively, this is the thing, Phil, says you don't really know where it is and proving that point, Donald Trump's team put out a clarification. They said that he was, "Referring to the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it."
They also did this yesterday with the clarification. And also, when you match up that explanation to what Donald Trump said, they really seem completely contradictory.
ACOSTA: They do. And they had to come out and explain what he said yesterday when he was asked about the Muslim ban. And they ended up saying, "Well, he was just talking about the proposed by radical Islamic terrorists."
Donald Trump's team is going to have to do this again and again and again. But, you know, if you listen to Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer and these folks who just got this big important jobs inside the Trump White House today they will ale say, listen, Donald Trump, you know, for all the hue and cry and the medium, so forth, over this tweets and when he talked radical Islamic terrorist before the intelligence it comes out. They say, you know what, he is right a lot of the time.
And so, you know, on this Russia issue, they are going to have to be careful about that, but at the same time, I think he has a lot of political capital in the bank, Donald Trump does with the Kremlin.
KEILAR: Playing cards, as Phil said. We'll see. All right, Phil Mudd, Jim Acosta, Rebecca Berg, standby for me. We have much more ahead. We'll be back after a quick break.
[17:50:49] KEILAR: We have some breaking news so I want to head straight to the State Department and our Global Affairs Correspondent Elise Labott. And, Elise, it seems like you have some new information on why Donald Trump may have weighed in on this looming U.N. Security Council vote that was delayed.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFIARS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. You saw the president-elect tweeting this morning about that vote at the U.N. against Israel on settlement activity, basically, Donald Trump calling on the U.N. -- U.S. to veto that vote.
Then a real flurry of diplomatic drama at the United Nations when Egypt pulled the vote and put it on hold, and then there's been a lot of talk about what happened. And we understand from an Israeli official that the Israeli government did reach out to the president- elect over the last few weeks. Israel has been imploring the U.S. not to take this very controversial vote, which would really undo years of the U.S. protecting Israel at the United Nations.
We understand President Obama was going to allow that vote to go ahead by using its abstention or actually voting yes, which would have really been an unprecedented move. I understand that the Israelis warned the White House, "Please don't do this. If you plan on doing it, we're going to be forced to reach out to the president-elect."
The Israelis got word that the U.S. was going to allow that vote to go ahead and we understand the Israelis did reach out to President-elect Trump to ask him to weigh in. And you saw the results of that. That vote was put on hold and the Israelis today, the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S Ron Dermer on Twitter thanking President Trump for this unprecedented move.
Israeli officials (inaudible) know that this was not easy, but they felt that the Obama administration was abandoning Israel, first by that Iran nuclear deal and now by this vote. So, obviously, this administration is -- the Israelis are looking forward to President- elect Trump coming in and already doing business, really, an unprecedented situation where a president-elect is already conducting foreign policy before even taking office.
KEILAR: Elise Labott, really pulling back the curtain on all of this. This is fascinating. Thank you much for that report.
Phil Mudd, let's discuss this, because clearly no love loss between Netanyahu and President Obama for sure. But this is -- I mean, this is something. What do you make of this?
MUDD: Brianna, there's nothing to discuss. This is unacceptable. The State Department and the president of the United States have to make decisions about how to vote on a very sensitive issue in the United Nations. And a man who has not been sworn in as president just said if you choose to vote the way I don't want to vote, I will undercut you as soon as I take the oath of office, one president at a time.
The second thing I will tell you is, if this president-elect wants to negotiate between Palestinians and Israelis, he is undercutting if he's in for four year or eight years his ability to negotiate.
He has said there's a potential to move the embassy to Jerusalem, unacceptable to Palestinians. He is now saying he has a position on settlements that is unacceptable to Palestinians. If you want to go into office neutral in less than a month, you lost your opportunity.
I don't understand what's going on here, but in my world, to undercut the president before you're sworn in, it's just -- I don't know what to say, Brianna. It is not what you should be doing.
KEILAR: And talk a little bit, Jim, too, about -- this is -- when it comes to Netanyahu, for instance, we've seen him come and speak to Congress.
KEILAR: Right? And be shunned a little bit by the White House, but also doing that and sort of poking an eye in the finger of President Obama and this is not unusual for him.
ACOSTA: No, not at all. And I do think it's worth repeating that the transition, the Trump transition team itself has said that there's only one president at a time. So they have fallen back on that position at time. So it is curious to see Donald Trump sort of acting in this capacity and taking that kind of phone call and getting involved like that.
But you're right, absolutely, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Barack Obama, that relationship is probably the worst relationship for President Obama, and this is just another indication. They don't get what they want out of this White House, so they go to the president- elect.
KEILAR: Go to the next one. It is a frosty situation. We did -- this is some what Elise (inaudible) from resource.
[17:55:03] "We did reach out to the president-elect and are deeply appreciative that he weighed in, which was not a simple thing to do." Why is this an issue for Donald Trump, Rebecca, to do something like this, and maybe set this precedent?
BERG: Well, it certainly complicates matters for the current president, President Obama in the sunset of his final term. And it's just -- it really does go against tradition in that respect, because Donald Trump, when he is sworn in as president, will expect people to respect his office, and respect his authority as president, and he has done a few things.
This included the call with Taiwan, included which ran afoul of the U.S. One-China Policy that has been in place. He's done a few things that have called into question whether he does respect the president's authority right now. But as you said, Jim, his team has repeated that they do believe in this one president at a time mantra. But there have been a few time where is they've really towed that line.
KEILAR: Yeah, maybe the president-elect did not get that memo. All right, Rebecca, Jim, Phil, thank you guys.
Coming up, we have some beaking news. We have new video for the first time that shows that deadly truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market as German authorities step up their hunt for the suspect, who is known to them long before this attack.
[17:59:57] KEILAR: Happening now, breaking news. ISIS intel ignored as we get new video of the deadly truck attack in Germany. We're learning the fugitive suspect had been on the radar of authorities for months.
Tonight, disturbing details about his terror connection, his travel plans and questions about whether investigators drop the ball.