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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Weighs in U.N. Vote; Putin and Trump Vow to Bolster their Nuclear Arsenals; Manhunt Continues for Suspect in Berlin Christmas Market Attack. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired December 23, 2016 - 00:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:00:26] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour --

Donald Trump dives head first into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict but there is a problem, Barack Obama is still the President.

As authorities hunt the man wanted in the Berlin attack, police say they have broken up a new terror plot in Germany.

And Syria's rebels are on the run after the Assad regime takes full control of Aleppo.

Hello everybody. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause.

The first hour of NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

In four weeks Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Until then, Barack Obama is still commander in chief. But unlike most other presidents-in-waiting Trump has now jumped in with both feet into one of the most complicated and difficult foreign policy issues for any president -- the Israel/Palestinian conflict.

As Elise Labott reports, the President-Elect has been working the phones and calling world leaders to scuttle an anti-Israel resolution at the U.N.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Tonight a dispute over peace, politics and the role of the U.S. presidency may be coming to a head at the United Nations. Just hours before the Security Council was set to vote for a resolution calling for Israel to stop building settlements the ballot was abruptly cut off averting a potential clash between the current and future U.S. presidents over U.S. relations with Israel.

JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We'll just have to wait and see what the results of those consultations are to see if the text moves forward. LABOTT: The resolution demands Israel quote, "immediately and

completely cease all settlement activities" calling it a flagrant violation under international law. CNN has learned that President Obama was prepared to let the resolution pass either by abstaining or voting in favor of it.

The U.S. has traditionally seen Jewish settlements in areas controlled by Palestinians as obstacle to a peace process but has never gone so far in a U.N. vote. The move today would have been seen by many as a provocation, a parting shot at Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with whom President Obama has strained ties.

Around 3:00 a.m. Netanyahu took to Twitter, writing in English and appealing for a U.S. veto. But before the White House could announce its support for the resolution, this morning President-Elect Donald Trump set out this statement calling for a veto and saying peace between Israel and Palestinians needs to be negotiated not quote, "through the imposition of terms through by United Nations".

A senior Israeli official tells CNN the Israeli government reached out to Trump to weigh in after failing to persuade Washington to cancel the vote. Then Egyptian President Sisi whose country offered the resolution put the vote on hold after a call from Trump. Today gratitude from Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer who tweeted Israel quote, "deeply appreciates the clear and unequivocal call by Trump".

DONALD TRUMP (R), U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: The United Nations is not a friend of democracy.

LABOTT: Trump's statement appeared to again signal his desire to shift U.S./Israel relations. During the election, he said he would move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and he denounced U.N. involvement in the peace process in an interview with Wolf Blitzer.

TRUMP: This has to be a deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

LABOTT: Trump says he wants to been as an honest broker in the Mideast.

TRUMP: I would love to be neutral if it's possible. It's probably not possible because there's so much hatred. There's so much going on.

LABOTT: Israeli officials argue that by allowing the resolution to go through at the United Nations, President Obama would be tying Donald Trump hands once he takes office to negotiate what the President-Elect has called the ultimate deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

Elise Labott, CNN -- the State Department.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Joining us now, Democratic strategist Dave Jacobson, Republican consultant John Thomas and international law and U.S. foreign policy lecturer Josh Lockman. Thank you all for being with us.

Dave, first to you -- how extraordinary is the split that you have right now between an incoming and an outgoing administration especially on an issue like this one? The Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

DAVE JACOBSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's unprecedented. I mean typically there's a level of respect and etiquette that an incoming president has as they're transitioning to become president with the outgoing president. And I guess it raises real questions about what kind of president or how Donald Trump is going to act four years from now, hopefully fingers crossed, when a Democrat is the incoming president -- right.

VAUSE: Right.

JACOBSON: How is he going to react if the incoming president were to react like this?

[00:05:02] VAUSE: One president at a time -- John, isn't it?

JOHN THOMAS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: It is one president at a time but George W. Bush genuflected to Barack Obama and helped the transition process when he left office and let the wishes of Barack Obama be held. And I think there's no difference here. Trump is going to be the president despite what Democrats wish. And he's clearly said he wants changes in our foreign policy.

And so it makes sense that Barack Obama should be respectful of Trump's wishes because we are only a few days away from him officially taking over.

VAUSE: Josh, to you -- the Obama administration was prepared to let this resolution pass, not use the veto power but it's incredibly broad if you look at the language which was being used here. In some respects it would have meant that parts of east Jerusalem including the Jewish quarter of the old city and the Western wall would have technically been off limits to Israelis.

JOSH LOCKMAN, INTERNATIONAL LAW AND U.S. FOREIGN POLICY LECTURER: Yes. That's exactly right -- John. This was a broad resolution drafted by Egypt but it's important to note here, I think that the Obama administration has vigorously defended Israel over the last eight years. In fact this administration unlike the previous administrations since 1967, both Republican and Democrat alike, has vetoed any resolution targeting Israel.

It wouldn't be so strange for this administration to abstain given the frustration that the Obama White House has seen on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But yes, this resolution at the Security Council would have been a broad one and would have obviously targeted the settlement building activity that much of the international community, save for Israel, finds illegal.

VAUSE: And just to your point about Barack Obama essentially being a shield of the U.N. to the Israelis. You mention all the way back to Lyndon Johnson, every president has passed or supported a U.N. resolution which is critical of Israel, maxed out at 21 under Ronald Reagan.

So if Obama had let this go through it would have been a very diplomatic signal to the Israeli Prime Minister especially Benjamin Netanyahu.

LOCKMAN: Yes, I think so. It would have be something of a parting shot by the President. He has obviously had an acrimonious relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. But it's also important to note that in 2011 when the Obama administration vetoed a similar resolution condemning settlement building it didn't do so because of the merits of the resolution itself but because the administration thought it would be an impediment to actively mediating in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And that's an important move here as well because we are already seeing the potentially destructive moves of the President-Elect in foreign policy and specifically in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict arena. What this could portend for the region, it's very disturbing, obviously.

VAUSE: Yes. And to that point, John, I mean there are concerns of what the blowback will be, what the fallout will be especially, you know, for other areas of policy if you want those Sunni Arab nations on board, how will they feel about what is a very pro Israeli stance by this new administration?

THOMAS: Sure. Well, let's also not forget I think I have to disagree with your guest that this last administration has been pro-Israeli. Remember there were times when the Barack Obama administration tried to oust the prime minister of Israel and running a campaign to defeat. So I don't think that they were pro-Israeli in this process.

But you're right, it is complex. Rex Tillerson is going to have his hands full. No doubt about it. And same with Nikki Haley.

But I think Donald Trump has made it -- said look, we didn't support Israel strongly enough and he's not traveling lightly about this. He really isn't.

VAUSE: Yes. There's no oil in Israel. So what does Tillerson know about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? It's kind of a laughing point but he knows the Sunni Arab nations. He knows the Gulf States pretty well. He knows nothing about Israel.

JACOBSON: Well, that's a significant issue -- right. I mean the reality is he is one of the only incoming secretaries of state who have had no foreign policy in terms of being a government official, experience. And I think that really underscores one of the challenges that he is going to have sort of moving forward and being a leader.

It's a totally different when you are a CEO of a multi-billion-dollar corporation versus working in government, dealing with the bureaucracy that is the federal government. I think that's going to pose a significant challenge for him.

VAUSE: And Josh -- all of this diplomatic maneuvering in the last 24 hours it seems to have been coordinated between the Knesset and Jerusalem and Trump's estate in Mar-A-Lago. This is what Benjamin Netanyahu said on Twitter. Listen to this.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I hope it will abide by the principles set by President Obama himself in his speech in the U.N. in 2011 that peace will come not through U.N. resolutions but only through direct negotiations between the parties.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[00:09:48] VAUSE: Which sounds almost word for word for what the President-Elect actually posted on Facebook, "As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations."

Within the region, within the Middle East and within other Arab nations, how is this coordination going to essentially be received?

LOCKMAN: Well, it could be very dangerous and reckless, John, especially if President-Elect Trump does move toward some recognition of Israeli settlement building. We have seen from his choice of U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman, a man that's first of all trafficked in hate and Islamaphobia and also has completely scorned the two-state solution as a process and vehicle, that this type of choice for one of the key interlocutors in the region could be a very devastating one. It could inflame the region if it's seen that the United States is seemingly siding with Israel as far as its settlement building.

The United States has often been seen in, widely to the Arab world as not an honest broker, as taking Israel's side and this would be even more one-sided and could really destabilize and lead to some kind of reaction from the street.

VAUSE: Ok. Josh -- thank you for being with us. We're going to leave the issue of Trump and Israel for now.

We'll move on to the other big foreign policy news. The President- Elect could also be rewriting more than half century of foreign policy, like (inaudible) nuclear weapons, with just 140 characters. Donald Trump suggesting it was time for the U.S. to expand its nuclear capability sparking fears of a cold war style arms race.

We get details from the Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Did Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump just have their first nuclear standoff? Today Russia's president vowing more nuclear weapons are needed.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and perspective missile defense systems. STARR: A clear shot at U.S. defense plans in Europe, something Russia

believes is a threat. Within hours President-Elect Trump tweeted quote, "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes." The two declarations raising the specter of an arms race renewed.

Donald Trump briefed just yesterday by senior air force officers on the need to modernize the aging nuclear infrastructure. During the second presidential debate a hint of his thinking.

TRUMP: Russia is new in terms of nuclear. We are old, we're tired, we're exhausted in terms of nuclear. A very bad thing --

STARR: Nuclear weapons are limited by treaty. Today, Russia has 7,300 warheads. The U.S. just over 6,900. The Obama administration gave up on the idea of a U.S. pledge for no first use of nuclear weapons, worried the idea could embolden Russia and China. U.S. dismantling of its own nuclear arsenal has slowed in recent years.

Putin's nuclear vow came as he boasted of Russian military superiority after a year which saw successful Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee by the Russian military, sustained air strikes in Syria and continued occupation of Crimea.

PUTIN: Today we are stronger than any potential aggressor. I repeat -- any aggressor.

STARR: The Trump transition team later issued a statement saying the President-Elect was really referring to nuclear proliferation trying to make sure nuclear weapons are kept out of the hands of terrorists and rogue nations. But it is still not entirely clear whether Mr. Trump supports more nuclear weapons.

Barbara Starr, CNN -- the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: So, John -- Twitter, Trump, and nuclear weapons. What could possibly go wrong?

THOMAS: It sounds like something we were talking about before the election was over.

VAUSE: Right.

THOMAS: But look, this shouldn't come as a surprise at all. From the standpoint of Trump, he said we need to rebuild our military and part of that is rebuilding our nuclear infrastructure. Trump believes in peace through strength and that we have been perceived to be weak on the national stage or on the global stage and we need to change that. I think part of that is gamesmanship. He is telling Putin, no, no, no, you need to back down because we're going to be stronger.

VAUSE: Policy papers in 140 characters? Is that what we've got? JACOBSON: Well yes. I mean Donald Trump's Twitter account has really, genuinely become a national security threat. I mean it's one thing to do it when you're a candidate. It's another thing to do when you are President-Elect but when you are actually commander in chief at the White House. I mean theoretically this could start a nuclear war if he pushes out a tweet like this.

And the reality is, I mean, I really wonder and it begs the question of like after all this conversation about Russia undermining our election, the hacking and Donald Trump refusing to, you know, accept the recommendation from the national security apparatus. I wonder if this is a knee-jerk reaction, sort of a pivot that he and Vladimir Putin are both doing to shift the message away from all this talk of Russia trying to undermine our election.

[00:15:12] VAUSE: Who knows?

Look, very quickly -- we're almost out of time. We go to Ivanka Trump.

She was on a commercial flight with her husband, children. They were harassed at a JetBlue flight. A passenger was actually removed. Everyone agrees that he is a massive jerk for doing it.

THOMAS: Yes. And a Clinton supporter allegedly.

(CROSSTALK)

VAUSE: Allegedly. But what's the daughter of a billionaire, soon to be president, doing on a commercial flight on a budget airline flying coach?

THOMAS: I mean that was the biggest question I have when I heard the story. Poor Ivanka, no doubt about it; but seriously -- coach?

VAUSE: Yes. Exactly.

THOMAS: You know, all I can figure is --

JACOBSON: A woman of the people.

THOMAS: She is a woman of the people. But that was the most bizarre thing about the whole story. But look, it's just -- it is also is a sad reflection that the left can't let it go and they're letting it out on his children.

VAUSE: -- the squishy liberal of the family?

JACOBSON: What --

VAUSE: -- the squishy liberal of the family?

THOMAS: This never happened to Chelsea Clinton.

JACOBSON: Right.

VAUSE: Well, there were some pretty awful headlines about Chelsea Clinton in the "National Enquirer".

THOMAS: Ok.

VAUSE: Anyway -- thanks, guys. We'll catch up next hour.

THOMAS: Thank you.

VAUSE: We'll take a short break.

When we come back German authorities have arrested two new terror suspects and we have new dramatic video showing that horrific attack on the Christmas market in Berlin.

Also, what one survivor of the huge fireworks explosions in Mexico had to go through to save his elderly mother.

[00:16:23] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody.

Police in Germany have broken up yet another terror plot just days after the deadly attack on a Christmas market in Berlin. Authorities arrested two brothers near the city of Essan. They are suspected of planning an attack on a shopping mall. The men are originally from Kosovo but it is not clear if this plot is linked to the attack in Berlin.

Officials investigating that attack say they found more evidence involving the main suspect. Fingerprints belonging to Anis Amri were found in the truck used in the massacre.

Erin McLaughlin has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John -- a Europe-wide manhunt for 24-year-old Tunisian national Anis Amri continues. Authorities conducting a number of raids across the country including a bus as well as a migrant shelter; they even raided a port on the way in Denmark. No arrests so far and it seems likely that authorities are considering the possibility that members of a pro-ISIS recruitment network are hiding him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCLAUGHLIN: Showing new video of the moment a 25-metric ton truck plowed into a Berlin Christmas market Monday night. This as we're learning German authorities knew in advance that Anis Amri, the prime suspect in the Berlin Christmas attack, was a potentially dangerous man.

Amri spoke several times about committing attacks in Germany according to investigative records shared with CNN. German officials today issuing a formal arrest warrant for Europe's most wanted man, as new evidence points to the 24-year-old Tunisian as the man behind the wheel of the truck. FRAUKE KOHLER, GERMAN FEDERAL PROSECUTOR SPOKESWOMAN (through

translator): We were able to find fingerprints outside of the door of the door of the truck and inside. And our investigation makes us assume that Anis Amri did drive the truck.

MCLAUGHLIN: A desperate manhunt for Amri and possibly even more suspects has led investigators on raids across Germany and as far north as coastal Denmark. Intelligence revelations increasing the political pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany now joining France and Belgium whose intelligence services failed to stop known security risks from carrying out attacks.

This as we're learning more about the suspect. In a Tunisian radio interview, Amri's father said it has been years since he's seen his son.

ANIS AMRI'S FATHER (through translator): It has been about seven years since he left home. I have not spoken to him directly for that long. I do not even have his cell phone.

MCLAUGHLIN: But he has kept track of Amri revealing that his son was imprisoned in 2011, convicted of assault and arson. He was released in May 2015. Italian authorities tried to deport him but Tunisia turned him away. Two months later Amri crossed the border to Germany. But in Amri's Tunisian hometown a man claiming to be a friend says he can't believe Amri is a terrorist.

ANIS AMRI'S FRIEND (through translator): He's a normal guy who fled despair in search of a better life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCLAUGHLIN: John, today the Christmas market, the scene of this horrific attack, reopened amidst heavy police presence. They also installed cement barriers around the perimeter of the market itself. People turning up all throughout the day to pay their respects in makeshift memorial locations located throughout the market. In fact, there is one behind me.

It is very late at night right now but as you can see people are still there to lay flowers and light candles in a show of solidarity and resilience amidst so much uncertainty -- John.

VAUSE: Erin -- thank you. Erin McLaughlin there.

And joining me here in Los Angeles, CNN law enforcement contributor and retired FBI agent Steve Moore. Steve -- first to the overnight arrest, would you expect more arrests like that in the coming days?

STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I would. Because what they're doing is going to everybody who has an open investigation, saying have you got now? Is it enough to arrest? Is it enough to take people down? Because Amri may be with one or more -- one of these groups.

VAUSE: Ok. What we're seeing in case after case after case, authorities say they had enough reason to suspect someone and, you know, either investigate them or put them under surveillance but then they didn't have enough to arrest them. I mean we saw that with Omar Mateen in Orland, the Pulse Nightclub shooting. We saw that with the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston. So explain what is going on here?

MOORE: I disagree that they didn't have enough to arrest Amri. I mean they had him arrested at one point for burglary. They had information that he was trying to buy a gun. There is a philosophical problem within counterterrorism groups right now where half of the counterterrorism groups are look for the big crime. They are looking to solve it right before it goes out.

[00:25:03] But really what you see is low-level crime, cigarette smuggling, credit card fraud to fund on the micro level these little cells that aren't getting huge amounts of money from ISIS.

VAUSE: Ok. So they let it go until they are close to an attack. And is that the gamble you play?

MOORE: But you won't see it. The day before 9/11 what would you have got them on? Possession of box cutters?

VAUSE: Right. Good point.

Ok. There has been a lot of criticism of the German police right now. First they arrested the wrong guy and then 24 hours after the event they actually find Amri's ID papers in the truck?

MOORE: That's hard for me to wrap my mind around. That, to me, smacks of being too careful, not being too loose but being too careful in saying we're going to go inch by inch by inch on this truck and then they find it 24 hours later. What you have to do is an immediate sweep of the truck, then a deeper sweep and then go through microscopically and start picking up DNA and fingerprints.

VAUSE: There are a lot of conspiracy theories out there about they found the ID papers now. People saying it's just a bit too convenient. Why would this guy's wallet still be in the truck?

MOORE: Because he didn't think he was going to survive. How many of these guys survive? They get shot by police. When he got in that truck I'm convinced he thought he was going to die. So picking up his identification is not going to be a real big concern of his. And when he found he could get out he probably didn't want to stick around to make sure he had not forgotten --

VAUSE: Didn't want go back for his wallet?

MOORE: They've got my wallet.

VAUSE: Ok. There is some, you know, speculation that maybe he left the wallet in there because he wants people to know he did this which could be indicative that he is ready to shoot it out with police.

MOORE: Yes. If he left his wallet in there for fame then he would be shooting it out already with police. VAUSE: Ok. We have a situation now that for a fugitive you need two

things. You need money and you need a place to hide.

MOORE: Right.

VAUSE: Right now it appears that he has both. So he can stay, you know -- basically, you know, go underground and stay, you know, basically out of the way of law enforcement for how long? How long before this guy has to make a move somewhere?

MOORE: The problem is you have these open borders in the E.U. and he's got connections in Italy as we've seen. He's got connections all through Germany. He can move just about anywhere to any cell. And when one cell starts to get warmed up, you know, the police are getting closer and closer they could move him to another country and there's not going to be these roadblocks like trying to get from the U.S. to Mexico.

VAUSE: Ok.

Steve -- good to talk. Thanks so much.

MOORE: Ok. Thanks.

VAUSE: We'll take a short break.

Next here on CNN NEWSROOM, the Syrian government declares victory in eastern Aleppo as the last of the rebels evacuate the city.

[00:27:45] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:31:30] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody, You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles, I'm John Vause. The headlines this hour.

German police say they have arrested two brothers suspected of plotting a terror attack on a shopping mall. The suspects are originally from Kosovo and were apprehended in the city of Essen. Meantime, authorities are still hunting for the suspect in Monday's Berlin market attack. They say Anis Amri's fingerprints were found on the truck used in the massacre.

Australian police say they foiled a terrorist attack planned on major landmarks in Melbourne around Christmas Day. Targets included the Flinders Street Railway and St. Paul's Cathedral. Seven people were arrested although two were released without charge. Police say the plot was inspired by ISIS.

An unprecedented phone call from Donald Trump stopped a U.N. Security Council vote on Thursday. The resolution condemns Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. Israel asked the U.S. president-elect to Intervent because it wanted the White House to veto the measure. Trump called Egypt, which sponsored the bill and then postponed the vote. The Syrian civil war has reached a major milestone. After four

years of bitter fighting, the last of the rebel holdouts evacuated on Thursday from their strongholds in Eastern Aleppo.

CNN's Muhammad Lila reports the government now claims complete control of the city.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no question this is a decisive moment in this bloody civil war. In fact, perhaps, one of the most significant moments, a turning point really since this war began five years ago. Syrian state television breaking into the regular programming to announce that they have, quote, liberated all of Eastern Aleppo from all armed terrorist groups. That is confirmed by rebel negotiators on the ground who say that all armed groups, civilians and rebel fighters have been evacuated from that part of the city.

Syria's state broadcaster show images of people celebrating in the streets and waving flags, clearly for supporters of the Assad government, this was a decisive victory.

What this means is that the city of Aleppo is no longer divided between the Western side, which was the government side and parts of the Eastern sides which had been held by the rebels since they occupy those neighborhoods as early as 2012.

And the loss to the rebels can't be underestimated. The eastern part of Aleppo was their command center for so many years. They coordinated operations out of there. They had a network of local activists on the ground, who communicated with activists across the country and in fact around the world. Well, that base is no longer there.

The city is no longer divided and Syria's Bashar al-Assad now controls that city. In fact, the Syrian Armed Forces control all of Syria's major cities for first time now since the civil war began. Something that many people thought was really unthinkable when the revolution got under away. Even more now is the fact that Syria's President Bashar al Assad is proving that he may well outlast America's President Barack Obama. Again, this was unthinkable just a few months or years ago.

And the question that's being asked now is what happens to the revolution? Well, we know that the fighters who have been evacuated from Eastern Aleppo have been taken to the province of Idlib, which is basically the Aleppo countryside. The problem with that province of Idlib is that there are other groups already there.

There is a strong ISIS presence there. There's a strong presence of Jabhat al-Nusra, which is an al-Qaeda affiliate there. There are, as well as the so-called moderate opposition. Now the problem is these are groups that have been fighting each other for the last several years. So it remains to be seen just how stable that province will be. If they will be able to unify ranks and power or if they will continue fighting.

But once again all of Eastern Aleppo now belongs to the Syrian government and the Syrian government is celebrating it as a major victory.

Muhammad Lila, CNN from the Syrian/Turkish border.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: At least 35 people are now confirmed dead after a massive fireworks explosion in Mexico. Dozens of people escaped Tuesday's blast, but many are now recovering from serious injuries.

Leyla Santiago met with one survivor who feels lucky to be alive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[00:35:15] LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seeing something like this can be tough to watch. For Miguel Evan (ph) seeing this video is too much. He can't watch the entire video and he doesn't need to. He was there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING THROUGH FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

SANTIAGO (on-camera): So Miguel is telling me that he thought he was dead, but thank God he wasn't.

(voice-over): When Miguel heard the explosion Tuesday afternoon, his instinct told him to run, but he couldn't leave behind his 84-year-old mother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING THROUGH FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

SANTIAGO (on-camera): He went back to help her. And that's when as they were getting out together, something struck him in the arm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING THROUGH FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

SANTIAGO: His mother then fell down.

(voice-over): Struck by debris, they waited for rescue together and he remembers thinking his single mother never abandon him, this time he was not about to abandon her.

(on-camera): And then his nephew and some other co-workers came in and they had to take him out, carrying him and his mother as well.

(voice-over): She is in the hospital in stable condition now. The two had been selling fireworks as one of hundreds of vendors in the famous San Pablito firework market just north of Mexico City.

Day's ago, state officials called it one of the safest in Latin America. Yet he lived through blasts that rocked the market in 2005 and 2006.

(on-camera): I'm asking him if he would go back to work. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING THROUGH FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

SANTIAGO: And he says, yes, that's what they live off over and that's what they will keep, that's the industry in which they'll keep working.

(voice-over): He lives just a mile away from the fireworks market. This is a market that sells nearly 100 tons of fireworks annually. This industry, he explains, defines who they are, who he is. His family depends on it. So he plans to continue this life once he can overcome the physical pain and the emotional pain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING THROUGH FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

SANTIAGO (on-camera): He tells me he's crying not only for himself, but for lives that were lost.

And all the injured that he saw there beyond himself.

(Voice-over): Leyla Santiago, CNN, Tultepec, Mexico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Well, Donald Trump's inauguration next month may be a little short on star power. When we come back, the Trump team is trying to book some big-name performers but it seems many just don't want to go.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody.

Washington, D.C. gearing up for Donald Trump's inauguration next month. Usually, those big-time musicians are lining up to perform. It's considered an hour, but not this year. Donald Trump, though, does not seem too concerned with a high-profile guest list.

He tweeted this, "The so-called A-list celebrities are all wanting tickets to the inauguration, but look what they did for Hillary, nothing. I want the people."

Stephanie Elam has more.

[00:40:10] STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, the Beach Boys have confirmed that they have been asked to participate in the inauguration for Donald Trump, but that they haven't made a decision yet. Trump's camp also saying that the Radio City Rockettes will perform as part of the inauguration activities. But as far as those really big names that are confirmed, we're still waiting to find out who those acts are going to be.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELAM (voice-over): Beyonce, James Taylor, Brad Paisley, those are just a few of the A-list entertainers who sang at President Obama's last inauguration. Over the years, presidential inaugurations have become celeb-studded celebrations, Hollywood heavyweights deeming it an honor to be asked to perform for the new president.

But now less than a month away from the president-elect's inauguration and sources tells CNN that Donald Trump's transition team is having a hard time booking talent.

TED JOHNSON, SENIOR EDITOR, VARIETY: This was an incredibly divisive campaign. There is a lot of hurt feelings out there and even if you supported Donald Trump, you may have some hesitation over what kind of a response you're going get from your fan base that did not vote for him.

ELAM: Well, a vice chair for Trump's inaugural committee has said in November Elton John was set to perform on the National Mall. John's spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail to CNN, quote, "He will not be performing at Trump's inauguration. Capitalization hers."

It would have been a change for John who headlined a Hillary Clinton fundraiser during the campaign.

JOHNSON: I think the view among many in the music industry is Donald Trump is not an ordinary Republican in his rhetoric and they are very put off by that. And they -- they -- and it follows through with the inauguration that they don't want to touch it, I guess, with a ten-foot pole.

ELAM: Entertainment news Web site, The Wrap reports Garth Brooks will not perform. No doubt, however, Trump will have performances, just perhaps with a lot less pop.

JOHNSON: I actually don't doubt that there will be people there at the inauguration. I don't think, though, that they are going to get people who are out there on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton. I also don't think that they're going to get the level of celebrity star power that you saw for Barack Obama's first inauguration. Hollywood leans left and Donald Trump has to work against that.

There may not be the people who were out there on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton. There also may not be the level of celebrity star power that you saw for Barack Obama's first inauguration when there was this huge concert at the Lincoln memorial and you saw people like Bruce Springsteen, U2, and Pete Seager. It's just the fact of the matter is Hollywood leans left and Donald Trump has to work against that.

ELAM: The Trump team is downplaying any difficulties getting A- listers, confirming to CNN that they booked the Mormon tabernacle choir.

Also saying yes, Jackie Evancho of "America's Got Talent" fame. She will sing the national anthem at Trump's swearing in.

Other possible inaugural performers? Musicians who have stumped for Trump like Ted Nugent and Kid Rock.

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ELAM: Now the Trump camp is saying John that this has much ado about nothing. That it doesn't really matter who performs at the inauguration because they're not trying to put on Woodstock or Summer Jam. To that end, they are saying the people who are going to be turning out for the inauguration are turning out to see one person, Donald J. Trump.

John?

VAUSE: Stephanie Elam, thank you. And you are watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm John Vause. I'll be back at the top of the hour with a look at today's top stories. But, first, "World Sport" starts after a short break.

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