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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Truck Plows Into Christmas Crowd, At Least 12 Dead; Russia: Assassination of Ambassador a "Terror Attack"; Trump Wins Electoral College Vote; The First Lady & Oprah; Berlin Police: Man Found Dead in Truck Was Polish Citizen; Witness: "People Crushed" As Truck Slams Into Market. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired December 19, 2016 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:03] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, John Berman here, in for Anderson.
Tonight, the very latest on the mass killing at a Christmas market in Berlin where the death toll has just risen to at least 12. Anyone with even an ounce of compassion can't help but be horrified with that and every other new development. Anyone looking at similar markets around the world and here at home can't help but be concerned.
And anyone who can see a calendar knows this is happening during a transition. Weeks before a new president will take office, raising obvious questions about how he will respond to this type of attack.
We're going to look at all of it tonight starting with CNN's Frederik Pleitgen at the scene in Western Berlin.
Fred, what's the very latest?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, the very latest is that as you mentioned, we have this death toll that now has risen to 12. We also got some information as to who might have been behind the wheel of this truck as it plowed through the Christmas market.
I just want to show you real quick the scene here because the police actually just now put in several police vans to block off the view from that truck because, of course, there is still forensic work going on behind us. Now, apparently, there was one man who was arrested fairly close to here, I'd say about a mile and a half away. At this point in time, the police says first of all they're trying to determine what nationality he is and also whether they can be sure he was the person who was behind the wheel of the truck as it plowed through this Christmas market.
They also found a second person who was dead on the passenger seat of that truck. They say the truck, itself, came from Poland, has polish license plates. Poland is about an hour and a half away from Berlin where we are right now, and they say that the truck may have been hijacked there and then brought here to perpetrate what you see behind me right now, John.
BERMAN: Fred, the owner of this truck, presumably in Poland, has his own thoughts as to what happened with this vehicle. What is he saying right now?
PLEITGEN: Yes. Do you know what, the owner of the truck is actually the cousin of the person who was last known to have been driving this truck and he says he's absolutely certain that the man who was supposed to be driving the truck, the man who was there from the Polish company, was not behind the wheel when the truck plowed here into this Christmas market. He said that man is missing. He thinks something horrible might have happened to him.
He's also the one who put forward that theory that potentially the truck may have been hijacked somewhere in Poland and then brought to here. He is obviously in a lot of distress at this point in time.
It's one of the theories that the Berlin police is following right now. They say they can't confirm that that was definitely the case, but it's certainly one of those working theories that this truck may have been hijacked, brought here and plowed into this place right here.
And, John, one of the other things that we've also learned, the truck was packed with 25 tons of steel. So, it was moving fast and it was also a very heavy vehicle, of course, making it even worse as it was plowing through that Christmas market and those market stalls.
BERMAN: All right. Frederik Pleitgen for us in Western Berlin. A horrifying scene right in.
Official reaction tonight from the White House and Trump transition team.
First, the White House: "The United States condemns in the strongest terms what appears to have been a terrorist attack in a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany, which has killed and wounded dozens. We send our thoughts and prayers to the families and loved ones and those killed just as we wish a speedy recovery to all of those wounded."
The statement goes on, "We also extend our heartfelt condolences to the people and government of Germany."
And from the president-elect, "Our hearts and prayers with the loved ones of the victims of today's horrifying terror attack in Berlin. Innocent civilians were murdered in the streets as they prepared to celebrate the Christmas holiday. ISIS and other terrorists continue to slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad."
He also adds, "These terrorists and their regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated from the face of the earth."
Joining us now from London, CNN terror analyst Paul Cruickshank.
Paul, based on what you're hearing right now, what do you see?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, John, German authorities are investigating this as a terrorist attack. It has all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack, very similar to what we saw in Nice in the summer with the truck rampage which killed 86 people along the Promenade des Anglais.
But they do not know for sure yet whether this was a terrorist attack. There's going to be more investigations, furious investigations in the hours ahead to try to piece this together to figure out whether, indeed, it was terrorism, who the perpetrators were. There's been no claim of responsibility yet from any terrorist group. There's been complete silence from ISIS.
Now, if this individual was somehow connected to ISIS, they've been telling their followers, leave some kind of message behind, even put it out on social media, saying you're doing it on behalf of us as a group. The German authorities have not said whether they've discovered any such message yet, John.
BERMAN: As you said, we do not know for certain at this point if it was an act of terrorism, but it looks an awful like what happened in Nice on Bastille Day over the summer, and it's exactly the kind of attack that ISIS has called on its followers to carry out over the last year or so.
[20:05:10] CRUICKSHANK: That's right, because they're so effective, they're so deadly, just by getting hold of a truck, you can kill dozens and dozens of people and getting hold of a truck is not going to arouse much suspicion. They realize that these trucks can be deployed against soft targets, that it's absolutely impossible to protect every kind of holiday market, every kind of pedestrian area in Europe, in the United States.
We also just a few weeks ago saw a car attack, a vehicle attack in the United States at Ohio State where the perpetrator had been influenced by ISIS and al Qaeda. Fortunately, in that case, he was only driving a small car, didn't have that much momentum and nobody was killed.
But this is something U.S. officials are also going to have to be concerned about in the days and weeks ahead, particularly over this holiday period on both sides of the Atlantic with intelligence suggesting that ISIS and other terrorist groups really want to get an attack through in the holiday period when people are gathering outside in public because they realize that that can be particularly psychologically traumatic to western populations.
BERMAN: All right. Paul, stay right there.
I want to bring in "Daily Beast" senior editor Michael Weiss, he's a CNN contributor. Also, CNN intelligence and security analyst and former CIA officer, Bob Baer.
You know, Michael, you literally wrote the book on ISIS. From what we've seen, what we know at this point, what strikes you?
MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I agree with Paul, it has the hallmarks of a jihadi-style attack.
I mean, you mentioned Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the former ISIS spokesman who was taken out by a U.S. airstrike several months ago. In 2014, he called on Muslims living in the West to do exactly this. He said, look, you don't have to come to Raqqah or Mosul and join the so-called caliphate and be trained up as operatives. If you're Muslims, you have a pious duty to kill the kufar, which meaning the infidels, in the West where they stand, use a knife, stab them in the heart, use a gun, shoot them at pointblank range, use a car,, get in your car and drive over them.
And as Paul was saying, you know, we saw this in Nice, we saw this in Ohio state. Now, There are other bits of information coming to light which Frederik just mentioned which actually reinforce the view I have this is probably jihadists.
First of all, if this was a van or a lorry that was hijacked in Poland, that's a level of operational security that doesn't bespeak kind of amateur hour to me. This is a guy who's not just getting behind the wheel of a car and driving over, you know, dozens of people. This is a guy who actually realized I'm going to take a car in a foreign country, hijack and possibly kill the driver of that car, and then drive it, what, an hour and a half into Berlin then commit a terror attack. That, I'm suddenly suspicious of because --
BERMAN: Maybe even loaded with steel --
WEISS: Load it with steel, what, 25 tons? Again, this is not somebody who, to me, seems very -- to have been inspired or simply remotely radicalized. And, remember, you know, Germany has graduated something like 800 people who have gone off, you know, to join ISIS. There are probably thousands of operatives running around Europe. You know, European security services tepid s tend to downplay or underestimate the level of people who have come back from the battlefield and they're just sort of acting as sleeper cells.
If you're ISIS, you know, these people are at a premium. You know, you can't train up new people because the border has been completely interdicted by either Turkey or the U.S.
So, again, as you mentioned, it's a holiday season. We have a transition of American power under way. Now is the time to activate these sleepers.
BERMAN: Obviously, if they have someone in custody, he does turn out to be linked to this, intelligence from him will be key.
Bob Baer, you note this is all happening as Aleppo and Syria in some cases spiraling out of control. Why do you believe the timing is no coincidence?
ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Aleppo has just fallen. There's incredible carnage going on there and you've got Muslims in Europe, and I'm assuming this is a terrorism act, has all the hallmarks of it, who are reacting to the carnage there -- just as the shooter did that killed the ambassador in Ankara, the Russian ambassador. This is effecting people terribly and they're sympathizing with people dying in the battlefield, the way they're fighting this war is taking it to the West, taking it to Russia, although we have nothing to do with Aleppo, nor, of course, the Germans, we are still held responsible, the West is. So I think we're going to be seeing more and more of this.
And none of this is coming as a surprise. The European security services have been seeing over and over again, it's a high alert, we're going to get attacked. And I think Aleppo, the fall of Aleppo, is the catalyst of this and I think as the civil war in Syria goes on, we're going to see more and more of this and also going to see more of the chaos spilling over into Turkey.
BERMAN: Do you think, Bob, that the United States is vulnerable either to this type of attack or this type of motivation?
BAER: Copycat, yes, absolutely.
[20:10:01] I think there have been people in this country who are going to look at Aleppo, going to be on the Internet, going to see what's going on there, and they are going to pick up a gun, or a truck, more likely, because there's absolutely no way to stop an attack like this anywhere in the United States, anywhere that's crowded, and especially at Christmastime. I think we have to really be worried about lone wolf, if you like, inspired by ISIS, al Qaeda, hitting inside this country.
BERMAN: And Paul, along those lines, the investigation right now, they do have a man in custody, obviously they're questioning him. There is someone deceased on the passenger side of this truck right now. I have to believe trying to figure out if there are any ties between either of these two people and a larger terror network, that's one of the paramount concerns right now.
CRUICKSHANK: That's right. They'll be scrubbing their phones, their social media, looking who they were in touch with, who they were associating with in Germany or any other countries, whether they were among the 800 who traveled from Germany to join jihadi groups in Syria and Iraq. More than 270 have come back to Germany.
But this comes at a time, John, when the system really is blinking red when it comes to the terrorist threat against Germany. Officials have described it as an unprecedented terrorist threat. We've seen five plots since July either connected to is or where people have been communicating back with ISIS, ISIS grooming attackers to launch attacks. Five plots inside Germany.
We've seen attacks which fortunately have not resulted in fatalities, for example, two last July on a train and a music festival. The threat has been getting worse and worse in Germany.
They're also grappling with security issues because of all these refugees that have flown into, that have come into the country. The vast majority of which are no security threat whatsoever, but ISIS have used refugee flows to infiltrate operatives into Europe, into Germany, and there's also concern about radicalization in these refugee camps where you have a dislocated generation of young men who as Bob Baer was pointing out, are angry about things like Aleppo and some of the things that they've experienced in Syria and who could be radicalized by extremists already inside Germany. All of this, a big problem for Angela Merkel, the chancellor of
Germany, especially if there's any kind of indication that there is a connection to the refugee issue.
BERMAN: We'll look at the problem across Europe, not to mention the United States as well.
Gentlemen, stand by. A lot more to talk about over the next two hours including an apparent act of political violence that left a Russian diplomat dead. A roomful of witnesses traumatized, and shockwaves spreading across two continents.
And later, the Electoral College meets. We expected a small revolt against Donald Trump, what we got was very different. See why ahead on 360.
[20:15:29] BERMAN: The mass killing in Berlin was neither the only act of terror today, nor the only shock to the system. The other happened in the Turkish capital of Ankara. Russia's ambassador to Turkey assassinated on camera.
Now, we should warn you this is very tough to watch and the implications, they are even worse. If you think you might need to turn away, now's the time.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
BERMAN: All right. This happened at an art gallery. Ambassador Andrey Karlov was speaking when the gunman described as a Turkish police officer shot him dead. The killer shouted "Do not forget Aleppo."
CNN's Clarissa Ward joins us now from Moscow where the Kremlin is reacting.
Clarissa, just in terms of who this shooter was, what his motive was, what exactly do we know so far?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, we know what we've seen in the video, John, which is that the attacker quite clearly says over and over again, "We must remember Aleppo," "we must remember Syria," anyone who's involved in this oppression will simply have it coming to them.
So, you have the stated motive, which was he was apparently moved to violence by the scenes that have been unfolding in Aleppo, and I should say, John, I'm sure most of out viewers already realize this but there have been horrible scenes playing out in Syria, particularly in Aleppo. Civilians killed, children bombed, houses, hospitals razed to the ground. People starving to death. Not enough water. People stranded and besieged in these areas for months and months.
And those images that have been coming out every day certainly have had a profound effect on all people, but I think particularly on Muslims across the world, who feel very strongly about the Russian involvement with the regime of Bashar al Assad.
Now, you also have, of course, the potential for an underlying political motive and what could that be? Was he involved with some type of jihadist group? Was he affiliated with ISIS? Was he looking to derail the rapprochement that we have seen between Turkey and Russia, particularly the last few months? Was he looking to derail the cooperation that we have seen between Russia and Turkey with regards to Syria? Of course, it was Russia and Turkey who brokered this latest truce which allowed the evacuations of thousands of people from eastern Aleppo.
So, I think officials and investigators will be trying to drill down on what his role motives were, but for now, we can speculate about the underlying motives and rely on what we saw in that video, that harrowing video to guess his stated motives, John.
BERMAN: And, Clarissa, what has the Russian response been to the assassination?
WARD: Well, so far, the Russian response has been remarkably similar to the Turkish response. It's almost as if they coordinated a joint response. Both of them saying, President Erdogan and President Putin, that basically this was an attempt to detail the Russian/Turkish relationship which as I said has improved so much, particularly in the last six months but also just in the year since Russian fighter jet was shot down by the Turkish military.
The Turks saying that it was in Turkish airspace. The Russians saying it was in Syrian airspace. And we heard from President Putin and he said that he believed it was a result of this, that he believed it was a result of Turkish/Russian coordination on Syria. And he actually went one step further and he said, the only response we should offer to this murder is stepping up our fight against terror and the criminals will feel the heat. That's what we're hearing from the Kremlin.
Online, John, it's a slightly different story, definitely a lot of anger from some Russian social media users. One lawmaker who was a close ally of President Putin going so far as to actually blame the West for inciting people to violence with what he called propaganda about the situation in Aleppo, John.
BERMAN: All right. Clarissa Ward in Moscow -- thanks so much, Clarissa.
All right. Back now with our panel, and joining us is Graeme Wood, national correspondent for "The Atlantic" and author of "The Way of Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State."
And, Graeme, you just heard our latest reporting from Moscow on the assassination of the Russian ambassador.
[20:20:01] What does your gut tell you about what happened there?
GRAEME WOOD, AUTHOR, "THE WAY OF STRANGERS": I think it could be any number of actors who is behind this. As Clarissa just said, there's no shortage of Islamist groups and others within Turkey who would have a motive to kill a Russian ambassador. And we have to remember that the jihadist groups who are active in Syria and Iraq are fighting against each other, too. They're competing to be the one that is bearing the standard of jihad most prominently and to take the life of an ambassador would definitely boost them in the standings.
BERMAN: Bob Baer, you are familiar with this part of the world. What kind of security did diplomatic personnel have when they're out in public? You know, what kind of intelligence would Russia about possible threats to the ambassador, remembering here the gunman was apparently a police officer?
BAER: Well, exactly, John. The Russian ambassador was probably one of the most protected diplomats in the country. He had Turkish protection. He had KGB protection as well.
I've heard that that guy who shot him may have even been part of that detail. That's not been confirmed. But we have to consider here what I think is very worrisome for the Turks is this was a spontaneous act, and if Turkish security can't be relied upon to protect the Russian ambassador, how can Erdogan, the president, rely on his own security?
So, although the Russians are taking this fairly calmly and the Turkish foreign minister has gone to Moscow, the Turks have told me there will be a meeting tomorrow, they're going to work things out but the real problem is internally in Turkey, just how bad is Turkey infected by the violence in Syria? And that's hard to get a grip on, even the Turks don't know.
BERMAN: And remember, the national security forces inside Turkey have been -- after the attempted coup there, so presumably any police officers left would be loyal, at least thought to be loyal to the government.
Michael Weiss, there's a lot of what we don't know here. But in terms of what could happen next, we heard Clarissa Ward's reports, Vladimir Putin saying they're going to step up the fight on terror, criminals will feel the heat.
What does that mean? Does that mean Russia will get even more deeply involved in Syria where they're already in big?
WEISS: Yes, and it will justify an escalated campaign of bombardment. I mean, what's happening now is these evacuations, really we're talking about a forced population transfer out of Aleppo, a lot of them are going either into the northern countryside of Aleppo, which is under the Turkish protector, to this Operation Euphrates Shield. Many, though, are going to go to Idlib province, and Idlib province is now enthralled to a jihadist consortium led by al Qaeda and other Salafi groups.
So, Russia, and the Assad regime, and Iran are going to basically sort of wage a scorched-earth campaign in Idlib next. They're going turn it into a kill box under the justification of, well, we're fighting jihad. You know, what Putin has said today, we're going after bandits. It reminds me nothing so much of what he said in 1999 when he was Prime Minister Putin and he came to power on the back of going after Chechen jihadists who he alleged had blown up Moscow apartment buildings.
This is form. This is when he thrives the most, when he sort of gets tough, pounds his chest and says that the Russian Federation is going to get tough on terror.
Now, remember, when Turkey shot down that Russian fighter jet, what happened? The pilot ejected and then Turkish-backed rebels on the ground shot and killed the pilot as he was parachuting down. The immediate response of Russia was to direct all of its intervention, all of its firepower against Turkish-backed Sunni Turkmen rebels that were in the Idlib and Latakia province. So, Russia in a sense went to proxy war against Turkey to send a message.
So, what is Putin going to do now? We don't know. I quite agree that rapprochement is not being derailed. Both governments do not have an interest to pick a fight with each other. But that doesn't mean Putin can't pick a fight with the rest of Syria.
BERMAN: Now, remember, there aren't exactly two sides here. So, things between Russia and Turkey may maintain its current course, but it could get worse for some other people.
You know, Graeme, I saw you nodding your head when Michael was talking right there. You know, Michael noted to me before that the Russians have called this a provocation. That's a loaded word. That's a loaded word you can use as a rationale to do a whole lot of different things in terms of national security.
WOOD: Yes, absolutely, and it's not just the Russians. We see the Turks and different Turkish factions as well retreating to their respective corners. You k now, you could expect that the Russians would frame this as a reason to be even tougher, as they would probably put it, against rebels in Syria.
Also within Turkey, you would expect the Erdogan government to mention this might be Gulenists and others to say also that it was al Qaeda or the Islamic State. And that I think is also the unmentioned factor here.
It's still possible that this is Islamic State linked. The mention of Aleppo suggests it is not, but Aleppo does have Islamic State actors within it. And the Islamic State will be still as it has been for a long time, relatively untouched by Russian action as they move toward Idlib.
[20:25:01] BERMAN: All right, gentlemen. Thanks so much for being with us. Don't go far. A lot more to talk about tonight.
You can also check out Graeme's new book, "The Way of Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State."
Coming up for us, Donald Trump takes another step toward the White House after the Electoral College votes. And in the state that put him over the top, one elector refused to vote for Donald Trump calling him dangerous and unqualified. We'll hear from him next.
BERMAN: As of just a few hours ago, Donald Trump officially passed 270 votes in the Electoral College. Electors in the state of Texas put him over the top. The next big date on his path to the White House is January 6th when the results are certified during a joint session of Congress. There were a few protests today, as members of the Electoral College cast their ballots nationwide.
Take a look at what happened in Wisconsin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTFIED MALE: The votes are ten votes, Donald J. Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're pathetic. You don't deserve to be in America.
(CROWD CHANTING, "SHAME, SHAME")
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my America. This is my America. My America.
This is my America. You have sold us out. Listen to your heart. Listen to the chants. Listen to all -- can I take my things with me? Take me out. I don't care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: CNN's senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, joins us now.
[20:30:02] And Jeff, you know, obviously Donald Trump won, more than 270 electoral votes. Well over that number. But there was a little bit of drama, even a few surprises especially in terms of who was the biggest loser when it comes to so-called faithless electors.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: There were, John. There were seven so-called faithful selectors. People who went to vote for someone other than their state voted for. And surprisingly, five of them were actually Hillary Clinton supporters. Four of them came from Washington State. A third of the entire Washington State delegation decided to defect and go away from Hillary Clinton and voted for someone else.
Now, they were part of a larger group across the country that never failed to, you know, sort of organize. The Hamilton electors, they were called. And the idea was they were going to support someone else, anyone else, to keep Donald Trump from hitting 270, but it fizzled entirely and some other supporters of Hillary Clinton in some other states wanted to support Bernie Sanders but they actually were rebuked and replaced today because a lot of state laws do not allow that. And those four people in Washington State, the Secretary of State's office says they'll be fined a thousand dollars each for going against the will of the state.
So, for all the talks about revolts today, the reality here is this is a pretty -- a system that's hard to disrupt. And even if this had been disrupted, trying to know this goes to the House of Representatives, of course, controlled by Republicans and what do you think would have happened in January had that happen?
BERMAN: Exactly, ironic though for all the talk of drama on the Republican side leading up to today, it was the Democrats who had a harder time keeping their electors in line. What was the president- elect's reaction to his now official Electoral College victory?
ZELENY: John we've heard so much reaction from him to the Electoral College itself. Four years ago, he called it a disaster for Democracy. Not his tune today, of course, as he was vacationing in Mar-a-Lago. He was watching all of this come in and he issued a statement saying he would be the president for all Americans and unite all Americans. Then he sent out a tweet that was not quite as magnanimous. Let's take a look at that.
He said, "We did it. Thank you to all of my great supporters. We just officially won the election despite all the distorted and inaccurate media". So of course, never failing to get a bit in for his base there. But Donald Trump is definitely happy, his advisers say that there were no revolts, there were no protests of any major kind and now he is one step closer to being the 45th president.
BERMAN: Indeed the next big day January 6th. Jeff Zeleny, thanks for being with us.
ZELENY: Thanks John.
BERMAN: You know, we should note that in Texas, one elector has been facing an onslaught of threats that both him and his family because he did refuse to cast a ballot for Donald Trump. Kyung Lah reports.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We meet Christopher Suprun underground. We're hurrying through the basement halls of the Texas State Capitol.
LAH: We're coming in through a tunnel.
CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN, FAITHLESS ELECTOR: We're coming in through a tunnel. It's another method to get where we're headed.
LAH: Heading to the Electoral College vote in the Texas House Chamber. Super and side by side of security because of innumerable death threats. He's a so-called "faithless elector", this lifelong Republican defying his state's election results, and voting against Donald Trump, calling the president-elect, dangerous and unqualified.
SUPRUN: There's lots of pressure. I'm going to do what I can to do the right thing and we'll go from there.
LAH: Above ground, protests calling for electors who vote against Donald Trump. Suprun is a hero with this crowd.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That takes a lot of guts to do that especially in this state, and I'm here to say, good for you, man.
LAH: The pressure on electors in election 2016, unprecedented. Signed petitions delivered to the Texas Secretary of State.
DANIEL BREZENOFF, CHANGE ORG. PETITIONER: And that's 265,000 Texans who want to stop Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: Urging others to follow Christopher Suprun's lead, reminding electors that by the latest tally, Trump lost the popular vote by around 3 million, yet still wins the White House by the electoral vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BREZENOFF: No matter what happens today, this conversation we're having about the Electoral College is important and it's going to continue.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Texas now puts President Trump over the top.
LAH: In the end, Texas electors put Donald Trump over 270. Suprun was joined by one other faithless elector dumping Trump. This is the way the process should be, says fellow Texas elector, Matt Stringer.
MATT STRINGER, TEXAS ELECTOR: You're supposed to be a steward of the people's vote.
LAH: Do you think Christopher Supun is doing the right thing?
STRINGER: No, I don't believe so. I disagree with him going faithless. Donald Trump won an overwhelming number of the state's electors to be president. We are a Republic.
LAH: Was this all worth it?
SUPRUN: Absolutely. I cast a ballot based on my principles and values. You never go wrong when you're doing that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Again, Christopher Suprun just one of only two electors Republican electors who defected from Donald Trump. Kyung Lah joins me now from Austin.
Kyung, what happens to Chris Suprun now tomorrow? I mean, he's received horrible death threats to both him and his family. Does he go back to normal life? [20:35:07] LAH: Well it's going to be an uphill climb trying to get back to that normal life. And part of the reason is that he says he has been a victim of an extraordinary smear campaign which he says has shredded his professional reputation. Now, Suprun, part of his strong narrative and what he backed up his argument for being a faithless elector, is that he was a 9/11 responder to the Pentagon.
Well, Trump supporters have said according to Suprun, that he wasn't there, that never happened, that he simply made it up. What we called the Dale City fire department in Virginia and that department did confirm John that he was a member from 2000 to 2002, but they just can't exactly place his whereabouts on 9/11. John.
BERMAN: All right. Kyung Lah, thanks so much.
Coming up for us, Michelle Obama's final moments, final days as first lady. She sat down with an interview with Oprah Winfrey that just aired. What she said about hope, the lack thereof, and much more? That's next.
BERMAN: Michelle Obama is in her last weeks as first lady at the end of her eight years in the White House. She sat down for a wide- ranging interview with Oprah Winfrey. Here's part of what she just said in that interview that aired tonight about election night and the morning after.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, ACTRESS AND HOST OF "THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": I read that on election night, you went to bed.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Yes.
WINFREY: And did not know the results until the next morning.
[20:40:04] OBAMA: You know, absolutely, I -- and look I do not like the back and forth process of politics. I don't like to hear pundits chitchatting. I don't like it.
WINFREY: So you were awakened on November 9th and you were told.
OBAMA: Yeah, I got up and I looked at my iPhone and I saw it.
WINFREY: And what was your first thought?
OBAMA: Well, pretty much, you know, you kind of saw the tea leaves. I can't feel how things ...
WINFREY: So by the time you went to bed, you could sense it.
OBAMA: I was getting myself ready for either outcome, you know, so mentally I'd already kind of digested it before I actually read it.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Now, this interview has been making headlines for a few days for something else the first lady said in a clip that was released early. Randi Kaye reports.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINFREY: What do you give your kids if you can't give them hope?
RANDY KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michelle Obama keeping it real as she likes to say, telling Oprah Winfrey that she sees a lack of hope in this country.
OBAMA: We feel the difference now.
OBAMA: See, now we're feeling what not having hope feels like.
KAYE: Without ever mentioning Donald Trump by name, Mrs. Obama told Oprah that her husband did bring the hope that he promised but that since Election Day that hope has disappeared.
OBAMA: Barack didn't just talk about hope because he thought it was just a nice slogan to get votes.
KAYE: Donald Trump responded to the first lady's comments during his rally in Alabama.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF UNITED STATES: I assumed she was talking about the past, not the future, because I'm telling you, we have tremendous hope.
KAYE: Instead of going on the attack, Trump let the first lady off the hook.
TRUMP: I actually think she made that statement not meaning it the way it came out. I really do, because I met with President Obama and Michelle Obama in the White House, my wife was there, she could not have been nicer.
KAYE: Following that White House meeting, there was no sign of hard feelings. Trump tweeted "there was great chemistry" and that "Melania liked Mrs. O. a lot."
On the campaign trail only a month earlier on the heels of the release of that "Access Hollywood Tape" in which Trump was heard bragging about grabbing women's genitals, Mrs. Obama had delivered this rebuke.
OBAMA: I can't stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn't have predicted.
KAYE: She went on to scold the Republican nominee.
OBAMA: This is not normal. This is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful. It is intolerable. WINFREY: In her interview with Oprah, Michelle Obama also opened up about being labeled an angry black woman during her husband's 2008 campaign. Critics faulted her for saying his campaign had made her proud of this country for the first time.
OBAMA: Do you think, that is so not me. But then you sort of think, well this isn't about me. This is about the person or the people who write it. We're so afraid of each other, you know, color, wealth. These things that don't matter still play too much of a role and how we see one another. And it's sad because the thing that least defines us as people is the color of our skin.
KAYE: Oprah asked Mrs. Obama if she had advice for the incoming first lady.
OBAMA: My offer to Melania was, you know, you really don't know what you don't know until you're here. So, the door is open, as I've told her.
KAYE: An effort, perhaps, to turn the page on one of the ugliest campaigns ever. Maybe there is hope after all.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right. Joining me now, CNN political commentator and democratic strategist, Maria Cardona and journalist Kati Marton author of Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That shaped Our History.
And Kati, you know, it was really interesting, hearing Michelle Obama say to Oprah Winfrey, this getting a lot of press. Now we're feeling what not having hope feels like. And it continues to strike me that that is a very different message than we are hearing from her husband, the president of the United States, who really seems to be going out of his way to be very careful to make the transition as smooth as possible.
KATI MARTON, JOURNALIST: Well, clearly, John, she is carving out a different identity for herself from her husband's, and a voice that we hadn't heard here to fore. But I think that she sees and needs for such a voice and she's become a populous powerhouse. And she is speaking not about politics, she is speaking about morality, she's speaking about character, she's speaking about decency, acceptable behavior, unacceptable behavior.
She is not talking politics here. And I think that once having carved out that strong, moral voice for herself which clearly is an authentic voice because she speaks from the heart, and that's why she has such credibility with so many people.
[20:45:03] I think it's very hard for her to retreat from that. I think that this is now who she is and she is now declaring her independence in a sense from Barack Obama.
BERMAN: Yeah, hard to retreat, apparently so, because this was very much the Michelle Obama we heard during the campaign but now, you know, it's after the campaign. And our friend, Jake Tapper, notes she's not the first lady of the blue states of America. I mean, she is the first lady of the United States of America, and there are, you know, more than 60 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump who don't feel as if they're without hope right now.
MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, what I would say, I would take it a slightly different tap, and that is that, I think she was speaking personally about her husband's legacy. I think it's been very clear what Donald Trump is ready to do to so many things that President Obama implemented, from Obamacare that gives 20 million Americans healthcare coverage that didn't have it before, to the protections for the dreamers who Donald Trump said that something that he is going to repeal the very first day. The climate protections that we have for our environment, you know, clearly he is been on track and he has said in rally after rally that he's going to take away all of that.
So from a legacy standpoint, I think she's talking about, look, you know, my husband put so many of these things in place to give our country, to give the people who live in it a lot of hope. I think she sees a lot of the danger in what President-elect Trump has said. But I also think she represents so many people, frankly, more people than voted for Trump, who do have fear, who do have angst, who have lost hope because of President-elect Trump's own words during the campaign. So I think it's on him to come out and if he really wants to be the president for everybody, he needs to show it, no just say it.
BERMAN: That's interesting. You're talking about the legacy, in a way she's more honest or willing to admit the president's legacy may be in jeopardy than the president, himself, is. I want to play one more clip. Again this interview just aired. And we're hearing some of it for the first time. So, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINFREY: So you arrived here with great expectations and there were comments being made then and since that you said knocked you back a bit. What allowed you to stand in your own shoes and find your way?
OBAMA: Being a grown-up, you know?
OBAMA: You know, you know, I always said to myself, I -- this would be really hard if I were 20 or 30. And that's why I look at these young celebrities and I just feel for them because you have to be grown up enough to know yourself in this. And that just takes time. That's, you know, of course, I had great parents and I have a husband who loves me. I have people all around me who affirm me. Look that helps, but just being straight-up grown-up helps.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: It helps, but nothing it prepares you for being in the White House. MARTON: No. I mean that was a very pointed comment directed at Trump being a grown-up. I mean, obviously she's making a contrast between Obama and Trump. And this is essentially a non-political voice that she is. I agree with you that her legacy is on the line just as much as her husband's legacy is on the line. But the reason that she has so much credibility is that for eight years, she has avoided politics.
She has no political ambition that we know of, and as a result of that, she now can speak with, as a mother, as a woman, as an African- American. But she's really expanded her voice and her reach beyond being the first African-American first lady which is a huge thing already.
She is now -- she's now a voice for all women and she's a voice that I think is an essential one as a great many people are worried about what's coming next, then you don't have to be a politician to be worried about a president-elect who really hasn't shown signs of reaching across party lines or moderation since he was elected, as was the hope.
BERMAN: Yeah. That is certainly the concern for a lot of the people who support Michelle Obama including Michelle Obama, herself. Kati said, no apparent political ambition. Quickly, because we do have to run here, Maria Cardona, zero percent chance but Michelle Obama jumps in at some point and runs?
CARDONA: To the chagrin of so many people in this country, yes, I think at least at this moment, John, and of course, things change, but right now ...
BERMAN: I have no intention of running for office.
CARDONA: Well, you know. She is young; she is so incredibly well- liked and respected. You know, she would loss so much of that, the most popular politician that would go away.
BERMAN: All right, guys, we'll get (inaudible) this a little bit. Thanks so much for being with us. Also, stand by, because we are getting still more material from that interview and as I just said, we'll talk to you the next hour about that.
[20:50:03] Up next, new information on the truck that was used to kill at least a dozen people in Berlin. We're going to speak with a journalist who just talked to the owner of the trapping company -- the trucking company that owned the vehicle in question. So stay with us.
BERMAN: All right. We are learning more now about the truck at the center of the vehicular massacre in Berlin and the dead man in the passenger seat. Berlin police tweeted just moments ago that he was Polish. Now, as for the driver himself, we believe he is in custody. As for the truck, it belonged to a trucking company in Poland. And joining us now is journalist Michal Sznajder who spoke with the company owner. Michal and what can you tell about this man and what he believes happens?
MICHAL SZNAJDER, REPORTER TV24 BIS: Good evening. Well the owner of the company was in absolute shock as we spoke to him. We spoke to him around 9:30 p.m. local time, which was pretty much an hour and 15 minutes after the tragedy had occurred. Now, what we did learn was that the last conversation between those two men was around noon on Monday's, local time. Around 3:00 or 4:00, they probably had realized that something was wrong. That was the time when they lost any contact with the driver. Their last conversation took place around noon. And the wife of the driver was trying to reach him, but was simply unsuccessful.
The owner told me that the driver was a very, very proper, hard- working employee, someone who had really treated his work very, very seriously. As they had spoken, it turned out that he was supposed to unload some cargo that was some steel construction, steel element for construction. He was supposed to unload it in Berlin. But when he arrived to his destination, it turned out that it would be impossible for that to take place.
I asked the owner of the company, was that something suspicious? The answer was, no, that simply sometimes happens in this business. So the driver, the Polish driver from the Polish company was supposed to wait until 8:00 in the morning on Tuesday, and that's when he would leave the cargo and come back home. But that did not happen. During their last conversation, they did exchange a few jokes. The driver said that he was off to eat something and that was the last time they ever spoke.
What shocked me during the interview was, at first, the owner of the company said that he vouches for a driver. But later I asked him, what makes you so certain that he is in no way connected to this thing. And the answer was shocking as it turns out; those two men were simply related. That was his cousin. So I was speaking unfortunately with a person who was very obviously worried about not only someone he trusts with his job, with his work, but also simply with someone who was his relative, and apparently a very close one.
BERMAN: Michal, so apparently, what we know here is that the driver of this truck did make it to Berlin. He did make it to Berlin with this truck. We also now know from German police that a Polish citizen was found dead in the passenger seat.
[20:55:11] Does the owner of this company fear that his cousin may have been a victim here?
SZNAJDER: He feared that even a few hours before this piece of information became official, because just to remind you, it was announced that it was a Polish victim, then it was retracted by some media, among them, some serious media. So we were in Poland simply waiting to find out what the story is. But right now, we are learning that that was, in fact the polish driver and the owner of the company, when I had spoken to him a few earlier, he said that he was fairly certain that something wrong must have happened. That he might have been a victim of something terrible and everything is playing towards the direction that that is, unfortunately what had happened. BERMAN: Right.
SZNAJDER: I asked the owner of the company, perhaps looking for some hope that maybe this was not the case here, that I asked, was the cargo in any way precious. Might this have been some sort of robbery attempt or something else? But the answer was a quick, no. That is what some sort of cargo that would be of no use to anyone else who would want to steal it.
BERMAN: It was steel, apparently, and if nothing else, it made the truck heavier and deadlier. But again, the news that we're just getting from you is that this truck and its driver did get as far as Berlin. That was the last time he spoke to the owner of the company and we just heard from Berlin police sources, they just tweeted that there was a dead Polish citizen found in the passenger seat. We're trying to figure out now if that man may have been killed by the attacker.
All right, in the next hour of "360", we're going to get a live update from Berlin, itself, and hear from another witness who saw the truck on its deadly path to destruction. Stay with us.
BERMAN: All right. Good evening, again. Topping the hour, the very latest we are learning about what unfolded at a Christmas market in Berlin. What we already do know is terrible enough. People in a crowded plaza fleeing for their lives, as a truck crushed anything and everyone in its path.
CNN's Frederick Pleitgen, live in Berlin for us now. Fred, what are you hearing? What's the latest?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL REPORTER: Hi, John. Well, we're getting some new details from the Berlin police. They've just confirmed to us that, first of all, they do now have a forensic unit here that's actually working behind me. You're going to be able to see some of those police van behind me, but behind that is where that truck is actually standing that plowed into this Christmas market. And they've now confirmed that there are forensic units still working, criminal investigation units of working there as well.
And we've also learned, of course, that the truck had a polish license plate, has a polish license plate, and that apparently, this truck came to Berlin from Poland, only a few days ago. And it was confirmed that it actually made it all the way to Berlin and then the owner of the truck, who's still in Poland, had said that the driver at some point, he lost contact with him. And that was something that was a great cause for concern. And we have now found out that the person who was found on the passenger seat of the truck, a dead person found there, was a Polish citizen.
[21:00:06] So it's unclear whether or not that was the truck driver, whether the truck may have been hijacked along the way. We do know that Berlin police has one man in custody. They are not coming out yet and saying ...