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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Michelle Obama: I Won't Run for Office; Review of Clinton Mistakes in Election; U.S. Law Enforcement Steps Up Security Following Attacks; Truck Terror Attacks on the Rise; Local Pastor's Message Road-Rage Killer of Toddler: "We're Coming for You." N.C. Repealing "Transgender Bathroom" Bill; N.C. Legislator, Governor Strip Powers of Incoming Governor. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 20, 2016 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That is Sherman-esque, Ron Brownstein. For other politicians who dance around questions whether they may run, that's how you say no. No, I'm not running for office. No, it's not going to happen. Not. No, I have no intention. No, I have no plans right out in. She says no.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORERSPONDENT: Look, in this campaign, the first lady proved to be an extremely effective messenger for a political message. And whether she runs for office or not, and she is saying not, my guess is we're going to hear more from her in the years ahead. I mean, moving beyond the role she had played through most of the presidency into something else, she was perhaps the Democrat's single most effective surrogate. Her speech at the convention and her speech in New Hampshire about Donald Trump after the "Access Hollywood" tape were two of the memorable moments of the year. I'm guessing we have not heard the last of Michelle Obama.

BERMAN: She said no, by the way. And she said it much more clearly than we normally hear.

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah.

BERMAN: I don't often get bonus time with Ron Brownstein, so let me take advantage of this and ask you more about what happened in this election. To Donald Trump's point that Hillary Clinton didn't campaign in states like Wisconsin, didn't go to Wisconsin at all, didn't go to Michigan until the end. The flip side of that, she did go to North Carolina a lot. She did go to Florida a lot. She still lost both those states.

BROWNSTEIN: Right.

BERMAN: Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, which were seen as swing states, she didn't campaign there and she won. I'm not sure what you can learn there.

BROWNSTEIN: The fact in this campaign, the Clinton campaign put enormous effort above all into Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, ranking fourth. Those first three were not in her initial 270. They were reach states. They were kind of insurance states. Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania were part of her core 270 as we saw. If she would have held them, she would have won the election. More of those diverse white collar Sunbelt states, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada. She was able to hold those. I do think there was a misallocation of resources. Wisconsin and Michigan, they were absent in October when Trump was eating away at their advantage. As you point out, that was not the sole answer. We saw a widening of all the geographic and demographics we have. With Clinton depending on primarily white collar voters and Millennials. Trump's dominating among blue collar whites and voters who lived outside major cities, and that portion of America united behind Trump just a little more than Clinton's did behind her.

One very revealing number, John, voters who approved of President Obama, just about 80 percent of them, over 80 percent of them, voted for Clinton. Those that disapproved of Obama, 90 percent of them voted for Trump. There was a slight waiver in the Clinton -- in the Obama coalition, and that allowed Trump to drive through at the weakest point, the upper Midwest and the Rustbelt, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

BERMAN: That crossover there, that 10 percent, decisive.

Ron Brownstein, thank you. Appreciate it.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Next, we'll have much more on our breaking news. A huge manhunt under way for the Berlin truck attacker. Officials now say they might have the wrong man in custody. This, as the United States stepped up security. We're going to take you live to a similar Christmas market here.

Plus, was this attack inspired by ISIS, and what were the key signals? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:36:47] BERMAN: Back now with the breaking news on several major terror attacks across the Middle East and Europe in just the past 48 hours alone, from a shooting at an Islamic center in Zurich in Switzerland to an attack by armed militants at a popular tourist attraction in Jordan, a suicide bombing in Yemen that left more than 50 dead, and in Turkey where six people have been detained in connection with the assassination of the Russian ambassador in Ankara. That brutal incident caught on camera. And in Berlin, German police now say that the man taken into custody after a truck plowed through a Christmas market, killing 12 people, that man is unlikely to be the driver of that truck, and it is perpetrator, the man behind this attack, may still be on the loose. There's a manhunt under way across Europe.

And now law enforcement in the United States is stepping up security in the wake of all these attacks.

CNN's Brynn Gingras outside a Christmas market here in New York City.

Brynn, as we hear, U.S. security, New York City Police Department, they're on alert now.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John, this is sort of the response we've become accustomed to here in New York City. The NYPD taking immediate action after the attack in Berlin. We saw heavily armed highly trained officers stationed right here at the Christmas market in Columbus Circle. Not here at this point right where we're standing but as we circle around, you can see, there's just a number of NYPD vehicles. Certainly, their presence is felt. We're seeing a number of counterterrorism officials walking through the Christmas market at this point on foot, talking to shop owners, talking to people who are shopping here. So certainly, they are keeping a watchful eye for anything suspicion. Also, just alerting people in this area.

Now, we know these officers, again, highly trained. And then sometimes carrying heavy machinery. They're all around the city. And they're part of that 500-member group that the NYPD started about a year ago in response to these sorts of attacks. We know when these attacks happen, NYPD then just circulates them around the city, to areas that might be considered possibly a threat at some point. So, the German consulate is one. These Christmas markets, located, a half a dozen of them, around the city, they're stationed there. Again, keeping a watchful eye.

It's important to note, John, for a time this city is buzzing with tourists, there's no credible threat against New York City, but certainly it's Nice to feel their presence at this time --John?

BERMAN: Understandable that New York City police and security officials around the country now on alert.

Brynn Gingras, thank you.

Joining me to discuss this truly global terrorist threat, CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen.

Peter, you've written, in just the last 24 hours, on sort of the diabolical effectiveness of these truck, you know, attacks or vehicular attacks on crowded areas. Simple, but incredibly dangerous.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah, I mean, we've seen in the United States, just three weeks ago, a Somali refugee, who was a legal permanent resident of the United States, crashing into a crowd at Ohio State, injuring 11 people with his car. Obviously, the Nice attack is well known where 86 people were killed in France. And now we have this attack in Berlin. Unfortunately, these attacks are quite hard to prevent. You know, a lot of European countries, it's hard to buy semiautomatic weapons. Putting together a bomb is not, you know, super easy. Driving a truck into a crowd requires no training. And the barriers to entry for this kind of attack are, unfortunately, very low.

[11:40:26] BERMAN: Incredibly low.

Again, just some of the details we have here. This truck involved in this attack. It originated in Poland with a cargo of steel. It was driven into Germany, into Berlin where we don't know exactly what happened but there a dead Polish citizen found inside the cab of that vehicle. So, one can assume that perhaps the driver of that vehicle was murdered. He may be the person found inside. So, it could have been a hijacking there.

Peter, there's very little way to defend against this. You can put up barriers. You see it in New York, they do put up barriers. They park large construction-type vehicles, you know, at the entrances to big public gatherings so nothing can drive through. But it's hard to protect every market in a country like Germany where every city, every village has these Christmas markets out this week.

BERGEN: Indeed, you recall during thanksgiving there was some concern about the mace's parade and NYPD did park big trucks along the route of the parade. Being, nothing actually happened. Here in Washington, where I'm sitting, we're about to have one of the largest public events the United States puts on, a presidential inauguration. Certainly, U.S. officials are, you know, have been planning for that for a long time, long before they necessarily knew who was going to be president. But there's a lot of concern about terrorists using vehicles as weapons. Of course, they're planning for that kind of contingency in the inauguration.

But terrorists are like school shooters in a lot of sense. They copycat. A tactic that is successful in one place often pops up in another place. So, you're probably not going to see the end of these kinds of attacks.

BERMAN: It's hard to defend so you think intelligence services around the world would go on offense and try to identify some of the people who may be behind attacks. That too, almost impossible, given it can be anyone who just flips on a switch essentially and decides to perpetrate this kind of violence.

BERGEN: Indeed. In the case of the Ohio State attacker, who injured 11 people three weeks ago, he was not on the radar screen of authorities. And, you know, typically when we look at these cases in the United States, I mean, some people just emerge out of nowhere. The San Bernardino case, which you recall well, John, the couple involved were not on the radar screen of any law enforcement. Of course, they killed 14 people attending a training session in the Christmas period, pretty much a year ago, now. Balanced against that, you know, sometimes people are on the radar screen. In the Orlando case, where 49 people were killed, he was known to law enforcement but the FBI can't keep information in an unlimited way. Unfortunately, people do get to the attention of law enforcement authorities and then often later do something lethal.

BERMAN: Peter Bergen, thanks so much for your analysis. Appreciate you being with us.

BERGEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, up next, a 3-year-old boy tragically shot and killed as he sat in his grandmother's car. Police are calling this a road-rage killing. A local pastor has a message for the suspect: "We are coming for you." He joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:47:00] BERMAN: A grandmother's agony following a shooting of her 3-year-old grandson in Little Rock, Arkansas. Acen King was in her car. They were on a shopping trip on Saturday. Police say the motorist behind her thought she was moving too slowly. They're calling it an incident of apparent road rage.

CNN has obtained the 911 call of the incident. You can hear the grandmother's cries.

(BEGIN AUDIO FEED)

DISPATCHER: Hello? Hello?

CALLER: Hold on one second.

(SCREAMING)

CALLER: They're getting him out.

(SCREAMING)

CALLER: Hold on. They're putting him on the ground. They're saying he's been shot.

UNIDENTIFIED GRANDMOTHER OF ACEN KING: My baby, oh, my god!

(END AUDIO FEED)

BERMAN: The killer is still at large.

A pastor at a local church has a message for the killer: "We are on your trail."

Joining me now is that pastor, Terrance Long.

Pastor, thank you for being with us.

You say you want the community's help.

TERRANCE LONG, PASTOR, MERCY CHURCH: Yes.

BERMAN: And that help actually hasn't been coming.

LONG: Well, actually, as of 30 minutes ago, we got very great leads. We want the community to still know that we are on his trail. We are getting the information. Calls are coming in left and right. I think we're closer to where we need to be. Because this violence has to stop here in the Little Rock area.

BERMAN: There was a problem you said with this culture of no snitching. People not wanting to come forward with information.

LONG: That's a big problem. That is a big problem. Until it hits home. For this to happen in our small city, close-knit neighborhood. Someone has to say something. We can no longer be silenced by these killers and these villains. We have to stand up and take a stand for right. Because I stated yesterday, this is the king family today. It could be your family tomorrow. So, the no snitching rule, all of that is thrown out of the window, especially when it companies to a 3-year- old child. There shouldn't be a no snitching rule. That's everybody's child. We should be able to stand up and make a stand and show these villains we're not scared of them. We will no longer be held hostage in our hop homes as a result of people carrying guns without a conscience.

BERMAN: Everyone should want to find out who did this. Everyone should want to make sure it doesn't happen again. I understand you've been speaking with his family. I can't imagine the pain they're suffering right now.

LONG: Distraught. I mean, it's unexplainable how bad it is for them to wrap their minds around the situation. They've not been taking any phone calls. They just want prayers. And then they'll be able to maybe come forward and talk. But this week, they're just wanting to -- they're still trying to understand what happened. And what they can do to move forward behind this. So, we're in prayer for them. We're in prayer with them. No one can say they would know how to deal with this. We're leaning and depending on god to see us through and that this killer is found.

If I can make this announcement again, this community, the Yorkwood community in southwest Little Rock. This is a community for this guy to be coming out of, he had to be visiting someone in that community. And they have to know something. The way we're blasting it on TV. They see this. Again, I want to let them know they're just as guilty when they don't turn this person in.

[11:50:48] BERMAN: If you do have a lead, obviously, get in touch with the pastor. More importantly, get in touch with local police.

You believe there may be leads developing this morning. Can you tell us what those might be?

LONG: I believe we've gotten phone calls, even pictures of suspects and, again, like I said here locally, we're on your trail. It's a matter of time before you are caught. So, your best bet is turn yourself in.

Again, I'm not hard to find in the city of Little Rock. If he calls me, contacts me, Facebooks me, I will pick him up take him to the police station and guaranteed he'll be accepted with no harm, nothing will happen to him. Because we want to pray for him, too. He made a mistake. I truly believe he made a mistake and we want to help him as well.

BERMAN: Pastor Terrance Long, thank you for being with us. Thank you for your work and if you speak to the family again --

LONG: Thank you.

BERMAN: -- Acen's family again, pass on our thoughts. Thanks.

LONG: I will. Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Just in, a major development in the Russians hackings into the U.S. election as Senators call for an investigation and a special select committee. The Senate's most powerful Republican, well, he has other ideas. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:55:08] BERMAN: All right. A political parting gift from North Carolina's outgoing Republican Governor Pat McCrory, the political equivalent of a lump of coal. He has signed news bills stripping executive powers from his successor, Democrat Roy Cooper. Previously the governor appointed three of five members of the state election board. The new law increasing four members to eight, split evenly among party lines. Previously, candidates for Supreme Court justices appeared on ballots without party affiliation. A new law requires candidates to have a Republican or Democrat next to their names, increasing chances of partisan judgeship. Governor McCrory appointed 66 trustees to the University of North Carolina school board. The new law strips the incoming governor, Democrat, Roy Cooper, of all of those appointments. And outgoing Governor McCrory appointed 1,500 people to exempt positions across offices. And incoming governor will only be allowed 425.

And that's not the only thing going on in North Carolina.

Jim Morrill is political reporter for "The Charlotte Observer."

My, oh, my, Jim.

(LAUGHTER)

Now we have in the last 24 hours the bathroom law, the so-called transgender bathroom law, the back and forth between the city of Charlotte and the state government. What's going on there?

JIM MORRILL, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: You know, a crazy few days down in North Carolina for the reasons you talked about. But in spite of all that, people say the stars aligned to make this repeal, this possible, or likely repeal of HB2, known as the bathroom ordnance, a probably for tomorrow. The legislature is meeting tomorrow in special session, which by all accounts is supposed to be a short one this time. And they're supposed to repeal this bill that's cost North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars by some accounts, in lost jobs, economic opportunity, of sports events, like NCAA tournament games and ACC championship games. We'll see. It's been a crazy few days.

BERMAN: Just to review, so people understand here, and correct me if I don't have it right, what happened, initially Charlotte passed protections, city of Charlotte passed protections for transgender people to use bathrooms of their choice. The state legislator stepped in and passed a controversial law saying, no, no, no, no, no, cities can't do this. Charlotte is gone back, flipped things around, and now the state meeting in special legislature and will get rid of this provision, which, as you said, cost the state of North Carolina so much business. The question, why now? Why after the election?

MORRILL: That's a good question. And you've got to think the election had a lot to do with it. The offer that the city council accepted yesterday, in which they repealed the ordnance that sparked this whole thing by unanimous vote, was basically the same deal that they've had, that they rejected a couple of times earlier this year.

You know, you talked about the session last week, the special sessions where they sort of cut the incoming governor's needs off, cut his powers off, cost him a lot of appointment powers and other powers, and now they're working with him to pass this re-appeal of HB2. The new governor, incoming Governor Roy Cooper, the Democrat, was on the phone Sunday night allegedly with the leaders of the legislature as well as Democratic members of the city council to work all this stuff out.

BERMAN: Right.

MORRILL: So, he gets hurt politically one week, and he's maybe the hero the next week.

BERMAN: You say hurt politically one week. There are a lot of observers on both sides, both Republicans and Democrats, who look at what happened with the incoming governor losing some powers, and talk about the audacity of the Republican legislature and the outgoing governor to do something like that. That is not the kind of thing you typically see just a few weeks before coming into office.

MORRILL: Yeah. And Governor McCrory, the outgoing governor, signed one of those bills you're talking about yesterday. And he said, even though he agrees with most of it, part of it, the part about stripping the governor of appointments that he doesn't agree with, but will let the incoming governor work that out with the legislature. And there's no love lost between the new governor, Roy Cooper, and the Republican- controlled legislature. It'll be interesting to see what he can get done.

BERMAN: You're in for an exciting four years.

Jim Morrill, thanks for being with us. Appreciate your expertise.

MORRILL: Thank you.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: All right. Top of the hour now. I'm John Berman.

We have breaking developments this morning in five major terror attacks around the world, from Jordan, where tourists were slaughtered inside a medieval castle, to Turkey where several people are being questioned right now after the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey. Those being questioned include the shooter's family and his roommate. The Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, is vowing revenge.

But we begin now in Berlin because, there, a suspect is in custody. Has been in custody. But police are now saying they do not know if he the man who intentionally drove a truck through a crowd of people --