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Deadly Fireworks Blast in Mexico; ISIS Claims It Inspired Berlin Terror Attack; Russian Ambassador to Turkey Gunned Down by Officer; Europe's Refugee Backlash; Is Trump Ready to Take on Global Crises? Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired December 20, 2016 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:53] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: A deadly explosion at a fireworks market in Mexico. We feel the full power of the blast.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
ISIS claiming it inspired the terror attack on the Christmas market in Berlin. A manhunt is underway for whoever is behind the deadly assault. One man initially detained, released for lack of evidence.
So did German investigators lost valuable time in tracking down the killer or killers?
Let's get that -- we'll get to that shortly, but I want to begin with breaking news. A deadly fireworks explosion in Mexico. CNN's Ed Lavandera joins us now by phone with the very the latest. What can you tell us about the deadly fireworks explosion, Ed?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Hi, Don. Well, at least 29 people have been killed, more than 70 others injured. We were told by the governor of the state where this happened in Mexico, which is in the town of Tultepec which is just north of Mexico City that three young children will be transferred to a hospital in Galveston, Texas, for treatment of extreme burns.
So you can get the sense of the intensity of these blasts. In the video images you're watching you can hear the flashes of fire endlessly going off as a massive cloud of smoke also engulfed the fireworks stands area. This is an open-air market in a city that is known for its pyrotechnic culture.
Tultepecq is basically the fireworks capital of Mexico. Every year there's a huge festival where tens of thousands of people gather to watch the fireworks. Elaborate fireworks display, they're sold in these open-air markets. And obviously very popular this time of year, as well, as we get ready to head into the Christmas season and the New Year's festivities.
These fireworks stands are very popular destination, as well. So we can see in the video that has emerged in the after the explosion ceased, the charred wreckage of the fireworks stands, people racing through the scene, Red Cross teams are trying to help as many people as they can. Right now investigators still trying to figure out why all of this happened. It's not exactly clear what caused the explosion.
But the governor of that state in Mexico also says they are looking to see whether or not these explosions were deliberately set or if it was just an accident that got completely out of hand. Those are some of the things that investigators will begin looking at once they have finished the recovery of bodies and helping victims there at the scene -- Don.
LEMON: Ed Lavandera on the breaking news out of Mexico. Thank you, Ed.
Now to the terror attack in Berlin. ISIS claiming it inspired the deadly assault.
Joining me now is Max Foster. Max is at the scene.
Max, hello. The killer is still on the loose. What's the latest on the manhunt and the investigation?
MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know nothing about this manhunt really because effectively what happened is they had the wrong man for nearly a day and they lost valuable time in finding the right man. And all we know from ISIS that news agency says one of their soldiers carried out the attack. They provide no evidence for that, though, given no context or information about the soldier. But also was this soldier directed by ISIS or a sympathizer inspired by ISIS?
We know so little and the security services is absolutely locked down now on any information coming out. Obviously because it is a live investigation but also I think they probably feel they gave up too much information about the suspect they did have in custody who was a Pakistani asylum seeker and who after just a few hours of questioning turned out not to be the culprit in this case. They had to release him without a charge -- Don.
LEMON: Max, who've been on the scene for a bit there. What are people feeling in Berlin right now? Because really, you know, up until yesterday, Germany hasn't seen the same sort of attacks that have plagued France and Belgium. I'm sure they're concerned about the possibility of more attacks.
[23:05:02] FOSTER: They are, and this was an attack on a Christmas market which is a cultural phenomenon here. Everyone would come down to this particularly famous one in Berlin to do their Christmas shopping. So people horribly unsettled by it and of course ISIS wants to unsettle people. That's the idea of terror. They want people to stop coming to events like this. But people want to act in defiance of that as well.
So as soon as it opens up, I think that you will have people coming down here but not in the same sorts of numbers. What this does do is play very much into a political debate here based on fear. The emergence of a far-right in this country, Chancellor Angela Merkel was the one who really spearheaded the idea of allowing refugees into the European Union, into Germany in particular, and offering them some sort of protection.
The far-right has capitalized on that saying that's exposing Germans to danger and this absolutely plays into that. So they are calling these people's Merkels' deaths. They say that she is importing terror. And that sort of debate is really unsettling people here. Particularly when we look at the presidential election next year. Which way should they go? How should they act in public? What sort of politics do they believe in? What sort of Europe do they believe in?
LEMON: Max Foster, thank you very much for that.
I want to bring in now Foria Younis, she's a former FBI agent who is an expert on terrorism, Graeme Wood is with us as well, he's the national correspondent for the "Atlantic" and the author of "The Way of the Strangers: Encounter with the Islamic State," and CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem, the author of "Security Mom."
Hello to all of you. Graeme, I'm going to start with you. ISIS is calling the attacker a soldier of the Islamic State. They say that they inspired this attack. Does that mean that there was likely no actual conversation with this attacker?
GRAEME WOOD, AUTHOR, THE WAY OF THE STRANGERS: ENCOUNTER WITH THE ISLAMIC STATE: That's very possible. ISIS has been saying for a long time that when it -- when someone wants to attack in its name the person should just go ahead and attack. That there should be no necessary communication between ISIS and the attacker because they don't want to be found out. They don't want to have those connections exposed and they want to be able to just use whatever is out there at their disposal.
LEMON: Foria, we don't know even who the attacker is yet. When ISIS says that, you know, it inspired the attack, how does that impact the investigation?
FORIA YOUNIS, FORMER FBI AGENT: Well, I think then you start looking at other people in the community that you might feel like they have relations with ISIS or contact with any ISIS followers so you might expand it to other investigations that you already have pending that involve ISIS.
LEMON: Yes. So them saying they inspired it as a former FBI agent, as your belief, do you believe that it is more than likely inspired by ISIS?
YOUNIS: I do. And the reason for that, Don, is that, you know, ISIS puts out a lot of propaganda. They put out videos, they put out how they want people to attack, stay in place, attack where you can. Even if you kill one that's enough. So it sounds like these days a lot of this type of attacks are ISIS inspired.
LEMON: And, Graeme, you were telling me in the break that they don't usually take responsibility for things that they don't believe that they should. So you think that same thing? WOOD: Yes, there's a bit of a danger for them. If it does turn out
that it was not done by someone in the name of ISIS and ISIS has claimed it then they take credibility. And so they've been pretty careful in the past to claim things that someone who -- at least somewhere in the course of the attack or right before it the person has said, I'm doing this in the name of ISIS. So I think it's very likely we'll discover that that's exactly what happened.
LEMON: Juliette, let's talk about the investigation and some of what Max reported just moments ago. Police had someone in custody very quickly but they ended up releasing him saying he wasn't actually the driver. How hard does it become to catch the real killer as the minutes and hours tick by? They've lost some time here.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: They've lost a significant amount of time. You know, they may have been still advancing on part of the investigation if they thought they had the guy. We're going to assume that all their focus on who he was and whether he had colleagues or others who might do the same thing so -- and they don't have a lot of evidence.
Now I have been in these situations enough to know a lot is going on that we don't know. We know that there might be pictures that they are willing to release later on, or they might actually know who the person is. As I said earlier, there was also another theory that people here in the United States and law enforcement and in these investigations have told me which is because the truck stopped and no one knows why it stopped and because there's no one, nor pictures of someone getting out of the truck, the question is whether the car was -- someone was actually driving it at the moment it went through the crowd.
That has to be another theory that someone exited the truck, let it go forward on its own with a rock or something, and got out. So that would make it even harder because you wouldn't have anyone looking at the truck at that moment. So this is just not good news for Germany right now, at least what we know publicly.
LEMON: Listen, earlier I wanted to ask you about this and I didn't get a chance to.
LEMON: Is there any -- in many big cities in the U.S. and across Europe, surveillance cameras are all over the place. But you said Germany there are privacy concerns and that may pose a problem for this investigation. That's maybe why there are no pictures?
[23:10:07] KAYYEM: Right. I mean, there might be iPhone pictures. Look, every country has a different standard based on their history. We have one, Britain has one, Germany has one based on their history of basically Hitler but even before that. So they are very -- much more pro-privacy than we are and most of Europe is. And so they just don't have surveillance cameras like we do. We're sort of used to it now. We're sort of surprised when something there is not a picture of something. So I would anticipate that there is public surveillance pictures.
We might get stuff out of iPhones. That's based on the history of Germany. Countries are different in this regard and Germany might change but it had come to accept a level of privacy in this public space that we have to be honest gave up a long time ago.
LEMON: Foria, how do they piece together investigators whether the person was working alone, whether they had had help, maybe someone even helped them escape?
YOUNIS: Yes. So obviously first you have to try to identify who it is. And once they have that, I mean a lot of information is going to come from -- you know, come forward. That is neighbors, families, his travel history, his cell phone records, his computers. All of that investigation will come together and then be able to figure out who knew, how many people were involved and when did he start planning something like this.
LEMON: What do you think? How are people here, Graeme, law enforcement, national security, how are they dealing with what they are seeing after this attack in Berlin?
WOOD: I think the thing that people have to be very cognizant of and will be concerned about is the fact that they are using weapons of kind of a guerrilla nature. The weapons that are at hand. And this sort of things like trucks, they are knives, they are stones. These are things that you cannot in the end control. And so when we're considering how ISIS will attack in the future, we have to realize that it's not going to be necessarily through large bombs, through types of difficult to concoct weapons that we might have seen in previous eras. It will be much, much more difficult to guard against as a result.
LEMON: Does that speak to the state of ISIS, their power maybe, how they're evolving?
WOOD: It is that but it's also their psychological strategy. They want to have the sense among their enemies that there could be an attack at anytime. And it could be any person behind the wheel of any truck who's going to attack. That they want a sense of insecurity to be ubiquitous, universal among everyone at all times.
LEMON: I want to talk about -- you specifically about the Russian ambassador that was assassinated yesterday. When you look at the killer you hear him saying, Aleppo, yelling "Allahu Akbar," don't forget about Aleppo, what stands out to you with this?
WOOD: Well, the fact that he says Aleppo suggests that he was more concerned about an area where ISIS actually hasn't been nearly as active as other jihadist organizations in Syria.
LEMON: It's interesting. This was moments before he was assassinated. And the person who did this is just standing behind him, just looking like he's guarding him. Because we have it highlighted there and then all of a sudden he just shoots him. But go on, finish what you're saying. WOOD: It's a deeply unsettling image and again it's the kind of sense
of insecurity that they are trying to project around the world. It's the idea that the people who look like they are there to protect you are in fact the ones who might be there to kill you. It's the kind of thing that makes everyone forced to be on edge at all times and to beef up their security, even in times like an art gallery opening or a festive moment like a Christmas festival.
LEMON: You wanted to say?
YOUNIS: Yes, and Don, you know, he was a young officer so they probably do have good background investigation but somewhere along the line this officer got into that position. And until the very end he was acting like most security officers would except when he finally makes his last movement and moves over. He wouldn't injure anyone else but just shoot the target that he wanted to.
LEMON: Much more to discuss. Everyone, stay with me. What impact will the Berlin attack have on Europe's refugee crisis? We'll discuss that next.
[23:17:26] LEMON: Political opponents of German Chancellor Angela Merkel quick to label the Berlin attack victims Merkel's dead.
So how bad is the backlash against the refugee crisis in Europe? Tom Foreman has the details for us -- Don.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Don. The European Commission has very frankly called this an unprecedented refugee crisis with roughly 65 million people pushed out of their homes worldwide by wars or natural disasters. Some find ways to stay generally in their regions, but in 2015, more than a million of them made their way to Europe and hundreds of thousands more followed this year. We don't even have a total count yet.
So where are they coming from? Well, places like Kosovo with big economic problems, Afghanistan, Iraq, where their continuing conflicts are producing plenty of refugees, but by far, the single biggest source has been Syria. Last year alone, more than 350,000 Syrian refugees sought asylum in Europe, hoping to escape the brutal civil war raging in their homeland.
And where are these refugees going? Well, Hungary has taken in a good many, so as Sweden, Italy, France, Austria, all of these nations have taken in thousands but Germany has welcomed more than any nation by far, at least a half million officially last year or roughly the equal to the population of Sacramento, California. It's producing enormous pressure on those public officials who favor a continued open-door policy such as the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
She has argued very strongly the refugee crisis is something Europe must help with in a big way for practical, political and moral reasons, but with each terrorist incident we see people asking if the vetting of these immigrants is adequate. If there is any way of knowing where their sympathies lie and if there is any end in sight for this tide of refugees -- Don.
LEMON: Tom Foreman, thank you.
So even as thousands of refugees flee brutal conditions in Syria, the West is evading, sealing its borders against the influx.
Back with me now, Foria Younis, Graeme Wood, and also Juliette Kayyem.
Foria, I have to ask you. As we learn about the details about who's responsible for this. What impact do you think it's going to have on the refugee crisis not only in Germany but around the world?
YOUNIS: Yes, I think a lot of countries, Don, are going to be hesitant to take in a lot of these immigrants. They're concerned about whether or not these immigrants and refugees, if they're going to assimilate into their country and, you know, whether or not they will be alienated. And I think this is -- you know, a lot of different political parties fight over this issue, but people will have increased fear of these incoming immigrants.
[23:20:02] LEMON: Let's talk more about the politics of this, Juliette, shall we? Nigel Farage, a man who led the Brexit movement tweeted this, he said, "Terrible news from Berlin but no surprise, events like this will be the Merkel legacy."
He is placing some blame on German chancellor -- a lot of blame on Angela Merkel's policies. What's your reaction to that?
KAYYEM: It's such a horrible statement. You know, blaming a policy for -- first of all, we don't even know the facts right now. We don't know if this was a German national who was radicalized. We don't know if it's someone from Syria who came in to Germany. We don't know anything. And -- but it obviously does what a right-wing politician wanted to do, which is that it makes us look in a different direction about the issue.
We do it the same here in the United States, you know, and in Europe. In a lot of these cases this isn't a refugee or immigrant problem, it's a domestic problem. Here in the United States you look at Orlando, you look at New York and New Jersey, these aren't immigrant problems, these aren't problems and they are problems of self- radicalization of American citizens. In Europe you have the same problem.
So while the refugee crisis is one in which we're going to have to deal with, ensure that people who come into countries are properly vetted as we do in the United States. It becomes a useful distraction from the much more difficult issue which is of course the rise of ISIS and radicalization, a lot of that's happening online at this stage.
LEMON: Graeme, you know a lot about this because of your book "The Way of the Strangers." So I'm curious, because you have interviewed supporters, recruiters, sympathizers of ISIS. Does an event like this inspire others to join ISIS?
WOOD: It does. LEMON: Join the Islamic State?
WOOD: It does give people the impression that the Islamic State is not on its back foot. That it is still in an offensive position, that it has some power. And so yes, when supporters see this it gives them a sense that there's still some engine in ISIS' tank.
LEMON: Over the last few months we have seen a lot of ISIS territory shrink. And you said to me earlier that this is -- you know it's -- they're sort of evolving, right? And this is -- how they want people to think mentally. It's a mind game for them to do this. Do you think it's a sign of their weakness or their strength?
WOOD: Well, it's a sign they have transformed. There was a period when ISIS was telling its supporters at all costs come to our territory. Go to the utopia that we're creating and contribute to it. And now ISIS has said to its supporters, if you do that you're kind of wasting your time. You would be better off just attacking where you are. So it partially reflects the loss of territory that ISIS has had in its core territory in Syria and Iraq.
And it shows that, instead, it wants to inspire its supporters to really show that they are a global movement and they can attack anywhere, including western Europe and the United States.
LEMON: Go ahead, Foria.
YOUNIS: And I just wanted to follow up on what Juliette said earlier in the self-radicalization issue. This extremism issue and the rest. They have people could be born or raised in the west and they're growing up conflicted. Maybe they're not assimilating, maybe they're feeling marginalized or alienated and these people are then turning to something and the narrative of what these radical groups are offering them is something that they are looking to accept.
So this is an issue that I think they'll continue to have and other people will see these attacks. They look at it as a success, as Graeme had mentioned, and they might look to do something similar themselves.
LEMON: Juliette, I want you to listen to John Miller, NYPD deputy commissioner for Counterterrorism and Intelligence. He said this this morning about precautions they took after other recent attacks in Europe. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MILLER, NYPD DEPUTY COMMISSIONER FOR COUNTERTERRORISM AND INTELLIGENCE: Well, we've got a layered approach. And the idea is, you know, if you have enough concentric circles you should find your prevention and one of them before it gets to the center. But one other things we did after al Qaeda's first suggestion that people use trucks years ago was develop our relationship with the truck rental industry and the truck industry.
One of the second things we did after the Nice attack was to go back out to 140 truck rental locations and say, here's some indicators of suspicious behavior, here's how to get us on our hotline. Here's how to get me, the detective who's come to see you on my phone, and really try to raise awareness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Local authorities, Juliette, really have to depend on their relationship with these kinds of companies, don't they?
KAYYEM: Absolutely. And John has it -- John Miller has it exactly right, which we shouldn't think of security as sort of an on-off switch. You either have it or you don't. It really is about this layered security. You have intelligence, you have law enforcement, you gave barriers, working with the private industry, you have trucks gone missing. See something, say something. All those work together, not to get the risk to zero, that's not going to happen. It's not the standard of public safety. It is to minimize the risk to the population.
So that as we enter this holiday season with so much going on, you have the general threat of the holiday season, the specific threat of ISIS and what's been going on the last two months.
[23:25:06] And then of course this historic, sort of -- you know, democratic transition, which is always a time that makes law enforcement nervous. That peaceful transition from one president to another, that all of those are going to exhibit themselves in a much more public profile in these big -- in these big cities.
LEMON: So how do people protect themselves going forward, especially during this season?
KAYYEM: Well, so I just tell people, you know, look, if you think -- if you think that going out is going to be safe I have to disabuse of that. There is a tremendous risk to that. So you want to minimize the risk. And part of that is see something -- be aware of your surroundings. Communicate where you are and what might -- where you might be if something were to happen, especially if you go to a big event. Take the necessary precautions.
I know, having been in a lot of these crises and disasters, the one thing that motivates everyone if something were to occur is family unification. It's the only thing that drives parents, kids, everything. They want to get back together with their family. So take a few minutes to map that out. But go out. Because if anything -- given, you know, if there's any lessons of the last couple of weeks it is that there is actually heightened security and these events have to go on and they should go on and everyone who likes those kinds of events, unlike me, should go out.
LEMON: Yes. And there are a lot of them this time of year, especially in New York City, you know, Rockefeller Center and on and on and on. And by the way, John Miller, the deputy commissioner on counterterrorism and intelligence, will be here on this show tomorrow evening and we'll discuss this with him.
Thank you, panel. I appreciate it.
Coming up, Trump transition officials refuse to say whether the president-elect was briefed on events in Europe today. Will he be ready for a crisis on his watch?
[23:30:22] LEMON: Multiple attacks leaving observers around the world wondering is President-elect Donald Trump ready for the challenges coming his way? Here to discuss now is CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Don, President-elect Donald Trump's transition team won't say whether he is receiving daily intelligence briefings since the terror attacks in Berlin, Germany and Ankara, Turkey, but events are moving very quickly.
STARR (voice-over): The quick detention of a suspect in the Berlin Christmas market attack had all the hallmarks of terrorism. Soon after, Donald Trump issuing a statement blaming Islamist terrorists, saying, "Their regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated."
Trump reacting to the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey and an attack on a mosque in Switzerland, tweeting, "It is only getting worse. The civilized world must change thinking."
SEAN SPICER, CHIEF STRATEGIST AND COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC: Mr. Trump has made it very, very clear he understands the threat that radical Islamic terrorism poses to our nation and frankly to our friends and neighbors around the globe and that we've got to be able to call it what it is and then root it out.
STARR: But hotspots facing Trump may only grow, and there are questions if he is ready for it. Trump's spokesman says he's getting briefed by his, quote, "National Security team," but will not say if he has agreed to start briefings from government intelligence officials.
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: This is not the business world. And, you know, he is going to get that call at 3:00 in the morning with a crisis and he's going to have to act. He's the president of the United States.
STARR: Trump now getting a sense of what it means to deal with the Taliban. On a disturbing new video, an American woman and her Canadian husband held hostage by the group since 2012 appear with their children, begging both Trump and President Obama to free them. Some say as threats grow the president-elect needs to consider turning down his rhetoric because terrorists can appear to win with little effort.
JON ALTERMAN, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES The fact is there is nothing the United States can do to prevent one guy from getting in one truck once a year and trying to kill people. (END VIDEOTAPE)
STARR: And in another hotspot, China has now returned to the U.S. Navy that drone it took out of the water several days ago. Many analysts think China still also is sending a message to Donald Trump that it will remain a player in the South China Sea and in international security affairs -- Don.
LEMON: Barbara Starr, thank you.
Donald Trump campaigned on putting America first, but he'll take office facing a world in turmoil. We're going to talk about that with my political experts next.
[23:36:48] LEMON: Donald Trump takes office in 31 days. I want to bring in Maria Cardona, Democratic strategist, John Philips, talk radio host with KABC, you out there in the warm, sunny California.
JOHN PHILIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Enjoying every minute of it.
LEMON: We're not going to give you any questions. You're just going to sit there and look pretty. We're going to snub you.
CNN political commentator -- contributor, I should say, Hilary Rosen, and Paris Dennard, director of Black Outreach for President George W. Bush.
Good evening, everyone. Thank you for joining us.
Hilary, you first, as we have been talking about the President-elect Trump is really -- you know, he is taking over the White House with a world in turmoil right now. This week alone has to be pretty sobering for anyone. What do you think the biggest challenges are going to be facing him?
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, I think keeping control of his Twitter fingers seems to be the biggest challenge, although he seems to be the only one who doesn't see it as a problem right now.
First of all, as a practical matter, we have one president at a time in this country. And so reacting to events in Germany may come to conclusions about the cause of a terrorist attack before the German government even says anything, while they are still looking for the suspect, is just reckless. And I think that Donald Trump is -- you know made a mistake in doing -- in jumping the gun that way.
President Obama showed more restraint. He called the, you know, German chancellor, how can we help? What can we do? And gave them the kind of leeway that we would want in the United States if the same thing happened to us.
LEMON: Here's the -- ROSEN: And then this kind of conflating between what happened in
Switzerland against Muslims and what happened in Germany against Christians and sort of not even seeming to realize that there was differences in those things. I just think that we have a president- elect who is jumping the gun with campaign rhetoric, instead of really being a thoughtful leader here.
LEMON: Since you mentioned it, I'll put the statement up here. You moved ahead a little bit here in the segment but that's OK. This is how Donald Trump responded to the Berlin attack. He released a statement before the hard facts or motives were known and he said, "ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad. These terrorists and their regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated from the face of the earth, a mission we will carry out with all freedom-loving partners."
So he linked the attack to Islamist terrorists before German police officials, you know, said who was responsible. Do you think he is getting ahead of the intelligence agencies, Maria?
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely he is. And I think that this is dangerous because what he said is exactly what ISIS wants. They want to put forward a narrative that pits Christianity against the Muslim world, against Islam. And they have always wanted a holy religious war.
Donald Trump is giving it to them. And what he is doing I think is completely dangerous as he moves in to the White House. I think it betrays a complete misunderstanding of the kind of complicated and very nuanced situations at the global level that he's going to be inheriting. And I think that by not taking the intelligence briefing, that just underscores, again, sort of his lack of interest in really wanting to be, as Hilary said, a thoughtful leader as we move into one of the most complicated eras that we're seeing.
[23:40:14] LEMON: Paris, as Maria mentioned, the intelligence briefing thing, he hasn't been taking it daily. What happened in Germany and Turkey yesterday, do you think that he's going to start taking these briefings more often?
PARIS DENNARD, DIRECTOR OF BLACK OUTREACH FOR PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I think back to Maria's statement about who is calling for and asking for a jihad or a holy war, President-elect Trump is not doing that or not asking for one. It's the Islamic jihadists, it's those and Islamic radicals who are doing that calling for it, not the president-elect. And to your point --
CARDONA: No, I didn't say he was calling for one, I said he's playing into the rhetoric that they are using.
DENNARD: He's not. So --
CARDONA: He is.
DENNARD: Back to your -- he's not. Back to your point, Don, about the president's daily briefing. I do know for a fact that the president-elect is receiving briefings from his national security team on a daily basis, sometimes twice a day. The presidential daily briefing is a specific documents, intelligence briefing that is prepared by the professionals at the White House and intelligence community.
LEMON: But, Paris, he says he wasn't taking them every day. He said he didn't to sift through them every day.
DENNARD: I know for a fact that the president-elect is getting those briefings multiple times per week. In addition to that his National Security adviser is also briefing him on a daily basis as it relates to the issues of the day and the contents of the Presidential Daily Briefing.
DENNARD: So he is being briefed. And he is prepared.
LEMON: Here he is --
ROSEN: That might make it almost worse.
LEMON: Hold on one second. Here he is --
DENNARD: What makes it worse?
LEMON: Here he is speaking to Chris Wallace.
DENNARD: That he is being prepared?
LEMON: Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: Well, I get it when I need it.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: But is that -- is there some skepticism?
TRUMP: No, no, I get them when -- first of all, these are very good people that are giving me the briefings. And I say if something should change from this point, immediately call me. I'm available on one minute's notice. I don't have to be told -- you know, I'm like a smart person. I don't have to be told the same thing and the same words every single day for the next eight years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Paris, and I'm not picking on you, so are we to believe the president himself or you because he's saying I'm not doing it every day because he doesn't feel the need to do it every day.
DENNARD: Well, Don, you -- and you are picking on me, but it's fine. I can take it. I'm a big guy.
LEMON: I'm not actually.
DENNARD: But at the end of the day -- December 11th is when that was -- when that taping was done. And I'm telling you on -- today that the president-elect is receiving daily briefings from his national security adviser --
LEMON: So he's now taking them more.
CARDONA: Well, that's news then because his campaign has not even said, has not wanted to answer the question whether he is taking them on a daily basis because he probably isn't.
DENNARD: Well, he is getting his information from his National Security adviser on a daily basis which includes information from the Presidential Daily Briefing, in addition to the fact that on multiple times per week he is receiving direct briefings about the presidential daily briefing. The president-elect is going to be prepared and he is prepared. And he has an excellent team around him more importantly.
Look, the presidency is about judgment. The presidency is also about who he puts around him to help advise him. He has an excellent set of people that are going to do that and he is going to be ready and he is ready to lead next month.
ROSEN: I'm sorry, if he is getting these briefings it almost makes his behavior worse because it's saying he's learning what is actually happening and then he is ignoring it, and going and jumping the gun any way.
PHILIPS: You know, Don --
DENNARD: Well, maybe he's just presenting the facts as he knows them, as he sees them, because you're not receiving the briefings.
ROSEN: No, I'm sorry --
DENNARD: You don't know what he knows.
ROSEN: To step out ahead of the German chancellor, when you have a face-to-face domestic terrorist attack in Germany is just simply wrong. It's inappropriate. We would not stand for the same thing to happen here. And so the idea that President-elect Trump doesn't see the importance of these diplomatic relationships is really troublesome to me.
LEMON: Yes. Go ahead, John.
PHILIPS: You know, Don, it wasn't -- it wasn't Donald Trump who got caught with egg on his face here. The bigger question is when did Angela Merkel get her intelligence briefing? Because the Germans were clearly the ones that allowed this to slip through the cracks.
This is part of the reason why President-elect Trump was elected. This is part of the reason why Brexit was voted in, it's part of the reason why like-minded people all over the globe are winning these elections. People have had enough of this. They want a change in course.
What we are doing right now, the vetting process that we have, the counterterrorism procedures that we have in place right now, are not preventing attacks like these from happening and the people have had enough.
CARDONA: It's going to be interesting what John says because essentially what John is saying is that the moment that Trump takes office on January 21st, all of these attacks are going to stop. I mean, that's essentially what you're saying.
PHILIPS: No, that's not what's going to happen. Our response to these attacks will change.
CARDONA: And in fact that is completely --
PHILIPS: That's what's going to change.
CARDONA: That is just so unrealistic and it goes to my point about Donald Trump not being prepared to inherit a world that he's going to lead that is full of complication and nuance.
PHILIPS: How did Donald Trump --
DENNARD: On what grounds do you have that he is not prepared, Maria?
[23:45:01] CARDONA: Because we have no clue.
DENNARD: That's grossly --
CARDONA: We absolutely have no clue how he will approach trying to destroy ISIS which is what he says repeatedly he's going to do in a way that is different from President Obama without going to full-on war with them and sending American troops into harm's way?
ROSEN: I've been very clear all week that I think that President- elect Trump is entitled to reset diplomatic relationships around the world how he sees fit. That, you know, he got elected. He is going to be the president. He gets to make new policy if he wants to. I think the part that is frustrating and troublesome is that he sort of shoots things out just kind of recklessly, instead of having a thoughtful communication with the American people.
If he wants to weigh in now before he's president, then he needs to weigh in thoughtfully. Or keep his mouth shut. He can't kind of have it both ways. He can't sort of drop little Twitter bombs and expect people to take him seriously like he has a plan or he has a thoughtful approach. Otherwise he should just stay quiet and let President Obama be the president until January 20th and then take over with a different approach and a communication to the American people and the world. But this kind of sort of shooting from the hip is really unsettling, not just for Americans but around the world.
LEMON: OK. Let them respond. John -- PHILIPS: What's unclear at this point? We know that this was an
intentional act. We know that ISIS has essentially said this was an early Christmas gift to the West. What's left unsaid outside of an arrest have occurred?
LEMON: Well -- go ahead. I'll let you answer it.
ROSEN: Well, you know, he obviously -- what was unsettled when he spoke is they didn't have the killer. They didn't have a motive. They weren't sure. It is well before ISIS said anything. So, you know, he's flying in the dark. Does he make a good guess every now and then, sure. What is -- you know, what's that story about even a blind man can -- you know, can catch a squirrel occasionally?
DENNARD: Don, these are --
ROSEN: That's not the point. The point is, he owes the American people and the rest of the world a more thoughtful approach here.
DENNARD: These are baseless claims about him not being prepared. And you're not going to be talking about --
LEMON: So, Paris -- all right, Paris, I want to ask you then --
LEMON: I know we have to go. But I want to ask you this because I didn't want to get in the way of your conversation. If something is different happening with the intelligence briefing than what the president-elect has said, and you said that there is, are you an authorized person to say that? Has he changed his stance on taking these briefings? Can we take that as fact? Is that reportable that the president-elect now is getting intelligence briefings every day and he's taking every single one of them? Because he himself or his campaign, they have not said that.
CARDONA: Are you making news?
DENNARD: That's not what I said. I said that the president-elect is receiving his national -- his National Security adviser is briefing him every day. And part of those briefings are from the Presidential Daily Briefing which he receives multiple times per week. That's exactly what I've said.
CARDONA: And by the way, that does not give people who up until now have understood that President Trump is not ready to take on the role of commander-in-chief that he's listening to his National Security adviser who during the campaign tweeted and re-tweeted fake news.
LEMON: OK. I've got to take a break. I mean, Paris, it sounds like you are saying the opposite of what the president said but we'll discuss on the other side. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[23:52:14] LEMON: So back now with my panel. John, to Paris's point. Donald Trump is being briefed daily by his pick for National Security adviser, retired Army Lieutenant General Mike Flynn. I think that's what Paris means. Flynn receives the president's daily brief but he's known to have a particular world view when it comes to national security issues. Should he be getting security briefings unfiltered?
PHILIPS: Well, I mean, he's going to figure out his own path, what works for him, what works in a Trump White House. And he was very clear about what he thought about these issues during the campaign and the American people voted for him. And again, I don't understand why people coming are down on Trump after this incident happened. Trump had nothing to do with it. He's not the president yet. This is Angela Merkel's issue. This is Europe's issue. And, you know, Trump was not the one that screwed up here.
LEMON: But he's responding to it. That's why we're asking about it.
PHILIPS: Yes, but he responded correctly. He responded by stating things that actually -- it happened. It was an intentional act and ISIS has taken credit for it.
CARDONA: It was a -- it was guess, though. I mean, that's what --
PHILIPS: But it's not like guessing winning lotto numbers.
CARDONA: Well -- but no. But this is what I think people are -- more people that voted against Trump are concerned about. That this is somebody who tweets first and asks questions.
PHILIPS: Was he right or was he wrong?
CARDONA: Or maybe doesn't ask questions later. And when you --
PHILIPS: Was he right or was he wrong?
COHEN: Well, we still don't know if he was right, John.
CARDONA: Exactly. And when you walk into a world that is more complicated than just --
PHILIPS: ISIS said yes.
CARDONA: -- right and wrong, black and white, you know, strong man versus weak man, and it's all about nuance and political relationships and he doesn't seem interested in understanding any of it, then that gives pause to many people who not just in this country but around the world who are afraid of the kind of shoot from the hip, loose lipped leader that he's going to be in the White House.
DENNARD: There's a new sheriff in town named Donald --
ROSEN: This is our new normal.
DENNARD: His name is Donald J. Trump, he's going to be an effective president. Look, it's all throughout the campaign he was strong on national security. Poll after poll after poll said that the American people showed that they trusted Donald J. Trump, as a stronger leader on issues of terrorism. That was consistent throughout the campaign against Secretary Clinton, and so now what we're seeing is someone who is receiving information that you, Maria, aren't privy to, that he's receiving multiple times a day, sometimes multiple times per week about the national security and intelligence operation that's going on in this country and around the world. And he's going to be a leader --
CARDONA: I don't think he's privy to it either because he's not taking those briefings.
DENNARD: He is taking the briefings. You're not taking the briefings so you don't even know what you're talking about.
CARDONA: I'm not taking the briefings, but I'm not president-elect.
COHEN: I'm sorry.
DENNARD: You cannot talk with any --
CARDONA: I'm not taking the briefings. None of us are taking the briefings.
DENNARD: You cannot talk with any expertise here.
[23:55:02] LEMON: One at a time please.
DENNARD: You know what he's being told.
CARDONA: We're not the president-elect, we don't have the responsibility to understand on a day-to-day basis what is going on.
DENNARD: And he does.
CARDONA: And to get that information unfiltered from the people who actually put these reports together.
LEMON: Hilary --
CARDONA: He said himself that he was not interested in doing this every single day because he's a smart person and he doesn't need to hear the same thing over and over. That betrays a fundamental not just misunderstanding but lack of wanting to understand what is going on in the world that he inherits. And not just --
LEMON: Paris, quick response and then I'll let Hilary in.
DENNARD: So you would say any time that President Obama receives information from someone like his National Security adviser or -- his deputy secretary of State that's somehow a problem?
CARDONA: No, because this -- because President Obama was somebody who actually digested the daily information briefings that was put together by his --
DENNARD: And so you're saying President-elect Trump is not digesting information that he's receiving every day.
CARDONA: Yes. That is exactly what I'm saying.
DENNARD: These are assumptions that you have no -- audacious to speak on.
CARDONA: He said it himself, Paris. He said --
DENNARD: December 11th, and what I'm telling you today, December 20th --
CARDONA: We just played the clip.
DENNARD: -- is that President-elect Trump is receiving information about national security.
LEMON: Paris, let me -- but you're arguing something that he didn't say.
COHEN: Paris you are now saying something that the campaign today refused to say.
COHEN: If you want to make news, make news but otherwise --
DENNARD: Well, you know what -- I'm speaking on god authority, I know it to be fact. And I know you don't --
COHEN: OK, then we'll take that but that's not my point. I'm making a different point.
LEMON: Go ahead. Quickly, Hilary, we don't have time.
COHEN: I don't care if he's getting briefings or not.
DENNARD: No, you should care.
COHEN: I --
DENNARD: You actually should care that he's receiving briefings.
LEMON: We've got to go. Hilary, make your point please. COHEN: The quick point is, in 2008 we went through a major financial
crisis before President Obama took office. George Bush was the president. Instead of going out and, you know, tweeting every day his opinions without explanation to the American people, undermining the existing regime and other governments.
LEMON: Got to go, Hilary. Yes.
COHEN: He actually communicated with the existing administration and they worked together to make sure America --
LEMON: I am way over time.
COHEN: -- spoke with a single voice.
LEMON: Thank you, everyone. That is for us tonight.
COHEN: Donald Trump doesn't do that.
LEMON: Thanks for watching. I'll be -- I'll see you back here tomorrow.