Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Crisis In Syria; Berlin Suspect Was On Germany's Anti-Terror Radar; Trump: U.S. Must "Greatly Expand" Nuclear Capability. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 22, 2016 - 12:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:31:34] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Heavy snow, strong winds and now rain. The bad weather in Aleppo slowing down the evacuations there, but they will continue overnight and possibly into Friday. That's according to the international Red Cross. Thousands of people should be able to get out by tomorrow. Let's hope despite the weather conditions. Muhammad Lila joins me from the Turkish/Syria border with the latest on that. Also, Muhammad, we are hearing much more from the 7-year-old Bana Alabed who really inspired the world with her communications from inside Aleppo.

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, she's given a new video interview today and we'll get to that in a second. That earlier, John, you mentioned about the weather conditions and we know what happened when there's rain and there's snow, it usually leads to a lot of mud. Very quick anecdote, according to the Red Cross, they say that part of this agreement to evacuate these rebels and civilians from eastern Aleppo was they'd be able to take their own vehicles, because there are safety concerns. Why would you want to get into a bus run by the Syrian government when you've been fighting them?

But the problem was, as they were taking their own vehicles, they were getting stuck in the traffic because the weather was creating mud on the road. Now, imagine waiting months to be evacuated from a war zone where you're being bombed almost every day only for your car to break down in the mud and have to wait for a tow truck. That's exactly what the Red Cross says was happening today and that explains some of the delays. But of course, you mentioned that 7-year-old, Bana Alabed, she is no longer in Syria, she is now in safety in Turkey. She met with Turkey's president yesterday, Erdogan, and she gave her video interview today. Here's some of what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BANA ALABED, SYRIAN GIRL EVACUATED FROM ALEPPO (Through Translator): There was bombing and our house was bombed but we survived. We felt afraid and went down the basement. There were a lot of stones and dust. We were about to die but thank god we survived. My school and garden were bombed. I miss my house. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LILA: John, very captivating story there from Bana Alabed. But, you know, as you covered Syrian conflict, you start to see how complicated it can be. She has hundreds of thousands of fans on Twitter. Certainly, very captivating, opening a window into life in Eastern Aleppo, but then there are also critics, some of them who supports the regime and say look, she's just a 7-year-old girl, she should be allowed to live like a 7-year-old girl, not put in these position, to become a spokesperson like that. That's the criticism, but of course, there's no denying the impact that her tweets have had around the world.

VAUSE: Yeah, I think of the generations of kids that will grow up with the memories that she now has. And they're the lucky ones, the ones who survived. Muhammad Lila, on the Turkey/Syrian border, thanks so much.

And then now to our top story, intense search for the suspect in the Berlin terror attack. We are learning about his alleged ties to an ISIS-recruiting group. We're learning much more about how much authorities knew about him beforehand. An alarming amount. Just ahead, a criminal profiler weighs in.

[12:34:26] Also ahead, a record number of people signing up for Obamacare. President-elect Trump has promised to repeal it. We'll crunch some of the numbers ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAUSE: All right, the breaking news, the intense manhunt for a killer in Germany. Police there confirm a Tunisian man's fingerprints are in the truck that crashed into a crowded outdoor Christmas market. 12 were killed, 48 others hurt. The one suspect so far is on the loose and he's no stranger to terror investigators. They say 24-year-old Anis Amri has connections to an ISIS recruiting network whose members are on record talking about attack crowds with trucks inside Germany.

Joining us now Mary Ellen O'toole, she's a former FBI agent senior profiler for the FBI. Mary Ellen, thanks so much for joining us. We've been talking to Paul Cruickshank, our CNN Terrorism Analyst, who told us there has been a jaw-dropping amount of detail that investigators knew about Anis Amri before the attack. They knew he'd been in touch with ISIS recruiters. They knew he had discussed attacks. They knew he had tried to buy a weapon. So when you are looking at this from inside an intelligence agency, shouldn't that set off alarm bells that this person is a serious threat, one you have to keep your eye on, 24 hours a day?

MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER SENIOR FBI PROFILER: Sure, from a threat assessment perspective, it would, it would suggest that these are red flags that you just can't ignore, because you look at basically three things. You look at the personality. You look at the person's background. You look at their behaviors, particularly current behaviors. And those three are what we call the totality of the circumstances, and that's where you get the red flags. And it would appear, based on what's been released that there were pretty powerful red flags here.

VAUSE: You know, one of the things that they sometimes noted is that people talk about doing a lot of things they never end up doing. So, you know, if you are profiling, if you are looking at a whole number of people, how do you know to look for someone who may be doing more than just talking?

O'TOOLE: Sure, that's important. The talking is important though. That's one of the biggest red flags, the most powerful ones. It's called leakage. Because we know in other cases individuals will leak or they will talk about what they intend to do.

[12:40:05] But you also look at their prior history. In this case, we have an individual who has engaged in acts of violence that involved a particular kind of violence. It's called instrumental violence which is violence against people that did nothing to him. It's not reactive. It wasn't something like he was trying to protect himself. And then you look for their personality. Are there things in there personality that would enable them to engage in acts of violence in a way that other people couldn't. And you have that with him.

You have a very callous and cold-blooded individual based on his prior criminal history. And then you have his associations with people that are allegedly also attached to ISIS and to counter that, you have no other support system that would be able to act as a detractor. So you have to look at many things here. And he does have a history of violence that really can't be overlooked.

VAUSE: A history of violence. We now believe that he carried out a terrorist attack earlier this week, driving a truck through a crowded market in Germany, and we now believe he is on the run. Based on what you've seen of this man, how might he behave now that he is on the run? Will he try to hide? Will he try to kill more people? How do you determine that?

O'TOOLE: Well, it appears, from what I've read and heard so far, he is somebody that's callous and cold-blooded, so killing other people is in his repertoire. It also would appear if this is true, if he left those documents in the truck not by accident but purposely so he would get credit for it. This is somebody that wants the attention. So those two facts just together are very concerning in that he's not running to hide too it's because he's afraid or he feels bad for what he did. He would be someone that would be prepared to either carry out another attack or to engage in a fight with law enforcement. It does not look like it's someone who is sitting around thinking what in the heck did I do, I feel terrible for what I did. That's not the reaction I think we're going to expect.

VAUSE: You ominously bring up a great point. A lot of people wondering why he would have left those I.D. documents in the truck behind. Was it a mistake or was it, so people knew that he was the one who carried out this attack. Mary Ellen O'toole, great to have you with us. Interesting perspective.

O'TOOLE: Thank you. VAUSE: All right, the incoming administration is vowing to repeal it, but a record number of Americans are signing up for Obamacare. More on that straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:45:45] VAUSE: Twenty nine days until the inauguration of Donald Trump. One of the first things the president-elect has vowed to do is repeal and replace Obamacare. Now in spite of that or maybe because of it, enrollment just hit a new record. In the meantime, the Obama administration is leaving his -- excuse me, his successor a nice holiday gift, a stronger economy. CNN's Alison Kosik joins us now. Let's start with Obamacare, Alison.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: OK, so you touched right on it, you know, despite those promises coming from President-elect Trump that he's going to repeal and replace Obamacare, despite all those rising premiums in many states, despite all that a record number of people, they've enrolled in Obamacare for next year. You look at the numbers. 6.4 million people signed up through the federal exchange. That's 400,000 more than last year. But interestingly enough, the number of new enrollees, that dropped slightly from last year.

Now, the thinking is a lot of the enrollments were actually auto renews and renewals and these enrollment numbers may actually have a lot to do with uncertainty about what will he take place of the affordable care act. What would healthcare look like, so, you know, maybe enrollees aren't happy with this high deductibles arising premiums and in many cases less choice for doctors but the thinking is they'd rather have something, you know, rather than possibly nothing or in this case, the unknown. But one thing to think about, John, experts do say if the president-elect gets rid of Obamacare, coverage likely won't be affected until 2018 at the very earliest. John.

VAUSE: All right, and then there's the issue of GDP Gross Domestic Product. We had some new numbers out today, good numbers frankly Alison.

KOSIK: Yeah, we found out that the U.S. economy grew at a pretty healthy clip, 3.5 percent in the third quarter compared to a year ago. So this follows actually a very anemic quarter. The second quarter was at 1.4 percent pace. So you look at the quarter between July and September. The economy actually had its best performance in two years. It was helped by some big soy bean exports and consumers who got out and spent their money.

You know, you look at this and you see that it's yet another sign that the U.S. economy is doing better. And ironically enough not far from where the president-elect wants to be. He wants to be at 4 percent. Keep in mind, this is just fourth of a quarter.

OK, I can't leave you without talking about the elephant in the room. And that is the question being that's being asked every day, John, has the Dow hit 20,000 yet? No, it hasn't. And now they bought out the hats, the almost 20,000. It's becoming more and more elusive. You're seeing the Dow kind of going the wrong way. But you look at what an amazing run the Dow has had since the day after Election Day. It's up more than 1,000 points the day after Election Day, John.

VAUSE: That is capitalism at work. People making hats that say "Almost 20,000". America. Alison Kosik, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

KOSIK: You got it.

VAUSE: All right. President Obama really like you've never heard him before. He's talking about his legacy. And he has some parting words for the conservative media as he gets ready to leave 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:52:01] VAUSE: All right, developing this morning. A pretty interesting discussion about nuclear weapons from the two great nuclear powers of the world, the current leader of Russia and the incoming leader of the United States. Both saying they want to bolster their nation's nuclear arsenals. Let me just read you something Donald Trump just wrote. The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes. And this follows a statement from the Vladimir Putin where he said really virtually the same thing. CNN's Pentagon Correspondent joins me now, with what's going on here with these sort of developing back and forth statements on nuclear weapons, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: John, this is extraordinary, as you say the current Russian leader, the incoming American leader, talking suddenly, both of them using the same phrase, strengthening their nuclear weapons. And the world is not certain at this hour what either man is exactly talking about. It really doesn't get more serious than that. Talking about nuclear weapons and not knowing what they mean.

Now, Donald Trump talking about this, the tweet you pointed out. He says the U.S. must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability. We know that Mr. Trump yesterday at Mar-a-Lago was briefed by some U.S. military officials, one of them U.S. air force general deeply involved in nuclear modernization. We know that Mr. Trump has talked about the need to modernize the nuclear force. Not necessarily expand the number of weapons. But that the aging infrastructure is a problem because other countries are moving forward with modernizing their weapons.

So we're not certain what Mr. Trump is talking about. But he's talking about nuclear capability. Let's say for the moment he's talking about modernizing the infrastructure. What is Mr. Putin talking about? Well, Vladimir Putin has just also said, talking about Russia, we need to strengthen the military potential. He's not talking capability, potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and perspective missile defense system. Those last three words, missile defense system. What Vladimir Putin is upset about our U.S. plans to put missile defenses in Europe. He believes that's a threat to Russia. The U.S. has long said it's to defend against Iranian missiles, but Mr. Putin now today talking very much more specifically about strengthening the military potential of his strategic nuclear forces. Right now, the number of nuclear warheads are of course limited by treaties. Whether these two sides are talking about the same thing, two different things or the Russians are looking to try and expand their force, the most interesting thing right now, we don't know the answer to that question.

VAUSE: Yeah, but when leaders of nuclear powers talk about building the nuclear force, you need to pay attention and we do need some answers on this. Barbara Starr, thank you so much.

[12:55:03] STARR: Sure.

VAUSE: All right. The current president of the United States, President Obama, unfiltered. A series of interviews with the Atlantic, the president is getting pretty candid about his legacy and is now saying he thinks the conservative media has vilified him. He says "You understand that if people are angry that somehow the government is failing, then they are going to look to the guy who represents government. And that applies, by the way, even to some of the folks who are now Trump supporters. They're responding to a fictional character named Barack Obama who they see on Fox News or they hear about through Rush Limbaugh.

Let's discus with CNN Senior Media Correspondent, host of "Reliable Sources" Brian Stelter, also with us CNN Political Contributor, the former mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter. Gentlemen, thank you so much for being with us. You don't get the sense, Brian, that President Obama's going to watch much Fox News in retirement.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: No, for (inaudible), you know, if the president took side swipes at fox over the years, but now he's swiping much more directly, commenting much more directly on what he thinks fox did to his presidency. Here, we knew back in 2009 Fox News was an opposition network to Obama. Rush Limbaugh, conservative talk radio, as well. I was took (ph) around and say did the president do enough to try to persuade those viewers, those voters? Did he do enough to try to reach out to conservative media listeners or did he tweet it as a lost cause. I think candidly some of his aides now look back and say maybe there was more they could have done. On the other hand as Obama has said repeatedly if you watch fox, you probably weren't going to vote for him. There was a relentless message against his president and it did have an impact. And he's talking over that very bluntly now.

VAUSE: well, mayor, I mean to that point, I mean, the president has been very critical of the conservative media for some time. But does that ignore the possibility that people go to those areas because they feel a certain way, not that they feel a certain way because they're told to think that by watching him?

MICHAEL NUTTER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, John, I mean and I appreciate Brian's point as well, but look, let's be honest. A lot of this dye was cast pretty early on in President Barack Obama's tenure. Let's not forget, when he came in, when he took the oath of office in January 2009, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. The president embarked on the economic recovery plan, over $800 billion to deal with the great recession, before it became the second great depression. What happened? Not one house Republican voted for that plan and only three Republican senators.

So after all the hoopla of the election and supposedly "Post-racial relations" in the United States, we see a complete rejection of President Obama's efforts to pull the country back from the brink of collapse. And then you go from there. So you govern in the moment. And I hear, you know, the talk about, well, we maybe could have done this or should have done that. That's all reflection to the past. But you're fighting these fights, and engaged in these battles in real time.

VAUSE: You know it's true. Particularly during that transition eight years ago, there was no time. Decisions had to be made immediately to save the economy, as you say. Can I read you something ...

NUTTER: The house is burning down, I mean you're not making remodeling plans, you know.

VAUSE: There was a part of the interview which is really interesting with on the hazy coast of Atlantic where President Obama talked about race and criticism by some in the African-American community, that he didn't do enough for the African-American community. Let me read you a quote from the president. He said, "I hang out with a lot of middle aged black women and they're not casual in their support of me. There's a lot of love forthcoming partly because they understand the constraints of this society. They know this is hard. They also I think see me and Michelle trying, you know, they're pretty sophisticated. They understand I'm trying to move an aircraft carrier here, I'm not just steering the speedboat". There's a lot in that. Not just saying by the way that middle aged African-American women love me, but there's some significance there in what he is saying.

NUTTER: Right, well, many of us, obviously I'm out of office now, but when I was in office, whether as a city council member and certainly eight years as mayor, many African-American elected officials do feel and get a higher level of expectation, which is fine, and we have much more work to do. But I mean Barack Obama, President Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States of America, 200- plus years. He is really good. He is really smart. But many of these issues and challenges, especially facing of the African-American community, have been built up not just in modern times but, I mean, if you want to have a longer conversation, we can go way, way back. And to suddenly expect that he is going to snap his finger, move a pen or a wand and instantly fix many of the challenges facing the African- American community and communities of color is just unrealistic.

But let's talk about the 7 million African-Americans who do now have a healthcare. And the many who did not lose their jobs during the course of the recession or now with the 15 million new jobs created are actually in the workforce. So the president did a lot but he can't do it by himself. He's president, he's not the monarch.

VAUSE: Right. Mr. Mayor, Brian Stelter, thanks so much for being with us I really appreciate it. Thank you for joining me at these hours. Brianna Keilar starts right now.