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FBI Are Issuing A New Warning About Possible Threats From ISIS Days Before Christmas And Chanukah In The United States; U.N. Security Council Has Voted To Demanded An End To Settlements In The West Bank. Aired 3:00-3:30p ET
Aired December 23, 2016 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Top of the hour. You're watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.
Breaking news from the FBI. They are issuing a new warning about possible threats from ISIS days before Christmas and Chanukah here in the United States.
Our justice correspondent Evan Perez is here with the news from DHS and FBI. What is the warning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, this comes as a result of frankly in the last couple days on pro-ISIS websites. Some supporters of ISIS have been calling for attacks on churches. They have even listed a list of thousands of churches in the United States, addresses, urging their supporters to attack. And so this is the reason why the FBI has out of an abundance of caution issues this warning to law enforcement agencies around the country as well as private security companies.
I will read you a part of what the bulletin says. It says that ISIS sympathizers continue aspirational calls for attacks on holiday gatherings, including targeting churches. And, Brooke, you now, we have seen in the last, certainly, in the last couple of years, ISIS has focused a lot of its attention on law enforcement, on military targets. More recently we have seen more of these calls to softer targets, churches would be the ultimate in soft targets. And so we have seen that a lot lately.
And especially in light of what happened in Berlin. The attack on the Christmas market as well as a vehicle born attack in Nice and as well as in Columbus, Ohio. This is what's on the mind of law enforcement.
I will tell you, you and I were talking the last hour about what has happened since the Berlin attack. One of the things that I have been told is law enforcement watching all the threat chatter noticed it lit up, frankly. It's come alive in the last few days.
Now this happens every year around this time. Before the New Year holiday, there's always a steady stream of these type of threats. And so, we are not sure whether there's more of that because of what happened in Berlin. But certainly law enforcement is on guard and vigilance because of this.
BALDWIN: Evan, thank you very much. We'll talk to former CIA operative about how Americans should interpret this in a moment.
But as Evan perfectly points out, you know, this warning from FBI and DHS comes after a deadly ending to that frantic manhunt in Germany. The man who German officials believe took that truck, plowed it into the crowded Christmas market. He is now dead. He turned up in the wee hours just during this routine police patrol in Milan, Italy. More than 600 miles from the scene of that terror attack in Berlin.
There was gunfire and ultimately 24-year-old Anise Amri from Tunisia was shot and killed. Hours after his death ISIS released this video which appears to show Amri pledging allegiance to the leader of is, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Now, there is no mention of the truck attack and it's not clear when or where this particular video was shot.
Let's go to Nina Dos Santos. She is live in Milan.
Nina, let's go back to 3:00 in the morning here. How did police find him?
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was by random, really, by happenstance. That was how he happened to have been found and killed.
Anise Amri was stopped by police officers outside this station here in this northeastern industrial town just outside Milan, asked to show his documents and instead of pulling them out what he did was pulled out a 0.22-caliber pistol and started firing. Authorities say immediately, when they return fire within two bullets he was dead and they had to use his fingerprints to identify him because remember this is an individual known for using several different aliases.
So his journey, in fact, to radicalization and through radicalization, Brooke, seems to have started in Italy. His brother and other family members told Tunisian TV just a day or so ago that they believe he was radicalized inside an Italian jail when he spent four months in jail in Italy upon arrival on European soil through southern Italy as many migrants make their journey through southern Italy. And that, of course, it ended in a blaze of gunfire on this spot behind me you can see the remnants of his blood of the pavement if you look closely enough.
And so, his journey may have ended, but the investigation has only just began. What they are trying to find out, investigators, is did he had help along the way? How did he manage to evade authorities across France, across Germany and into Italy before being arrested and shot? And why was he found in this rather remote location and not somewhere else? Was he looking for somebody for help?
BALDWIN: Nina dos Santos in Milan, thank you.
Bob Bear, let me bring you in, Bob Baer, former CIA operative, CNN intelligence and security analyst.
Bob Baer, before we even get to what Nina was just reporting in Milan, I want to back up two steps to this report from DHS and FBI, you know, warning about potential threats from ISIS at churches and holiday gatherings here in the U.S. You heard Evan mention, you know, the terror chatter lit up. But perspective, I mean, how should Americans be interpreting that?
[15:05:00] BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: I think they should take it seriously. It's a clear call to attack on Christmas, Christmas events. It truly is a war on Christianity. It's symbolic for the Islamic state of the war of Judeo-Christianity against Islam for them. They have boiled it down to that. And they are making a call to any true believers to attack before Christmas or on Christmas. And as the CIA offers the advice to its people all the time, avoid crowded areas if you're very worried.
BALDWIN: So you're not surprised by the timing that we would find this out days before Christmas if this is truly an attack on Christians?
BAER: No, I'm not surprised. And I also know that border patrol has been looking at people traveling from Morocco, North Africa, Tunisia in particular in case any operatives come from there. It's a hotbed of Jihadism there. It is not much control and they are truly concerned. This is not a gratuitous warning.
BALDWIN: To Berlin, the way in which this, you know, suspect who had murdered 12 people in Berlin, the way he was caught seems happenstance. Police there happened to be doing it checks and instead of pulling out his I.D. he pulls out hi his 0.22-caliber pistol. Your reaction to that?
BAER: He is an amateur. I mean, clearly leaving your documents in that truck, if he hadn't he would have had much more time to get out of Germany. He went through France into Italy, maybe even get out of Europe all together. He didn't know what he was doing, traveling around with a pistol, a 22 pistol can frankly get you nothing and out at 3:00 in the morning.
If there had been a network, and that was my original suspicion, they would have taken care of him. They could have gotten him out of Europe very easily. So it's starting to look more and more. He was a lone wolf inspire by the Islamic state rather than directed by them. But on the other hand, does it really matter at this point after the death of -- the murder of 12 people.
BALDWIN: But it would matter if there were other people who were in on this and helping hide him and helping teach him and providing. I know you're saying it was a .22 pistol but I go back to -- guys throw the map back up. The fact that he was able to get so far by himself?
BAER: Exactly. The borders are open and this is going to be an argument for the far right, we have to close the borders. We need border checks. We could have stopped this guy from traveling through France. He should have been stopped there under the old regime before (INAUDIBLE).
And you know, it is quite amazing. He crossed two international borders before he was finally caught, I mean. But to go also back to your point about other people in the group, I clearly think there are. The Germans had made more arrests yesterday and I believe today. So it's a wider network. And what you have to understand is they don't mind losing people in this network. The act itself is if you have for them so if he dies a so-called martyr they still in their eyes think they have won.
BALDWIN: Bob Baer, thank you very much.
BAER: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Coming up next, breaking news at the United Nations here where this Security Council resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements and disputed territories has just passed. But the U.S. was the one and only abstention from the vote. We'll talk about that.
And how president-elect Donald Trump has repealed a personal letter that he received from Russian president Vladimir Putin a week ago. This as the two leaders are going back and forth about expanding nuclear capabilities in their respective countries, coming up.
[15:12:21] BALDWIN: Just within this past hour the U.N. Security Council has voted to demanded an end to settlements in the West Bank. The resolution passed with 14 votes. The key here, the United States didn't take a side, it abstained.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: It's because this forum too often continues to be biased against Israel, because there are important issues that are not sufficiently addressed in this resolution and because the United States does not agree with every word in this text that the United States did not vote in favor of the resolution. But it is because this resolution reflects the facts on the ground and is consistent with U.S. policy across Republican and democratic administrations throughout the history of the state of Israel that the United States did not veto it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power explaining the why as far as the abstention. Israel had urgently called on the U.S. to veto this. Officials even accused the Obama administration of colluding in a quote/unquote "Palestinian initiative intended to harm Israel."
I have CNN correspondent Oren Lieberman in Jerusalem with reaction there.
But Elise Labott, let me just go to you first, our CNN global affairs correspondent. I mean, you are in the weeds on this. Yes, it passed. Most significant that the U.S. abstained and to quote you last hour, you see this perhaps as a parting shot from the Obama administration to the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brooke. And also to the settlement policy. President Obama has long held that
the settlements were an impediment to peace. You remember secretary of state John Kerry trying to get a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, spent many months doing that. And the settlements were one of the issues that were held up.
I think for Sam Power, Ambassador Power, to say that the U.S. wasn't supporting the resolution by abstaining I think, you know, look, by allowing the resolution to go through is very significant and it is a really rare -- not unprecedented, but rare abandonment of Israel at the United States at the United Nations on something it felt very strongly on and tried to deal with bilaterally as far as the U.S. policy. But the Israelis clearly, we have been hearing from the Israelis and Oren will talk about that, but they really see this as an abandonment of a core U.S. tenet to protect the U.S. - protect Israel at the United Nations from a body that the administration itself has considered very anti-Israel.
But, you know, the reverberations for this and how significant it is I think are going to go on for a long time. Now the international community, the United Nations has declared Israeli settlements a flagrant violation of international law. How will that affect future Middle East peace deals and something the U.S. might broker? And that's why you saw an interference by president-elect Donald Trump.
The Israelis have warned the administration, if you go through with this, we are going to have no choice but to reach out to the president-elect. And the argument was that if he does what he says he wants to do which is to get involved in a Middle East peace process, that this could tie his hands. And you know, clearly it would give leverage to the Palestinians and that's exactly what you saw him do yesterday. And I think you'll see a very swift reaction from the president-elect today.
[15:15:41] BALDWIN: Yes. Waiting for the reaction. We got a reaction from the U.S. house speaker essentially calling the vote absolutely shameful.
But before we get into some of the politics of this looking ahead to a Trump administration, Oren, how is - is this about abandonment? How is Israel feeling about the abstention?
OREN LIEBERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Israeli government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's administration certainly feel like they were abandoned. They have been furious over the last 24 hours once we got word that the U.S. might let this pass, might abstain or might even vote for it. And they issued a statement that was unprecedented in how harshly critical it was of President Obama and secretary of state Kerry saying -- accusing them of colluding with the Palestinians which both the U.S. and Palestinians deny.
Israel was furious before and they are furious after. Here is part of a statement from Israel's ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon. He says neither the Security Council nor UNESCO can sever the tie between the people of Israel and the land of Israel. It was to be expected Israel's greatest ally would act in accordance with the values that we share, that they would vetoed this disgrace resolution. I have no doubt the new U.S. administration and the incoming UN secretary general will usher in a new era in terms of the U.N.'s relations with Israel.
It seems obvious the way the Israeli government is already looking, they're looking to president-elect Trump. They talked to him throughout this process and urged him to do what he could to avert this. He was able to pull it yesterday but not today. Too many of those countries on the Security Council wanted to see this introduced and it passed with U.S. abstaining.
We now have Palestinian reaction as well. The Palestinian leader (INAUDIBLE) saying this is a victory for people and the cause. And it opens doors wide for the demand of sanctions on settlements. This is a move towards justice and international law.
No surprise there, the Palestinians hailing what they have been pushing for not only now but the past eight years. So President Obama had stopped any U.N. Security Council resolution on Israel and the Palestinian territories until now, until his last few days in office when he let this go through. It doesn't seem like the Israelis and Netanyahu in particular are even close to being ready to forgive him for this.
BALDWIN: Well, let me point out. That as we have been talking the president-elect has tweeted. So Elise, I'm going to go to you on this. But Donald Trump has just said, as to the U.N., things will be different after January 20th. The day of his inauguration.
Things will be different. How do you interpret that?
LABOTT: Well, first of all, Donald Trump has made very clear -- and this is something actually that the Obama administration up until now has said that dealing at the United Nations is not the place for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. And I'm told by some of the president-elect's advisers that work with him on the campaign that they do expect that he is going to be intimately involved.
But you have seen in his appointments, in his statements he is going to be much friendlier to Israel. He has talked about moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. His ambassador is a very controversial pick, David Friedman who sports settlements, calls for expanding them and even annexing the West Bank. We don't know how that will play into policy, but I think Donald Trump and certainly the Israelis feel that this administration has not always stood by Israel, particularly on the Iran deal now on this particular vote. And I think this could actually harden the president-elect's position as he comes in and dealing with Israel to kind of compensate for what they feel is a slap by the Obama administration.
BALDWIN: Well, we mentioned, last question to you Oren, you know that the Israeli government officials had ask for president-elect Donald Trump to intervene ahead of this vote. Tell me just about the relationship between Netanyahu and Trump.
LIEBERMAN: Well, it seems from everything we are seeing now that this relationship is incredibly strong, certainly when you compare it to the strained relation and strained relation is the nicest thing you can say about the relation between Netanyahu and Obama. It seems that Trump and Netanyahu will have a fresh start, a strong start. They have been in contact. And certainly the choice of Friedman as ambassador is a choice the Israeli government sees as very positive. He has promised to move the embassy. He has promised to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. And that perhaps that almost certainly is why Netanyahu or officials working with Netanyahu reached out to Trump to see what he could do. His efforts effective but only for 24 hours until this resolution was reintroduced.
And it's very possible with Trump in the White House this resolution won't really have teeth. Trump could keep this resolution from having any real practical effect. So we may not see a true effect on the ground while Trump is in office. He can stop any further movement on this resolution at the U.N. if he so chooses.
[15:20:29] BALDWIN: Like you said, things will be different after January 20th.
Oren and Elise, thank you both so very much.
Coming up next on CNN, president-elect Trump sets up this diplomatic firestorm with a tweet about nuclear weapons. How Russia is responding to that coming up.
[15:24:10] BALDWIN: You're watching CNN. And I'm Brooke Baldwin.
Christmas greetings from one of the world's most powerful men to someone who is about to officially join that club. President-elect Donald Trump today releasing a letter that he received from Russian president Vladimir Putin calling it quote "a very nice letter from Vladimir Putin. His thoughts are so correct. I hope both sides are able to live up to these thoughts and we do not have to travel an alternate path."
Now in this letter, president Putin says he hopes the two countries can restore bilateral cooperation. That the relations between the two countries quote "remain an important factor in ensuring stability and security of the modern world."
This as Trump characterized a very nice letter comes on the heels of what feels like it could be a re-dux of the cold war. The president- elect this morning expanding on his comments. He expand the country's nuclear capability telling NBC quote "let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all." Putin today addressing the issue with reporters at his annual news conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[15:25:15] VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The tactical arms of the United States are outdated are modernized there. So if someone accelerates and speeds up the arms race, it's not us. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's talk this over with former CNN Moscow bureau chief Jill Doherty, who is now a fellow for the Woodrow Wilson Center and Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, a nonprofit organization supporting effective arms control measures.
So welcome to both of you. And Daryl, from what I understand you have spent your entire career trying to get rid of nuclear weapons. So to hear Mr. Trump say essentially it's an arms race, how do you respond?
DARYL KIMBALL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION: Well, these are very disturbing comments, number one, because he has said them in a way, on twitter, that has led to a lot of confusion. When it comes to nuclear policy, you want to be clear, you want to be precise. You don't want there to be doubts about what you're trying to achieve.
Number two, the United States presidents, Republicans, Democrats since Ronald Reagan even before have sought to work with Russia to engage with Russia to reduce the enormous nuclear arsenals these two countries have. Both countries still have about 1, 800 strategic nuclear weapons that could be fired, hundreds of which can be fired within minutes of a launch order by either president.
So this is serious stuff and for president-elect Trump to be talking about reversing decades of policy, threating, hinting at a new nuclear arms race sends us in the wrong direction and is not consistent with what the military says is required for U.S. deterrence purposes.
BALDWIN: Well, some Republicans appreciate Mr. Trump's bravado, specifically the congressman from Arizona, Trent Franks, a member of the arms services committee. This is what he just told CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump has not even been sworn into office, should he be starting an arms race?
REP. TRENT FRANKS (R), ARIZONA: I don't think that's what he's doing at all. I think, you know, sometimes Donald Trump's communications may not always be the most diplomatic or the most elegant, but he has got the principle right. If he makes it clear that America will always deal from a position of strength that we at once tell the world that we have no designs on hurting anyone. But there is no point in trying to force any sort of a major offensive against us because we have the capacity and the commitment to take care of ourselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: I just wanted our viewers to hear another perspective. When you hear position of power or coming from a position of power, Daryl, what's wrong that?
KIMBALL: Well, it's clear that the United States is the most powerful military and diplomatic and economic power in the world. But what Trent Franks is ignoring is that president-elect Trump said in his tweet yesterday that he wants to expand and strengthen the capacity of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. And that he is inviting a new nuclear arms race in his comments on MSNBC earlier today. That's a little different from what Trent Frank's interpretation is. And you have to remember the United States is already on the path to replace and in some ways upgrade our cold war arsenal over the next 24 to 30 years at a cost of $1 trillion. So it's not as if the United States is in a weak position or on a track to be in a weak position. The U.S. and Russia have a response to reduce the nuclear excess that both countries still have and that threaten one another's existence?
BALDWIN: OK. Jill Doherty, you are one of the smartest people I know specifically on Russia. You sort of speak Putin, given everything we have outlined and especially what we heard in this four-hour opus from Mr. Putin, what's this about? Is this about posturing or is it more than that?
JILL DOHERTY, FELLOW, FORMER CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: you know, I think they are both sending messages yesterday. I think it was yesterday Donald Trump had this phrase, it was very interesting. He said this is like a little dance and it was about bargaining over companies, you know, Boeing and another company on building a new military jet.
But what he is saying is this is a little dance. In other words, I think there is a pattern which is incoming president Trump makes a statement, kind of over the top, it's his first valley, he waits probably for some type of response. But the problem here -- that could be good bargaining if you're buying a rug at a market or something, at a bazaar. But when you're talking about nuclear weapons, that means, what that says is let's do it, let's have a nuclear war, we don't care. And that is so highly destabilizing. People don't talk about nukes that way. What it does is it makes the other guy -- even if he's -- you know, Putin is pretty smart. He knows kind of what the game is. But there might be this idea that, yes, Trump would continue to build up and build up. So it is just --