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CNN NEWSROOM

Younger Suspect was Unnamed; The Politics of Airport Delays; Bush Talks about Boston Bombings; Dedication Day for Bush Library

Aired April 25, 2013 - 10:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the Boston marathon bombings. I'm Jake Tapper reporting live from Boston.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with us here for our special coverage. Busy morning of developments. Let's bring you up to the minute here bginning with new this morning we have now learned the younger Boston bombing suspect was unarmed when he was captured in that boat in Watertown last Friday.

Two officials briefed on the Boston investigation tell CNN no firearm was found in that boat where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was hiding. If you remember, police opened fire on that boat after saying the suspect had fired at them. This morning, investigators are also looking into a bizarre and fascinating possibility here that this older brother, a devout Muslim with fundamental beliefs, may have financed these attacks on Boylston Street here by peddling illegal drugs.

Meanwhile, the father of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev says terrorists are threatening the family back home in Southern Russia. He maintains both of his sons are innocents. He believed they were somehow framed.

As for their mother, she takes it a step farther. She believes this bloody crime here in Boston was a hoax, an elaborate hoax. She goes on today, even says she thinks actors played the maimed victims and that the blood was nothing more than paint. It makes you shake your head.

TAPPER: Well, I just don't even know how we're supposed to -- obviously, that's false. But there are further developments we've been talking about this before about how the brothers -- Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the hospital bed, he's telling investigator that they were self-radicalized by watching videos online.

BALDWIN: Right.

TAPPER: And a U.S. government official told me a few nights ago that it's likely Anwar al-Awlaki was among the most -- among those videos who the brothers were watching. Al-Awlaki, as you probably know, was among the most influential leaders for would-be jihadists worldwide. Al-Awlaki is American born, was American born; he was an al Qaeda cleric. He was killed in a drone strike in 2011 by the U.S. But nearly two years after his death, many experts say Anwar al-Awlaki's influence continues and likely played a role in the Boston marathon bombings.

Paul Cruickshank is a CNN analyst. He joins me now from New York. In a piece for CNN.com, Paul, you write about how al-Awlaki is inspiring quote, "a new generation of terrorists from the grave." Explain what you mean.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN ANALYST: Well, this American-Yemeni cleric who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in September 2011 was a very, very charismatic figure. He lived in the United States so he understood the United States and he was able to reach an English- speaking audience. Militant extremist in the English world and he had a very simple message for them: the United States is at war with Islam and we need to fight back.

And Anwar al-Awlaki has been linked to numerous cases of Islamist terrorism across the Western world. If you look at all these cases, they almost all have one common denominator and that's the extremists involved were actually downloading his sermons online. He was also the driving force behind this magazine "Inspire," the al Qaeda magazine that's been put out by the group in Yemen over the last three years.

Investigators are looking right now at whether the brothers actually downloaded a recipe from that magazine to build their bombs -- Jake.

TAPPER: Now, Paul, U.S. officials told me that the Tsarnaev brothers, that it's likely that they watched al-Awlaki's videos online. They say, of course, as you point out, that there are similarities between the bombs and that article in that issue of "Inspire". The article as you point out titled, "How the build a bomb in your mother's kitchen."

Would watching these videos suggest a specific role for al Qaeda in the Boston attacks in terms of legality, in terms of law enforcemen? Or can -- can one not blame this on al Qaeda, on the Yemen al Qaeda affiliate, of course, specifically if they are just putting out this videos and people are downloading?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, Jake, al-Awlaki and al Qaeda had a very simple message for people: Stay home. You don't have to join us. But you can actually launch attacks in our name without actually formally joining our terrorist group. And we'll provide you the instructions in this magazine for how to do it."

That was their message. So it may well be that these people were not connected as they are and be claiming to any terrorist group.

BALDWIN: Paul, it's Brooke. Here is my question, because we've been talking about the "Inspire" article as far back as last week, and I'm curious -- what's the take away is for investigators? Because as you've been reporting, we talk about al-Awlaki and his sort of inspiring these young Islamic extremists from the grave; and I know that particular article got thousands and thousands of downloads here involving this pressure cooker.

What is the take away for investigators and how does this stop?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, one of the problems, Brooke, is this group in Yemen carries on to put out this -- this magazine. We saw an issue come out just a few weeks ago; they are carrying on and putting out these very dangerous instructions online. And the Boston devices did have very striking similarities to a recipe put out in "Inspire" magazine the summer of 2010, "How to build a bomb in your mom's kitchen," right down to the way you saw and how to glue the shrapnel inside the pressure cooker.

So very striking similarities and the ranking member of the House Committee actually said that he was told that the younger brother said that they actually downloaded one of these recipes, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Wow.

TAPPER: All right, CNN terror analyst Paul Cruickshank. Thanks so much.

BALDWIN: And better check your airlines Web site before you head to the airport.

Coming up, we -- we've seen some major delays. Maybe you've been involved in this because of the furloughs, because of the forced spending cuts we've been talking about out of Washington. But some critics say this is all just politics at play.

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BALDWIN: Welcome back to CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin here in Boston alongside my colleague Jake Tapper. We will get you back for our special coverage here of the events in Boston in a moment.

But first a check of some of the other stories making news on this Thursday. This fire, look at this video here. It is finally sort of calmed down. This is hours after explosions on this two fuel barges on Alabama's Mobile River. A spark apparently ignited a build up of natural gas vapors. Three people are hospitalized in critical condition with severe burns. At least six explosions were heard up to 20 miles away.

TAPPER: The worst of the Midwest floods maybe over for some people thankfully. Mississippi River levels have now peaked of St. Louis but major flooding on the Illinois River at Peoria is expected to last through the weekend.

BALDWIN: And investigators are still looking into clues as far as who would have sent this ricin-tainted letters to President Obama, a senator and a judge. The latest search was at a former studio there in Mississippi. It has been rented by a man from Mississippi whose home has also been searched. Prosecutors have dropped charges against another Mississippi man this Elvis impersonator who was initially suspected of sending those ricin-laced letters.

And we're back in just a moment.

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TAPPER: We're back now with our special coverage live in Boston. We'll have the latest developments on the investigation into the Boston Marathon terrorist attacks.

But first a check on another story making headlines -- thousands of flight delays and cancellations this week because of air traffic controller furloughs, or so we're told.

Athena Jones is at Reagan National Airport in Washington DC. Athena, these delays have some people claiming this is just politics from the White House. What are you hearing?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's true, Jake. Of course the White House is pushing back on that as is Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who dismissed those claims.

But let me first tell you what's going on. The FAA has to cut $600 million from its budget by September. That means these furloughs have had to kick in. All FAA employees have to take 11 unpaid days off. They have to stay home from work and not be paid. That means that every single day as many as 10 percent of the nation's 15,000 air traffic controllers aren't going to work. That means with fewer air traffic controllers, they're having to space out the planes further so that fewer planes can come in and take off in order to do so safely.

It is mostly affecting the biggest airports, big hubs like Chicago, Los Angeles. We learn from Chicago this morning that they had only 72 planes landing per hour rather than the usual 114. So that gives you some idea of how big of a problem this is. As you mentioned, some have been saying that the White House the administration is trying to make the public feel the effect of these forced spending cuts. This is all political.

The White House says it isn't; let's listen to what the White House spokesman Jay Carney had to say about that?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They wrote it. They should know what's in it. The passed it. They voted for it, they should know what's in. The fact is the FAA has initiated a series of cost saving measures both personnel and not personnel related including a hiring freeze, restrictions on travel, termination of certain temporary employees and reductions to contracts.

But the law specifically walls of three-quarters of the department's budget from sequestration and does not give the department any flexibility to mitigate the impact on the FAA. Why? Because it was written to be a bad law.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JONES: And written to be a bad law, that's the phrase we've been hearing ever since the beginning of the year when the White House and administration have been warning about the effects of these forced spending cuts. There was a hearing yesterday in the committee on the hill. And well you had representatives talking about how they were surprised that these forced spending cuts have led to these kinds of delays.

And you had the FAA administration, Michael Huerta is saying, "We've been warning about this since February," so that's where we stand now. Jake.

TAPPER: But Athena, Republicans say that during the whole back and forth about the sequester cuts, they offered the White House an opportunity to be able to be selective in what was cut and that the White House turned them down because the White House wanted to push forward a plan that included tax increases. Isn't that the Republican response to this?

JONES: The Republican response is yes, there should be a way for each of the departments in the government to be more flexible, to be able to apply whatever custard necessary and in a more flexible way. The administration has said that there needs to be an overall agreement. As you mentioned, one of the agreements discussed included tax increases.

But since there was never a deal -- this is where things stand. I should mention that there was a bill introduced just yesterday on the Hill that would give the FAA exactly that kind of flexibility that some, on the Republican side of the aisle -- want to see.

It's unclear what will happen with that legislation but it's certain that with so many people, experiencing these delays. So many people able to relate to the idea of travel delays that there's going to be some pressure on Congress to get something done -- whether it'll be a big deal or a small deal. It's really the question Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Athena, thank you.

BALDWIN: Former President George W. Bush is speaking out on the terror attack that happened a week ago Monday here in Boston and here is what he told CNN John King once he heard about the horrific news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As the man who was Commander in Chief on 9/11, what went through your mind when you heard explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon?

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was reminded that evil exists and that there are people in the world who are willing to kill innocent people to advance a cause. I don't know what this cause is, but we'll find out.

During the same week, in a town close to us at Crawford, a plant exploded and both incidents remind me of how fragile life can be for some and both incidents made us weep knowing that somebody was hurting a lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: President George W. Bush of course was president on 9/11 when the U.S. suffered its worst terror attack in recent history.

The response to 9/11 will be just one of many events in focus today as four living presidents join former President Bush for the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. That's where we find CNN's Brianna Keilar this morning.

Brianna, you got a chance to tour this museum. What's it like?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is really fascinating, Jake, and it sort of does follow the course of President Bush's time in office chronologically at first. You sort of get this sense of normalcy pre-9/11 when you first walk in the door, his election and then, and then his domestic agenda that he was hoping would define his presidency. No Child Left Behind, faith-based community initiatives, tax cuts -- but very quickly you're confronted with 9/11 and how that ultimately defined his presidency.

At one point, you're staring at a red dress that First Lady Laura Bush wore to their first state dinner. It was six days before 9/11. You make a quick right turn and all of a sudden you are confronted with these twisted beams from the World Trade Center. These are from the second tower which was -- the second tower to be hit and the first one to collapse that and the first one to collapse on 9/11. You're actually encouraged to reach out and touch the beams and sort of have this tangible connection to it.

But what follows from that really are the controversial decisions that President Bush made, the war on terror. You see Saddam Hussein's pistol that he was discovered with when he was found and captured in 2003. And one of the really interesting parts of the whole exhibit is the decision point theater. People go in, they have an interactive experience where they get advice from the president's top advisors. They talk to military commanders. You might get some input from the press and they get to make the decisions that ultimately President Bush did -- Jake.

TAPPER: Brianna, I heard descriptions of the -- that part of the museum that you're talking about that make it sound as if it's almost a put yourself in President Bush's shoes. This is why he did these things, he made these decisions that you might disagree with. But put yourself in his shoes. Is that the feeling when you do it or is that a mischaracterization?

KEILAR: I think that is part of -- it sort of asks this implicit question of "What would you do?" And when John King did interview President Bush about it, he asked him, "Is this about defending your policies?" President Bush was very careful to say no, this is not about defending my policies, it is about giving people the opportunity to make a decision as I had to make.

TAPPER: All right. Brianna, thank you so much. We'll have special coverage of today's dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center right here on CNN. Now, that coverage begins shortly after 11:00. Our Wolf Blitzer will have all the ceremonies live after this quick break.

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

More than four years after a helicopter out of Washington sent into retirement the 43rd president of the united is very much back in the spotlight on this day. Not here in Washington but in Dallas, Texas, where the George W. Bush Presidential Center is about to be formally dedicated.

Every U.S. president is on hand for ceremonies due to start in moments from now. Joining me now for CNN's special live coverage are my colleagues John King, Brianna Keilar -- they're both in Dallas; also joining us our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger here in Washington; and from Austin, Texas, the presidential historian and professor, Douglas Brinkley.

Gloria, let me quickly start with you. Set the scene for us. Every president does this. Every modern president; This is an important event.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANLAYST: It is an important event obviously. Modern presidents think about their legacy and their place in history. As this president himself has said, history will be the one to judge him. He's told people jokingly along after he's gone.

And this is a president -- obviously very controversial Wolf, his popularity ratings since he's left office have increased, this happens with a lot of ex-Presidents, but he is somebody of course who will be judged by history for the war in Iraq, for the way he handled events like Hurricane Katrina and for this notion of compassionate conservativism, which is a theme that runs throughout this library. What this library lets you do is really judge for yourself. Say, OK, these are the situations that President George W. Bush was confronted with. Take a look at him and see what decisions you would have made.

BLITZER: We're going to hear Douglas Brinkley from all the living and former Presidents of the United States; the current president is there with Mrs. Obama and also the former presidents are all there. All of them will speak, including Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush. They will make their remarks and certainly the former president George W. Bush, he'll have the longest speech.

This is the presidential library or presidential center that's named in his honor and is going to be a source for historians for generations to come to review his eight years in the White House. Give us your perspective.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, HISTORIAN: Well, I took a tour of it a few weeks ago and I think SMU has done a great job of attracting the library. And I think the bricks and mortar of the building by Robert Stern, the architect is really quite nice. They used a lot of Texas building materials. A lot of the grounds are using wildflowers and prairie grasses and trees that are native to Texas.

You mentioned all the former presidents that are going to be there. I think it is poignant to have this last, maybe last public moment of 41 and 43 together. I was struck by a statue that's cast there that leads from the library into what will be the Public Policy Center, a statue of both Bushes, and how unusual it was to have two presidents, a father and son, in a short period of time.

And as everybody else had said, Wolf, 9/11 just dominates this museum. You know, you have up in New York City, you're going to have the big 9/11 museum there. You go to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, it's a national monument. In the southern zone, this will become the place people will go to try to explain to their kids what happened at 9/11, a moment as seminal as Pearl Harbor or the Kennedy assassination.

BLITZEWR: And it's truly one of the great moments, or shall we say significant moments. It was awful obviously what happened on 9/11, but from the Bush presidency, it was one of those moments that turned things around for him, turned things around for the country.

John King is there at the Presidential Center getting ready to watch as all of us -- hear all these former presidents and the current president speak as well. John, you had a chance to sit down with the former President George W. Bush for a very candid blunt interview. How is he doing now? I guess that's the bottom line question.

KING: Wolf, as always, George W. Bush is comfortable in his skin. His friends have always said that. His critics have always said that as well. "I am a content man", he said. He knows this dedication ceremony today and the public opening of this library will restore the very issues we're talking about.