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CNN NEWSROOM

Bombing Suspect in 10 by 10 Foot Cell; Memorial Grows in Boston; Searching for Any Jihadist Ties; Misha Denies Radicalizing Suspect; FBI at Family Home of Suspect's Widow; White House Correspondents Dinner Review

Aired April 29, 2013 - 13:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Many of the runners at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon offered a tribute to the Boston bombing victims. They wore red socks. A connection, of course, to Boston's baseball team. Ten people who ran in the Boston marathon also took part in yesterday's event. It's held annually to honor those killed in the Oklahoma City bombings.

CNN's NEWSROOM coverage continues right now.

This is our special coverage of the Boston bombings. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

Two weeks after the terror attacks here in the United States, Russia launches an attack on suspected jihadists half a world away.

Russia forces raided a militant group with possible ties to the suspected Boston bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Russia says two of the jihadists that were killed in the raid in Dagestan. Meanwhile, the bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is now locked inside a 10 by 10 foot cell with a steel door, a slot for food and a small observation window in that door. A prison spokesman says the 19 year old is now able to speak and has been interacting with medical staff.

And a memorial for the victims continues to grow in Boston's Copley Square. Thousands of people are going there to pay their respects. We have reporters on the scene bringing us all the latest developments. Investigators right now are searching for any clues that will help them determine whether the Boston bombings suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had tied to Jihadist.

And that overnight raid in Russia is raising even more questions. For more on how the group may be linked to the Boston terrorist suspect, let's bring in CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. He's on the scene for us in Moscow right now. Nick, what's the possible connection that authorities are investigating?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the raid you've just been seeing pictures of took place very early yesterday morning in a village called Chantow(ph) in Dagestan. It killed a man called Shak Hordean Ashowbov (ph). Now, what's his relevance? Well, he was part of a militant group headed by a figure now deceased, also killed by Russian special services called Abu du Jian. How does that tie to Tamerlan Tsarnaev? Well, a video of Abu du Jian (ph) was linked to his YouTube page. So, Tamerlan Tsarnaev clearly had an interest or knew of Abu du Jian and now that man is deceased. The other people remaining in his militant group are being tracked down by Russian security services and killed yesterday morning in the shootout in Chantow.

And we don't know if Tamerlan Tsarnaev ever met Abu du Jian or even the man killed in the raid yesterday, but it is interesting that as this continued channel of information between Russian services and FBI continues a man linked to the group that Tamerlan Tsarnaev links to off his social media has been killed in a special forces raid -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you've been in contact, Nick, with the parents of the bombing suspects once again, even within the past few hours. What have you learned about their supposed plans to travel to the United States?

WALSH: Well, I spoke to the father briefly. He's in a very bad state. He said simply, I'm sick, I'm sick and then the call ended. The mother went into more detail confirming his poor state of health, high blood pressure, his body shaking, really not in good shape at all. That is delaying his long-planned trip to the United States. And she herself said that travel plans keep changing. But in her mind, once she's sure that Dzhokhar, her youngest son, as you mentioned earlier, now custody. Once she knows she's able to see him, she says she'll go to the U.S. regardless of outstanding arrest warrants against her, regardless of the fact that the investigation seems to be widening and very intimate in size. They may have a further interest in speaking to her. I should point out, Wolf, one of the piece of breaking news we're hearing on the Interfax (ph) News Agency. An aide to President Vladimir Putin saying that there will be continued high level constant negotiation and cooperation between the American and Russian security services as a consequence of the Boston bombings. So, a real, I think, attempt there by the Kremlin to be out front saying, we're continuing to cooperate as much as we can -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, that could be a really significant development if, in fact, that cooperation does take place. Nick Paton Walsh on the scene for us in Moscow. Thanks very much.

We're getting new word on the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, he was the 26-year-old suspect who died. CNN's Erin McPike is on the scene for us getting some new information. What are you picking up, Erin?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, earlier this morning, we saw federal investigators leave Katy Russell's attorney's office in downtown Providence and they came right here to Katy Russell's parents' house which is just behind me. And about 20 minutes ago, we saw five of those federal investigators enter Katy Russell's house just behind her attorneys who showed up about 20 minutes ago. They've been in the house for about 20 minutes now. One of those investigators came outside the house and we asked, are you with the FBI? They said, no comment. Now, we have since seen that they are with the FBI. We, of course, don't know exactly what's going on inside the house whether they're searching, obviously probably talking to Katy Russell. But we do know that the FBI has entered Katy Russell's house -- Wolf. BLITZER: Did she go by the name just Katy Russell even after she married Tamerlan Tsarnaev? Did she change her last name or did she continue to go by Katy Russell?

MCPIKE: Well, here in this town they still refer to her as Katy Russell, not Katy Russell Tsarnaev, though we have seen different things in different statements. We have seen the attorney's statements simply refer to her as Katy, Wolf.

BLITZER: And do we know of if, in fact, she's already started answering FBI questions?

MCPIKE: Well, Wolf, what we have known for the past week is that the FBI has been very interested in her. Her attorneys have said that they are simply cooperating with the FBI, but they would never say whether or not Katy Russell had met yet with the FBI. We know that Katy Russell has been to her attorney's office several times for about 90-minute meetings. She was there on Friday for a meeting, Friday afternoon with her attorney. She was back in her attorney's office on Sunday morning for about a 90-minute meeting. So, they've been preparing for this.

The other thing we can tell you is that federal agents have been stationed outside the Russell household all week. We've seen a number of federal agents in the area around the Russell household and stationed right outside this house. So, this seems to have been coming for about a week now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Erin is on the scene for us. Erin McPike reporting from Rhode Island. Thank you.

We're also getting new details on a man who's been accused of brainwashing the Boston marathon bombing suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and turning him into a strict Islamist. The man has been referred to only so far as Misha by members of the Tsarnaev family. But a writer for "The New York review of books" actually tracked him down to a modest apartment in Rhode Island. Listen as he describes their conversation.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CHRISTIAN CARYL, WRITER, "THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS": When I asked him about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, it was quite -- he made it very clear that he had indeed known him. He did not specify any details about the nature of their relationship, but he was very, very, very intent on explaining that he had nothing to do with any kind of radicalization. What he told me was, I was not his teacher. If I had been his teacher, I would make sure he knew that doing something like this was wrong.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BLITZER: Brian Todd is joining us now from Rhode Island as well. Brian, what can you tell us about this man known as Misha? Because when I interviewed the former brother-in-law of the Tsarnaev brothers, he insisted that Misha, in effect, was responsible for transforming Tamerlan Tsarnaev into a radical Muslim, if you will.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. That's what relatives have been telling us, to you and to some of our other people who have interviewed various relatives in the United States and elsewhere. This Misha still seems to still be an elusive character. Now, what we do know now is that the -- a reporter for the publication, "The New York Review of Books" interviewed someone in Warwick, Rhode Island -- west Warwick, Rhode Island named McKyle Alec Varidiff (ph) who, this reporter and in his article claims, is the Misha in question.

But it is not clear at all, at this point, if this is the Misha in question. Law enforcement authorities a little cagey about whether this is the right person or not. We've been staking out this person's apartment in west Warwick, Rhode Island. A short time ago, an attorney went into the parents' apartment, this is an apartment that we identified as being the parents of this person, McKyle Alec Varidoff. An attorney went into the apartment, stayed there for a while, came out and talked to reporters. His name is Richard Nicholson. He said he is an attorney for the father of McKyle Alec Varidoff. The father's name is Yuri (ph).

What the attorney told us is that the authorities have spoken to the parents of this person, and that they've answered all the questions and that he expects this case to be wrapped up fairly shortly, that the parents are nervous that the mother has some kind of a health condition which is preventing her from fully dealing with the situation apparently. But this is what this attorney has just told us.

Now, what "The New York Review of Books" has reported in speaking to this McKyle Alec Varidoff was that he was a -- he knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev but he was not the person who -- he said he was never his teacher and that he never influenced him one way or another. And that if he was his teacher, he would have told him not to do what he allegedly did. This person saying he was not involved in the bombings in any way. This is what he told "The New York Review of Books." So, what we're trying to get now is the reading whether in fact the Misha that everyone is talking about. It may well not be because we have heard in recent days that law enforcement authorities are working with overseas partners to try to locate this person. So, is this Misha in question? There seems to be a lead on this here in Rhode Island, but it's not necessarily clear if this is the right person -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is this Misha in Rhode Island of Armenian decent converted to Islam with a red beard as he earlier had been described in various interviews, including the interview I conducted with the brother-in- law?

TODD: That is the way "The New York Review of Books" described him as of being of Armenian -- of Armenian and Ukrainian decent, a convert to Islam with at least a slight red beard, although that's -- the appearance, again, is kind of a little squishy as to whether he actually has a red beard or not. And we're trying to put those pieces together as to whether this person that "The New York Review of Books" spoke to in recent days is, in fact, the same person who's parents are at this apartment. We believe it is but is this the Misha? We are not quite sure about that. We have not been able to find that person ourselves to ask him directly if he is that person. So, again, putting some of these pieces together not clear right now. This Misha still seems to be a fairly elusive figure -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd in Rhode Island working this story for us. I know you'll continue your own investigation. Brian, thank you.

Coming up, he's being held in a 10 by 10 cell away from others. We're taking a closer look at Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's prison conditions right now. Plus, where the investigation is going from here.

And he may have deleted his social media accounts, but there is one Web site CNN was still able to access. Coming up, a look at a terror suspect's digital life. This is our special coverage of the Boston bombings

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Extra security is in place right now at a federal prison about 40 miles west of Boston. That's because the surviving suspect in the marathon bombings, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now lives there. Don Lemon is outside the medical facility in Devens, Massachusetts.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

BLITZER: Don, tell us a little more about this place and the conditions the suspect now is living in.

LEMON: Yes, Wolf, you said extra security. There you can see some of it. There have been as many as four different officers there, different cars with officers, as many as 12 officers standing there to make sure people don't get in. And also to answer questions for the media. There's a sprawling facility here, as you said, 40 miles west of Boston, the Devens Federal Medical Center where they bring people who need medical treatment, people who are in custody of the prison system or who are in the prison system.

So, let's show you. We have been showing our viewers this little cube graphic all day about what it's like to -- what kind of facility he's in. It's a 10 by 10 foot cell. As I said, just a little cube with a metal door and then a slot at the bottom of the door so that they can slide a food tray in. And then, above that is a small, tiny window so that they can look in and observe him. He's being observed 24 hours a day.

Ten by 10, really not that big. In your head you go, what is 10 by 10? Here it is. We said, you know what? We wanted to see what it's like and this is what we're told it's like inside. A small bed on one side of the room and then there is a sink and then a toilet in another part of the room. Just a very small area, Wolf, you see to move around here. So he doesn't have much room to move around.

And if he is indeed convicted of these horrible crimes he's accused of, some people say this is even too good for him, he should suffer a fate worse than that. We're also told that he is able to speak now. He had the neck wound and wasn't able to talk for a while. He's able to speak. He's communicating with doctors, nurses, the medical staff, but so far not communicating with investigators since his Miranda rights were read to him, Wolf.

BLITZER: Don Lemon on the scene for us outside that prison in Devens, Massachusetts. We'll check back with you later, Don. Thank you.

Let's talk a little about the legal case against this 19-year-old suspect. Investigators are working full-time to try to find out everything they can about the bombing and the Tsarnaev brothers. So how will prosecutors build their case? Paul Callan is joining us now from Boston, he's a CNN legal analyst.

Paul, let's first talk about the mother of these two suspects if she were to come to the United States from Russia, what legal issues could she potentially face?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This poses, Wolf, an enormously difficult issue for the United States. Obviously, if they do not allow the mother to come for the burial of her older son and the trial of her younger son, I suppose we would be accused of lacking humanitarian spirit, but on the other hand we have seen many reports now indicating that she was possibly discussing jihad with her son. That she may have been involved in radicalizing her son. So authorities would have a legitimate basis to ban her from entering the United States. It will be very interesting to see what's done. Certainly if she does come here she'll be questioned by law enforcement authorities very closely about what she knows about her son's link to jihadist organizations.

BLITZER: She also is facing an outstanding warrant on shoplifting charges. She allegedly stole a few thousand dollars worth of clothes from some store -- from a store in Massachusetts. So she effectively is wanted on that totally unrelated part of this story. How does that fit in?

CALLAN: Well, it fits in in that the United States could have a legitimate basis to bar her entry into the United States since there's an allegation that she's already committed a crime while in this country. We certainly -- the United States certainly has abundant justification for preventing entry into the United States should that course be selected. But as I said, there may be intelligence reasons, there may be reasons that U.S. authorities would like to question her. She certainly seems to be someone who may have information that would be helpful in this prosecution.

BLITZER: I'm sure they would like to question her. Now, what about Katy Russell Tsarnaev, the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev in Rhode Island. Your heard Erin McPike say there are some FBI officials over at the house right now. Does she face potentially legal problems as well?

CALLAN: Well, she certainly will if it can be established that she had an awareness of the plot and participated in some way maybe by hiding materials in her home or in fact hiding her husband and his intentions. However, I think it's unlikely that that's going to develop. I think she's probably going to turn out to be more of an intelligence resource than a source of hard information in the case.

BLITZER: Obviously they would love to question her. She's got a team of lawyers representing her. We don't even know now all these days later if she's started answering FBI questions. What does that say to you?

CALLAN: Well, the FBI obviously feels that she's a source of legitimate information. They're questioning anybody who had a link to both of these individuals, one who's dead and one who now is under arrest. But the fact that she's lawyered up so quickly, there's really no way to compel her to testify unless through some bizarre developments she was deemed to be an enemy combatant and, you know, taken down a different road. But certainly I don't see that happening under U.S. law.

BLITZER: Paul Callan is our CNN legal analyst, former prosecutor himself and a criminal defense attorney. Paul, thanks very much.

Coming up, a closer look at some other news we're following right now including the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial. Opening statements are about to begin this hour. The trial's expected to answer the question, did AEG Live hire or supervise Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician convicted of involuntary manslaughter? We'll have the latest up next.

(COMEMRCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check some other news we're following here in the CNN NEWSROOM right now. A killer is on the loose in northern California. Eight-year-old Lela Fowler is dead. Police say her 12-year-old brother found her stabbed and severely wounded in the family's home outside Sacramento on Saturday. She later died. The brother told police he'd seen an intruder leaving the house. The sheriff's department says it has a lot of evidence including fingerprints and possibly DNA.

In Los Angeles Michael Jackson's family is back in court today. Lawyers for his mother and children are hoping to convince a jury that the pop star died because of the negligence of his concert promoter. They want billions of dollars in money that Jackson might have earned on his future tours.

And now to Oxford, Mississippi, where a couple hours ago the man accused of sending ricin-tainted letters to President Obama and other government officials made a brief court appearance. James Everett Dutschke is charged with possession and use of a biological agent as a weapon. Dutschke says he had nothing to do with the letters. He's represented by a court appointed lawyer. The judge set a hearing for Thursday morning. We'll go live to Mississippi for more details in about half an hour.

The president is the commander in chief, but Saturday night at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner he became comedian in chief with some zingers. It's certainly one chance that Washington reporters get to take a little time out to socialize with many of the people they cover. Conan O'Brien headlined this year's event, his second time hosting. Suzanne Malveaux was there. She served on the White House beat for CNN for many years. She was at the dinner. I'm sure she looked gorgeous, had a fabulous time as she always does. So who knew, Suzanne, that the President of the United States -- he's usually pretty funny, but I think he was a little funnier this year.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: He's getting better, I think, Wolf. He's a pretty funny guy when he needs to be. The president, I think he gave it as good as he got. Really had to balance some serious issues, news and tragedy like the Boston bombings, the Texas explosion. But this occasion was expected to lighten the mood in Washington. One of the stories we covered last week, Jay-Z and Beyonce's controversial trip to Cuba, well, the president, he took that head-on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For example, this whole controversy about Jay-Z going to Cuba. It's unbelievable. I've got 99 problems and now Jay-Z's one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: That was one of the ones that a lot of folks liked. There's been a lot of controversy over whether or not the president has also been reaching out to Republicans. The president, he himself, called it the charm offensive and he noted how popular the first lady is. So he suggested doing something a little different. Check it out, Wolf.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I understand second term, need a burst of new energy, try some new things. And then my team and I talked about it. We were willing to try anything. So we borrowed one of Michelle's tricks.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I thought this looked pretty good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Wolf, he might look good with bangs too, you never know. This is called as you know essentially the nerd prom, attracts celebrities as well. Had a chance to catch up with some of them. Carrie Washington has got her own political drama going on. One of the hottest series on TV, "Scandal," the star of the president's favorite TV show, this is "Homeland." This guys showed up at an event, he is actor Navid Negahban, he plays a terrorist, you might know. And chance to catch up with someone who's been in the news of course, he is a Louisville basketball star Kevin Ware. He broke his leg during the NCAA basketball tournament. He says he is doing much, much better than he thought he ever would. So it's really good, Wolf, to see him as well. He says he's hanging in there. He hopes to get off the crutches and be on his way fairly soon.

BLITZER: So happy Kevin was there as CNN's guest. And you did look gorgeous as you always do.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Love the dress and the whole package was fabulous. As I knew it would be.

MALVEAUX: It was a good time.

BLITZER: You had a great time. Unfortunately, this year I couldn't go. I was in New York. I know everybody else had a fabulous time.

MALVEAUX: We missed you. Next year.

BLITZER: Next year for sure. Coming up, we have -- he may have deleted his social media accounts, but we're getting some new information. There's one website we were still able to access. We're getting a closer look at Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's digital life as our special coverage of the Boston bombings continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)