Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Three New Suspects Still In Custody; Tsarnaev Text Messages Released; FBI: Suspects Too Items From Dorm; FBI Details Bombing Investigation; FBI Looks At Wife's Cell Phone Call; Obama Nominating Two Cabinet Members; Muslim Cab Driver & Vet Assaulted

Aired May 2, 2013 - 10:00   ET

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


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, a laptop, fireworks and Vaseline, a new arrest in Boston. Police say Tsarnaev's friends hid evidence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Robel is a very good kid himself. He went to school and never got in trouble, took care of his mom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: And a message from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to his buddies who suspected he was involved in the bombing. Dzhokhar's texting and laughing out loud, you'd better not text me.

Also an American sentenced to 15 years hard labor in North Korea. The United States now demanding his release.

Eating healthy cost a fortune, as much as $300 a week for a family of four. How do you tap that cost? You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(MUSIC)

COSTELLO: Good morning. Thanks so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello. The Boston bombing investigation tops our news right now. Three college buddies of one suspect are in jail and the widow of the other suspect is under intensifying scrutiny.

Investigators now know Katherine Russell had a phone call with her husband, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, after his picture appeared on national television, but before the investigators knew the names of the suspects.

Also new, two sources are telling CNN, the nature of that conversation is now under investigation. Authorities want to know why she didn't notify police. In the meantime, lawyers for the three new suspects say they are fully cooperating with investigators.

All three remain in federal custody this morning, accused of taking potential evidence from the dorm room of their pal, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Let's begin with the big picture and then narrow our focus. CNN's Pamela Brown starts off of our coverage with the latest developments.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two CNN sources familiar with the investigation say Katherine Russell, the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, spoke with her husband the night the FBI released video of him in connection with the Boston bombings. Authorities questioning Russell trying to determine the nature of that call, what was said and why she didn't notify authorities.

This as three friends and classmates of Tamerlan's brother, Dzhokhar, are now under arrest. Two seen here with the younger Tsarnaev on a trip to New York's Times Square are accused of obstructing justice. The third man accused of lying to authorities.

According to the criminal complaints when federal authorities released video of the bombing suspects, the three men saw it on CNN and immediately thought one of the suspects looked like their friend, Dzhokhar.

Dias Kadrybayev texted Tsarnaev that he looks like the person on TV, Tsarnaev texted back, lol. The accused three allegedly met at Tsarnaev's dorm room where they received another text from him, "I'm about to leave. If you need something in my room, take it."

According to authorities, Azamat Tazhayakov never thought he'd see his friend alive again. The dorm the three find fireworks and a backpack with the black powder emptied out, Vaseline and a laptop. Authorities alleged the three took the evidence out of the dorm room to protect Tsarnaev.

The complaints also say the men then took the items back to an apartment in New Bedford, wrapped it in a garbage bag and put it in a dumpster along with some of their own trash. The bag with the fireworks is later recovered by investigators after a two-day search at a local landfill, unclear whether the laptop has been recovered.

This CNN exclusive video shows two of the men being taken into the custody at the time on immigration violations. The third man, Robel Phillipos, is a U.S. citizen. At court hearing on Wednesday, the three agreed to waive bail. Their lawyers say they did nothing wrong.

ROBERT STAHL, ATTORNEY FOR DIAS KADYRBAYEV: He is just as shocked and horrified by the violence in Boston that took place as the rest of the community is. He did not know that this individual was involved in a bombing.

HARLAN PROTASS, ATTORNEY FOR AZAMAT TAZHAYAKOV: My client, Azamat Tazhayakov, feels horrible and was shocked to hear that someone that he knew at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth was involved with the Boston marathon bombing. He has cooperated fully with authorities and looks forward to the truth coming out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: According to the criminal complaint, Tsarnaev allegedly talked to his two friends now suspects one month before the marathon telling them he knew how the make a bomb. At this point though, there is no clear indication whatsoever that these suspects knew anything about a plot before the attack. Authorities say the charges they are facing are only related to what they may have done and known after the attack -- Carol.

COSTELLO: So many questions remain. Pamela Brown reporting live from Boston today.

We're also learning more about what the younger bombing suspect and his friends were doing in the days following the Boston bombings. That includes text messages that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sent his friends after they told him he looked an awfully lot like the bombing suspect. You saw his response, lol, laughing out loud, followed by another one saying, you better not text me.

Crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns, has more on that side of the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An FBI affidavit says the two men from Kazakhstan got the first hint of what was coming in a conversation with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev about a month before the marathon. When Dzhokhar explained that he knew how to make a bomb.

Two days after the bombing before the photos were released Kadyrbayev meets up with Tsarnaev and notices he, quote, "appeared to have given himself a short haircut." But according to the third suspect, Robel Phillipos, full realization of what was going on apparently kicked in when he, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov started to freak out.

Because it became clear from a CNN report we were watching that Dzhokhar was one of the Boston bombers. This was the evening of April 18th. They reached out in text messages to Dzhokhar and told him he looked like the suspect on television. Tsarnaev's return text contained, lol, and other things Kadyrbayev interpreted as joke such as you better not text me and also come to my room and take whatever you want.

Between 6:00 and 7:00 that night, Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and Phillipos went to Tsarnaev's dormitory room on the UMass Dartmouth campus the affidavit says. Kadyrbayev located a backpack that contained an emptied out cardboard tube described as fireworks, a jar of Vaseline believed to have been used to make bombs.

Kadyrbayev decided to remove the backpack from the room in order to help his friend Tsarnaev avoid trouble and took the laptop and the Vaseline as well. About 10 p.m., Kadyrbayev said they collectively decided to throw the backpack and fireworks into the trash.

April 19th, the next day, Tazhayakov saw a garbage truck come to their apartment to empty the dumpster where Kadyrbayev had discarded the backpack. When authorities interviewed Phillipos on April 20 as the affidavit says, he initially said he did not remember going to the dormitory room. Then change his story saying he did not remember going there with the other two men denying they had entered the room at all. It apparently wasn't until a fourth interview on April 26th, when Phillipos eventually confessed that he had lied to agents during his previous interviews.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: Crime and justice correspondent Joe Johns joins us now. Hi, Joe.

JOHNS: Hi, Carol.

COSTELLO: These three men, they are behind bars this morning. Will there be further arrests and will these suspects remain in jail until trial?

JOHNS: Well, the second question first. I can tell you that the two men from Kazakhstan according to our sources may have a real problem getting out because not only do they have these federal charges they're facing, there's also an immigration issue. In all likelihood our sources say they'll be detained even if they're able to work out something for release.

As far as other arrests, we're told this investigation is continuing and very difficult to say where it will lead, but I think the FBI is a long way from finishing on this -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes. Joe Johns reporting live from Washington. We have a lot of questions about that phone call that took place between Katherine Russell and her husband, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the night the FBI released his photo.

Joining us now from Los Angeles, Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent. Good morning, Tim.

TIM CLEMENTE, FORMER FBI COUNTERTERRORISM AGENT: Good morning, Carol. Thanks for having me.

COSTELLO: Before we get into the phone call, I want to ask you about Dzhokhar, the younger suspect reaching out to his buddies who are all about 19 years old to allegedly hide evidence. What does this tell you about the plot?

CLEMENTE: Well, it doesn't necessarily tell us much about what happened before the Boston marathon bombing, but you have to realize that's not the only crime that occurred. After these three individuals hid this backpack and the Vaseline and the laptop, an MIT police officer was killed, another police officer was gravely wounded, and half a dozen IEDs were used in an encounter with police.

So it is possible that these guys had they come forward immediately to law enforcement and advise who Dzhokhar was and where he might be at that point in time because they were communicating with him, it may have prevented the deaths of that police officer and possibly the deaths of many other innocent people. So these guys aren't just innocent bystanders that hid a backpack. They're involved in further crimes and --

COSTELLO: I was asking you in light of -- you would think he would reach out to his terrorist buddy, not college buddies.

CLEMENTE: Well, the support structure that he may have had may have been such they provided physical, emotional, spiritual support prior to the bombing. That support may have been cut off where they said, you know, if you're going to do something, do not communicate with us, whatever.

And that's understandable that he would reached out to his college buddies because I believe they reached to him first. But he is still trying to lay low at this point. He's still trying to hide. It is only in the fact that he and his brother did the carjacking and the carjacking victim escape that the police were actually on to him.

And that's why I'm saying about these three individuals that if they had come forward with the information that they suspected or knew about Dzhokhar being the bomber, it may have prevented all these other things from occurring including that carjacking.

COSTELLO: Let's turn our attention to the phone call between Katherine Russell and her husband, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. You said something very interesting on Erin Burnett show last night. You said that if Katherine Russell does not divulge the contents of this phone call that the FBI had other methods of finding out what was said. What did you mean by that?

CLEMENTE: Well, on the national security side of the house, in the federal government, you know, we have assets. There are lots of assets at our disposal throughout the intelligence community and also not just domestically but overseas. Those assets allow us to gain information intelligence on things that we can't use ordinarily in a criminal investigation, but are used for major terrorism investigations or counter intelligence investigations.

COSTELLO: You're not talking about voicemail, right? What are you talking about exactly?

CLEMENTE: I'm talking about all digital communications are -- there's a way to look at digital communications in the past. I can't go into detail of how that's done or what's done. But I can tell you that no digital communication is secure. So these communications will be found out. The conversation will be known.

It is just a question of whether or not Katherine Russell decides to own up to what was said prior to that information being known or after the fact. It will be unfortunate for her if she doesn't own up to it completely and fully because the facts of this case, the fact of her involvement in communication with her husband will be known.

COSTELLO: OK, Tim, we got to wrap this up. Thank you very much. Tim Clemente.

President Obama is coming on. He has some new Cabinet members to announce. Let's listen.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Good morning, everybody. Please have a seat. My top priority as president is to grow the economy, create good middle class jobs, makes sure the next generation prospers. In a few minutes, I'll be departing the White House for a trip that will promote that priority.

First I'm going to visit Mexico, one of our largest economic partners then I'll be visiting Costa Rica where I'll attend a summit with Central American leaders. In both instances I'm going to be working to deepen our economic and trade relationships across Latin America.

Relationships that create jobs and growth here at home and offer our business growing markets where they can sell more American-made goods and services abroad. But before I go, I have some business to do. I am proud to announce that I'll be nominating two outstanding individuals to my Cabinet who will focus on precisely these issues.

Over the past four years, I have tasked the secretary of commerce and the U.S. trade representative with opening new markets for American goods and services, doubling our exports for those goods and services all in support of millions of American jobs.

And over those four years, Ron Kirk along with his outstanding team at USTR has stood up for free trade and for American workers and businesses around the world. So he's finalized trade deals with South Korea, Columbia, Panama.

He's crackdown on unfair trading practices to give American workers a fair shot in the global economy and I could not be prouder of the work that he has done. Meanwhile, the Department of Commerce, Becky Blank has led our efforts to help promote high tech manufacturing and travel and tourism. It's a big portfolio.

She's worked closely with the private sector to make sure that America remains the best place in the world to do business. So I could not be more thankful to Ron and to Becky for their outstanding service.

Ron couldn't be here today, but many members of his team are here and we are so thankful to them. Becky, thank you. Becky is going to be taking on a pretty big job, making sure those badgers behave up in Wisconsin. We know she's going to be extraordinary leading that institution.

But today, in a position to nominate two extraordinary individuals to continue the work of Ron and Becky as key members of my economic team, as I said in my state of the union address, when it comes to growing our economy and our middle class, we should focus on three things.

Number one, make sure America is a magnet for good jobs. Number two, helping workers earn the skills they need to get those jobs, and number three, making sure their hard work actually leads to a decent living. Both these individuals share that focus.

First, I'm nominating Penny Pritzker to serve as my secretary of commerce. Now Penny is one of our country's most distinguished business leaders. She's got more than 25 years of management experience in industries including real estate, finance, and hospitality. She's built companies from the ground up.

She knows from experience that no government program alone can take the place of an entrepreneur. She knows that what we can do is to get every business and every worker the best possible chance to succeed by making America a magnet for good jobs. Penny understands just as great companies strengthen the communities around them, strong communities and skilled workers also help companies strive.

So she's been an extraordinary civic leader in our shared hometown of Chicago. She served as a member of my jobs counsel. She was the driving force behind "Skills For America's Future," which is a program that brings together companies and community colleges to shape and prepare, you know, skills based training programs for workers that are tied into the businesses that potentially will hire them.

So she's got extraordinary experience and in case I haven't embarrassed her enough. She has a wonderful family. I watch her kids grow up and today is her birthday. So happy birthday, Penny. For your birthday present, you get to go through confirmation. It is going to be great.

Meanwhile, over two decades in both the public and private sector, Mike Froman who I'm nominating to serve as my U.S. trade representative, has established himself as one of the world's foremost experts on the global economy. I'm not surprised, by the way, because we went to law school together.

He was much smarter than me then and he continues to be smarter than me now. Over the past four years, he's been my point person at global forum like the G8 and G20. By the way, when I say point person, he's really been the driving force oftentimes in organizing these, you know, incredible international summits in which huge amount of businesses get done.

He's been a key negotiator along Ron Kirk on those trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, which support tens of thousands of American jobs. He's won the respect of our trading partners around the world. He's also won a reputation of being an extraordinarily tough negotiator.

While doing it, he does not rest until he's delivered the best possible deal for American businesses and American workers. He's fought to make sure that countries that break the rules are held accountable. Mike believes just as I believe and just as Penny believes that our workers are the most competitive in the world.

So they deserve a level playing field. Mike is going to continue to fight for that level playing field in his new role as he helped to move forward trade negotiations with the Asia-Pacific region and Europe, and will also continue to advise me on a broad range of economic issues.

I think some of you have gathered I've had a chance to get to know Penny and Mike not leaders and professionals, but also as friends. One of the reasons I'm proud --

COSTELLO: We're going to jump out of that. President Obama announcing two Cabinet nominees, Penny Pritzker for commerce secretary and Michael Froman as he was trade representative. Dan Lothian is standing by live at the White House. Christine Romans is in New York to parse this out for us. Thanks for being here. So both of these people, friends of the president, right, Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They are. I think you have seen the president very comfortable appointing people, naming people to his Cabinet or Cabinet level positions whom he has a long relationship with. Penny Pritzker, going back to his days in Chicago, she was born in Chicago, comes for a well established Chicago family, the CEO of PSB Capital Partners, which is a private investment firm.

And also, you know, she was part of the president's council on jobs and competitiveness was his finance chair for his campaign in 2008 and the co-chair for finance in 2012. So this is someone who the president is very comfortable with.

Michael Froman as the president himself pointed out is someone that he has known since he was a young man in law school. They were classmates together. He's been there with the president when it comes to some of these tough trade issues, the president's point person at the G20 and the G8 as well.

So President Obama again sort of rounding out these top Cabinet and Cabinet level positions with people who he believes are best for the job, but also someone he knows on a personal level.

COSTELLO: All right, Christine, most people don't sit around and think about the commerce secretary and the U.S. trade representative, right. So tell us how these two will affect the economy if they're confirmed.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I mean, they really do, I mean, as a U.S. trade representative, you're the person who is the point person around the world for the president in America's standing and role with international trade agreements, but also -- you talked about being the point person in the G20 and G8.

I mean, Mike Froman is the one who did all the work before you get there. You put the leaders together. I mean, he really is someone who is known around the world for his work. This is the guy who is the administration's brain on things like sitting down with 20 nations and figuring out how to get everyone get along and get something done. So that's a really important job.

Penny Pritzker as commerce secretary is an interesting pick. Her family founded the Hyatt Hotel chain. She is a billionaire. She is very well-known in Chicago, of course, and now outside of Chicago. She is someone has run afoul of the line of unions every now and then.

She also was on the Chicago school board I think. So you'll see maybe there could be some opposition, a bit of opposition from the unions, not clear yet. She is someone who has worked in so many different fields of 25 years of management, incredibly wealthy and incredibly well-regarded I will say in many of the industries that she has worked in real estate, private equity and the like.

So as a pick for commerce secretary, it does show this is a president going back to people who helped him starting back all the way in 2008 and now they are with him again here today.

COSTELLO: All right, Christine Romans and Dan Lothian, many thanks to both of you. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be back with much more on developments in Boston. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Anti-Muslim sentiments possibly fuelled by the Boston bombing terrorist attack, may have led to this cab driver coming under attack. Mohamed Salim is his name. He is in the U.S. Army reserved. He is also an Iraq war veteran. Watch how a passenger treated him after he picked him up at a Virginia Country Club.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED PASSENGER: Do you think it was right for the terrorists --

UNIDENTIFIED CAB DRIVER: I'm going to call you right now. I'm going to call you to the police -- OK. Whatever you're saying is recorded. Now you're punching me.

UNIDENTIFIED PASSENGER: Do you think it was proper for the United States --

UNIDENTIFIED CAB DRIVER: Now you're punching me, right? You're punching me, right? Quit punching me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Wow. CNN's Shannon Travis joins us from Washington. That's just a part of this 11-minute video. What else is in this video?

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is so bizarre, Carol. From what we've been able to listen to the video that Mr. Salim took on his cell phone. Apparently, this passenger's name is Ed Dolbert. He basically wanted to cab driver to renounce the perpetrators of 9/11. He called the cab driver a Jihadist basically.

He accused the cab driver of being related to the Boston bombers that was something else that was on the video, the cell phone video. According to Mr. Salim that the passenger threatened to kill him and broke his jaw in this altercation, we've listened to it.

There's all this hustle and bustle back and forth. Again, these are accusations from Mr. Salim. We're not exactly sure of, you know, what the altercation was. We can't quite see it very clearly, but this is video of Mr. Salim at a press conference yesterday.

Take a listen at something that he told our very own Wolf Blitzer when asked what exactly he would say to Ed Dolbert.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMED SALIM, TAXI DRIVER, U.S. ARMY RESERVIST: If this wasn't -- sir, I'm not a terrorist. I'm a U.S. citizen. I'm a U.S. Army reservist. I served the country. I sacrificed my life. I, myself, I was fighting the terrorists. I'm against violence. I'm not a terrorist. I'm not Jihadist. I'm American like you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TRAVIS: He's not a terrorist. He's an American just like the rest of us. Some of that was heard on the videotape. It is addressing this passenger yesterday.

COSTELLO: This passenger, first all, have any charges been filed and secondly, what's his side of the story?

TRAVIS: Obviously, there are two sides of every story. We have a statement from the lawyer for the passenger. I'm going to read it to you, Carol. Mr. Dolbert's comments to Mr. Salim were regretful and he apologizes to anyone who found them offensive, anyone who listens to the entire conversation and used the entire tape who heard that most of the conversation has a friendly tone.

It got heated as the discussion turned to Jihadis and 9/11. Like many Americans 9/11 had a profound impact on Mr. Dolbert. He certainly didn't mean to cause offense to Mr. Salim or the Islamic community and he closes by saying Mr. Dolbert asserts there was no subsequent interaction between the two beyond what was captured on the tape. Further he did not assault Mr. Salim at any time, nor did he get violent in any way. So that's from the passenger's perspective. We'll see where this goes from here -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Shannon Travis, thanks so much. Coming up next in the NEWSROOM, wildfires burning in Southern California, a live report for your next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)