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Starbucks Controversy; Republican Debate; Plane Crash Investigation. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 10, 2015 - 15:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour now. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Brooke Baldwin.

And we begin with some new information just in about the crash of the Russian passenger jet that officials believe was caused by a terrorist bomb. The crash killed all 224 people on board. That includes more than a dozen kids.

Let's get right now to CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She has some very new details for us. We also have terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank.

What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, it has to be said yet again the U.S. has no direct evidence. They had no access to the wreckage, to bomb residue, to the bodies, to any of the direct evidence of this crash.

But after several days of looking at what they do have, intercepts, that flash from the military satellite at the time of the explosion,, some calculations about what might have happened, a number of U.S. officials are telling CNN they do have a working theory about this potential bomb.

They believe at this point it was most likely, most likely placed on board by someone on the ground with access to the plane, probably not somebody that got past the screening process. Based on their calculations again of the heat flash, the explosion that is believed to have been heard on one of the data recorders, they think at this point, again, most likely, it was military-grade explosives, something similar to C-4, very high-energy explosives and there was a timer on the device because it was set to explode clearly once the plane was in midair.

Whoever made it was aware that they could handle it, it would stay stable and would likely not go off until the timer was set. Some of this based on intercepts, some of it based on what they think may have happened, but a consensus beginning to form, even if no direct evidence, that this is a likely scenario. And they also believe at this point this was not a plot directed by ISIS leadership, if you will, back in Syria, that they have no intelligence, evidence to directly support it was ordered up by ISIS directly from Syria. Most likely, they say, militants, including the ISIS, affiliate in

Sinai -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, thank you so much for those new details, Barbara Starr.

And I want to now bring in now -- we have Paul Cruickshank.

Paul, when you look at these new developments that we're getting in, that you and Barbara have reported out, what is really the most striking thing to you about what we're learning?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think it's striking that the working theory that C-4 could have been used in this attack to blow this airplane out of the sky.

C-4 is a military-grade plastic explosive. Crucially, ISIS in Sinai, this ISIS affiliate in the region has been stockpiling C-4 explosives. It's been using that explosive in a number of attacks in the Sinai Peninsula in recent months. So it's certainly consistent with a hypothesis that the ISIS affiliate in Sinai carried out this attack. They after all have claimed that they have carried out this attack.

KEILAR: So, Paul, if it is someone who had access, they don't think it was a passenger who brought it through the security checkpoint, as Barbara just reported, who would that leave really? That would be airline or airport employees?

CRUICKSHANK: They would be looking potentially at somebody with access to the plane. So, you would be looking at people handling baggage, potentially security staff at airport, potentially cleaners who might be able to insinuate a device on a plane.

A range of different people might have access to a plane. But this would be somebody, according to this theory, who would set a timer to go off perhaps for several hours after they managed to get it on board the plane. I believe it was 23 minutes after takeoff that this device exploded.

KEILAR: I do want to bring David Soucie. He's a former FAA safety inspector, one of our aviation analysts.

I don't know. I think it's interesting because you were saying, David, that the timers normally, there is an issue with the timers, that actually having some sort of detonation device where a person is in proximity to the explosive tends to work better. Are you surprised learning that this is what investigators or analysts believe happened?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: I'm a little surprised they think it was a timer because of the fact that the timer would have had to have known exactly what the climb rate, how long it was going to be in the air, and -- because it occurred just at reaching its altitude, its cruise altitude.

So at this point, of course, it's way too early to tell. But I wouldn't think -- this doesn't fit the profile of past timer bombs that have been discovered. The timers are not reliable because the fact that the planes are delayed or something might get in the way of it or the flight path might change, those kinds of things.


So it just seems a little too precise. I believe that it may have been something more barometric in nature, something that would have sensed the altitude somehow.

KEILAR: Really, that's a very interesting point. You talked about that before.

It really comes down to, I think, for the U.S., right, David, it's hard to exactly know for analysts what happened here because they don't have that kind of hard and fast, tangible evidence and they are sort of relying on some of the other pieces of evidence that they have. Right?

SOUCIE: Yes, Brianna, I'm very concerned about how far we have gone down this road with the bomb because I was an FAA inspector and investigator at the time that Flight 800 crashed. We went down that road very, very sternly about missiles attacked, about inspectors, NTSB inspectors who were pulled off of the case because of the fact that they thought they saw missiles or there were missiles.

The information gets so tainted when you start down a path without forensic evidence. I'm really still on the fence. I'm with the 99.9 percent analysis, but yet we still have to be cautious and remember that there's no forensic evidence yet. Nothing has been shared from the Egyptians or the Russians.


KEILAR: Paul, that's a really good point, that lacking some of this evidence, maybe analysts don't have completely the full picture. Can they ever really know for sure?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, that's right.

And it's an intelligence picture that's being built up from intercepted communications after the attack, intercepted communications going from the ISIS affiliate in Sinai to the ISIS mother ship in Syria and Iraq, pointing towards an insider at the airport inserting a device on the plane.

But you absolutely do have to match those up with what you're hearing on the black box, the investigation on the ground, the forensics, whether they are seeing the telltale signs of an explosion in the wreckage and whether they're seeing -- whether there's bomb residue from explosive trace detection steps.

So, we haven't had those results in yet. The Russians have been promising that, in the next 24 to 48 hours, they may have some results. I think everybody will be keenly awaiting that. I think, though, that the idea that C-4 may be involved points away against the idea this is some kind of lone wolf plot, because it's relatively difficult to get ahold of it. It points more towards some kind of organized terrorist group responsible if indeed it was a bomb that took down this airliner, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes. And as you mentioned, it sort of fits the template for what terrorists in that area have been using for explosives.

David Soucie, tell us about -- I think a lot of people look at what happened here and they say what does this mean for other air travel? Is this something that could be duplicated if it was a bomb? What's your concern there on a wider level?

SOUCIE: It certainly is.

And even in the United States, TSA has done some analysis on their own ability to detect. And one of the highest vulnerabilities that was identified was the ability to screen the employees that get into the sterile areas that have pretty much unfettered access from the time they step into the airport to all the way to the cockpit of the airplane without any kind of screening of any kind.

All they get is a criminal history records check when they first get hired and it's not repeated. There's no schedule for repeating that. Things change. People's lives change. But yet they don't do these screens again, nor do they do any kind of screening for people that come in and work there, what they're bringing in, their baggage, where they're bringing water bottles in for sale at the airport, things like that.

It was identified as a very high risk and I that's partly why they are so focused on this right now.

KEILAR: Big vulnerability, obviously needs to be looked at there.

Gentlemen, thanks so much, David Soucie, Paul Cruickshank. Really appreciate your analysis of this.

We're also learning more about this ISIS affiliate in the Sinai that has claimed responsibility for downing this Russian aircraft.

We have senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman with those details.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): He goes by the nom de guerre Abu Osama al-Masri, a shadowy figure some say is the mastermind behind the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268.

It was his voice that claimed in an audio message that Wilayat Sinai, the ISIS-affiliated group waging an insurgency in the northern Sinai Peninsula, brought the plane down killing all 224 on board. But was he the mastermind? We asked Sinai master Mokhtar Awad.

MOKHTAR AWAD, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I would be surprised if anyone can prove that. I don't know that we can have that kind of evidence. He is somebody who can provide the justification. He is somebody that can speak on why Wilayat Sinai did it, but we don't know him as a military commander. We don't know him as a military strategist.


WEDEMAN: When Abu Osama al-Masri does appear, his face is always blurred. And his real identity or any other details are equally blurry, although his accent is distinctly from mainland Egypt, not Sinai.

AWAD: The problem is, we don't actually know who he is. There are multiple theories put forward by Egyptian security officials on who he might be.

WEDEMAN: Egyptian investigators have yet to pronounce on the probable or possible cause of the crash of the Russian jetliner. But increasingly, Western intelligence officials suspect it was a bomb and the likely suspect behind it was Wilayat Sinai.

For the past two years, hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and policemen have been killed by Wilayat Sinai.

AWAD: It grew from a group that was blowing up pipelines into a full- blown insurgency in the Sinai that uses advanced anti-tank missiles and also MANPADs. It successfully downed a helicopter before and has tried to do that also on several occasions.

WEDEMAN: Its tactics well-documented in graphic videos posted on social media are increasingly deadly, knocking out tanks and armored personnel carriers, overrunning checkpoints, even hitting an Egyptian naval vessel with a guided missile, and now perhaps including smuggling bombs onto airplanes.

The identity of the group's leaders remains a mystery, despite being hemmed in by Egyptian intelligence on one side and Israeli intelligence on the other.


KEILAR: Thanks to Ben Wedeman for that report.

Next, insults are already flying just hours before tonight's Republican debate. Hear what Donald Trump and Jeb Bush are saying about their rivals and what could be a make-or-break night certainly for Bush's campaign.

Plus, Mizzou students making new demands after they force the resignation of their president. But one of the demands includes safe spaces from the media. I will be speaking with one columnist who was face to face with them.

And a judge ambushed in her own driveway, shot as she was driving home. And now somebody is in custody. We will hear about his connection to her.


KEILAR: It is debate day for the Republican candidates vying to be their party's nominee and the pressure is really on. Take a look at the eight candidates who are taking the main stage tonight. They all have something to prove.

Jeb Bush needs a solid performance. Marco Rubio has to show he can withstand the attacks. Will Trump and Carson dominate the conversation when it comes to the issues? Who knows? And can the others leave the stage with a win?

We have a lot of questions and we have chief political correspondent Dana Bash in Milwaukee for tonight's debate to help answer those for us, along with Alexis Levinson. She's a senior political reporter for "The National Review.

So, Dana, first to you on this. It was the moment of the last debate when Jeb Bush criticized Marco Rubio for his poor attendance record for Senate votes, and Rubio had a very successful hit on him, and sort of said, you never used to criticize my background. Look at this preemptive strike that Marco Rubio sort of launched ahead of tonight's debate.


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What Marco has, I think, is something that the Republican Party needs to have, which is a hopeful, optimistic message based on our principles.

I'm a huge Marco fan. He's probably the most articulate conservative on the scene today and the fortitude to be a good president.

So proud of his high-voltage energy. I'm so proud of his enthusiasm. I'm so proud of his eloquence.

I'm a huge Marco fan.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Marco Rubio, and I approve this message.


KEILAR: If you didn't know the context of this, Dana, you might think that this is just sort of a lovely endorsement. We can't skip past that mention of energy. Right?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, exactly. That was not an accident. None of it was.

Look, obviously, the center stage is going to be Donald Trump and Ben Carson. But the drama, the almost Shakespearian drama that all of us will be looking at are the two of them, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush for the reasons you just mentioned. The whole attempt by Jeb Bush to go after Rubio last time backfired so big time. And that's why Rubio's campaign is -- one of the reasons they are

putting this out now is to sort of remind everybody that the two of them were close and that Jeb Bush has done some amazing things for and about Marco Rubio in the past before they were competitors for the White House.

But the other thing is it's not just about the last debate. The Bush campaign, whether it was at their donor retreat last month in Houston or some documents leaked out about their strategy, they have made it very clear that they see Marco Rubio as the number one threat and they have a whole list of things that they -- oppo, as they say in the business, that they can and probably will use against him.

KEILAR: Yes. They might be bent on the Marco Rubio destruction, I think.

So, Alexis, I wonder what you think ahead of tonight because you have the Bush campaign releasing this video. Let's take a look at this one.


BUSH: When I left, there were $9 billion in reserves. We reduced the state government work force by 13,000.

The one thing that Barack Obama and I would say Hillary Clinton in their philosophy, the people of their ilk have proven is the progressive agenda run amok has failed. What I proved as governor was that you can cut spending and still prioritize towards the things that matter.



KEILAR: So, Alexis, he's sort of running there at the beginning of the ad. And then you have this really energetic music, which that's obviously no accident.

But, at this point, does this kind of matter, or does it just look concocted?

ALEXIS LEVINSON, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": I don't think anyone thinks Jeb Bush is suddenly going to become a champion debater after the past three debates, where he was kind of mediocre and then truly abysmal I think at the last one.

But he's I think going to try and show a little bit of energy, little bit of -- just that he can put on a solid performance and not fall on his face like the last time.

KEILAR: OK. I'm going to take a little bit of a detour here. I cover Democrats, so I want to have you guys weigh in on a moment that we just saw out on the trail in New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton was at an event and a man in the audience asked her about -- or really made a comment, I should say, about Carly Fiorina. This is it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not growing a company when you absorb two other companies. And then she laid off over 40,000 people. And she says she's a great CEO. Every time I see her on TV, I want to reach through and strangle her. I know that doesn't sound very nice.




KEILAR: OK, Alexis, talking about strangling a woman, this is something that some people will look at and say, you know, is that appropriate? I wonder what you think, if this sort of has any legs to be hurtful to Hillary Clinton or if this is just a moment that goes by the wayside?

LEVINSON: I think it plays to Carly Fiorina's argument that she would be a very potent competitor against Hillary Clinton, which she says at pretty much every campaign event that -- and she said at the last debate, that, secretly, we're all waiting to see a Hillary Clinton- Carly Fiorina matchup.

Having said that, Carly Fiorina, she had these really momentous debate performances at the first two that got her on to the main stage and then she won, by all accounts, the second debate. But she's kind of faded from view since then. She really hasn't been able to harness that momentum.

I'm not sure that she -- she was background noise at the last debate for the most part. I'm not sure it really does anything to help her.

KEILAR: Yes. Maybe she will try to seize it. We will see it.

I wonder what you think, Dana. Having watched the sort of arc of all of these Republican debates and these moments that play out, it seems like the sexism is really something that Carly Fiorina is dealing with more than, say, Hillary Clinton is.

BASH: It's true. And I was actually with Carly Fiorina in New Hampshire last week, and she was talking about that.

She was asked about that a number of times. And her perspective is that there's more sexism for conservative women because she insists that women who aren't conservative out there think that there's something wrong with a woman if she is conservative, if she's not a liberal.

One thing I want to add about what you just played, because it certainly is getting a lot of traction online, you're seeing a lot of conservatives tweet about it, saying, excuse me, what about the media asking for the candidate to denounce a situation when a voter says something inappropriate, like remember back in 2008 with John McCain and the voter who called Barack Obama a Muslim and so forth?

And, more recently, we had the Trump moment.

KEILAR: And McCain said, no, no, he's not.


KEILAR: It was a big moment, yes.

BASH: Exactly. This -- I think, just by watching it, it's hard to say it's not different, because the guy was joking about something that -- after he had sort of a long soliloquy about his experience at H.P., and that she laughed back.

Having said that, it's a reminder that candidates are on all the time and are expected to be -- to have leadership roles and perhaps the laughing in retrospect is something that Hillary Clinton might say, I should have said something a little bit different, but the context of this was different.

Already, though, the Fiorina campaign -- at least her deputy campaign manager is sending a tweet saying that they can't wait to see the media lapdogs defend this. And then they went three, two, one, #mediabias, Bri.

KEILAR: Well, here we are talking about it. So, I don't know about that.

But, Dana Bash, Alexis Levinson, thanks so much. We really appreciate you guys chatting with us.

And after tonight's GOP debate, don't miss CNN's special wrap-up. We will look at the issues that dominated the discussion. We are going to fact-check the candidates and see who came out ahead. We will have that for you on "ANDERSON COOPER 360" tonight at 11:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

And, next, students who started the movement to get the University of Missouri president fired are under some fire of their own. They are accused of hypocrisy for trying to shut journalists out of their protest. And I will be speaking with a columnist who was on campus confronting that.

Plus, Montel Williams takes on Donald Trump over his stance on Starbucks Christmas cups. The talk show host joins me live from the site of tonight's Republican debate.



KEILAR: The leadership fallout at the University of Missouri is not stopping some faculty from walking out today. It's a sign that the resignation of the university president, Tim Wolfe, and chancellor R. Bowen Loftin is supposed to be the beginning and not the end of changes at the campus, all of it to address the racism on that campus. And in the midst of that controversy, demonstrators started another one. Protesters vs. the press is what we're seeing. One clash was actually caught on camera.

You had Mizzou students and faculty who were trying to keep the media away from a tent encampment that is used by activists, among those blocked, one of their own, a Mizzou student named Tim Tai who was hired by ESPN.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a job to do. I'm documenting this for a national news organization.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You cannot be (INAUDIBLE) like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I can. This is the First Amendment that protects your right to stand here, protects mine.