Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
New Info in Russian Jet Downing; Paris Terror Investigation; Trump Under Fire; France Probes Radicalization of Transit Workers; Trump: "I Could Feel" 9/11 Attacks Coming. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired November 25, 2015 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A jet shot down. Now will finger-pointing turn to missile-pointing? I'm John Berman, and this is THE LEAD.
Turkey released what it calls proof, a warning sent before the downing of a Russian jet. But Vladimir Putin out with his own warning, saying there will be consequences.
Plus, new information about the men who terrorized Paris and took 130 lives and what they did before the attack. One was a Paris bus driver.
And the politics lead, a new Donald Trump original. He says -- quote -- "I could feel it." No, not rising poll numbers, the ability to forecast a terror attack, superpowers and the race for 2016.
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman, in for Jake today.
We do begin with our world lead, Russia and Turkey and a new series of allegations over the downing of that Russian fighter jet yesterday, Russia's foreign minister now calling it a -- quote -- "planned provocation," Turkey firing back, accusing Russia of deceit.
One pilot was killed, another rescued by Russian special forces. That surviving pilot says no warnings were issued before the shoot-down. In response, the Kremlin today announced plans to move a missile defense system to a Syrian air base less than 30 miles from the Turkish border.
Want to get right to CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
And, Barbara, how far do U.S. officials expect the Russians to push this military response?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, the Russians are clearly making a case that the Turks were basically lying in wait for them. The U.S. hopes the Russians won't push too far, but let's face it, nobody can really predict what Vladimir Putin may decide to do.
STARR (voice-over): The shoot-down of the Russian fighter jet by Turkey sparking rising tensions from Moscow to Washington, one pilot shot dead by Turkish-supported rebels as he parachuted to the ground, the other rescued, but only after a first failed attempt when a helicopter was hit by a U.S.-made TOW missile fired by rebels on the ground.
Turkey insisting the shoot-down was justified, today, the Turkish government releasing audio of what the Turks say were 10 warnings to the Russian pilot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You are approaching Turkish airspace. Change your heading south immediately. Change your heading south.
STARR: Russia disputed any warnings were given, broadcasting an interview with the rescued pilot, his back to the camera, presumably to protect his identity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Not via the radio, not visually. There was no contact whatsoever.
STARR: According to the Turks, the Russian jet flew just over a mile into its airspace and was there for just 17 seconds before they shot it down, raising questions about the Turks' very quick action.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it in an attack posture? Was it really threatening? Or was it simply violating the airspace of Turkey?
STARR: The U.S. pressing for calm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most important thing right now is for a de- escalation of tensions.
STARR: Publicly, Russia appears to agree.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We do not intend to wage a war on Turkey.
STARR: Moscow far from backing off. In recent days, Russian long- range bombers flew two extraordinary attack missions, leaving Northern Russia to fly around Europe into the Mediterranean and another set of bombers flying into Iranian airspace, both launching cruise missiles into Syria.
Additional surface-to-air missiles will be placed at Latakia, its main Syrian air base.
STARR: Now the U.S. also ratcheted up on its own, the Treasury Department freezing assets today of several individuals and companies it says are doing business with Syria, even an oil middleman who is said to be buying oil from ISIS and reselling it to the regime, John.
BERMAN: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you so much.
Let's go to Russia now, Moscow. CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is there.
Matthew, what do we know about this missile defense system that Russia is now sending to Turkey -- I mean, to Syria, just about 30 miles from the Turkish border?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's sending two missile defense systems, as far as I'm aware.
The first is called the S-300. And it's -- this version is a ship- based version. It's on board the missile cruiser called Moskva, which is the Russian word for Moscow, which is going to be docked off the coast of Syria. And that's got a big range and will provide good cover for the Latakia area, where the airplanes from Russia take off and land.
But the most controversial deployment, I think the one you're referring to, is the S-400, which is the vastly upgraded version of that S-300 missile system. It's one of the most sophisticated surface-to-air missile systems in the world.
It's certainly the most sophisticated that Russia has. Its deployment anywhere is controversial because it's got such a big range. Something like 400 miles it can see out and fire at targets, targeting up to 60 targets at the same time. It's an extremely complex and deadly weapon.
And it will effectively give Russia when it's deployed in some numbers control over the airspace in Syria, because it means that no one is going to be able to fly in Syrian airspace, not Turkish jets, not American jets either, unless they have the tacit approval of the Russian military, because if they choose to, with these S-400s, they're going to be able to shoot them out of the sky.
BERMAN: A powerful piece of weaponry there. Matthew Chance, thank you so much.
Let's talk more about this.
Joining me is Admiral James Stavridis. He's a former supreme allied commander of NATO and now the dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University.
Admiral, thanks so much for being with us.
I guess actually I want to start with this missile system right now, because as Matthew describes it, this could be a game-changer in Syria, effectively given Russia veto power over what happens in the air. Is that accurate?
ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, let's differentiate, if we can, between capability, and he is accurately describing the capability of the system. It's quite good. It's very similar to the U.S. Aegis missile system that are on our
most advanced cruisers at sea. But that's capability. The question is intent. I think it's highly unlikely that Russia intends to try and put some kind of de facto air control screen around Syria. The United States would not permit that.
But it does indicate, John, the ratcheting up of tensions.
BERMAN: Just because they can do doesn't mean they will.
Now, what about Russia's claim that what happened with the Turkish -- the Turks shooting down the Russian jet? Russia saying it was a planned provocation. What do you make of that?
STAVRIDIS: Yes, I disagree with that. I don't think Turkey has the intent of waking up on a bright sunny morning and shooting down a Russian jet. There's no percentage for the Turks in doing that.
On the other hand, Turkey is a nation with a lot of pride. They defend their borders. It's entirely possible that they intended to send a signal of some kind. I doubt the intention was to actually shoot down a Russian jet. That's really playing with fire. And I don't think the Turks wanted to go in that direction.
BERMAN: But, at a certain point, weren't they playing with fire? Weren't they already on edge over what the Russians were doing? And that Russian jet, it could not have been over Turkish airspace -- maybe it wasn't just the 30 seconds that the U.S. is saying it was, but it wasn't over Turkish airspace for very long.
STAVRIDIS: Yes. I think there's a good case to be made that, by using maneuvers in the air, the Turkish air force could have steered that jet out of Turkish airspace. But I think they did send appropriate warnings. They have released tapes of doing that.
An incursion into their airspace along that line does give Turkey the right to take a shot, particularly given the fact that it could have been a Syrian plane. You have to remember that there's essentially a state of war existing between Syria and Turkey at this point. So I think when you look at all those factors in the fog of war, this was not a deliberate attempt to take out a Russian jet, but it was a predictable result of the confluence of factors in that extremely tense region.
BERMAN: So what does the U.S. do about this now? Just sit back and say, OK, Turkey, OK, Russia, you can have your bluster, as long as it doesn't go beyond that?
STAVRIDIS: No, we should be very cautious here. We need to remember Turkey is a NATO ally.
And by NATO treaty, if there is a military response from Russia against Turkey, an attack, if you will, on Turkey, we are bound by treaty to defend Turkey. So this is a serious situation for the United States. What we should be doing is attempting to get both sides to de-escalate the rhetoric, to not take any further military actions and to keep this in that diplomatic sphere.
I think I sense the tension reducing somewhat. However, Russia will move more defensive weapons into play. And we ought to remember, John, that Russian system only 30 miles from the border with a range of 300 miles, it could reach into Turkey. So we need to be cautious that we don't end up in a real conflict here.
BERMAN: And just remember, this is supposed to be a battle against ISIS. ISIS doesn't fly jets. So the Russian anti-missile systems right there not intended for ISIS.
Admiral James Stavridis, thank you so much. Also, happy Thanksgiving to you, sir.
In Paris tonight, new concerns over the connection between one of the terrorists and the French transportation system.
Our Martin Savidge is looking into that -- Martin.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John.
Investigators have learned that one of the Paris attackers used to be a bus driver. That has raised fears about infiltration of the transportation system here. Think airport. I will have more after this.
BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
More on our world lead, new details in the investigation into the horrific attacks in Paris. A source tells CNN that French officials are investigating the possible radicalization of transportation employees at airports and train stations in France.
[16:15:02] And authorities are now seeking another suspect they say was connected to the night of deadly violence in Paris, Mohamed Abrini, his fingerprints were discovered on a car used in the attacks, he is now on the run.
Martin Savidge reporting from Paris tonight.
Martin, CNN has new information about Abrini's travel plans in the lead-up to these attacks.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed.
You know, the more that investigators dig in the aftermath of this terrible attack, the more uncomfortable they must feel because they're finding again that these attackers were able to travel to Syria then come back to Europe in many cases apparently undetected.
And now the new fear: the transportation system of Paris. The question: has it been infiltrated? (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
SAVIDGE (voice-over): Mohamed Abrini, last seen here at a gas station in France with Salah Abdeslam shortly before the November 13th attacks, had been to Syria in 2014.
Abrini is yet another Paris attacker who spent time in Syria before making their way undetected back to Europe, a major concern for investigators. So is a new fear that radicalized Islamic workers are infiltrating the French transportation system. According to a just- released report, the worry includes airport employees with access to commercial airlines at France's two main airports.
According to airport officials, 50 employees at Charles de Gaulle International have been denied access to secure locations since January due to suspicions that they may have been radicalized. French transportation unions have been complaining about the problem, saying that some bus drivers have refused to acknowledge women passengers. And have been found praying inside their buses when they're supposed to be driving their routes.
One of the Bataclan theater attackers had been a bus driver as recently as 2012.
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): These attacks were not just against Paris but a way of living against democracy, against Europe.
SAVIDGE: In Paris today, a show of unity as Germany's Angela Merkel joined French President Francois Hollande laying a wreath at this memorial.
Meanwhile, French military jets continue to hit ISIS targets inside Syria and Iraq in the past 48 hours, bringing the number of attacks by the French to 300.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There is no alternative. We have to destroy is.
SAVIDGE: Back in the U.S., on the eve of Thanksgiving, the FBI and Homeland Security are warning law enforcement to be on the look out for anyone suspicious doing surveillance of soft targets.
Even as those alerts go out, the president tries to reassure Americans.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As we go into thanksgiving weekend, I want the American people to know is that we are taking every possible step to keep our homeland safe.
SAVIDGE: Back here in France, of course, there has to be real concern about what could be happening at Charles de Gaulle International. It's a hub not only for many people in this country but for many American airlines as well that come to Europe, John. BERMAN: Martin Savidge for us in Paris with the new reporting from
that city -- thanks so much, Martin.
I'm joined now by CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank.
Paul, let me start with the president today. President Obama trying to reassure the nation. He said there's no specific or credible intelligence indicating a plot now against the U.S.
But when you're dealing with ISIS, do you get specific and credible threats? Or is ISIS something different than we've seen in the past?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, John, the worry is that you don't because increasingly they're using online encryption apps to communicate. We saw that in the Paris attacks, we've seen that in a number of other plots. This is the going dark phenomena that the FBI director has been warning about over the past several months. You may not get that advance warning.
They've also been using all sorts of ingenious ways to communicate also including using video console games, the messaging and shoot them up games with other users to communicate, I've been told by senior European officials. And so, it's really hard for the United States to keep track of all this. And they don't necessarily have the warning that they would want.
BERMAN: And, Paul, I want to talk about what Martin's reporting now about the concerns about security at Charles de Gaulle and other airports, perhaps people working there. That's got to be an enormous concern for intelligence officials not just in Europe but in the United States. If you work at an airport, the capacity to do bad things is enormous.
CRUICKSHANK: Absolutely. And we saw that with the MetroJet, the Russian airliner that went down over the Sinai Peninsula. They think that it was an insider at Sharm el Sheikh Airport that put the bomb on a plane.
So the worry is that that could be replicated at a European airport or even at an American airport. In fact, we've seen people working in American airports go off and join ISIS.
[16:20:02] There was a cleaner of airplanes at Minneapolis St. Paul airport who was actually killed fighting with ISIS in 2014.
Drew Griffin and CNN's investigation unit have done some great reporting on this and have shown that very few of these workers in the United States who have access to the tarmac, the baggage handlers, are screened going through x-rays every day. Only a couple of airports do that, Miami and Orlando. So, that seems a very big security vulnerability here in the United States, which I think they're going to be increasing calls for it to be addressed.
BERMAN: Paul, France is intensifying its bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Is there any evidence that what happens on the ground there directly impacts the ISIS ability to operate elsewhere in the world?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, pressure is being put on ISIS to some degree that leaders are having to hunker down or move to other locations. The fact they've been able to hit some of the oil infrastructure of ISIS is also weakened them.
But these air strikes can only really do so much and it's going to take a really long time, if you're just going to use air strikes and have no other strategies, ground strategies. And the worry is, John, during that period whether it's two or three years that we're going to see more days like Friday the 13th in Paris because it still has a significant safe haven in Syria and Iraq. Those are the most dangerous terrorist terror safe haven we've ever had in human history. They're expanding in Egypt and Libya and various other fronts as well.
So, I think there needs to be a much greater sense of urgency from all international leaders on this issue.
BERMAN: All right. Paul Cruickshank, thanks so much.
Our politics lead, Donald Trump on the campaign trail now suggesting he can just feel a terror attack before it happens. He can sense it. His latest comments next.
Plus, heavily armed police, bomb sniffing dogs, law enforcement ramping up random checks under a global travel alert this on this very busy travel day. That's ahead.
[16:26:35] BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman in for Jake today.
The politics lead: Donald Trump told NBC he has the world's best memory, that could explain why he remembers something entirely absent from the historical record. American Muslims in New Jersey cheering by the thousands and thousands as the Twin Towers fell.
But Trump made another claim last night, one that is a little harder to fact check, Trump boasted he has a sixth sense, sort of a Spidey sense when it comes to predicting terror attacks.
CNN's Athena Jones is in Washington.
Athena, Trump essentially said last night, if everyone just listened to him, the Twin Towers might still be standing.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. That's right.
Trump said that in one of his books, about 18 months before 9/11, he warned about Osama bin Laden saying he's a bad guy, you better take him out. He's going to be trouble.
Trump also touted his own high IQ and his high poll numbers last night. Meanwhile, his opponents are blasting his tough rhetoric and hoping for a poll surge of their own. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I haven't done this yet. I brought my family. OK?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
I brought my family.
JONES (voice-over): Donald Trump in South Carolina, turning his campaign into a family affair.
MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF CANDIDATE DONALD TRUMP: Good evening. Isn't he the best?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
He will be the best president ever.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
We love you.
JONES: The GOP front-runner slamming President Obama.
D. TRUMP: I call him the great divider. Have you ever seen it? We've never been like this before. I am going to be a unifier.
JONES: And ramping up his rhetoric on Muslims and terrorism.
D. TRUMP: You know, if you're Muslim, I know so many, they're so great, they're such good people, but we have to be smart because it's coming from this area. I mean, there's something going on. There's some nastiness, there's some meanness there, there's something going on in the mosques --
JONES: Suggesting he has a sixth sense when it comes to terror attacks.
D. TRUMP: The other thing I predicted is terrorism. A friend of mine called who's very political. He said, "Forget that, you're the first guy that really predicted terrorism." I said in that same book, I said this is what's going -- because I can feel it.
JONES: Trump making waves in recent days, refusing to rule out a national database of Muslims, calling for surveillance of mosques and repeating a debunked claim that he saw thousands in New Jersey celebrating on 9/11.
Last night, he accused the media of quashing evidence of the celebrations.
D. TRUMP: I said very, you know, very strongly and very correctly. I said there are people over there and they were dancing in the street. And they were dancing on rooftops. So I was taking heat because, you know, the liberal media they want to guard that. They don't want that out.
JONES: Jeb Bush blasted Trump's claim on "NEW DAY".
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't believe it happened. I know many Muslims that were just as angry and saddened by the attack on our country. I don't believe it.
Look, Donald Trump says these things to prey on people's fears, their anger, their frustration with Washington. He's quite effective at it. But he doesn't know what he's talking about. And he's not a serious leader.
JONES: Now, Trump will be back on the trail on Saturday campaigning in Florida. And on Monday in New York, his campaign says Trump will be joined by a coalition of 100 African-American evangelical pastors and religious leaders who will endorse him in a press conference after a private meeting at Trump Tower. The campaign hasn't released the names of those religious leaders yet -- John.