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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Terrorists Had More Attacks "Ready to Go," Search Continues for Attacker; Jury Selection Under Way for Baltimore Officer in Freddie Gray Death; High-Profile Newspaper Endorses Chris Christie. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired November 30, 2015 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:33:29] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Pamela Brown. More on our breaking news. The terrorists in Paris had more attacks, quote, "ready to go," according to a source close to the attackers -- this investigation on who killed 130 people there on November 13th. And new developments into the whereabouts of this man, Salah Abdeslam. French investigators now believe that the key suspect in this Paris massacre may have escaped to Syria. So, how did this happen? What does it mean for this investigation?
Joining me now is CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank.
You're just getting some information.
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: The Belgian authorities have always been concerned he might try to travel to Syria, but they do not at this point have concrete indications that he actually successfully reached Syria. This is a working theory only from intelligent services in France that he may have reached Syria, but no concrete evidence that he managed to get into Syria. It would be difficult for someone who's the most wanted man in Europe with his face on all the television screens throughout the continent to make it all the way to Syria. This is a guy who was picked up by a couple of friends in Paris the night of the attacks. He came back to Brussels, picked up by another friend in Molenbeek, who actually popped into a cafe in Brussels for a little while. Not someone with the best terrorism trade craft. I think it would be very surprising if someone like that could get all the way into Syria despite every intelligent service in Europe tracking him -- Pamela?
[11:05:17] BROWN: In light of that, then, what other theories are they exploring? It's been two weeks since the attacks, more than that, right? He's still nowhere to be seen.
CRUICKSHANK: His last known location is the Saturday after the attacks. It's in the district not too far away from Molenbeek, where one of his friends dropped him off on the Saturday. It's quite possible he's hiding out in a basement there somewhere, a friend is putting him up, a sympathizer and they've just not been able to figure out which address he's staying in. Any time someone goes on the run, moving around, they're very vulnerable to arrests. I wouldn't be surprised if he's still hiding out in Brussels.
BROWN: You bet ISIS will want him to come and be with him in Syria so they can use him in propaganda videos. I want to talk about what we're learning from sources that there are these other attacks ready to go. What do the targets tell you, the fact they wanted to target everything from schools to transport centers?
CRUICKSHANK: They wanted to launch a second and even a third wave of spectacular attacks in Paris. The surviving gunmen, people who weren't involved as attackers in that first attack, including the ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. According to the French, they had a desire to attack a shopping mall in Paris. Either the day after the raid or even the day of the raid itself, where they were holed up in a safe house. Also information from somebody in touch with a cousin of Abdelhamid Abaaoud suggesting they wanted to attack schools and transport targets and Jewish targets in France. With all the world's media gathered in France at that time, that would have been very traumatic for the French people. Fortunately, those plans were foiled, it would appear, when the French commandos went into that safe house.
BROWN: Looking at the big picture here, Paul, ISIS has now taken responsibility for seven attacks in three weeks. Look at this graphic right here. These are all of the attacks around the world ISIS has taken responsibility for. What does that tell you about the group and its growing threat?
CRUICKSHANK: It tells you ISIS is getting into the international terrorism business in a big way. Taking a page out of the al Qaeda playbook. They're training Western recruits in Syria, in Iraq. They're sending them back. The network behind this is still at large. The senior ringleader in this attack in Paris, Fabien is thought to be recruiting European and French recruits, giving them training and sending them back. They're not just orchestrating these plots from Syria but also from Turkey, some of these recruits don't have to get into Syria. They're meeting with ISIS operatives in Turkey, getting their marching orders, coming back, in touch through encrypted communications. It's almost terror by remote control with some of these plots.
BROWN: Very terrifying.
Paul, thank you very much.
In other news, jury selection under way for the Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Can the officer get a fair and impartial hearing in the same city rocked by protests and riots?
Plus, the threat of gun violence forces one university to shut down. The security threat just ahead.
[11:43:18] BROWN: AT THIS HOUR, jury selection is under way for the first Baltimore police officer to go on trial in the death of Freddie Gray. Officer William G. Porter is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, and reckless endangerment. Officials say Gray told Porter he couldn't breathe but the officer did not assess Gray's condition or call for medical assistance. This trial could determine how trials for the other five officers proceed. Baltimore's police chief says the future of the city is at stake. A lot going on here.
Joining me to discuss this case, our CNN correspondent, Jean Casarez; and former U.S. state attorney and legal expert, Laura Coates.
Thanks for coming on.
Jean, to you first.
One of the big questions with these procedures is whether it's possible to find an impartial jury. Already we're learning that every potential juror has said they knew about Freddie Gray's death. Not surprising. That Baltimore reached a settlement with the family. And protesters, as we know, are outside the building. That could be heard inside the building. What is the judge doing to ensure they find an impartial jury here?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot is going on. The judge is telling jurors they will be anonymous. Their names, their information, will not come out to protect them and protect the integrity of the trial. Jury selection is right behind me on the fourth floor. The information we're getting out of the courtroom is that there are 75 potential jurors right now being questioned. And 40 of them are African-American. 33 are white. One Hispanic and one East Indian. As you said, all of them know about this case. All of them know a civil settlement in the amount of $6.4 million was given in the last few months to the family of Freddie Gray. Out of the 75, 35 of them, that's almost one-half, have been convicted, imprisoned or have current charges. 26 of them have very strong opinions about their case. Now, once the questions are asked in unison where they just raise their hands, then they'll go into a conference room where jurors will be individually questioned. But the defense renewed their motion today. Of course, this is to preserve it for an appeal if there is a conviction to change the venue of this case. They don't believe Baltimore is the venue to have a fair and impartial hearing. The judge has been adamant from the beginning, saying, we have to try, we have to believe in this community. William Porter, the first one to go on trial. That's because prosecutors believe a statement he made is critical to other prosecution, so they want to try to gain that connection with him first. When he arrives, about halfway during that van ride, he asks Freddie Gray if he needs medical attention. Gray responds that he does. That was communicated. At that point they did not take him to a hospital.
[11:46:18] BROWN: Laura, because this is a case that's gotten so much publicity, in fact, some of the jurors may have been impacted by it, the curfew, the protests that went on after the death of Freddie Gray, what happens if they can't find an impartial jury with this pool that they have right now? What would happen then?
LAURA COATES, FORMER U.S. STATE ATTORNEY & LEGAL EXPERT: One thing they could do is move it out of Baltimore City. Jean is absolutely correct, the judge has been adamant about wanting to do that because they want Baltimore residents to have afternoon opportunity to be the peer for this jury. But also an option is to have the jury trial go away and have it be a Bench trial in front of Judge Williams. Not a particularly attractive option, given the fact that this judge is a former prosecutor for the Department of Justice, prosecuting police excessive force and brutality cases. It's not an attractive option but it's one that served other officers. The case in Chicago when there was a Bench trial against that off-duty officer, it had an acquittal. It's a possible scenario. You're right, Pamela, the settlement, with the curfew, with the rioting, there's not a single jury in that pool who has not impacted or has a strong opinion about the Freddie Gray case.
BROWN: The judge has already denied a motion from the defense asking for a change of venue. Also the judge has said the jurors will not be sequestered. Do you think that's unusual for a trial like this, especially considering the protests and disturbances that happened?
COATES: It's not so unusual to have sequestration. It's anomaly. It's not done very often. When it's done, it's high- profile, celebrity trials. Really the anonymity for each juror should technically be sufficient and they should be transported from remote locations. That's going to be the biggest issue every potential juror has, which is my personal safety and whether I'll be harassed. Outside of the courtroom today you can hear chants from protesters outside, talking about Freddy Gray. These jurors know that they -- although they have anonymous numbers, they will be located. They will likely be identified. And they will have some impact of having their role in a jury selection. In fact, I think over 20 jurors already stood up to say that they have concerns about being a part of the jury pool for those reasons.
BROWN: Understandably there.
Jean, to you now.
We've learned that officer Porter will be the first for the trial what will happen? Is he going to testify in his own defense? What do we know about that?
CASAREZ: Pam, what we know is from a defense motion, they said that very likely William Porter will take the stand in his own defense. Very rarely do you have the defense file a motion. Just putting it out there that he's going to take the stand. It appears he will, to tell his story. That statement he gave, he also in that statement said he wasn't sure if Freddie Gray had jailitis at that time. Was he really that sick? Was he really ill? So, it may help the defense to then allow him to extrapolate on that. Of course, you also have cross-examination from the prosecution.
BROWN: Jean Casarez and Laura Coates, thank you so much. We appreciate it.
The University of Chicago has canceled classes and all activities because of an online threat that specifically mentioned the campus quad. In a statement released Sunday, officials said that, "In response to the threat the university will have an increased police and security presence on and around the campus, and including personnel with visible weapons and other measures. The university officials are keeping in close contact with the FBI, which is continuing to investigate the threat." The school also, they are asking if anybody sees anything unusual, contact the campus police.
[11:50:19] Coming up AT THIS HOUR, he is lagging in the polls, and he did not make it to the main stage of the last Republican debate, but will a big endorsement from the high-profile newspaper revive Chris Christie's struggling presidential campaign? And why the newspaper says that he is the leader that the country needs.
[11:54:47] BROWN: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's struggling presidential bid got a boost, landing a key endorsement from New Hampshire's high-profile newspaper the "Union Leader," and now Christie is expected to return with a coveted endorsement in New Hampshire.
Joining me to discuss is Grant Bosse, the editorial page editor of the newspaper, the New Hampshire "Union Leader."
Grant, why endorse Chris Christie, who is at the bottom of the polls?
GRANT BOSSE, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, UNION LEADER: Well, we do not pay attention to the polls, but we make predictions and not polls. And if you pay attention to them, they are worse than useless, and the New Hampshire voters are going to be making their mind in January and February and when they walk into the voting booth, we have a suggestion that Chris Christie should be their president.
BROWN: Why is that?
BOSSE: Well, he is an experienced conservative leader who is a successful governor in a liberal state. He vetoed more tax increases than anyone in history, and he has experience as a prosecutor, as a U.S. attorney, and we believe that he has the experience, the expertise and the temperament to not only take on Donald Trump in the primary, but Hillary Clinton in the general election, and to restore American leadership if he is elected president.
BROWN: And Donald Trump knocked the endorse men endorsement today tweeting, how is Chris Christie running the state of New Hampshire, which is very troubled, and he is spending all of his time in New Hampshire. New Jerseyians are not happy. Is there a Republican front runner?
BOSSE: No, because nobody has voted yet. Iowa in January, and we will go in February, and that is when the race will take shape and support consolidate behind the three or the four candidates as with we move along, and all of the kingmakers have wanted to winnow the field and keep people off of the debate stage, and decide who is and is not the frontrunner. It is a job of the voter and it is a privilege of the Iowa and New Hampshire voters have enjoyed an earned over the years, but it is up to them to decide who is the frontrunner and who are serious candidates, and until they start voting, we won't anoint anybody a frontrunner.
BROWN: And I want to get your quick reaction from Donald Trump knocking your endorsement of Chris Christie.
BOSSE: We will get over it. I think that Mr. Trump has a lot to say on a lot of things. He rarely nods the head and says, good for you, but that is OK, and his style. He is pretty successful with it. And as I said, we have a suggestion, and we believe that Chris Christie is a strong conservative leader that America needs in contrast to the current president, and we believe that he is the best choice. We didn't expect Donald Trump to agree with us.
BROWN: And in the newspaper's editorial page, the publisher wrote that "One reason that he is best suited is because he tells it like it is and isn't shy about it. And other candidates have spoken bluntly, but it is important to tell it like it is and to actually know what you are talking about."
So, Grant, that begs the question, which candidates do you not believe is telling it like it is?
BOSSE: Well, it is not thinly veiled. Donald Trump says anything that is on his mind and he does not back it up. And you know, he has gotten some traction with that and it is working for him, but we think that as the snow starts to fall around here, and people start to think more seriously about who they are going to be voting for president, I will start to consider serious candidates for president, and that is the candidates who can back up what they are saying and more than bluster, and we believe that Governor Christie has backed it up as governor of New Jersey and U.S. attorney. He is on the ground here in New Hampshire and 50th town hall in Loudon at the fire department, and if you see him in person, he will take the questions. He is kind of gruff and blunt, and he is going to tell you what he believes, and not what you want to hear. And we think that is the gaining traction with New Hampshire voters.
BROWN: But quickly, you are talking about gaining the traction, and this is the 50th town hall and that the polls, he is not getting any traction and I know that you say that the polls are not the best indicator, but why is that? Why isn't he gaining more traction nationally?
BOSSE: Well, nationally doesn't matter. We don't have a national primary, but a state by state primary and matters how you are doing in Iowa and New Hampshire.
BROWN: But even in your state. And even in your state.
BOSSE: And even in that state. Half of the voters don't make up their mind until the weekend of the election, so they will start deciding Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before they vote in February. So whether they show up at a poll in November, it just doesn't matter. Chris Christie's meeting the voters one by one. We will have more to say about it between now and Election Day. We believe that a lot of people are going to like what he has to say. But again, we made the endorsement, and we think that he is the best president and the best nominee for the Republican Party. We don't make predictions. That's up to voters.
BROWN: All right, Grant Bosse, thank you very much.
And thank you for joining us AT THIS HOUR.
"Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts --