Return to Transcripts main page


Alleged Virginia Man Arrested for Espionage in North Korea; Joaquin Guzman Back in Prison; U.S. Airstrikes Destroys "Millions" in ISIS Cash; Refugees Suspected in Wave of Sexual Violence; Rock Legend Dies from Cancer at 69. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired January 11, 2016 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN: -- confirm whether this man is indeed an American citizen.


CNN correspondent Will Ripley is the only international TV reporter inside North Korea.

He reported this from Pyongyang.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Days after North Korea's nuclear test shocked the world, a new diplomatic bombshell: Kim Dong Chul says he's an American citizen who used to live in Fairfax, Virginia. North Korea calls him a spy, accused of stealing nuclear and military secrets.

Pyongyang authorities order Kim to speak to us in Korean. He seems aware our conversation is likely being listened to.

"I committed an act of espionage against North Korea," he says. "I gathered information about its nuclear program and military facilities."

Kim says North Korean agents arrested him three months ago, seizing a USB drive, camera and documents with details of North Korea's nuclear program. CNN cannot determine whether Kim is making his statements under duress. He says he was not spying for the United States, but for South Korean conservative elements with the goal of undermining North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's regime. The South Korean government calls the claims groundless.

(on camera): How did it work? How did you pass on the information you collected?

(voice-over): "I bribed a local resident, an ex-soldier with military access," he says. "He handed over information. I hid it in my car and secretly brought it to China."

Kim says he drove back and forth from China every day as president of a company that operates in Rason, a special economic zone where foreign-owned businesses operate just inside North Korea. The businesses help the cash-strapped regime make money to pay for things like its nuclear program.

"It's time for the U.S. government to withdraw its hostile policy against North Korea," Kim says, using the same language often found in Pyongyang propaganda. We're allowed to photograph Kim's American passport. He says he was born in South Korea, but became a U.S. citizen almost 30 years ago.

So far, the State Department has refused to comment or even confirm his U.S. citizenship, telling CNN -- quote -- "Speaking publicly about specific purported cases of detained Americans can complicate our tireless efforts to secure their freedom."

"I'm asking the U.S. or South Korean government to rescue me," Kim says.

Neither country has diplomatic relations with North Korea. For now, this professed U.S. citizen is detained, no trial date, no idea if he will ever see his family or country again.

Will Ripley, CNN, Pyongyang, North Korea.


TAPPER: And our thanks to will for that report.

The most wanted man in the world is behind bars again, but it wasn't easy for law enforcement to get him. New details on the El Chapo raid, including a deadly shoot-out and a chase through a sewer system.

That, plus Sean Penn -- next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Also in our world lead, the stuff movies are made of, new details and dramatic details are emerging of the capture of Mexican drug lord El Chapo.

That's the Mexican navy in the raid going room to room in El Chapo's hideout, not knowing one of the world's most infamous and evasive men had just escaped them yet again, slipping into and through a sewer system.

And it turns out another man caught up with El Chapo well before authorities did. Actor Sean Penn found the drug lord back in October, and Mr. Penn interviewed him for "Rolling Stone" magazine. Mexican officials say they are investigating how Penn and a Mexican actress pulled that off.

Right now, however, El Chapo is sitting in a Mexican prison, far away from the site of his capture. It's the same prison from where he escaped in July.

CNN's Martin Savidge is also there. He joins me now.

Martin, that meeting between Sean Penn and El Chapo may have been key, you're told, to finding the drug lord.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It may well have been, Jake, yes.

That is certainly a question that's in the minds of many people in the public. Did Sean Penn lead them to El Chapo? The reality, though, is in the intel business, usually, it's multiple sources that tip you off. One thing we do know, that raid that led to his rearrest was very carefully planned.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): A dramatic and deadly raid leading to the capture of one of the world's most wanted fugitives. Five people were killed in this shoot-out at the safe house of Joaquin Guzman, or El Chapo, the notorious Mexican drug lord.

But after months of being on the run, El Chapo managed to elude police one last time.

(on camera): Look down here. That appears to be some kind of storm drain, sewer, but, as you can see, large enough for a person to get through. And, according to the authorities, El Chapo and an associate managed to escape from the home through a sewer.

(voice-over): Police finally captured El Chapo on a highway and brought the drug kingpin to a hotel.

(on camera): Look at this. This is a hotel room that has its own garage space. Now, the federal authorities could have pulled right in here, taken El Chapo out under cover, and walked him right in to this room.

And if you look, it's the room that you see that's been made famous now as a result of the photograph.

(voice-over): So, six months after tunnelling through a shower stall in his cell, El Chapo is now back in the same prison he escaped from. Officials have started the process of extraditing El Chapo to the U.S., where he faces several drug trafficking charges.

DENIS MCDONOUGH, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: This braggadocios action about how much heroin he sends around the world, including to the United States, is maddening. We see a heroin epidemic, opioid addiction epidemic in this country. So, we're going to stay on top of this, with our Mexican counterparts, until we get that back in the box.

SAVIDGE: But the focus has turned to a "Rolling Stone" interview published over the weekend, where El Chapo met with Hollywood A-lister Sean Penn and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo.

[16:40:12] The meeting, along with a short on-camera interview, was conducted in

the Mexican jungle back in October, when El Chapo was still on the run. In it, the drug kingpin talks candidly about his business.

JOAQUIN "EL CHAPO" GUZMAN, SINALOA CARTEL (through translator): Well, it's a reality that drugs destroy. Unfortunately, as I said, where I grew up, there's no other way, and there still isn't a way to survive, no other way to work.

SAVIDGE: In Penn's written article, he describes a seven-hour face- to-face meeting with El Chapo that began with a hug and notes the drug lord is -- quote -- "remarkably well-groomed as he sipped tequila and bragged about his fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats."

Penn says the interview was set up by Castillo. El Chapo wanted her help to create a biopic about his life. Mexican officials say they were able to track down the drug kingpin partially because of his contact with filmmakers about plans for the movie.

Authorities want to question Penn, but it's not clear if he broke any laws.


SAVIDGE: One thing is very clear, Jake, is that if El Chapo had not been taken into custody, you could bet that the pressure by Mexican authorities wanting to talk to Sean Penn would be severe at this point.

Now they may just want to ask him a few things or, who knows, congratulate him. We will have to see.

TAPPER: All right. Martin Savidge, thank you so much.

Coming up, more than 500 alleged assaults on New Year's Eve by reported gangs of Arab-looking men. Now police say Arabs are being attacked in retaliation. That's next.

Plus, planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do -- remembering legend David Bowie ahead.


TAPPER: Welcome back. We're back with some news of a dangerous and rather risky move in our World Lead. Officials tell CNN the U.S. military destroyed a building in Mosul, Iraq, that housed millions in ISIS cash.

But what makes this mission so peculiar is the location of the building and what could have happened had the military missed its target.

Let's go to CNN's Barbara Starr, she's at the Pentagon. Barbara, you say that this building was surrounded by civilians?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: This is in Mosul, Iraq, second largest city, Jake. This is an area of Mosul where civilians regularly are indeed.

So when the U.S. got intelligence -- and they're not telling us what the intelligence is, and they were certain there was millions in ISIS controlled cash in that building, they started to watch it from overhead.

Trying to determine the time of day -- excuse me, when there would be the fewest civilians in the area. They knew that ISIS personnel were in the building that night managing the cash.

They used the cash to pay the troops to finance operations and that they were civilians in the daytime. So when to strike. They made the decision to go ahead and strike it at dawn on Sunday.

They believe there may have been a small number of civilian casualties, but consider this. They were willing, we are told, to go as high as 50 civilian casualties. They thought the target was worth it.

This essentially is an expansion of the ISIS target list for the U.S. to go after these major financial targets and try and wipe out ISIS' cash supply. If they can do that, is may find it much more difficult to operate -- Jake.

TAPPER: Barbara, of course, part of the context here is the Obama administration has been criticized by former members of the military and others for being too cautious when it comes to OK'ing strikes in this war against ISIS. Do you think we're going to hear of more airstrikes like this one in the future?

STARR: Well, in fact the chairman of the Joint Chiefs appears to have laid the ground work for that a couple of weeks ago on Capitol Hill when he said they will be looking at targets essentially on a case by case basis.

And if the target is important enough, they may well be willing to tolerate more civilian casualties making it very clear if they found Baghdadi, the head of ISIS.

So significant a target they may be willing to sort of expand their willingness to tolerate civilian casualties in the case of an all- important target like that.

And it looks like this one was the first of perhaps additional targets where they are willing to tolerate civilian casualties.

TAPPER: Interesting. Something of a demarcation point with this hit. Barbara Starr, thank you so much.

In other world news today, anti-Muslim violence is spilling into the streets across Germany. Six Pakistani men and one Syrian were assaulted by a mob in the city of Cologne in Germany Sunday.

The attacks come as more than a dozen refugees are now suspected in a string of what's been called coordinated sexual assaults and robberies during New Year's Eve celebrations. In that same city, the female accusers describe the perpetrators as men of, quote, "Arab decents," sparking fears over the wave of refugees who have been seeking asylum in Germany and of course, throughout Europe.

CNN's Atika Shubert has been speaking with her sources. She joins me from Cologne, Germany. Atika, how many incidents are we talking about?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, these are the latest numbers to come in on that mass assault that took place right here in the square on that chaotic New Year's Eve in Cologne.

According to police, they now have more than 500 criminal complaints from that night alone. A little less than half of those are being investigated as sexual assaults. The vast majority of the suspects however are refugees and migrants.

And as you can imagine that's caused a tremendous backlash. In fact, over the weekend in Cologne hundreds of angry demonstrators were out in the streets demanding an end to Germany's refugee policy.

There was a little bit of violence, beer bottles being thrown, water cannons were used to push them back. But at the same time that was happening this one part of the city, quite close by hundreds more protesters demanding that the doors remain open for refugees.

[16:50:03]So clearly this is played into the fears of the German public here and divided many people, and unfortunately last night police say there were also attacks on migrants, six Pakistani men and one Syrian man, were attacked by a small group of local residents.

This is exactly the kind of thing that authorities had feared. Germany's interior minister today called for calm and so there has to be tougher law enforcement, but that the right to asylum is still a basic right in Germany and that the doors will remain open here for refugees -- Jake.

TAPPER: Atika Shubert in Cologne, Germany. Thank you so much.

In our Money Lead today, if you're disappointed that you didn't win the Powerball jackpot this weekend, don't be. You can still dream of becoming a billionaire after no one hit the Powerball on Saturday night.

The sizzling hot jackpot has now climbed up to a whopping $1.4 billion, billion. That's the biggest pot of lottery cash ever. People are scrambling to buy tickets.

In states like Kentucky and North Carolina, record ticket sales have been reported. But don't get too excited. Your odds of winning it's about 1 in 292 million.

Which means according to these calculations if they are correct, you probably have a better chance of getting a date with a super model and then being killed by a vending machine while being struck by lightning.

In our Pop Culture Lead, he wasn't just a rock star. David Bowie was an icon in music and fashion and art and much more. We'll remember his talent and his influence next.



TAPPER: Let's dance the classic 1983 tune from rock legend, David Bowie. The British-born singer died Sunday at the age of 69 after an 18-month battle with cancer. But up until the end Bowie was still focused on his first love, music.


TAPPER: His final studio album "Blackstar," the 25th of his half- century long career was released Friday, just two days before his death. It's being called by many his goodbye letter to his fans.

Tributes to the cultural icon are pouring in from all over the globe honoring a true genius who changed the face of music and art and fashion.


DAVID BOWIE: The one thing I really wanted to do is to effect the median. That was like very important to me.

TAPPER (voice-over): He was called the chameleon of rock and roll, but he rightly laughed at that idea.

BOWIN: The chameleon would change the color of its skin to fit into its environment. I think I've done quite the reverse.

TAPPER: David Bowie's technicolor transformations and constant pushing of boundaries inspired generations of misfits and music lovers to not just face but embrace the strange. Today, the world grieves for a cast of characters that changed our views on sound, fashion, sexuality and theatrics.

BOWIE: I've always just seemed to collect personalities.

TAPPER: We say good-bye to Ziggy Stardust. That's the androgyny's alter ego that took a generation grounded in the turmoil of the 1970s and launched it into an other worldly space odyssey above the status quo.

"Rolling Stone" magazine credits him with making rock and roll safe for glitter gods, the kind sprinkled on stages under the titles Lady Gaga, Boy George, Marilyn Manson and countless others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was the ideas guy. He dreamt all that up. He dreamt up a persona. That was never done before.

TAPPER: Today we say farewell to the thin white duke -- who's decidedly less flamboyant fame introduced Bowie to mainstream America in 1975. Three decades later, Bowie had sold 150 million albums.

Today we bid adieu to the man who provided an anthem for astronauts. The stars do not get much brighter. We say goodbye today to the labyrinth's goblin king, who showed audiences how to break through the maze between music and film, tallying more than 450 sound track contributions and nearly 40 acting credits including a comedic twist on HBO's "Extras."

To the shy young Brit Davey Jones, who appeared on the BBC to defend his long hair more than 50 years ago?


TAPPER: We say, regretfully, rest in peace, your legendary innovations have left their mark on millions of us.

DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER BRITAIN: David Bowie was a genius. For someone of my age, he provided a lot of the sound track of our life.

TAPPER: David Bowie, you've really made the grade.


TAPPER: What a loss. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over now to Wolf Blitzer. He's in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, dramatic raids, stunning new video of the deadly --