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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With California Congressman Adam Schiff; French Terror Investigation; Turkish PM: Military Taking Illegal Action; American Father, Son Killed in Nice Truck Terror Attack; Source: Trump Had Second Thoughts About Pence Pick. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired July 15, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We begin today, as we have far too often on this broadcast, with the latest breaking details about a horrific terrorist attack. This time, as you know, it happened along the beachfront in Nice, France.
Video captured the deadly carnage late last night, as 31-year-old Tunisian-born Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel opened fired while driving a freight truck into a crowd gathered to celebrate Bastille Day, the holiday commemorating the French revolution.
This terrorist plowed through the crowd, barbarically running over innocent civilians for more than a mile before being shot dead by police; 84 people were killed. At least 10 of them were children. Hundreds more are wounded and at least 50 people are still desperately fighting for their lives inside hospitals.
Among those savagely slaughters, American Sean Copeland and his 11- year-old son, Brodie. And as of right now, Nicolas Leslie, a 20-year- old college student from U.C. Berkeley who was also in the area, is missing.
At this point, there has been no claims of responsibility by any terrorist group.
Let's get right to CNN's Nic Robertson, who is in Nice right outside the home of the terrorist.
Nic, was this individual known at all to French intelligence officials?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Known to the police because of a criminal record, but not known in any capacity to the French counterterrorism authorities.
You know, Jake, it is still less now, less than 24 hours, French prosecutor saying the attack took place at 22:45 local time last night. That's still 45 minutes away. The police though in the minutes after the attack ended, already beginning to put the clues together to find out who was responsible.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Mohamed Bouhlel, 31 years old, the butcher of Bastille Day, mowing down and killing more than 80 innocent men, women and children, enjoying one of France's national days of celebration, before he was shot and killed by the police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The terrorist fired several times on three police officers close to the hotel. The police chased the truck for nearly 1,000 feet. The police were able to shoot him and the terrorist was found dead on the passenger seat.
ROBERTSON: Inside the cab of the truck, police found a handgun and ammunition, as well as several fake guns, and a fake grenade, also the attacker's I.D. and cell phone.
According to the French prosecutor, Bouhlel had a record of violence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He was known by the judicial and police authorities for threats, violence, and thefts 2010 and 2016.
ROBERTSON: Within hours of the attack in a nearby nondescript suburb of Nice, police raided his apartment, seizing telephone and computer equipment, taking away documents.
(on camera): This is where the alleged attacker lived. And if I look through the keyhole that has been blown out by the police when they went in here, I can see there are draws strewn on the floor, chairs standing there, cupboards wide open. It looks like the place has had a hasty search. Right now, they're all locked up.
(voice-over): This neighbor telling us he was odd, never said hello. Didn't even nod. Had a thick stare. Went everywhere with his bike, sometimes with a bottle of alcohol. He lived alone, separated from his ex-wife and three young children.
A block away, French police blew the windows off a small delivery truck, scouring for more clues.
(on camera): The search has been slow and it's been methodical, but it doesn't appear as if the police believe they're dealing with dangerous materials. They seemed quite relax.
At one point, they could seen taking a huge number of what appeared to be paper receipts out of that truck.
(voice-over): Bouhlel was born in Tunisia, not far from a town where a horrific seaside attack killed 34 holiday makers last summer. He moved to France in 2005. But according to officials here, he had no connections to terrorism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He was entirely unknown by the intelligence services. He had never been the subject of any kind of file or indication of radicalization. ROBERTSON: President Obama has been kept updated.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a threat to all of us. We don't know all of the details, but what we know is the capacity of even a single individual to do extraordinary harm to our people.
ROBERTSON: For police, the pressure is on to figure out was Bouhlel acting alone or part of a group? Most importantly, are other attacks imminent?
ROBERTSON: So we don't know from the police yet what was found on his cell phone, what was found on any of the Internet and communications equipment taken away from his apartment.
The prosecutor didn't take any question today, has promised to take questions when he gives future press conferences, but really the detail. Was he connected to somebody? That is going to be what we're waiting to learn about because, you know, it will be if he has been communicating with other people in other groups, it is going to be through the equipment that the police now have in their hands.
TAPPER: Nic, obviously, the information is just being accumulated now, the investigation just began, but in terms of the pattern of this terrorist, does it fit any sort of pattern with other previous terrorists?
ROBERTSON: Jake, in a way, it does.
Here is a man who has gone through obviously some trauma in his life, because he is separated not so long ago from his wife and young children. He is a man who is something of a loner who clearly doesn't connect too well with people.
He is a man who is seen by his neighbors here often with alcohol. That would be sort of out of character at least with the purer tenets of Islam. It is little off -- a little wayward with his religion.
All of these are things, indicators that we have seen in some of the previous terror attackers. It's not clear if he is affiliated with any other organization. But these type of clues show someone who was perhaps vulnerable, being a loner, having gone through some trauma, being vulnerable to the sort of brainwashing we have seen happen to others.
TAPPER: Nic Robertson, who is live in Nice, France, Nic, thank you so much.
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He is the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence.
Congressman, thanks so much for being here.
You have been briefed. Obviously, it is very, very early. The attack did not even take place within the last 24 hours, but what do officials think?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: We didn't have any advanced notice that there was going to be any kind of a truck attack.
We certainly had a lot of notice that foreign fighters were returning, that there was a grave risk of additional attacks in places like France and Belgium, but this may very well have been someone who was inspired by viewing ISIS propaganda.
It may very well have been someone whose life was falling apart, and decided, on the basis of watching these other attacks, this is how he wanted to go out. But similar to I think French authorities who said they don't have any holdings on him, I'm not aware of any information that we had before this attack on this particular attacker.
TAPPER: His name was Mohamed. He was from Tunisia. He is presumed to be Muslim.
Why is it so difficult for authorities at this stage to label this radical Islam?
SCHIFF: We have not seen yet what the motivation was.
It could certainly be he was influenced by this ISIS propaganda, as we have seen other attackers in the United States and elsewhere. It may well very be as well that a leading factor in his motivation was his marriage falling apart, losing his job, his life just coming to a crash, and this is how he wanted to go out. That would not be a typically ISIS kind of a motivation.
But as we saw in Orlando, often, these attackers have a mixture of motivation. Right now, we just don't know what the case was with this attacker.
TAPPER: Earlier this week, CIA Director Brennan said as ISIS gets squeezed on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, they will continually try to strike out in places like Europe or even the United States.
How do you stop this and is the United States and the Western world, are we doing enough to stop these attacks?
SCHIFF: I think you can certainly conclude, on the basis that they seem to be accelerating in their frequency and lethality, that we're not doing enough, but I think we're doing the right things.
We just have to intensify the effort. We're going to have eliminate that caliphate. We are losing ground. That will cause them to lash out in other parts of the world, but they are going to do that anyway. And, nonetheless, that caliphate is a draw. It's a recruitment tool.
So we need to end the so-called caliphate. We also need to try to better protect our homeland. The Europeans have to as well. We still have a long way to go in terms of information sharing. The French have been beefing up their intelligence resources, but there's a long tail on that. It takes a long time to train, develop those capabilities.
The French are still playing catchup. And they face the most extreme danger, I think, in Europe.
TAPPER: A common thread in so many of these obviously is radical Islam, that these are young individuals who end, it turns, subscribing to this warped theology of ISIS.
I want you to take a listen to what former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich said last night on FOX News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person from here who is of a Muslim background. And if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported.
Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I don't know that constitutionally the U.S. government could do that, but what do you say when people say to you this is the problem, we need to listen to people like Speaker Gingrich?
SCHIFF: That's exactly the wrong approach.
And I think that has to be music to the ears of the radical Islamists out there, because they want to paint this as a conflict between civilizations. They want to say that Muslims aren't welcome in the West, that they don't have a place in the West, that we need to fight the infidels.
And that kind of comment from Mr. Gingrich plays exactly into that propaganda line of thinking. That is a terrible, I think terribly counterproductive thing to say. It was a last-ditch effort I think on Gingrich's part to say please make me the vice presidential candidate, but he is doing a lot damage in the meantime, damage to our efforts on the ideological warfront.
TAPPER: Because the argument obviously is that the vast, vast majority of Muslims think that this kind of action is insane.
SCHIFF: Absolutely. Absolutely.
And we need not only strong Muslim allies around the world, but also a strong working relationship with the Islamic community in the United States. We don't have credibility as the U.S. government in speaking about what Islam is and what it isn't. We at best can empower messengers who can engage in that kind of ideological debate and make sure that people all over the world understand this is not Islam, this is just mass murder and senseless bloodshed.
TAPPER: But even if it's a tiny fraction of Muslims who feel this way and act this way, and as you point out, something needs to be done or at least more of it needs to be, because we're obviously not doing enough, Western governments.
SCHIFF: More is going to have to be done, and I think we're just going to have to intensify efforts along all these fronts, on the war front in Iraq and Syria, on the ideological front, and here on the home front.
TAPPER: Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
We're learning more about the victims of the Nice terror attack, including an American father and his 11-year-old son.
Plus, new information about the search for a missing American college student.
Then, Donald Trump said he postponed revealing his vice presidential pick because of the Nice terror attack, but we're learning now that Trump was also seemingly having some second thoughts last night about Mike Pence even after he made the offer. That is next.
[16:16:24] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We have some breaking news coming into CNN right now. Chaos in Turkey. The Turkish prime minister saying that the military in his country has taken illegal action against its own government.
Let's get right to CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
Barbara, what do we know?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Very little, Jake. Reports coming out right now are indicating the Turkish military forces are being scene in both the capital of Istanbul, possibly on the bridges crossing the Bosphorus, so famous as a tourist attraction to so many people who travel there. Also in the capital of Ankara, military forces took its air forces being seen operating there.
Here is the bottom line military question at this hour: is there in fact a coup under way in Turkey? Now, as you say, the Turkish prime minister, the Reuters news agency reporting a few minutes ago, he is saying military action is being taken outside of the Turkish chain of command. Is that a coup? We don't know the answer to that right now.
But across Washington and at NATO in Europe, suddenly, they are scrambling to try to find out exactly what is going on with the Turkish military.
So, let's unpack this is little bit. For some time now, the government there under a great deal of pressure, both from the left and the right. Historically, Turkey is a country where the Turkish generals have been very powerful and have exerted that power in the past, but not in the last several years. Turkey is a very important U.S. military ally.
The U.S. absolutely relies on access to Turkish military basis to fly missions against ISIS in Syria, and Iraq. They want even more access. They want the Turkish military to crack down on the border with Syria and stop the flow of foreign fighters, the Turks taking military action against terrorists in their country including ISIS.
We saw how concerned all of this game with the attack on the Istanbul airport, how the attackers get in to that airport. What kind of security lapses, what kind of confidence the people have in their government.
Tonight, the bottom line at this hour, Jake, we simply do not know, is this a full fledged coup and what does it mean for U.S. national security -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Barbara Starr with all the latest from the Pentagon.
We're obviously going to keep an eye on the situation and we will bring you developments as we learn them.
Let's go back now to the terrorist attack in Nice, France. Eighty- four killed by a terrorist truck driver. French officials saying ten of the dead, ten of them, were young children. Some of the injured, according to French officials, were trampled in the stampede of the people trying to escape the attack.
CNN senior international correspondent Atika Shubert is at the scene of the attack in Nice.
And, Atika, you spoke with a young victim who was wounded in the attack?
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a 16- year-old girl, Kimberly Torres. And, in fact, she was brought to the hospital right behind me. This is the children's hospital that is the closest hospital to the scene. She was there witnessing as the truck crushed bodies underneath. But as she was speaking to us, she actually broke down in tears. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHUBERT (voice-over): "I didn't understand what was happening," she told us. "I saw the truck, I went closer, and then I saw everybody lying on the ground. I started running because everyone else is running, too, but I still didn't understand."
[16:20:02] "She's going to be 17 soon and she called me and said, 'Mommy, there are dead people everywhere, there are severed heads, dismembered legs, blood. Mommy, come get me,' she said. So, I left in a panic to look for her. And I tried to stay strong. I didn't want to cry in front of her, but I just can't hold back anymore." (END VIDEO CLIP)
SHUBERT: That was Kimberly's mother, Edvica (ph) as well, and you can hear the emotion in their voice. She managed to escape with a minor leg injury. But the kind of trauma from simply witnessing the event is going to stay with her for the rest of her life. There are now 28 children still in that hospital. Five are in serious condition, two are in critical condition.
And also, a 10-year-old boy that hospital officials tell us still has not been identified. They cannot find his parents at this point yet, Jake.
TAPPER: It's just horrifying. Atika Shubert in Nice, France, thank you so much.
As you may know, Nice is a beach town and a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from all over the world, and now, we've learned that American father and son from Texas were among those killed by this terrorist. Also right now, there is a search for a missing U.C. Berkeley student who was in Nice when this terrorist attack.
Let's bring in CNN correspondent Jean Casarez.
Jean, what do we know about the American victims?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, the father and son, they're from the central Texas, the heartland of Texas, Austin, Travis County. It's Sean Copeland and his son Brodie, his 11-year-old son Brodie. Brodie was a member of the Little League team. He was just all around, a fantastic student with such a great future.
His teacher just spoke out minutes ago from Texas, let's listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: Brody was a superstar, whether in class, performing on stage, or the baseball field, he burst with talents. He always wore a huge smile and was admired by fellow students and the faculty. Our Lakeway Elementary family was honored to have known him and witnessed his glowing personality.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is devastating and there is no words to say. I mean, I cried a little bit with the kids last night, it was sad and I really don't have a good answer for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CASAREZ: This was a family vacation they planned for a long time. First, they went to Spain, then they went to France to celebrate Bastille Day on the coast there. But it was the birthday of Kim, Brodie's mother, Sean's wife. It was on Monday, and that was the reason for one of the family vacation to celebrate that. Kim, from what we understand, was not injured but she is talking with authorities. Family members going over to France to help transport them all back to this country.
TAPPER: Oh, God. It's such a horrible story.
Are there any leads, Jean, in the search for that missing Cal Berkeley student?
CASAREZ: Well, this is very serious. First of all, there are three U.C.-Berkeley students that are injured, broken legs, broken arms, but one of them in the study abroad program, you're looking at him right there, Nicolas Leslie, is unaccounted for. They cannot find him, they have not heard from him, and authorities are trying to locate him at all.
So, Nicolas Leslie, U.C.-Berkeley student, of the student abroad program.
TAPPER: All right. Jean Casarez, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
We'll continue to monitor the breaking news. What the Turkish prime minister is calling an uprising attempted by the Turkish military.
But coming up, we thought it was a done deal, Donald Trump adding Indiana Governor Mike Pence to his ticket. But now, a source telling CNN that Trump at one point talked about, wondering if he could get out of it.
[16:28:11] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Let's turn for a moment from the attack in France, and the possible coup attempt in Turkey and direct our attention towards the presidential race right here at home. We'll turn o these other stories in just a few minutes.
Our politics lead now. Was Donald Trump having second thoughts? That's the big question.
Today, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee officially announced that he had picked Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his running mate. But our own Dana Bash is learning that late last night, Trump was asking if there was possibly anyway he could back out of the Pence pick.
Dana, what happened here?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, you know, in picking Mike Pence, and we've been talking about this since it became clear to be him yesterday, Donald Trump is following the political advice of people around him, of his advisors, doing what is practical, where you know him, and you've been following him enough to know that he genuinely follows his gut. He's been doing that and that has been --
TAPPER: Right. Pence has been a pick of the head than the gut.
BASH: Precisely, exactly. So, I'm told about midnight last night. He -- after he already offered the job to Mike Pence --
TAPPER: And Pence had flown to New York City.
BASH: And Pence had flown to New York City, prepared to scrap his plans for reelection in Indiana for governor there, that he Trump was on the phone with senior advisor, saying, is this for sure, a done deal. Is there any way that this can be undone?
I'm not saying he wanted it to be undone, but musing about whether it could be and questioning it. He was told no.
Now, again, what this tells us is that this is a man who is not used to going with decisions and making decisions that he doesn't feel right here.
BASH: Going with decisions that people around him say the right thing to do. And, you know, it also played out last night, Jake, because he did a phone interview with Greta Van Susteren on FOX, after he had offered the job to Mike Pence, saying that he had not made a final decision.