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Interview with Rep. Adam Kinzinger; New York Terrorism Charges; North Carolina Shooting. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired September 21, 2016 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 6:00 p.m. in London, 8:00 p.m. in Jerusalem. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We start with breaking news, new information on the bombings in New York and New Jersey. Police are now asking for the public's help to find these two men. Police say they just want to talk to these two men. They're believed to be connected with one of bombs allegedly placed on the streets of New York City by Ahmad Rahami. It's the pressure cooker bomb that was placed on 27th Street. That bomb did not explode.
Let's bring in our Justice Correspondent Pamela Brown. Pamela, who are these men? Why do police want to talk to them?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Well, Wolf, they are surveillance video, according to investigators, that shows these two men seeing a bag on the street, on 27th Street, in the hour that that bomb went off on 23rd Street. Opening up the bag and taking out a white plastic bag with the bomb inside of it. And then, placing that on the sidewalk and walking away with the luggage. We see in the surveillance video here.
And so, right now, the FBI is just calling these two men witnesses. Investigators reiterated that earlier in a press conference, saying there's no reason to believe that they're suspects but they want to talk to these two men to see what they know. And also, they need that luggage that the men walked off with as evidence in this case.
Investigators also said that when they opened the bag and took out the explosive that was in the white trash bag, that they looked incredulous. So, again, two important witnesses in this investigation that the FBI has yet to locate. And the FBI needs the public help in identifying them and locating them -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Because the poster that they put out simply says, seeking information, unknown individuals, explosive device, New York, New York.
What about the prosecutors? What are they saying about the planning and the preparation for Ahmad Rahami who's now been charged federally as well as in New Jersey? BROWN: Well, the criminal complaint that came out really has a wealth
of details about the pre-meditation and the planning that went into this. And investigators allege that the bombing suspect actually was igniting an explosive in a backyard just two days before the bombs were placed. And this was all captured on cell phone video that belonged to a relative of the bombing suspect.
And the FBI says that in that video, you see the suspect setting off this explosive. There is billowing smoke. There is laughing in the background. And then, the suspect walks back into the frame.
And the complaint also says that back in June, the suspect was ordering bomb materials, bomb-making materials on eBay, that were being shipped to a business where he apparently worked. And then, that continued throughout the summer. And also, the surveillance video is crucial in this investigation, showing the bombing suspect going into Manhattan through the Lincoln tunnel two hours before the bomb was placed and then leaving several hours later.
I can tell you, Wolf, what has stuck out to investigators is the fact that the bombing suspect did very little to cover his tracks. In fact, according to the criminal complaint, 12 fingerprints were recovered from that pressure cooker that never went off on 27th Street, and investigators say those fingerprints belong to that bombing suspect -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Pamela, thank you. Pamela Brown with the latest information.
I want to bring in CNN's Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Tom Fuentes. He's a former assistant director of the FBI. When you saw this announcement they put out, what, four days into this investigation, why did it take so long for the FBI to show the pictures of these two individuals? Saying these are witnesses. They may have good information. They clearly want to inspect that bag that they found. Why did it take so long to put their pictures up?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they thought that maybe they'd be able to find them or hear from them before now. They would've been looking for them the first night, Saturday night, when it came out that two individuals had removed the contents of the duffel bag. It turned out to be the pressure cooker bomb in the white plastic bag.
They would be immediately looking for them because there was a possibility that maybe they were standing around on a street corner chatting when Rahami brought that duffel bag up and set it on the sidewalk. They would have been able to describe him right away even before they ever had anybody's videos, including Rahami's.
So, they would have been key witnesses right from the beginning of this. Why they waited this way, I'm sure they had a reason other than, you know, hoping they would come in or hoping they might -- hoping that they not be frightened and make it look like, you know, that they might get arrested and thrown away in jail. BLITZER: They were hoping these two guys who knew they found that bag
would just say, you know what? Maybe we have information. Maybe there are fingerprints on that bag that would be useful to the FBI investigation. Let's just go and report ourselves --
BLITZER: -- and say we found this bomb. We didn't know it was a bomb but we saw the suitcase. We saw -- and we took the suitcase. I originally thought, when I heard about these two individuals who found this, you know, big bag in which that bomb was inside in a plastic bag. I said, well, maybe they were two homeless guys who just, you know, wanted to take the bag for whatever reason.
[13:05:10] But let's show the viewers the picture. These do -- these two guys do not look like homeless guys. They're pretty well dressed, casually dressed. They're walking around the streets of New York City. So, clearly, these are not two homeless men.
FUENTES: No, don't -- they don't appear to be at all.
BLITZER: At least they don't appear to be. They appear to be two guys -- and what's also what's intriguing to me, I know that the law enforcement, they're saying they just -- these guys are -- just wanted witnesses, just want to question them, just want to get their eye- witness accounts.
So, when I read the poster that they put out seeking information, unknown individuals. FBI's asking for the public assistance on locating these two unknown individuals. Closed-circuit television recordings indicate that these individuals allegedly located a piece of luggage on the sidewalk, removed and improvised explosive device from the luggage. And then, left the vicinity, leaving the device behind but taking the luggage. And then, described where this all took place.
But what sort of jumped out at me -- and you're an FBI expert. You served in the FBI for how many years?
BLITZER: Thirty. You were a former assistant director. At the end of the notice, it says, if you have any information concerning this case, please contact the FBI's toll-free tip line, 1-800-callFBI. Your local FBI office. But these words sort of jumped out at me. Tell me if this is routine or not. Or the nearest American embassy or consulate. Do they routinely put that in, if they're just looking for guys in the United States?
FUENTES: Well, they do, in some cases. And one reason for that, this weekend would be that you have thousands of visitors in New York from another country on a regular, on a daily basis. And thousands more that had come in last week for the United Nations' festivities.
And, you know, having worked the international operations, run the operations my last five years at the bureau and been on the board of Interpol, I would hear this all over the world, that individuals from all over the world fear their police. They fear that if they go to the police, they don't want to be witnesses. They don't want to be anything because they might get thrown in jail and be never heard of again.
So, there's that international fear and that's why put a comment in there. If you're worried, contact your consulate or if you are from another country, contact your embassy. You know, so that they can be involved in helping ensure that you're protected and your rights are protected. So, it's a cautionary note for outsiders to not fear U.S. law enforcement.
BLITZER: Because what sort of -- what sort of jumped out at me also was it's been four days since that whole incident on Saturday. And maybe these two guys left the United States by now and maybe they're someplace out of the country. And if people outside of the country know these guys, recognize. We're being watched around the world right now. You can contact your nearest American embassy for consulate.
Lots of questions. And, once again, the police are saying these guys are witnesses. They just want to question them. Right now, they're not seen as suspects or anything along that. They want them to voluntarily come to the police and report what they know and especially hand over that bag.
FUENTES: Right, because even if they're totally innocent, they might have seen Rahami. They might have, at the time, had a description or now, they might have more information that Rahami got in the car and they can describe the vehicle. Rahami was with other individuals. So, they could still have great information of value even though they weren't involved.
BLITZER: All right, Tom, thanks. Stay with us. There more we have to discuss.
But from Capitol Hill right now, I want to continue this discussion on the investigation. Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger is joining us. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: You bet. Thanks. Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: You're a veteran. You're a military veteran. You served in Afghanistan. You served in Iraq. Do you believe, based on everything you've read, everybody you've heard, everything you know, that others may have been involved in helping Ahmad khan Rahami plot this terror attack?
KINZINGER: Sure, I think it's very possible. Now, obviously, I'll leave that to the FBI to come to the conclusion. They're the best. I don't have the expertise they do. But it's going to be one of two things. Obviously, you either have these two individuals. They may have been innocent, somehow remove this pressure cooker device and walk away or they may be associated. So, that's one possibility. But then, there's other question of his repeated trips to Afghanistan. And I actually heard on CNN the other day a great analyst say, you know, bomb makers usually are missing fingers, unless they learn from a professional how to make bombs of this caliber. And he went to Afghanistan a number of times. Did he have help in Afghanistan learning how to make bake IEDs?
So, again, there's a lot to find out. But I think, regardless of whether he acted alone or whether it was with a big group, in the 21st century now, it really, I think -- it's important for law enforcement to know how somebody was radicalized. But radicalization is radicalization, period, whether on the Internet or a phone call from Baghdadi.
BLITZER: He went to Afghanistan several times. He was born in Afghanistan. His family was from Afghanistan. He came to the United States as a young boy. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
[13:10:00] But what's more intriguing, and you tell me if you agree, he also went to nearby Pakistan, at one point spent almost a year in Pakistan, in Quetta which is a hotbed of Taliban activity. How important is that?
KINZINGER: I think it's really important. I mean, you know, somebody from Afghanistan, you can expect to return home, maybe see family, for periods of time. But going to somewhere where there's a hotbed of Taliban activity in Pakistan for a year, the question is, what was he doing there? You know, was he just working a job and wanted to spend some time in Pakistan? Or was he building relationships with the Taliban? And learning, you know, how to do this and how to eventually be radicalized.
And that goes to the broader question of, was it just him that the Taliban or Al Qaeda or whoever may have trained him, sent him back to act alone or was this repeated multiple times into what we have as, basically, a terrorist cell, which these two men may or may not be part of. That's up to the FBI to determine. But if there's a broader cell, that is something we need to know because we need to wrap up the rest of the cell and find out where other cells exist, too.
BLITZER: We just got, Congressman, and I'll put it up on the screen, a new image, a new picture. Mike McCall, the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, put it up. That's the bloody journal that was found at the scene of one of these bombings in which this individual wrote out. Ahmad Khan Rahami, the alleged terrorist who's now under arrest, wrote out all sorts of allegiances, if you will, praise for Anwar Awlaki, for example. The Al Qaeda leader who was killed in a U.S. drone strike. American born. About four or five, six years ago.
Also wrote about the Boston marathon bombings. What's intriguing, also, is that one of the attempted bombings was in Seaside Park, New Jersey where there was a Marine Corps 5K run that was about to begin. It was delayed but that bomb went off before the race started, otherwise there could have been a lot of casualties. When you see this -- when you see the information about the bloody journal that Congressman McCall is now displaying and you hear all of these allegations, what goes through your mind, as someone who served there in Afghanistan?
KINZINGER: Well, it's -- it shows pure hate. You know, I think we have to be careful to take ramblings of a journal and try to say, well, this guy was mentally unstable because of this, which I've heard some people kind of imply.
First off, maybe not. It doesn't really matter because even if he pledges allegiance to one terrorist group and also pledges allegiance to another, that both happen to be fighting each other, the fact is those groups would be happy to bring him into their fold. They'd be happy to teach him the art of terrorism. And they'd be happy to send him back into the West with American passport as he's an American citizen, to do harm.
So, I think in the 21st century, it's so important for us to just get out of this idea that the only kind of terrorist that we ought to be worried about are the ones that are recruited directly by Al Qaeda. Because in the era of information, you don't have to have face-to-face conversations anymore. Just a Web page that clicks somewhere and trips something in your mind is enough to be a very dangerous terrorist.
BLITZER: Let me read to you a little bit because Mike McCall, the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and holding up the image of the bloody journal, as he called it. He read from it, and I'll read a couple sentences. This is from Mike McCall. He said, this is a copy of Mr. Rahami's journal, a journal that was found on his person. And when taken into custody, he talks about the sound of bombs he heard on the streets. He praised Osama Bin Laden.
His brother talked about Anwar Awlaki. He talked about the Fort Hood, Texas terror attack. He talked about pressure cooker bombs and pipe bombs in the streets as they plan to run a mile. He talks about god willing the sound of bombs will be heard in the streets. Gunshots to your police. Death to your oppression. You consider your slaughter on Amaju Hadine (ph), be it in Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine. And then he went on and on. That's from Mike McCall.
So, clearly, there are indications in this journal that was found on Ahmad Khan Rahami's person, if you will, when he was arrested that would indicate at least some sort of inspiration from Al Qaeda?
KINZINGER: Yes, at least inspiration. And when he talks about hearing the bombs, maybe more. I mean, what you have definitely in the least is a man that was burning with jihadist anger against a country that granted his citizenship and gave he and his family so much. And despite all that, despite, you know, having a job and getting things taken care of for him in New York City, because of this depth of radicalization, he desperately wanted to kill Americans. Whether that lasted a long time or whether that was a change at the end. This is something that's going to be a larger problem in the future. But I think it's important for us to look at this very calmly, to react, to find out what tools law enforcement needs to defeat terrorism in their home ground. But, ultimately, as Americans, we cannot let this shake the foundation of who we are because we are the most powerful country in the world and we've faced down demons before and won.
BLITZER: Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, thanks very much for joining us.
KINZINGER: You bet, thanks.
BLITZER: Let me just quickly button this up with Tom Fuentes, the former FBI assistant director. This is new information we're getting from the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. What does it say to you?
TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It says to me he's a terrorist. There's no if, ands or maybes that he was inspired by a collection of the jihadi groups. Al Awlaki, being al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, Yemen, who had been putting out all of this information until he died, and it's still out there. it's still out there to be looked at. But also possible allegiances to the Taliban, whether in Afghanistan or the Taliban in Pakistan, and they are separate organizations. So it's a multiple set of groups putting out this propaganda. Even without ISIS, that apparently inspired him and that he was follows. Just an anti-U.S. desire to kill people.
BLITZER: Any -- he spoke about the Fort Hood terror massacre, about the Boston Marathon terror massacre.
BLITZER: So, clearly, there was an element of copycat as well in this -- in this terror attack.
BLITZER: Stay with us. There's other news we're following. Much more on the breaking news. But two communities here in the United States right now in turmoil after police shootings killing black men. So how can relations between police and African-Americans be improved? I'll ask North Carolina Congressman and member of the Congressional Black Caucus Alma Adams. There you see her. She's standing by live.
Plus, take a look at this. Live pictures of a Donald Trump rally set to get underway in Ohio. Will he have something to say about these recent shootings? We're standing by.
We -- also right now, the U.S. attorney in New York is speaking out about the bombings in New Jersey and New York. I want to listen in.
PREET BHARARA, U.S. ATTORNEY, NEW YORK: Keeping New York safe. But I want to note the city also has a new FBI assistant director in charge in the form of Bill Sweeney, who only has a few weeks in his current position, who worked nonstop with the NYPD and the Joint Terrorism Task Force to investigate, capture and now charge the alleged bomber.
From the moment the bomb went off in Chelsea Saturday evening, until Rahami's capture in Linden, New Jersey, on Monday morning, it was just about 39 hours, and that, as many people have already said, is an amazing feat. All we should all be immensely thankful and grateful to the tireless and seamless work of the FBI, NYPD, the JTTF, the Linden Police Department, among countless other law enforcement agencies who got us to the finish line there.
I also want to take the opportunity to acknowledge and thank the work of the investigators and prosecutors in my own office who have worked on this investigation around the clock. They, like many of the agents and officers of the JTTF, have barely slept since Saturday and they're continuing to work hard on the investigation. They are assistant U.S. attorneys Em Lovovay (ph), Sean Crowley (ph), Anthony -- Andrew D'Dipolipus (ph), Nick Lewing (ph), and their supervisor is John Cronyn (ph) and Sean Buckley (ph), as well as our investigators, George Corey (ph), Charlie Valani (ph) and Kevin Song.
Thanks to their work yesterday evening, we filed a four-count criminal complaint in the southern district of New York against Rahami, charging has with acts of terrorism, including use of weapons of mass destruction, bombing of a place of public use, and destruction of property by explosives for the Chelsea bombing. Federal charges were also brought against him in New Jersey, as well as for the bombs -- as well for the bombs Rahami allegedly planted in Seaside Park and Elizabeth, New Jersey.
The first case to proceed will be the federal case brought yesterday in Manhattan federal court. We have filed a writ for Rahami with the U.S. Marshal's Service and we expect that he will soon be brought into this district. The charges we unsealed last night lay out the considerable evidence that the FBI and NYPD was able to gather in a short period of time. And the evidence we believe shows that this was a premeditated act of terrorism. That evidence includes 12 fingerprints recovered from the undetonated bomb from the 27th street location in Chelsea, including on the pressure cooker, duct tape and the triggering cell phone. Surveillance video of Rahami allegedly near the 23rd Street bomb 27 minutes before the explosion. Surveillance video of Rahami walking with a suitcase near 27th Street just minutes after the explosion four blocks south. License plate readers showing a car tied to Rahami's residence entering Manhattan through the Lincoln Tunnel about two hours before the explosion and leaving Manhattan about two hours after. And also a handwritten journal found on Rahami at the time of his arrest talking about, among other things, jihad, pipe bombs, a pressure cooker bomb, and the sounds of bombs heard in the street, as well as laudatory references to Anwar al Awlaki and Osama bin Laden.
This weekend, as you all appreciate, the American way of life was attacked and everyday routines were shaken by explosions in Chelsea and in Seaside Park. The response to these misguided acts of terror has been classically American. And what we have come to expect in our city from New Yorkers, care for the victims, calm in the midst of chaos, and swift law enforcement action. Now thanks to that response, Rahami will faces federal terrorism charges in a court of law. [13:20:22] So now let me turn to what we came here to talk about,
showing in some ways the diversity of our docket. You know, sometimes law enforcement does us so proud as we saw this week.
BLITZER: All right, so there he is, the U.S. attorney in New York, Preet Bharara. He's explaining the charges that have been leveled against Ahmad Khan Rahami, the alleged terrorist who planted bombs in New York and New Jersey.
Tom Fuentes is still with us. He went into some specific details, what they found in the journal. We heard from Mike McCaull (ph), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee as well, references to Anwar al Awlaki, the al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula leader who was killed in a U.S. drone strike, the American born terrorist from al Qaeda also. Bin Laden himself. References to Fort Hood, Texas. The terror attack references to the Boston Marathon. These are serious charges that have been leveled against this individual.
FUENTES: Right, and that's why he went into such detail to describe what goes into those charge, what the predicates were and that they're requesting that Rahami be brought to Manhattan and housed in the federal lockup because they want those charges to supersede the local charges, which are serious enough, the shootout with the police there. But, in this case, the more serious charges are the terrorism charges.
BLITZER: Because he's been charged in New Jersey, locally --
BLITZER: With attempted murder of a police officer, which is a very serious charge as well. Several other counts in New Jersey. But what you're saying is the federal -- the federal charges would take precedence over the local charges? He would then be brought to New York where he would await trial on the federal charges?
FUENTES: Right. Right. He's making the request that the marshals go pick him up and bring him to Manhattan and that's because he's hoping that the New Jersey officials will just acquiesce and say, yes, take him. Take him --
BLITZER: Normally they would acquiesce him.
BLITZER: Yes. All right, Tom, stay with us. There's a lot of news we're following. We're taking a quick break. We'll be right back.
[13:25:58] BLITZER: All right, let's turn to another story we're covering right now, a major story. After a night of violent protests, the police chief of Charlotte, North Carolina, is trying to dispel rumors about what happened during a fatal police shooting. Keith Lamont Scott was killed by police yesterday in an apartment complex as police officers looked for a man named in a warrant they were trying to serve. Scott's family says he was simply sitting in his car and reading a book, but police say that wasn't the case, that Scott got out of the car with a gun.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF KERR PUTNEY, CHARLOTTE POLICE: I can also tell you we did not find a book that has been made reference to. I can just tell you what I know based on what we've gathered through the scientific process of going through the evidence. And we did find a weapon. And the weapon was there. And the witnesses corroborated it too, beyond just the officers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The incident sparked a night of protests and violence. Hundreds turned out in the streets of Charlotte. Some jumped on to a police van and stomped on it. Others blocked Interstate 85 and started a fire in the middle of the highway. Our affiliate reports at least seven people were injured, five were arrested.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has issued a statement about the events in Charlotte over the past 24 hours. It says in part, "it's very important that we all work together as a team to solve a very difficult issue and to bring peace and resolution. My prayers are with the Scott family and also with our law enforcement, especially the 16 police officers who were injured last night. As governor, I'm going to do everything I can to support the entire city leadership in their effort to resolve this situation."
I want to bring in Democratic Congresswoman Alma Adams. She represents the 12th congressional district of North Carolina, which includes Charlotte. She's also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Congresswoman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. ALMA ADAMS (D), NORTH CAROLINA, DISTRICT INCLUDES CHARLOTTE: And thank you very much for having me.
BLITZER: Let me get your reaction to what has happened in your community in Charlotte over the past 24 hours. What is your reaction?
ADAMS: Well, let me just say that my heart's broken and I'm devastated, as many of our citizens are there. I certainly want to extend my condolences and sympathy and support to the Scott family on their loss, and certainly we're concerned about everyone who was hurt in the protests on last evening in Charlotte, including our police officers.
But I agree to some extent with the governor. We do have to work together. I'm hoping that it's my understanding that we don't have all of the information, that the tapes that the police chief has reviewed will not be released at this point. But I think it's important for the community to come together.
We are concerned that we've had so many killings and that so many lives, which all lives matter, but we're concerned that we've had another black male to be killed in this way. So I'm just hoping that in order for us to resolve this, that we need to not only work together as a community. I've been in touch with the -- with the city officials there. I had a conversation with the mayor this morning. And we're doing everything we can on this end to address it. And should there be need for me to return back to Charlotte very quickly, I'm prepared to do it. We are in the middle of a process here with the CR coming up, but I am very closely in touch with our elected leaders, with our leadership there, including the NAACP, a we want a resolution to the issue, but we want to make sure that we get the answers that we need to move on and to bring peace back to our community.
BLITZER: A quick question, congresswoman, the police chief, Kerr Putney, I assume you know the police chief. We just heard what he had to say. Do you have confidence in him?
[13:30:04] ADAMS: I do have confidence in the police chief. I respect him a lot.