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Senate Overrides Obama's Veto on 9/11 Bill; FBI Identifies Witnesses of NY/NJ Bombings. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired September 28, 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, 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
Let's cue the clock, showing just under 41 days until the U.S. presidential election. And while we're watching the candidates out there on the campaign trail, we also have eyes on Capitol Hill here in Washington where the U.S. Senate has just voted to override President Obama's veto of a 911 bill.
The House votes in just a couple of hours as well, and if they go the same way, as almost certainly will be the case, it will mark the first time they've rejected a veto from President Obama. We're going to have much more on that in just a moment.
But first, let's get back to the presidential race. In just over an hour from now, Hillary Clinton will take the stage in New Hampshire with Senator Bernie Sanders by her side. It's their first joint appearance since his formal endorsement more than two months ago.
Hillary Clinton is also getting help on the campaign trail today from daughter Chelsea in North Carolina and first lady Michelle Obama who headlined a Clinton rally in Philadelphia last hour. I want all of you, all of us, to listen to a bit of what she said.
MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: Experience matters. Preparation matters. Temperament matters. And Hillary Clinton has it all. She's the real deal. I have come to know her very well over the years, and I know that she is more than ready, more than able to be an outstanding president for all of us.
So, we cannot afford to squander this opportunity, particularly given the alternative. Because we know that being president isn't anything like reality T.V. It is not an apprenticeship. And it is not just about fiery speeches or insulting tweets. It's about whether someone can handle the awesome responsibility of leading this country.
So, as you prepare to make this decision, I urge you to ignore the chatter and the noise, and ask yourself which candidate really has the experience, the maturity, the temperament to handle this job, which candidate's words and actions speak to the values we share, values like inclusion, opportunity, sacrifice for others. Because your answers to these questions on Election Day will determine who sits in the Oval Office after Barack Obama.
And let's be clear, elections aren't just about who votes but who doesn't vote. And that is especially true for young people like all of you. In fact, in 2012, voters under the age of 30, yes for you all, that is not me, you provided the margin of victory for Barack in four key battleground states, Florida, Ohio, Virginia and right here in Pennsylvania. You all did it.
But hear this. Without those votes, Barack would have lost those states. He would have lost the election, period, end of story. And for any of you who might be thinking that your one vote doesn't really matter or that one person can't really make a difference, consider this, back in 2012, Barack won Pennsylvania by about 300,000 votes which sounds like a lot.
But, see, when you break that number down, the difference between winning and losing this state was only 17 votes per precinct. Take that in, 17 votes. That's how presidential elections are won and lost. On five votes, 17 votes, per precinct.
So, the fact is that each of you here in this auditorium, in this special place. We're in a gym, right? I got confused. But each of you could swing an entire precinct and win this election for Hillary just by getting yourselves, your family, your classmates out to vote. That's all you have to do. That's it. You can do it. You have the power.
BLITZER: The first lady isn't just out there on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton, she's also starring in a brand new ad for her. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA: Hillary will be a president our kids can look up to, a president who believes in our kids and will fight for them every day. That's why I believe in her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[13:05:05] BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our panel, our Senior Political Reporter Nia-Malika Henderson as well as Mark Preston, Executive Editor for CNN Politics.
Mark, how powerful is this argument of Hillary Clinton as a good role model, especially when it comes to female voters?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, certainly coming from the lips of Michelle Obama, it becomes very powerful, specifically when you're looking at the African-American vote.
Now, this is a subset of voters that Donald Trump has been trying to make in-roads with. The question is, you know, Hillary Clinton is going to get, you know, upwards of, you know, 90 percent to 95 percent of the African-American vote. What is the actual number she's going to get? So, she'll -- while she'll get that in a percentage, she actually needs to get the raw number up.
Michelle Obama is one of the most beloved people right now in Democratic politics, if not in the country. And having her on the stump is very powerful, specifically in a state like Philadelphia.
BLITZER: Nia, the first lady also bringing up the birther issue, the birther attacks on her husband. Of course, we knew for -- we know for years, until recently, Donald Trump was advancing that whole birther notion very clear. She was talking about Donald Trump when she said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA: And then, of course, there are those who questioned and continue to question for the past eight years, whether my husband was even born in this country. And let me say, hurtful, deceitful questions deliberately designed to undermine his presidency. Questions that cannot be blamed on others or swept under the rug by an insincere sentence uttered at a press conference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That insincere sentence she's talking about, she's referring, obviously, to what Donald Trump said last week.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I mean, it's very specific. I mean, this is a, clearly, personal for the Obama family, personal certainly for Michelle Obama. And a very surprising, I think, direct attack on Donald Trump, in some ways. Never really mentions his -- mentions his name in that speech. But, clearly, I think, underscoring what we've heard from Hillary Rodham Clinton on this as well.
And they don't want this to go away. They think that the birther controversy that Donald Trump does want to go away, they think it's motivational. Because it proves to some people that Donald Trump is willing to play these games, and some people call it a racist conspiracy theory, to advance his political agenda. And that's worrisome to a lot of people.
So, I think that's why she went there. I think she'll continue to go there on this as will Hillary Clinton. They don't want him to be able to move away from that controversy at all.
BLITZER: And that really rallies that Democratic base --
BLITZER: -- and helps Hillary Clinton get that Barack Obama coalition --
HENDERSON: That's right.
BLITZER: -- back on track --
HENDERSON: That's right. BLITZER: -- which got him elected twice.
HENDERSON: Yes, and it's not just African-American, right? It's suburban women. It's college kids as well. So, it's a lot of those folks.
Michelle Obama, this month, she's on the cover of "Essence" magazine and "In Style" magazine. She is very much a role model and a well- respected figure to a wide variety of voters here, and that's why you'll see her on the campaign trail as often. And different from what we've seen before. She had always been somebody who's been the reluctant campaigner. Certainly reluctant to campaign for people whose last name wasn't Obama. And so, here she is lending her support in a major way to Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: You know, Mark Preston, the whole issue of Donald Trump sort of threatening to bring up the issue of Bill Clinton's marital infidelities. He said he held back. He didn't do that during that first debate, he said, because he had too much respect for Chelsea Clinton.
Chelsea Clinton is now out with an interview in "Cosmopolitan" magazine. And she says that, and I'm quoting her now, "(INAUDIBLE) ability to talk about what's actually at stake in this election." So, is that a successful strategy to have Chelsea Clinton directly address that threat from Donald Trump?
PRESTON: Yes, no doubt. And the reason why is that she's married herself and, you know, she's a mother. And the fact of the matter is Donald Trump says that he wasn't -- he praised himself, Wolf, for not bringing it up. But the fact of the matter is, he did bring it up by saying it. So, the fact -- so, it is out there now.
So, you know, where this is going to hurt him, if Donald Trump continues to pursue this, at this point, is it's going to hurt him with suburban women. Because what we've seen in the past is that when this issue comes up, Hillary Clinton looks like a victim, as she is, based upon the infidelity of her husband.
This is not a winning strategy right now for Donald Trump. Everybody knows the Clintons' past. He needs to find a different strategy. Perhaps, maybe focus on policy and issues that he thinks where he can undercut her, whether it's on the economy or foreign policy or just attack her on issues such Benghazi or what have you there. It's still explosive.
BLITZER: He's threatening in this next, second presidential debate not to be as nice, he says, as he was during the first debate.
[13:10:00] HENDERSON: Yes, and a risky strategy because this is going to be a town hall, right? Anderson Cooper is going to be one of the moderators. And people are going to be looking to see how he engages with the folks there in that audience.
You better believe that whatever Donald Trump shows up, if he has this approach, in terms of mentioning Hillary Clinton's husband, she's ready for this attack. I mean, he has telegraphed it. He has all but said he plans to bring it up. So, she'll be ready for it.
And, again, I think Mark is exactly right. Hillary Clinton was never more popular. Her approval ratings were in, like, the 60s in the middle of that Monica Lewinsky scandal. So, if she is painted as a -- if he brings this up, she is seen as a victim. And, I think, again, this is going to turn off a lot of women particularly, and those are the demographic group that Donald Trump is most vulnerable with.
BLITZER: Mark, we're going to see Bernie Sanders campaigning with Hillary Clinton shortly. This is very significant, in terms of getting that coalition back on track.
PRESTON: Yes. The coalition, you know, basically millennial voters, right, where Hillary Clinton is having problems with. She seems to be having problems with young African-Americans as well.
But Bernie Sanders, as you can imagine, a gentleman, a senator, you know, who's a little bit quirky, in his 70s, was able to get this energy, this young energy to get behind his candidacy. He's also really got the left, you know? He had, you know, this support that Hillary Clinton has been unable to get, because he was concerned that she was too tied to Wall Street.
And the fact of the matter is when you have Bernie Sanders on the campaign trail, I think that does -- says something. He's sending a very strong message that you have to get out and vote in November for Hillary Clinton. Even though he lost to her and he did say some pretty harsh things about her during the primary. She's the better candidate, in his eyes.
BLITZER: Mark Preston, Nia-Malika Henderson, guys, thanks very, very much.
Coming up, a first for President Obama. The Senate overwhelmingly votes to override his veto of a bill that would give 911 families a way to sue Saudi Arabia. The House will vote later this afternoon. The Republican Congressman, Peter King of New York, standing by to join us live. We'll discuss this and much more right after a quick break.
[13:15:57] BLITZER: Back to the breaking news now. Just moments ago, the U.S. Senate voted to override President Obama's veto of a 9/11 bill by a vote of 97-1. If the House of Representatives agrees in a vote later today, as fully expected, it will be the first time the U.S. Congress, the House and the Senate, they have rejected a veto from President Obama's desk.
It's called the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. The main point of disagreement was the inclusion of the provision that will allow families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia over the attacks. It also allows federal courts to impose liability on people involved in international terror attacks against U.S. nationals. Joining us now from Capitol Hill is New York Republican Congressman Peter King.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: You're welcome, Wolf.
BLITZER: I know you -- you want -- you support overriding the veto. You believe it will happen also in the House of Representatives. But you also know the president and his top national security advisers are warning a very severe national security consequences for the United States. Do you not take that worry into consideration?
KING: Well, Wolf, I am the prime sponsor of this bill in the House. I've worked on this now for four, five, six years. And, no, we've taken all this into account. And the fact is, all we are doing is closing a loophole in the law. The way the law currently is, and this involve sovereign immunity, is that if a terrorist government actually would carry out a terrorist attack here in the United States, if they actually planned it and carried it out here in the United States, that they could be sued. The court in New York, though, unfortunately in this case, said that because it was planned overseas, if there was Saudi involvement that was overseas, they couldn't be sued. So what we're saying is that no matter where the attack is planned, whether it's planned from overseas or its planned here in the United States, that a lawsuit can be brought.
This is a -- a common exception to sovereign immunity. You can always sue if there's a torturous act. And this would certainly be a torturous act. This just clarifies that it does not have to be -- the weapon doesn't have to be put together in the U.S., the planning does not have to occur in the U.S. so long as the government is involved at all.
So this is not going to affect our military. It makes clear, it does not involve acts of war. We're talking about state sponsors of terrorism, and governments sponsoring terrorism as the only time this -- you know, these lawsuits can be brought. And these 9/11 families are entitled to this. They deserve it. If the Saudis are not involved, they have nothing to worry about.
BLITZER: Because as recently as a couple of hours ago, the director of the CIA, John Brennan, issued a statement, a very tough statement. Let me read a sentence from that statement. "If we fail to uphold this standard, sovereign immunity, for other countries, we place our own nation's officials in danger. No country has more to lose from underling that principle than the United States and few institutions would be at greater danger than the CIA. Any legislation that affects sovereign immunity should take into account the associated risks to our national security."
His point is that CIA officials, U.S. military personnel, American diplomats serving overseas, let's say the U.S. has a drone strike that kills civilians, all of a sudden they could be arrested and charged.
KING: No, I strongly disagree with Director Brennan. We took all that into account in the legislation. There have always been exceptions to sovereign immunity. And we're talking about a state sponsored attack of international terrorism. None of those instances would come under that category. In fact --
BLITZER: But let me interrupt for a second.
BLITZER: Congressman, a lot of these countries would consider a drone strike that kills civilians a state-sponsor of terrorism, namely the United States sponsored that drone strike and what U.S. officials, the president, the head of the CIA --
BLITZER: The secretary of defense, they all make the case, this will undermine the ability for U.S. military and diplomatic and intelligence officials to work overseas.
KING: And, Wolf, they are wrong. There have always been exceptions to sovereign immunity. These countries could have brought lawsuits against us all along. They could bring it against us right now because, again, all we are doing is closing one loophole. The way the law currently is, we can -- we can sue foreign governments if they carried out -- if they were involved in carrying it out here in the United States themselves. If they planned (ph) (INAUDIBLE). If the torturous act occurred here in this country.
[13:20:07] So, no, that is not right and that's why this is so bipartisan. You have Senator John Cornyn, one of the top Republicans, the majority whip of the Senate, Senator Chuck Schumer, here in the House you have myself, a Republican, Jerry Nadler, a liberal Democrat, all coming together. Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, they worked, again, long hours to get the language just right. Our military, our diplomats, they -- nothing in this legislation is going to increase their potential liability.
Now, if other governments want to sue, they could sue anyway, if they want to. The fact is, that's the way your Justice Department to do is to protect us against those lawsuits. They could bring lawsuits now if they wanted to, but they're not going to get anywhere.
BLITZER: All right, Congressman, I need you to stand by.
BLITZER: Because we have other news that's coming in, including some breaking news, an update on the New York/New Jersey bombings. Investigators say the men seen here, take a look at these images, removed a pressure cooker bomb from a bag in New York City. That bomb did not go off, but two others did. One of them injuring 29 people in Manhattan. The development comes as the father of the accused bomber, Ahmad Rahami, says he believes his son carried out the attack alone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did everything by himself. He buy everything by himself. He order online. He did it by himself. (INAUDIBLE). One time my grandson he went to his room, and he's (INAUDIBLE) kick him out back. He's little four years old.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, for the latest, let's bring in our justice correspondent, Evan Perez. So, Evan, first of all, these two men that got the suitcase with that pressure cooker bomb, they left the bomb, they took the suitcase, you're getting new information?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We're now told that officials have tracked down who these two men are. They have now identified them. They were able to using surveillance and other methods that they were able to track them to a hotel in Manhattan where they were staying. They were visiting New York as tourists from overseas, from outside United States and they are now believed to be back outside the United States. They're not in the United States. This is why it was widely believed that they had not stepped forward, they had not come forward to say that they were the two men that were seen on camera, on the surveillance cameras there.
We now know that the FBI is now working to try to identify -- try to talk to them, to interview them. They want this bag back. They still do not believe these two men played any role in the bombings. They simply were walking by and they saw these bags and picked them up and took it with them. So at this point the FBI wants to talk to them. They want to see where they went with this bag. And, most of all, they want the bag back so they can continue their investigative work.
BLITZER: Because that bag could have -- might have a lot of evidence, fingerprints, for example, DNA. Where the bag was purchased. We can show the image of that bag. It's a very distinct kind of suitcase, if you will.
BLITZER: So that is critically important in this investigation --
PEREZ: There's a lot --
BLITZER: To help determine if Rahami acted alone or had accomplices.
PEREZ: Exactly. They can determine a lot of things from getting the bag. They can see where it was bought. They can try to see if there's other people's fingerprints, obviously, at this point. It was shipped overseas. If it was handled by baggage handlers for an airline, there might be additional fingerprints as well that would show up. But it certainly would be very much something that the FBI wants to get ahold of. They want to make sure that they interview these men. They want to make sure that they get the bag back and continue the investigative work to see if there's anybody else who might have been involved in this.
BLITZER: Critically important information. Evan, good reporting. Stand by.
I want to bring back Congressman Peter King. He's a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and a member of the Intelligence Committee as well.
So what can you tell us about these two men?
KING: Yes, well, again, I do know from talking to people involved in the investigation, going back I guess even into last week, there are some people who think that those two may still have some involvement. Others think they're not. I know people who have watched that videos, and all the videos, there's really other video, too which extend further down the block, and some are convinced -- not convinced, but they have reason to believe that those two were involved. Others are convinced they weren't.
So this has to continue. It's important that they track those two down. To me it raises questions why they didn't acknowledge who they were, you know, why they didn't cooperate. If they have no involvement at all, why didn't they cooperate? But, again, maybe -- you know, maybe they were just scared. They -- they were afraid of being in a foreign -- to them a foreign country and being held. But, again, there are still questions. I hope the FBI does track them down, does talk to them. And, again, I'm not certain what country they came from. That -- you know, that also could be significant.
BLITZER: It could be significant you mean if they came from Europe or South America or Africa or the Middle East, for example?
KING: Yes, if they come from a country where there is a strong terrorist component and if they come from a particular city in that country, it would raise additional questions. But, again, I don't want to be prejudge this at all, other than the fact this is certainly a lead that I'm very, again, pleased the FBI is tracking down, and I know they will do the very best they can.
[13:25:01] BLITZER: Well, they've identified these two individuals. They're out of the country and now they're hoping to track down these two men and interview them, find out most importantly the whereabouts of that bag. A very, very important bag.
The FBI's under fire, as you know, for not knowing more about this based on previous reports on Rahami. Was there a failure here? Because, you know, he did travel overseas, spent almost a year in Pakistan. Not just in Pakistan, in Quetta, which is a hot bed of Taliban activity, for example. Was there a failure?
KING: I don't know if I'd call it a failure, but there's certainly been a gap. We've seen this in Orlando. You've seen it in San Bernardino. We saw it in Boston, where the FBI does -- will begin an inquiry, does do an investigation, does not find enough evidence and then drops it.
I think that what we have to do is we realize that there's not enough FBI agents in the world to carry on open-ended investigations, but at that time when they decide not to go further, it should be turned over to the local police, or the guidelines should be changed to allow the FBI to keep these investigations open for longer periods of time to again turn it over maybe to the local police, but continue to have the local police work with the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the FBI. I think the guidelines may be too strict on what the FBI is allowed to
do. I discussed this with Director Comey. There's only I think 35,000 FBI agents nationwide. There's 35,000 cops in New York City alone. And I think, in cases like this, where there may be smoke but they can't find the fire, again, advise the local police, give the local police all the information you have. They can track down leads. They can keep their eyes and ears open. I think it's important that we do that. Again, this is now our -- it's the fourth time we're aware of just, you know, in the last several years where an attack has occurred from some fight carried out by someone who was under FBI investigation.
BLITZER: A quick question on cyber security. Do you believe Russians are involved in these cyber-attacks on the Democratic National Committee, for example, efforts to perhaps deal with elections here in the United States?
KING: Again, from what I've seen, I do believe there is Russian involvement, and I do believe that they are, if anything, they're trying to disrupt confidence in the election. Take away confidence in the election.
Now, you know, going back to the 1940s, the Soviets then and now the Russian, you know, do try to disrupt elections. This is nothing new. But I think, again, with -- you know, with the advent of cyber technology being as intrusive as it is, we have to be more careful, obviously. I don't believe there's any way they can affect the vote, but I think what they want to do is to have -- maybe put a cloud over the, you know, final outcome of the election that created enough instances which will get public attention and then put a cloud of doubt over the final results.
BLITZER: Peter King, thanks so much for joining us.
KING: Wolf, thank you.
BLITZER: A team of international prosecutors says a Russian-made missile downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine back in July of 2014. The Dutch-led team says the missile was brought in from Russia and fired from a village under the control of pro-Russian separatists, hitting the plane. All 298 people onboard died. The Ukraine's minister of foreign affairs says the findings pointed to the direct involvement of Russia, but Russia, which has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack, rejected the report, calling it, quote, "biased and politically motivated." The Russian spokesman for the ministry of defense says, quote, "none of its missile complexes have ever crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border." He also asserts that all the information presented is based on only two sources, the Internet and Ukrainian security services. Prosecutors are now gathering evidence for a potential criminal trial.
Coming up, the Pentagon announcing at least 500 more U.S. troops will be heading to Iraq. We'll take you live to Baghdad. We have new information coming in right after this.