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Protecting Trump; Terror Fears; Travel Nightmares; Police Clash with Demonstrators in North Dakota; How Will Secret Service Secure President-elect Donald Trump in Mar-a-Lago? Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 23, 2016 - 16:30   ET




BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to take a moment to recognize the brave turkeys who weren't so lucky, who didn't get to ride the gravy train to freedom, who met their fate with courage and sacrifice and proved that they weren't chicken.


OBAMA: It's not that bad. Now, come on.



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: With as many puns as he could stuff in, President Obama pardoned his final Thanksgiving turkeys. The White House let Twitter decide between two birds named Tater and Tot. Tot won to become the official bird. Tater is the backup.

Pardoning the backup bird as well began under President Obama in 2009, at the request of his daughters, Malia and Sasha. This year, Mr. Obama's nephews subbed for his daughters. President said Malia and Sasha were fed with his corny-copia of embarrassing dad jokes.

I can identify.

The newly pardoned birds now head into turkey retirement. That would be Gobblers Rest at Virginia Tech.

At this hour, the mad dash to the dinner table is hitting its peak. Today is one of the busiest travel days of the whole year. Major interstates have been lit up with red brake lights all day. I know you know that sight.

And we look live at LAX, it's hurry up and wait at airports across the country with a record number of passengers expected to fly. But between bad weather and airport power outages, getting from point A to point B can, you know, be a real headache. We will get to your forecast.

But let's start with travel and the latest. CNN's Rene Marsh is live at Reagan National just outside D.C.

So, Rene, any major problems so far today? Is it really just that typical Wednesday evening volume?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, it is volume and a pretty big volume. I can say that just trying to get to the terminal here, I experienced some of that gridlock today.

But they are expecting really record numbers as it relates to holiday travel here, Jim, this year. It's all hands on deck here at Reagan National Airport. And, if you happen to be driving, you should expect lots of company on the road as well.


MARSH (voice-over): Millions of people across the country are on the move during the busiest travel period of the year. On the 405 in Los Angeles, it was the mother of all traffic jams Tuesday night, miles and miles of gridlock for drivers who had hoped to beat the rush.

On the Capital Beltway outside Washington, D.C., traffic was backed up for nearly 10 miles after a crash. Most people will drive to their Thanksgiving destination, more than 43 million, according to AAA. The best way to avoid the worst gridlock? Drive on Thanksgiving Day and head home any day but Sunday. Saturday or Monday are much lighter traffic days.

Meantime, airports and airlines are seeing a record number of flyers; 27 million passengers are expected to take to the skies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For them, it will be all snow.

MARSH: Inside Delta Air Lines' command center this week, the operations team monitors the weather and every flight in the air.

DAVE HOLTZ, DELTA OPERATIONS AND CUSTOMER CENTER: There is a laser- like focus on completion factor and making sure we get people where they need to be for the holidays.

MARSH: And as passengers line up at security checkpoints, the head of TSA says they're ready.

PETER NEFFENGER, TSA ADMINISTRATOR: We brought on about just shy of 1,400 new Transportation Security officers this summer. We converted about 2,000 from part-time to full-time. We have added about another 50 or 60 canines.

MARSH: But unexpected problems can pop up. At Louisville International Airport, a temporary power outage caused long lines and delays this morning. Overall, for most flyers, it's been a smooth ride so far.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was expecting a lot of lines and just a lot of confusion outside. But everything is really smooth this morning. MARSH: But with one million more people traveling this year compared

to last year, it's still a good idea to get to the airport two hours before your flight.


SCIUTTO: So, Rene, looking there now, and I have been in long lines at National before, right now, it looks pretty good there, though.

MARSH: Right now, it looks pretty good.

But I can tell you that about 20 minutes ago, the line was a lot longer than it is now. It really does come and go. But I have to say, we haven't seen any major problems.

Remember those long lines we saw during the spring, TSA lines. Passengers were complaining. We are not hearing a lot of that at this point.

And Jim, one thing to remember, you may see canines when you show up at these airports. If you are on a line that is using canines, you are allowed to keep on your shoes, your coat. You can keep your liquids in your bags. They're really trying to make sure that they expedite these lines here and people get where they need to get.

Also, TSA actually has an app. So, if you want to find out how long that security time, the wait time is on that security line, they have an app for that, Jim -- back to you.

SCIUTTO: Rene, thanks very much. And congratulations on your engagement.


MARSH: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: That is from the whole CNN team.


SCIUTTO: The NYPD with new security precautions after ISIS calls out the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, that's right after this.



SCIUTTO: A Thanksgiving eve ritual is under way right now in New York City right now, as organizers are now inflating those giant balloons for tomorrow's big Thanksgiving Day Parade. I still remember that from when I was a kid.

But there is another big addition along the route, extra security, specifically sand trucks at intersections in Manhattan. It's an unprecedented effort to prevent something like this, the attack in Nice, France, this July when a man drove a truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day, killing more than 80 people.

Let's bring in CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd.

So, there was an arrest this week, federal authorities in New York, Mohamed Rafik Naji, accused of providing materials support to ISIS, which is kind of a catch-all term here. But the complaint says that he was discussing the possibility of a Nice-style attack.


SCIUTTO: How serious a threat do you think this is?

MUDD: You have got to take it seriously.

Let's bookend this. Let's go back 15 years. You go to 9/11. It takes you years to train people, to bring them out to Afghanistan, to think about how do you access a hardened target like an aircraft.

Fast forward and look at this copycat attack, somebody talking about a plot similar to what we saw in France. What do you need? Access to a public space. It might be a parade route, a parade route a mile-long, access to a truck, maybe basic explosives to put in that truck.

I think you have to take it seriously, not because it indicates ISIS is advancing, but because of the simplicity of the plot and how easy this would be to execute.

SCIUTTO: And it's interesting, because their magazine, which used to be called "Dabiq" -- now it's called "Rumiyah" -- has mentioned this specifically, using vehicles as weapons.

I wonder, ISIS, of course losing ground on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, and there is talk it's really just a matter of time before Mosul falls and Raqqa after that. Does that actually increase the danger of attacks overseas?

MUDD: For a period of time.

You can think about this as a comet, and the tail of the comet -- that is, the followers, people in the United States and Western Europe who have been thinking about ISIS for years, they are 17, 20, 25 years old, very emotional. Over the course of the next few years, as ISIS declines, they are going to sit back and say, I can't go train in Syria anymore, what do I do?

And I think there's a prospect they will read this ISIS magazine and say, there's an easy way to do this. Do it at home. So, for a few years, I think we will see the tail of the comet. You should not interpret that to mean that ISIS is returning to the battlefield. They're getting whacked out there in Syria and Iraq.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this just, finally. Folks at home, there will often be threats around the holiday. I'm always very careful how I convey that, because, people, you want them to enjoy the holiday.

You are a professional C.T., counter-terror, guy. What do you say to folks during this holiday season and the level of the threat?

MUDD: Chillax. The same things I would say to my 10 nieces and nephews.

If you do numbers, that is, the threat from your child going to swim in a neighbor's swimming pool vs. the threat from an attack, I am not talking about this because I want to reassure Americans. I am saying, if you just do numbers, the likelihood you will be impacted by this is near zero.

When I see my 5-year-old niece, as I will tomorrow -- she has required me to bake an apple pie, no lie -- and my 7-year-old nephew, we are going to be playing with LEGOs. We're not dealing with threat. I wouldn't worry about it.

SCIUTTO: And I think your apple pie might be an equal.

MUDD: It will be outstanding, have no -- outstanding.


SCIUTTO: Phil Mudd, thanks very much for putting it all together for us.

MUDD: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Protecting president-elect Trump, how his favorite warm- weather escape presents a security challenge to Secret Service on land, in the air, and by sea.

Then: North Dakota pipeline protests take a violent turn. One woman could lose her arm.


[16:45:00] SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto. Our "NATIONAL LEAD" now, police in North Dakota are using teargas, rubber bullets and water hoses against hundreds of demonstrators standing in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Indian tribe. Together, they're protesting the construction of a 1,200-mile-long oil pipeline, which they say spoils sacred land. More than a dozen people have been hospitalized over the last few days. One protester nearly lost her arm when she claims police threw an explosive device into the crowd.

CNN's Paul Vercammen joins me now. So, Paul, what are police saying about the use of force there?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're saying they were justified, Jim, in using those fire hoses, but they say they never threw concussions grenades, and that is a point of huge contention.


VERCAMMEN: Very different views from the front line where protesters want the Dakota oil pipeline route moved away from the Standing Rock Reservation. There's no dispute earlier this week in frigid weather, law enforcement sprayed demonstrators with powerful blasts of water. Police say demonstrators set fires and tried to storm past their roadblock. But protesters accused police of dangerous tactics, not just spraying but firing concussion grenades, rubber bullets and injuring hundreds of demonstrators.

The father of Sophia Wilansky, a 21-year-old protester says an explosion nearly caused his daughter her arm. Sophia is undergoing surgery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Intentionally, a police officer threw a grenade that hit her right in her forearm and exploded right as it hit her forearm. There are many witnesses. And they have shrapnel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no merit to that. But I assure the citizens of North Dakota, the citizens of Bismarck, Mandan area that law enforcement is investigating this. And all the facts will be out there.

VERCAMMEN: Authorities say they didn't use concussion grenades, rather demonstrators attacked them with makeshift explosives, even rolling one-pound propane canisters toward officers.

[16:49:57] Amid all the violence at Standing Rock, silence. No sound of pipeline construction now because the army corps of engineers stopped for talks with tribal leaders. The Standing Rock Sioux say the pipeline route will destroy sacred burial and prayer sites and they fear the pipeline's proposed path under the Missouri River could contaminate water. The consortium funding the $3.7-billion pipeline that will run through four states, from North Dakota to Illinois say it's safe. They also say it's a much more efficient way to transport crude oil instead of by rail.


VERCAMMEN: And peaceful in North Dakota today, but Amnesty International telling CNN that it's re-deployed two observers to the protest site just to make sure that there are no protests that get out of hand or any engagement with law enforcement that need to be documented. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Paul Vercammen, thanks very much for following that story for us.

By air, land and sea, Donald Trump's sprawling resort in Florida is a security nightmare. What's being done to keep the President-elect safe there.


[16:55:00] SCIUTTO: Turning back now to politics, it is already the new reality on New York's Fifth Avenue, police everywhere, barricades and traffic slowed to a crawl. White House North, as President-elect Trump's home and office in Trump Tower is now known, is costing taxpayers lots of money and causing New York residents and visitors, lots of headaches. So, what about his sprawling Mar-a-Lago Beach compound in Florida? CNN's Ed Lavandera has a look at the security being put in place there. Ed, I hear it's difficult.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, Palm Beach might be the kind of town that is used to what comes with all the glitz and glamour here, but the residents will have to start getting used to some new neighbors, all of those officers that come with the presidential security detail.


LAVANDERA: Protecting President-elect Donald Trump is a challenge unlike any other. From Trump Tower in New York to his private club in Florida.

So, we're approaching Mar-a-Lago right here.

It's a 20-acre waterfront estate in Palm Beach, secluded from the public. But he also shares it with as many as 500 members, who are willing to pay $100,000 to join.

RENNIE RODRIGUEZ, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Basically, it's a compound, and we have to treat it as such.

LAVANDERA: Former Secret Service and ATF special agent Rennie Rodriguez says, in many ways, it's readymade for presidential security.

RODRIGUEZ: Behind this natural barrier here, which I assume there's a fence -

LAVANDERA: Yeah. It appears there's a wall back there.

RODRIGUEZ: There's a wall, a tall wall.

LAVANDERA: Yeah, it's more than 13 feet, I believe, which is great for deterring anyone trying to come on the premises.

Behind the wall, Trump keeps a residence that could become the Winter White House.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love Florida. This is my second home.

LAVANDERA: Where presidents spend their vacations is a window into their personalities, George W. Bush liked to spend the hottest month of the year in his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a wonderful spot to come up in here and just kind of think about the budget -- I mean, other things.

LAVENDERA: George Bush, Sr. famously enjoyed the peaceful serenity of Kennebunkport, Maine. Mar-a-Lago stretches across a barrier island, cut down the middle by a two-lane road, nestled between a stunning stream of multi-million dollar homes. The best view comes from across the bay.

Rodriguez says Secret Service teams are assessing threats that could come by land, sea and air. And standing outside the club, it doesn't take long to see the skies above will be a major concern.

RODRIGUEZ: I mean, that plane is, what, maybe a couple thousand feet over us?

LAVANDERA: The Palm Beach International Airport is just a few miles west of Mar-a-Lago.

RODRIGUEZ: You can see the path for commercial aircraft.

LAVANDERA: For years, Trump has wage a legal battle to keep commercial and private planes from flying over this estate. And now, that he is president-elect, he might have just gotten his way. When he's on the property, Rodriguez says, the airspace over Mar-a-Lago will be closed.

RODRIGUEZ: This would be a type of aircraft that an individual would use to drive his plane into -- on the property.

LAVANDERA: And in the waters around Mar-a-Lago, the U.S. Coast Guard is already setting up security zones, some parts completely off- limits, other areas that require permission before entering. Rodriguez says Secret Service agents will also conduct renewed background checks on every club member. And inside the club, they can also expect to see new levels of visible and invisible layers of security.

Are they in for a bit of a rude awakening?

RODRIGUEZ: I think - I think it depends, you know, some of the neighbors may like it, others, you know, may complain because they don't like the intrusion.

LAVANDERA: But life is going to change around here for the next four years.

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, it will. Most definitely.


LAVANDERA: And Jim, the security presence is very tight since Donald Trump arrived on Tuesday night. You see there, the Coastguard boat just off the edge of the property, as well as other Coast Guard boats in the water as well. Guards at every entrance to the gate as well. This is the kind of activity that the residents here will have to get used to for the next four years. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Not a bad looking spot. Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook @JimSciutto or tweet the show @theleadcnn. I wish you and your families a very happy and safe thanksgiving weekend. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in for Jake Tapper. I turn you over now to Brianna Keilar, she is in for Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, team of rivals. Donald Trump has more cabinet picks including the first two women. One of them, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has been a sharp critic of the president-elect.