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Suspect Followed ISIS Instructions; Trump Wants Program Ended; Suspect Talking with Investigators; Eyewitness Talks of Terror Attack. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired November 1, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: For a number of weeks. New York police say he rented a truck and ran people over using a bike path, this is along Houston (ph) Street, doing it in the shoulder of the World Trade Center's Freedom Tower. Eight innocent people killed, 12 injured, four of whom are currently in critical condition. The New York fire commissioner says one survivor did have to undergo an amputation.
We want to show you video of the scene in the moments after the truck hit. But just a warning, it is disturbing. Near mangled bikes, you will see bodies. The images have been blurred.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God. (INAUDIBLE). Three bicyclists (INAUDIBLE) terrorist attack. I'm not sure what it is. (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Nearly 24 hours now after that rampage, we are now learning whose life was cut short so mercilessly. This is 31 year old Ann-Laure Decadt, from Belgium. Her sons, one, only three months of age, the other, three years old, will now grow up without a mom.
And this is the man police say killed her, as well as five Argentinians and two Americans acting in the name of ISIS. They say he left a handwritten note in Arabic at the scene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER JOHN MILLER, NEW YORK POLICE INTELLIGENCE AND COUNTERTERRORISM: Based on the investigation overnight, it appears that Mr. Saipov had been planning this for a number of weeks. He did this in the name of ISIS. And along with the other items recovered at the scene was some notes that further indicate that. He appears to have followed almost exactly to a t the instructions that ISIS has put out in its social media channels before with instructions to their followers on how to carry out such an attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: The investigators say the suspect was not on the FBI's radar. But a source says he had been in contact with someone who was. The accused killer, a 29-year-old father of three came to the United States from Uzbekistan back in 2010. Moments ago the president of the United States called for an end to the diversity visa program that allowed him to first come to this country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This man that came in, or whatever you want to call him, brought in with him other people, and he was a point -- he was the point of contact, the primary point of contact, for -- and this is preliminarily -- 23 people that came in or potentially came in with him. And that's not acceptable. So we want to get rid of chain migration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Our White House team is now trying to get more clarification about what exactly the president meant regarding those 23 others. So we're working on that.
But let's go straight to the scene, to the co-author of "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror," CNN international affairs analyst Michael Weiss.
And so, Michael, you know, we just heard from New York police earlier today saying he came over from Uzbekistan but it was in this country where he was radicalized, you know, saying that he had followed the ISIS instructions to a t. What does that tell you?
MICHAEL WEISS, CNN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, look, if he got here in 2010, look at what's happened in the last seven years, Brooke. You've had the Arab spring, which, to a large extent, was hijacked by Islamist insurgents in multiple countries, not least of all Syria. You had Russia's intervention in Syria in 2015, which has really catalyzed jihadism in the countries of the former Soviet Union.
And one of the things I've noticed in the last several years is, the face and the demography of international jihad is changing. It is no larger Arab. It is European. It is central Asian. And a lot of these guys end up, as we find out primary, their primary language is Russian.
Now, in the case of Mr. Saipov, Reuters has reported he might not have spoken very good Russian. His English was even wobblier than that. So his native tongue might have been Uzbek.
Whatever the case, this guy's coming from a part of the world that has seen separatism, civil war, Islamism insurgencies all put down with brutal, repressive force by post-Soviet dictatorships.
It's important to remember, before 9/11, U.S. intelligence that were tracking Islamist terrorism, including CNN's own Bob Baer, were posted to these countries, these so-called stands in central Asia, trying to coordinate with Russian security services because this is where they thought the next big threat would come from. Of course it didn't. It came from the APAC (ph) theater.
But now things are changing yet again, right? ISIS is being taken out on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria, but a lot of these guys, they're called the Chechens as a kind of encompassing term among Arab ISIS fighters because that's what they think that all of them are, Chechens, even though many are Dagestan, or Uzbek or Tajik (ph) or whatever. But these guys are seen as really the Van Guard (ph) fighting force. They have battlefield training. They are very fearsome. And they're also very well respected and also feared. Even within ISIS itself. So --
[14:05:23] BALDWIN: But, Michael, we don't know --
BALDWIN: You know, again, reiterating, and I know you are so well versed in the history, in this part of the world, in the extremism. But, again, he came to the U.S.
BALDWIN: He was, you know, an Uber driver living in New Jersey. And it is in the U.S. where he is radicalized.
WEISS: Absolutely, yes.
BALDWIN: And commits this crim. This heinous crime.
WEISS: Absolutely. And, you know, the president came out the other day, last night, and tweeted something like, well, this shows that we must not let people returning from ISIS or, you know, coming out of ISIS-held territories into the United States. This is clearly not the case.
However, what -- the point I'm trying to make is, this person's country of origin has had a
WEISS: Its own problems with radicalization and ideology going back decades even before ISIS was on the scene. Remember, there was no ISIS in 2010. It was still known as al Qaeda in Iraq. It wasn't until 2013 that they really declared their franchise. And then 2014 when they established their caliphate.
But something along the way, Brooke, and this is what's important, made this guy want to declare allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as opposed to say Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al Qaeda leader. And that is because I would argue, or would suppose, ISIS is seen as the cool new jihad. The five star jihad. It's the united colors of Benetton (ph) jihad because, again, the complexion of this war is no longer Arab. It's no longer coming from the countries in the Middle East, the countries that have been put on this U.S. travel ban.
WEISS: And that's a point that the west has got to appreciate.
BALDWIN: Right. WEISS: I mean look at the attackers in Istanbul. Two different attacks, the one in Ataturk (ph) International Airport and then the Arana (ph) nightclub, all from the former Soviet Union. In Sweden a similar attack to the one we just saw in New York was perpetrated by an Uzbek. The FBI and the U.S. prosecutor's office here in New York, within the last two years, have conducted an investigation which has led to the arrest of five Uzbeks living in Brooklyn and one Kazik (ph), who were planning to, quote, materially support ISIS.
BALDWIN: Right. No, I hear you. Point taken.
BALDWIN: Right. Right. Point taken. Point taken.
Michael Weiss, as always, with your wealth of knowledge, thank you so much for starting us off here in this hour.
BALDWIN: I do want to get to the president's stunning remarks, though, in response to this attack, including calling the U.S. justice system a joke.
So let's go to our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta.
And, Jim, I mean this story started breaking at the end of my show yesterday. We're not even really 24 hours -- barely 24 hours in and the president is already pushing Congress for several major changes.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Right. I think President Trump, Brooke, now has the world record for injecting politics into the aftermath of a terror attack. That is exactly what has happened in the last 12 hours or so as the president has been tweeting about this. And then if you look at his comments that he made at the beginning of his cabinet meeting, in addition to regarding the U.S. justice system as a joke and a laughing stock, he also called about -- or called for, I should say, sweeping changes to the nation's immigration system, saying that we should get rid of this diversity lottery system that has been in place for almost two decades.
Keep in mind, when the president blames the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, and the Democrats for this, this is a program that is -- was put in place by Republicans and Democrats and there was an effort in 2013 by the so-called Gang of Eight on Capitol Hill in the Senate that tried to do away with it, Republicans and Democrats. So the president is playing politics with this.
And here's a bit what he had to say when he was talking about this with his cabinet reporters just a short while ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Want to immediately work with Congress on the diversity lottery program, on terminating it, getting rid of it. We want people that are going to keep our country safe. We don't want lotteries where the wrong people are in the lotteries. And, guess what, who are the suckers that get those people?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, the president says he wants to change over to a merit based immigration system. That is, of course, the same immigration system that his policy adviser, Steven Miller, was talking about here at the White House a couple of months ago.
Brooke, I've talked to Republican sources up on Capitol Hill who say they -- there is just no appetite for that right now. Keep in mind, immigration changes have been talked about for several weeks now as part of that fix to relieve the fears of those dreamers that are caught in limbo right now. There is really just no unity in either party right now, and certainly not among both parties, as to what to do about immigration right now in this country.
But Senator Chuck Schumer, who was under attack by the president earlier this morning, he held a press conference, talked to reporters and said the president needs to stop tweeting and start leading. Here's what he had to say.
[14:10:03] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: New Yorkers and all of us compare President Bush right after 9/11 and President Trump right after this horrible terrorist attack. President Bush united us. He had us in the White House the next day saying, how can we work together. All President Trump does is take advantage, horrible advantage, of a tragedy and try to politicize and divide. It doesn't work with New Yorkers. It doesn't work with Americans. And, in fact, if he really wanted to do something, the way we can stop terrorism is anti- terrorism funding to help our New York Police Department and all of our police departments. He cut that in the budget he proposed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And one other thing we should point out, Brooke, and you know this because you covered what happened in Las Vegas very closely. In the aftermath of Las Vegas, the president said, we need to wait when it comes to this legislative discussion about going after gun control, talking about gun safety laws. The president wanted to wait in that instance. But when it comes to what happened in New York City, when it's a terror attack involving someone coming in from outside of the country, the president immediately wants to have a conversation about immigration.
BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.
ACOSTA: So just sort of a night and day tale of two Trumps when it comes to the response to these two -- two attacks.
BALDWIN: Tale of two reactions, two responses. I'm going to start there with my next guest. Jim Acosta, thank you so much, from the White House for me this afternoon. Joshua Geltzer is with me now. He's former senior director for
counterterrorism at the National Security Council.
So, thank you so much for coming in.
And I want to walk through what the interrogation will look like, because it's so rare that we have, you know, someone alive in the wake of this.
But first to Jim's point. You look at how the president responded in the wake of 500 people, you know, in Las Vegas, that shooter accruing something like 33 guns over the course of a year. And the president saying something to the effect of, well, that shooter, his wires were crossed, and wasn't quite ready to go there on serious gun control legislation. Juxtaposes that with this, sweeping overhaul of the immigration system. How do you square the two?
JOSHUA GELTZER, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERTERRORISM, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: It's hard to understand why you'd react last night the way the president reacted here. If you look at what he immediately went to, his hobby horses of travel ban, enhanced vetting. But here we have someone, who by initial accounts, was here legally and radicalized on U.S. soil. That's a really hard problem. And we can talk about some other ways to get at it. But it's a different problem (INAUDIBLE).
BALDWIN: It is a different problem. The fact that is he alive and he is speaking with investigators, what are their first couple of questions? What do they want to get out of him, other than obviously the why?
GELTZER: In general, the first thing you want to know is, is there something else out there? Is there someone else out there? Is there something part of this? That doesn't seem likely here, but anyone wants to know that first. That's where you want to begin, save more lives if there are more lives to be saved.
BALDWIN: What else?
GELTZER: Beyond that you want to know, how does this person come to this, because that goes to the point, he's here, he's on U.S. soil, he's living among us, it seems. What changes? What reaches him, online, in person, whatever form that leads a person to kill innocents.?
BALDWIN: You say online. We heard from the New York Police Department. I mean they've found ISIS materials on his computer. There is oodles of information out there in the ether on the Internet. Apparently he followed instructions to the tee, to quote, you know, the New York Police Department, radicalized here in the U.S. What does that tell you?
GELTZER: This is maybe the hardest form of the terrorism problem these days because what is entering U.S. soil every day through the wires is this attempt to recruit and radicalize online. And so you have people like this able to devoir, stew about what they're seeing and then act on it in relatively precise ways we see here and in, unfortunately, lethal ways.
How do you get at that problem? You try to build sources within the community that can react to somebody whom they may see changing and often bystanders do notice a change.
BALDWIN: Because it's the question of, could someone have spotted something? You know, were there red flags? It's all of the same questions we ask every time.
GELTZER: And they're the right questions, even if they're the hard questions, because they're so individualized. Every path to radicalization seems a bit different.
But one thing that's been relatively common over the past few years is some role of materials coming through the Internet or through other modern communications platforms. And so that is a source, at least an initiator along the way of the radicalization process. That has become increasingly a common element among these (INAUDIBLE).
BALDWIN: What do you make of this handwritten note in Arabic that he left, apparently pledging his allegiance to ISIS, that was found after the fact?
GELTZER: One thing I wonder about that is, if he himself doesn't knows how to write Arabic, and, of course, we don't know that yet. It does make you wonder --
BALDWIN: That someone helped him.
GELTZER: Did someone help him. And, if so, I'd like to know who and how that happened, whether it was in person or virtual. But that's the type of unwinding of an incident like that that even the language of a note is going to prompt investigators to track down.
BALDWIN: After he crashes his truck, and runs these people over, he gets out of this truck with a b.b. gun and a paintball gun. What does that tell you?
[14:15:00] GELTZER: I don't know what to make of that. You have someone who in some ways has been so precise in the planning and so precise in the execution of the event as ISIS has encouraged individuals to undertake it. And then you have the strange moment that thankfully in some ways minimize the lethality (ph) of the whole incident.
BALDWIN: Did he want to die?
GELTZER: Often these folks do go down fighting. That's one thing about ISIS in particular, both on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria and where they attack elsewhere, which is, they do go down fighting and dying. But here, it didn't end up that way.
BALDWIN: Joshua, thank you so much.
GELTZER: Thanks for having me.
BALDWIN: Nice to meet you.
Coming up here, we have much more on the breaking news. You will hear from a man who was right there as this attack was unfolding. He saw that suspect get out of that truck with what appeared to be real guns.
Also ahead, the White House press briefing, as CNN is learning that then candidate Trump did not dismiss the idea of meeting with Vladimir Putin during the campaign.
And why would Paul Manafort need three U.S. passports or a phone registered under a fake name? The eye-opening revelations today into President Trump's former campaign manager.
I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN's special live coverage.
[14:20:35] BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
Multiple people witnessed the terror attack that has left eight dead and several more fighting for their lives. Many were already there in that bike path or walking to the subway nearby. Others were practically within walking distance from the actual terror suspect. And that includes my next guest, Christiaan Wagener. He was walking on Chamber (ph) Street toward the train, feet from that bike path, when he suddenly saw this truck speeding through the crowd.
And Christiaan joins me there from New York.
Christiaan, thank you so much for being with me.
Let's just begin with, where exactly were you and when did you realize something was terribly wrong?
CHRISTIAAN WAGENER, WITNESS TO NYC TERROR ATTACK: I had just passed by the middle school that was letting out. So I was walking through a crowd of kids and parents. And I was just beyond the crowd, almost ready to get into the bike lane there, when I heard a crashing sound. And I looked in the direction, it was to my left, and I saw a truck barreling down straight toward me with another car chasing it behind, an undercover police car with its lights going.
And so I looked at the car, trying to predict trajectory, because he was hitting things and bouncing off of things, trying to figure out how I could get out of the way. I started moving to my left, or running to my left, when a school bus crossed right in front of him and basically cut him off and stopped his path. So he hit the school bus, which spun him around, and then he was -- the truck was just sitting there as the school bus moved on out of the way.
Then I turned around, and, yes, I turned around and looked at the truck there, and I thought, I should take a picture in case someone needs a picture of this. And as I got my cell phone ready and took the picture, and then lowered my cell phone, I noticed the driver standing next to the truck, which, you know, I kind of missed him getting out because I was taking the picture.
So he was standing next to the truck. And I was looking at him. And then I noticed his hands slowly were coming up. He was raising both hands slowly. And I saw two guns, one in each hand. And from a distance the guns looked kind of odd, but, you know, in today's world, with all this new machinery and all these new guns that are coming out, it's hard to really look at it and say, oh, you know.
WAGENER: So I -- I couldn't quite figure out what the guns was. I have a lot of experience looking at guns. So I was looking at that. And he was raising it. So I turned around and by that point I had reached where the kids were getting out of school. And so as he started raising it, I said, OK, this is going to be bad. So I said "gun" and started moving towards the kids and towards the corner.
Some of the kids started yelling "gun, gun, gun."
BALDWIN: Oh, my goodness.
WAGENER: And some of the parents kept looking at the man. So I just ran back towards them and tried to like, you know, coordinate moving out of the there. But some people just didn't. They froze. And -- but a lot of the kids moved. They moved very fast and --
BALDWIN: That was -- Christiaan, if I can just jump in. It's the fact that, you know, when this was breaking right around this time yesterday, I was thinking instantly, this is school kids getting out. This is Halloween. And so you found yourself in the middle of school kids who saw this, right, this is something young children can never unsee.
WAGENER: Right. Right.
BALDWIN: What were you telling them to do?
WAGENER: I was just moving. Just moving them and said, get around the corner, as I was running around the corner.
BALDWIN: Good for you.
WAGENER: And then I didn't know which way this guy was going. So I kept going. And by that time the parents were moving really fast. So everybody had, you know, broken whatever trans they were in and moved. So it was happening and I just kept right on moving.
And then about halfway down the block, I started hearing the shots. But they were single shots. So I thought to myself, I thought, well, this is obviously not some repetitive repeater kind of gun. So I hope this is the police that's shooting at this point. And as it turned out, that was right. It was, you know, it's obvious --
BALDWIN: That was precisely what happened. They him in the -- hit him in the stomach.
WAGENER: You know, relief. Yes, your relief.
BALDWIN: Right. Right. Of course.
WAGENER: Yes. Yes.
[14:25:04] BALDWIN: And it's my understanding, Christiaan, you just moved to the city from California.
BALDWIN: Listen, I mean my home is isn't too far from your neighborhood either. It's such a beautiful city. It's a resilient city.
BALDWIN: How are you feeling walking around lower Manhattan right now?
WAGENER: Well, I've obviously felt at home in New York because it kind of remind me of my -- you know, where I was born and raised in Amsterdam and it kind of has the same flair, the people, the same sense of humor, the same resilience. So it -- all of this felt like a second home to me being in New York. And, you know, I'm glad to see all of that.
But, nevertheless, as you said earlier, what happens to these kids now? It's -- you know, what -- how are they moving forward from this? And the parents? And what are we going to do with this knowledge? You know, we can't just let it -- leave it lie there and say, well, that's just a one case scenario, because we all know it's not. And it's -- you know, it's too easy to -- for this to recur because all the conditions are easy for these -- for these people to do this again.
So, I don't know, as a parent, my kids are grown and one -- my daughter lives here in town and my son still lives in Los Angeles. So, you know, they're dealing with it obviously much better. But, you know, as a parent, you look at this and you go, what am I going to tell my kids? What's happening with this world?
BALDWIN: What do you say? Right. Right.
WAGENER: You know, so --
BALDWIN: All the questions -- all the questions, Christiaan, that we are all asking.
WAGENER: All the questions.
BALDWIN: We've got to leave it. But valid questions. And it is frightening times. Bull I will add, don't mess with New York. Don't mess with New Yorkers.
Christiaan Wagener, thank you so much for your time. I'm so glad you're OK. And thank you for sharing what you saw through such a -- just a horrific moment in lower Manhattan.
WAGENER: You're welcome. You're welcome.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
Coming up next here on CNN, new revelations about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Why would he have three passports? And is that even legal?
Plus, as we wait for this White House briefing to begin here, the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, has downplayed the role of the former Trump campaign aide who lied to federal investigators. But now CNN is learning new information that contradicts what Sanders told reporters.