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Suspicious Packages Sent To Clintons, Obamas, CNN NY Offices. Aired: 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 24, 2018 - 11:00   ET


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: We don't know who specifically it was addressed to, but it did arrive. It was received in the mail room of the building. The staff there alerted, authorities alerted, building security to the device, and that's when the NYPD responded, and obviously they became really concerned almost immediately.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Shimon, just very briefly, what do we know about the package that was delivered to the Time Warner Center? Why was it suspicious? What raised the alarm bells?

PROKUPECZ: Right, Wolf. So what raised the alarm bell was when they x-rayed the package, they found what looked like metal material, perhaps a pipe bomb. We've talked about other pipe bombs or other bombs inside metal construction that has been delivered to other locations, so that immediately had everyone concerned.

And then also, we're being told that there were wires, what appeared to be wires inside this package that also concerned authorities. Now, obviously, that's what an x-ray showed, but once they get inside it, once they feel safe enough, the bomb squad does, that they can go in it and actually unpack it and see what's inside, we may hear a different story.

But given the response here by the NYPD and the FBI, also we're seeing the ATF on scene, this is a pretty serious situation. They do believe that they're dealing with what looks like a real explosive. So that is why we're seeing this kind of response.

Obviously the NYPD bomb squad, probably one of the best in the world, and the other thing, Wolf, to keep in mind is that the NYPD, their bomb squad is so good at this in that they get briefed in real-time in situations in other cities.

Let's say if there's a suspicious package, a bomb that's found somewhere else like we know of these other three locations. The NYPD and their intelligence division and the bomb squad gets briefed almost immediately on what to look for, on what these other packages contained.

So going into this, you can be assured for sure that the NYPD, along with the FBI bomb squad in New York, probably knew immediately what they were dealing with given what they had to deal with in the other situations, really since Monday night. So that's the latest really, Wolf. We're just waiting on word that they've actually contained this, that they've actually have this device and know what they're dealing with and that it's okay for people to go inside.

But it could be just a little more time before people are allowed inside here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, they want to certainly err on the side of caution right now given the nature of this suspicious package, presumably containing projectiles, metal, potentially a bomb.

Kate Bolduan, you've also been evacuated from the Time Warner Center, as well. You were getting ready to anchor your show, so walk us through where you were and what you're seeing and hearing?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, Wolf. I'm right on the corner of 58th and 9th right now. What we've been seeing as you've been hearing from my colleagues all morning, which is increased police presence -- FDNY, SWAT vans -- what looks like an explosion containment device being brought in and from our perspective, there's been more vehicles, more law enforcement vehicles coming into the area around the Time Warner Center than leaving.

At one point, there was some confusion on the ground how far away we needed to be from the building, how close we could all be. We cleared the block as FDNY and NYPD were pushing us back and then probably about ten minutes ago, they wanted to push us back a half a block further.

I have not been able to get a good read on exactly what that indicates, if that indicates anything at this point. But right now, I can show you and I'm just going to try to walk a little closer to get as close as we can , Wolf. What we've been seeing just in the last minute is you've seen FDNY setting up a command post right here past the metal fence right and what we're doing is we are standing here waiting.

I've been trying to get updates from FDNY, from the NYPD on the ground. What they say is right now the situation is serious, it is active. No someone getting anywhere, in or out and it's just down here. And look, this is the situation. Let me just show you right here, Wolf, if we can, Phil, if you can pan. These are construction crews who are stuck in the middle of this because this is how this all went down today. And everyone is still waiting to find out what's been happening.

What happened this morning, you knew it was something unusual. We all have these drills. Every major company does, of course. The fire alarm system goes off, but it happened during my colleagues' show -- Jim Sciutto and Poppy Harlow on air -- and you know that it was something different and we were all told to evacuate. Everyone very orderly came down the five, six flights of stairs that we were on and left the building, but when you saw the police presence that has been out here, Wolf -- I mean, I'm telling you, they're taking it very seriously. You can see the looks on their faces. We now know from the great reporting of Shimon Prokupecz coming what the Time Warner Center is dealing with.

[11:05:04] BOLDUAN: They're taking this situation very seriously. We're

standing here and it's been quite a sight to see. You can see the men and women of the NYPD and FDNY and how quickly they could lock down this block, but it is locked down, no question.

Right now, command posts -- FDNY command post being set up right behind me as we're speaking, Wolf. We're standing by to see exactly what more we can learn -- what more we can bring you and to be honest -- what exactly is happening.

I want to get some updates from some of my colleagues that are also in the same situation. Athena Jones -- Athena, if you can hear me, where are you? I haven't been able to see you yet, Athena. Where are you?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. I'm at the other end of the block from where you are. I'm at 58th and 8th Avenue on the corner here. You can see behind me the policemen. Beyond them, I'm not sure you can make it out now. We're seeing the other end of that containment truck that you mentioned.

It looks like a cement truck, a concrete truck mixer that's been cut off at one end with a giant hole. That is called the containment truck. That is where they will put this device and most likely take it to a place called Rodman's Neck. That's a facility in the Bronx that the bomb squad uses to handle these sort of potential explosives. So that is what we're seeing.

As you can see also, there's this huge police presence and let's remind folks, Kate of where we are. We are in the heart of New York. We're in midtown New York, a very, very busy, busy area and the Time Warner Center, the entire center next to me has been evacuated. This is not just office buildings containing your CNN, Time Warner -- WarnerMedia, the offices of TNT and Turner. There's also an entire shopping mall here and a Whole Foods grocery store in the basement.

So we're talking about dozens and dozens of stores and business establishments, all of which have been evacuated.

BOLDUAN: All right, Athena. Thank you so much. If you guys can still hear me, I'm trying to get a sense -- let me just find out. Is there any plan for my any briefing? Have you heard anything yet? Just trying to get a sense if there are any plans for briefings with the NYPD or the FDNY as I'm standing here near this command post.

I mean, I've been telling you just from the sense I am getting, this doesn't look like this is going to be ending any time soon. Let me give you a sense, let me turn around and just show you the roadblocks that we're looking at but we cannot get any closer, as I've told you.

But here we are, this is 58th and 9th. This is the heart of -- we are in the heart of New York City right now. This is closed off. This was closed off. They're still trying to let traffic go down 9th Avenue, but as you can guess, the congestion is intense right now as everyone is trying to figure out. We have folks -- there are apartment buildings, hotels all along this block and they're all trying to get in parking garages. Everyone has been trying to ask to go in to get to parking garages,

and obviously no one is going anywhere any time soon. This is where we are right now, it's outside the Time Warner Center.

I want to go back over to Washington. I want to bring in Shimon Prokupecz. Shimon, I have not been able to get a sense, if you can hear me Shimon, of timing here. Obviously, they have this under control. You don't sense that anything is out of control here. The NYPD, FDNY that they have this under control, but I haven't been able to get a sense yet of the timing, of where they are in terms of disposing of this device, clearing the area, clearing the building. What sense are you getting, Shimon?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, so I'm talking to NYPD officials there on the ground and the sense that I'm getting is they believe they do obviously have this under control. They don't think anything is about to explode. They're dealing with a very real situation, what they believe is explosives in this package.

We're told that one of the things that's certainly concerning authorities is that this device that they are looking at in New York is similar to other devices that authorities have been investigating. Really, right now we don't have a sense of when this is going to wrap up. This could go on for hours. This could be over any minute. We don't know.

Really, how the bomb squad works is they're meticulous. They're obviously extremely careful. They do this in teams. Sometimes, you know, we've seen those kind of moon suits that the bomb squad, police officers, and FBI agents that they wear, these technicians. It gets very hot in those suits.

So sometimes what happens is you have to move people in and out so that one may work on something for 20 minutes, you then move him out, and you bring in another person. So they do this in teams. They do this slow. There's no reason to rush here because they don't believe that there's anything about to explode. There's no imminent danger. Obviously, they're dealing with a very dangerous situation, but they don't believe anything is about to explode.

Also, Kate, it's important to point out that earlier we had been getting some information, certainly our CNN Evan Perez was getting information that there was a package that was intercepted that may have been going to the White House. We're being told by the Secret Service that's not the case. There was some confusion over that. But we've now cleared that up.


PROKUPECZ: It was not a device or a suspicious package that was being sent to the White House. And just to recap, we know of at least three other devices which authorities believe are linked to this device.

That's the one that was sent to the home of George Soros in New York, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, and then obviously the one that was sent to former President Barack Obama. So now authorities -- I can tell you the FBI's joint terrorism task force, now along with the NYPD, the ATF, police, and FBI here in Washington, DC, along with the Secret Service are all working this extremely, extremely hard.

They are trying to figure out who is sending this. And the other thing very, very important to point out, Kate, is there could be other devices out there and that's what's got authorities really concerned. Police across the country now looking at this carefully, studying to make sure that there are no other devices being sent to anyone else.

Obviously, the big thing here is that this seems to be someone that's targeting political folks. That has authorities concerned. So they're looking at other people in the political world who may be targeted, sending out word to be cautious. The NYPD in New York stepping up security at certain areas. Certainly, the police here in Washington, DC, the Secret Service.

So this is going to go on for quite some time. It's an ongoing situation, really an ongoing threat that we are all really under at this point and that authorities need to work through and figure out exactly who is sending these pipe bombs.

BOLDUAN: Everyone's cell phone here in New York, we all received the same alert. An emergency alert that went out says -- and that is talking about the situation here outside the Time Warner Center. It says, "Police activity. Residents on West 58th Street between Columbus and 8th Avenue, shelter in place immediately" is what this alert is.

One of those alerts that we all get on our phones -- amber alerts, weather alerts -- this one very different, as you can see. You can see it on my phone. Also seeing -- Shimon, I am also seeing, I want to go to Jim Sciutto in one second, but I'm seeing a couple of police dogs in and about.

These police dogs, I haven't been able to get a read on if they're being used or how they're being used, but we're seeing that as well. Again, more vehicles, more law enforcement coming into this area, not leaving this area. Something I think is important to note.

The presence is building, it's not diminishing right now. Let me get over to Jim Sciutto. I'm told, Jim, that you've got new news and you've been talking to police.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. Just to get a sense of this, this is an all-hands on deck response from New York authorities. I saw the bomb squad here right away, of course. New York police, Strategic Response Unit. Firemen here as well. And this is just as a measure of how seriously they take this, they were just checking this fire hydrant here to make sure it had water pressure in case it would be needed.

There's no indication they do need it now. They're responding inside the building. And we also see on the right-hand side of your screen there, that device that looks sort of like the back end of a cement truck there. That's the containment device where once they feel secure, they're going to move the explosive device into that for transport. Poppy was learning they take it to a place again for precaution up in

the Bronx, well outside the city. That's where they'll take it to examine it further. This is very much an all-hands on deck response by the New York Police Department.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We're hearing from the NYPD, Kate, that the bomb squad will transport it and that picture, Jim's talking about -- brought there, whatever the device is to a place called Rodman's Neck, where it will be detonated if it cannot be defused on scene.

So again, the NYPD say this would be -- this is what would typically happen, it would be transported to Rodman's Neck, well away from here, but still in the New York City area, and then it would be detonated here if they cannot defuse it here.

SCIUTTO: That's right, and the one thing we keep hearing, and I know that my colleagues in Washington are hearing the same, but the New York Police Department telling me that this device so far, based on what they know, is similar to the devices they've seen sent to the other locations that we were reporting on, on the air, as we got taken off the air because of the alert inside CNN.

So that's the operating assumption, that there's some connection, but of course, it's early in their investigation.

HARLOW: I have also been trying to reach the Mayor's office for comments. We believe he may be on his way here. Of course, we'll try to bring you whatever we can from Mayor de Blasio as soon as possible.

BOLDUAN: All right, guys. Thanks so much. I'm going to go right now, I want to take you all back to Washington, DC. I want to get back to CNN's Shimon Prokupecz, Shimon, I think you have some new reporting coming in. What do you have?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, Kate. So, you know, obviously you're asking questions of whether or not the police are going to do any kind of briefing there. We don't know yet, but a little update here.

I'm told by officials in New York that they do expect to move this package within the hour. So it looks like they're pretty optimistic. They'll be close to a point where it's safe enough to remove this package.


PROKUPECZ: I'm told we're probably going to see people either pushed further back or more street closures. I'm told that the entire area is going to be frozen once they move this package and place it what we believe will be in this containment truck and then driven to the Bronx where the bomb squad is located, and they they'll probably detonate it there and then they'll start their investigation into really trying to figure out what this is.

So just a small update there for folks that are out there and for our viewers, so they're aware that we could see -- we could see some movement here within the hour. BOLDUAN: We'll see it here first, but I will tell you from the angle

we're at, Shimon, everyone is being kept far away for very good reason. I saw more vehicles go in just a short time ago. Unclear what it can tell us and exactly what those vehicles meant and that's the crew that's going to be coming in.

I want to bring in Josh Campbell right now, former FBI agent. Josh, can you hear me?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, Kate, I've got you loud and clear. We're here at the Los Angeles Bureau. There's obviously been a security presence at news outlets now around the country, so to the LA Bureau, I just came in. There was a presence here of LAPD officers. No indication of any threat here, but it just kind of shows you how law enforcement around the country monitors these types of situations. They will provide resources as a precaution.

Now, as we look at our screen here, obviously we've seen a number of police officers that have been coming and going. Let's talk about what you see and what you don't see, Kate. What we're seeing on our screen right now is the threat mitigation phase. This is officers setting up a perimeter. They're attempting to obviously mitigate any potential threat here. We saw earlier this bomb disposal chamber that was brought in by the New York City Police Bomb Squad, which will attempt to either render this device safe or move it to a location where they can do so outside the vicinity of a large population.

While that's going on, behind the scenes there's also the investigation that's going on right now. Obviously, we know now of a number of events that are likely connected based on some of the reporting that we're getting, at least reports suggest that. So that will be taking place right now also, while the pointy end of the spear is on the screen trying to render this device safe.

These law enforcement resources are fusing together to share information, to try to investigate, to determine what tips, what clues can they find in these different crime scenes to figure out if they all point back to each other. And then, obviously to move to that phase to try to apprehend whoever the person or persons are responsible for this.

The last phase of this investigation is something that officers both in New York and again, around the country will be looking at and that is taking precautions to pre-empt any type of copycats.

Unfortunately, we've seen in these types of scenarios there are depraved individuals out there that will try to capitalize on a lot of the panic that we're seeing in order to create more panic. So that will be something that law enforcement officers will obviously be looking to tamp down.

As we've heard from our colleagues, the New York City Police Department trains for this every single day. They have a massive intelligence bureau, resources that are dedicated to monitoring threats all over the world. Right on scene, there will be a command post, a forward deployed command post where NYPD leadership will be working out of again to quarterback what's going on there, in order to direct resources.

But actually, back at lower Manhattan, the One Police Plaza, NYPD headquarters, there's also a larger command post that's fusing together, that's sharing intelligence with various law enforcement agencies, monitoring developments all in real time. Again, the goal is to determine what they're dealing with, to gather as much information as they can, to push that information out to the people who need it, in order to ensure that this investigation is done properly and again, that they find and apprehend whoever is responsible, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I'm going to see if we can show you -- Phil, come here. Can you see it right here? Can you see it way down that cement truck device, the explosive containment device that we all saw coming in earlier. I think Jim Sciutto had a picture that we showed to air. They have just repositioned it right next to the entrance of the Time Warner Center right there is parking garage where a lot of my colleagues -- where we all park.

It appears from this angle -- and also a loading dock. It appears from this angle that they have repositioned that truck to take -- to back it in, as if that device is heading somehow into the building.

Josh, if you can hear me, can you tell me what the next step is with that device? Shimon says they want to move the package, if you will. They want to move it out within the hour is what Shimon told me. What are the next steps here as I'm looking at them repositioning this vehicle and that containment device into the building?

CAMPBELL: So Kate, the first step wherever officers arrive on the scene of any type of suspicious package is do that initial assessment to identify what it is that they're dealing with. Now, obviously we've heard some of the reporting about what this device -- what it appears to contain and the size.


CAMPBELL: And again, these bomb squad experts will arrive. They'll do that initial assessment. The goal is to determine what is the potential blast radius here of any potential device. Are we dealing with a large explosive, again, that would spread to a large area? Is this something likely to remain contained? That's that first initial assessment. And that actually helps them determine how large their perimeter actually needs to be.

So all of this is very mechanical. It's something again that these officers train for every day. So they'll actually set their perimeter based on how much stand-off distance they think they need in order to keep the public safe.

So what we're seeing now on the screen is this containment chamber actually rolls back into the loading dock there. It looks like we're starting to see that next step where they will actually be moving the device. Now, they have two options. Officers, you know, if they can render a device safe on site. A lot of times, we'll see them actually shooting a device in order to render it safe to determine that there's no potential threat.

We see that all the time, in fact, with suspicious devices that happened around the country that actually don't make news. It appears in this case, as the vehicle moves in, that this is something they will want to move, at least to a safe enough distance. We've talked about some of the facilities that are in and around New York City. They'll again try to get that out it of a highly populated area.

It appears from police presence that you have officers that are walking around the truck there obviously. So it doesn't appear there's an urgent -- emergent situation that they're dealing with, but again, taking every single precaution in order to ensure that they get this device out of the CNN Center there in New York and then to a safe place where they can then render it safe, but also try to ensure to the extent they can that they can preserve any type of evidence that may be helpful in order to -- proving their case here and again in order to determine were there any connections with other devices?

BOLDUAN: Guys, I just want to give you some updates. We're getting moved back even further. I was told by one police officer that it appears that they're going to be moving the device out. And then another officer just told me not yet, but that appears to be what's happening right now.

From our position where we were, as you can see behind me, right against where the FDNY command post was, we're now being pushed back once again. We saw that explosive device -- the containment device, if you will, they moved into CNN. Let me just ask -- sir? Okay, we're going to keep moving back. We're going to keep moving back. I'm going to try to get one of these guys to give me an answer on exactly why we're moving back right now. But Captain? Captain, are we moving the device out? That's what I was told. Sorry, sir.

We're going to keep moving back, everybody. All right. There's definite movement happening right now. As I was standing up against the gate, there was almost like a wall of officers and FDNY moving this direction and it all was directed of moving everyone back once again. One officer said it does seem to be that they're going to be moving this device out. That would make sense.

You can look at where the positioning where we are on the street. We've now been moved across 9th Avenue. We were on the other side of 9th Avenue on 58th, right, this would be on the same block of the Time Warner Center though, showing you as this vehicle is being moved into Time Warner Center. Now, they've pushed us on the other side, which would allow for access to get that vehicle out with the device out of there. This is what's happening, and keep it as far away from the mass of humanity that is here right now.

Let me -- I'm going to keep an eye on this. While I keep an eye on this, let me go over to Shimon. Shimon, I don't know of any of that drives the information that you're getting. Tell me what you've got?

PROKUPECZ: It does, Kate. Certainly, I'm being told, as we said a short time ago, that this was going to be moved within the hour. It appears that process is now under way. I was told that they're going to push the perimeter. That is, they're going to close off more streets, push people back as they remove this device from our building in New York.

What you're really seeing here is just more precaution by police now that this device is being brought down, now that it's closer to the ground, to the street, they want to move people further back.

What we'll see is they'll put this in this bomb containment unit, they'll put this suspicious -- this package in this truck and then they'll drive it off. There will be a full police escort with this truck. They'll probably close off streets as they drive it.

Now, it's going north. It's going to the Bronx, where the bomb squad is housed, where they're located. They have an area there where they'll probably detonate it. Then they'll begin their investigation of really trying to figure out what's inside.

But the good news here, I think, for all of us is that they at least feel it's safe enough to move for them, that they can go ahead and bring this down and go ahead and move it into this truck.


PROKUPECZ: We're seeing bomb squad officers there, and maybe perhaps FBI agents there on the scene as well with the NYPD, now milling around the truck. So we'll see some movement here soon.

Once they move it, hopefully the offices there will be reopened and things can move on. But the key here, I think, really is that they feel that they're at a point now where it's safe enough for them to remove it, and then really the investigation gets under way after that, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. Sorry, guys. I was trying to get another update from the officers -- from the agents on the ground right now. Let me go back over to Athena Jones. Athena, can you tell me from your perspective what you see? They've moved us back. They've repositioned one of the fire trucks. It's kind of in the way of our view, but it's obviously to protect everybody, of course, it is. What are you seeing from your angle right now?

JONES: Right, well, you're talking about that containment truck that has been repositioned. We saw them close the end of that. It has a big hole. It looks like a concrete mixer that's been cut -- the end has been cut off. They closed that, repositioned it so that it's near the parking garage. We know the mail room facility is in one of the basements of Time Warner Center, outside of the basement or the sub basement.

And we have a little more information about when the package was received. It was received midmorning in the 9:00 hour. You'll remember it was just the beginning of the 10:00 hour that there was a fire alarm that could be heard on the air that is when the evacuation began. So we've been out here for about an hour and a half. We know that the

package was received in the 9:00 hour. And according to two law enforcement sources, the package was addressed to 10 Columbus Circle. Now, 10 Columbus Circle is the address that comes up if you Google CNN. It's not the address that's on our business cards, but that is the address that comes up if someone is searching on the internet for the location of CNN.

We still don't know for sure to whom this package was addressed. We know that the address was 10 Columbus Circle. Again, it was received midmorning in the 9:00 hour.

One more thing I want to point out, Kate, is that you can see the officers standing behind me and to my left. The cars that are parked along, we've seen bomb-sniffing dogs sniffing along all of those vehicles, including the UPS truck you can see immediately behind me and on down the line.

This, as now we're seeing dozens and dozens of law enforcement officials on the scene. As we mentioned earlier, we were here in the last hour or so or last half hour or so when John Miller arrived in a motorcade. He is the head of counterterrorism and intelligence for the NYPD. So we know that a lot of top officials are on the scene to get to the bottom of this. Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, Athena. Thanks so much. An update for everyone right here on the ground. It seems like now we're in a waiting period. They've moved us back another half a block. We're waiting here. Athena is kind of on the other side. What is going to be happening next?

What I do see from where I'm standing right now, as you can probably see it as well, Shimon had mentioned earieler that when this device is moved out, it will have a police escort. What I'm looking at right now looks like a major police escort that will happen. I want to toss it right over to Wolf Blitzer in Washington now. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. We're going to get back to you, Kate. We're getting some more information here. This is very sensitive information. I just want to be very precise in reporting about this suspicious package that was delivered to the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle where CNN's New York bureau is located.

We have now been told that this suspicious package was, in fact, addressed to CNN, but it was specifically addressed to the former CIA Director John Brennan, care of CNN at the time Warner Center at Columbus Circle in New York.

John Brennan, the former CIA director, he's a contributor at MSNBC and NBC News, not to CNN. But this suspicious package, which has resulted in the evacuation of the Time Warner Center and whole areas around the Time Warner Center in New York City, was specifically addressed to the former CIA Director John Brennan.

We're also getting more information right now from the Secret Service -- the US Secret Service saying that apparently, there was no suspicious package that was addressed to the Secret Service. There were two suspicious packages that were intercepted by the Secret Service, one addressed to the Clinton residence in Chappaqua, New York. Another addressed to the Obama residence here in Washington, DC. Nothing addressed to the White House. No specific suspicious package, according to the Secret Service, addressed to the White House. Earlier we had that information.

The Secret Service spokesperson now saying only two packages were intercepted by the Secret Service. We do know there was a suspicious package intercepted heading towards George Soros' residence outside of Washington as we all know.