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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; Package Bombs Target Democratic Leaders, CNN. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired October 24, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I'm not so much concerned whether this is a master bomb-maker. Either way, this person can be deadly, because if it turns out, Jake, to be a mental issue or something of that nature, that still means that you have people out there that are taking in this messaging, that are acting on it.
It's very troubling.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And, obviously, just to clarify, you said they're all Democrats or progressives. The CNN package, the package that went to CNN was addressed to John Brennan, former CIA director, care of CNN.
We don't know, actually, Brennan's political party.
TAPPER: But he worked for a Democrat and has been very critical of President Trump.
But, Josh, let me ask you, how will investigators piece together clues from all of these devices?
CAMPBELL: So we have multiple crime scenes that are now being unified. So, obviously, we have different sites where these packages were delivered.
All of the forensic data is actually being taken to the FBI's laboratory at Quantico, Virginia. They have what they call a TEDAC, the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center.
This is a conglomeration of bomb experts who worked on these devices. If you think about back from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, they were actually the ones that were on site processing devices, building this database.
Any type of explosive in the United States that they gather from partners over at ATF go into this database, where these experts can go through a device, analyze it, determine, are these signatures that we have seen before, are these ingredients that we have seen before?
And, you know, it doesn't take an expert to understand that different types of material, different types of ingredients may be found only in certain places. So in going through these devices, again, depending on what the makeup is, depending on what the signature is, they can then work backwards and determine, OK, this is a type of material we can find in this part of the country or that part of the country.
That will be part of that investigation, and then the postage itself. We're looking at the package there. You know, the U.S. government has come a long way in the last decade at being able to track packages that are sent through the mail. I did so when I was in the FBI working backwards with U.S. Postal Inspection Service in order to identify where certain devices would come.
Now, people think that, well, we just look at the return address or you look at a label coding. It's a lot more sophisticated than that. I won't go into specifics, but I can tell you that the law enforcement officers are very good at what they do. And if these devices were indeed sent through the U.S. Postal Service, through some type of commercial delivery service, there is a level of sophistication there that I think in short order they will be able to track this back.
Again, the question for all of us is, will they be able to get to this person or group of people before they continue to act again? We're not out of the woods yet.
TAPPER: All right, Josh Campbell, thanks so much. Stick around.
Joining me now in New York City is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Of course, one of the explosive devices was received at CNN's bureau addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan. And the NYPD is on the case.
Mr. Mayor, thanks for joining us.
You have described this as an act of terror. The National Counterterrorism Center has yet to do so. Why the disagreement there?
BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Look, I feel this -- and I know the NYPD does as well, Jake -- that here was an effort to intimidate, to use violence for political ends. That's terrorism.
And we take it very, very seriously in this city. This city has experienced terrorism. We don't take it lightly. But I also have to say, as you can see around me here in New York City, I'm really proud of New Yorkers today. They are going about their lives. They're showing the resiliency that makes this place great.
People are not being cowed by this. But we have no doubt that this is an act of terror.
TAPPER: The situation has been obviously continually evolving in terms of the number of devices we have heard about. Last time I checked, it was six devices, including one sent to Congresswoman Maxine Waters on Capitol Hill.
Has the situation been contained, or is this still ongoing and we don't know how many of these devices are out there? DE BLASIO: We have to assume it's ongoing.
Now, I want to be clear. From the perspective of New York City, there is no credible and specific threat at this point to any location in New York City. But, that being said, clearly, there's a pattern here that we're taking very, very seriously.
And the message I want to give to everyone in New York, but even beyond, around the country is, if you see a suspicious package, take it seriously. Don't dismiss it. Call the authorities. Call 911. Treat it urgently, because something is going on here, and we need people to act out of an abundance of caution.
Obviously, what's happened here is directed for political purposes. And I want to say, Jake, I really give everyone at CNN credit for showing the right professional attitude in continuing programming, continuing to stay focused, despite this threat. I think people at CNN should be very proud of that.
But something is happening here we have to take seriously. We should not assume it's only a one-day thing. There needs to be a sense of vigilance. And one of the things we have learned in New York City is, as good as our first-responders are, they get a lot better when they have the full participation of the public.
So anyone who gets a package that arouses their suspicion, they need to alert the authorities right away.
TAPPER: Law enforcement sources tell CNN that the package sent to CNN in New York City was delivered by courier. Are there any leads there? Does that give you more confidence that this will help authorities figure out who did it?
DE BLASIO: Look, there's a confidence that eventually our Joint Terrorism Task Force, all of our federal and state partners and the NYPD are going to get to the bottom of this. The track record is really strong.
I don't think it's going to be an overnight thing. These packages potentially came from a long way away and did not have an easy tracking to them. But, historically, we have been able to ultimately put the pieces together. I think people should assume it's going to take at least days, if not longer, and that we're not out of the woods here until the perpetrators are found.
Again, that's why that attitude if you see something, say something, I want everyone to take that to heart right now until this is solved.
TAPPER: Obviously, not only the device sent to John Brennan, care of CNN, in the building right near you, but devices sent to George Soros and Bill and Hillary Clinton in Westchester County, right outside New York City.
What specific precautions are you taking in New York right now in the wake of this? What are law enforcement officers doing, other than investigating the three packages sent in New York -- to New York?
DE BLASIO: Yes, we're taking a very proactive approach.
So, look, obviously, media outlets have been a target. So we have our counterterrorism forces very visibly in front of key media companies. Also, some prominent political figures have been targets. We have additional antiterrorism forces in front of their offices as well.
There's going to be a very robust presence. And here's what I find that New Yorkers find that reassuring. And I think people all over this country find it reassuring. Part of what we have to do in this moment, Jake, is recognize, it's a bitter, negative moment in our nation's history. We have had these challenges before. They don't go on forever.
They may feel painful and persistent, but we're going to get over this. We're going to get past this. Ultimately, this is a very good and decent country full of people who try and do the right thing. These moments bring us down, but what I think is crucial for people to recognize, that this is a moment in time.
The way we answer this hatred is by being in solidarity with each other, looking out for each other, being vigilant, recognizing that the information that you hear, something you might not be sure is important or not, but in the hands of law enforcement, may prove to be a crucial clue.
And I think that sense of everyone helping each other out is what we need at this moment.
TAPPER: President Trump said earlier today, Americans must unify in the wake of this incident.
That's a message you shared earlier today as well. But, obviously, there are a lot of people who look at the list of targets and see that all of them are individuals that President Trump has been very critical of, and sometimes it's gone -- you know , sometimes, they have also been critical of President Trump.
And on the right, some of President Trump's most prominent supporters, at least on -- in social media, are suggesting this is all just a liberal hoax.
DE BLASIO: Well, talk to the NYPD and the FBI, and they will tell you it's not a hoax. This is a real thing.
The bomb that was removed from the building right by here was a serious bomb, and that's why it's now at a secure facility of the NYPD and ultimately will be transferred to an FBI facility. No, this is the real thing.
As to the atmosphere that's been created, look, it would be wrong in this moment to start pointing fingers and calling names. But it's right to say, creating a peaceful, respectful approach and a peaceful, respectful society starts at the top. So, whether you talk about the president or any other elected
officials or prominent voices, people start -- need to start preaching peace right now. They need to start talking about treating each other with respect. Especially the attacks on the media have been corrosive and unfair.
Look, you can disagree with the media. There's no place in this society for calling for violence against the people who report the news. And that -- you talk about a founding principle in this country. This is a country, unlike probably any other in the world, that believed a free press was necessary to a functioning democracy. This was foundational to the documents that built this nation.
And I think it's something the president needs to take to heart, that start sending a message of respect for people of different beliefs. If you want to disagree with someone, disagree with them politically. Disagree at the ballot box. But never, ever threaten bodily harm.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people keying off the president and keying off of other voices of hate. And there's results to that. There's a lot of impressionable people out there. There's a lot of people with mental challenges and other things that inspire them to act when they hear that kind of voice.
You know there's a more responsible way. And, by the way, Jake, for decades, you didn't see this kind of thing in this country, because leaders set a tone of respect and civility. We can get back to it. We have to get back to it.
TAPPER: Mr. Mayor, one of the reasons being cited by the president's prominent social media supporters who say this is a liberal hoax -- and obviously I do not believe this is a liberal hoax.
But one of the pieces of evidence, as it were, even though it's not evidence, is that none of these bombs went off. But you're saying, and the NYPD said earlier, that the device that was sent to CNN was a live explosive device. It was legitimate. It just didn't -- it just wasn't detonated.
DE BLASIO: Unquestionably a legitimate advice (ph). And thank God it didn't go off.
And you will remember, a couple of years ago, there was an attempted terrorist attack here in New York City, and there was a pressure cooker bomb that a passerby saw and alerted the NYPD, and it was retrieved in time and taken to a secure facility. And thank God no one was hurt.
Unquestionably, that was an act of terror. Unquestionably, that was a bomb placed to harm civilians and a live, active bomb. The fact that something does not go off is not the way to grade it. Let law enforcement be the judge.
We have got a Joint Terrorism Task Force. It's the FBI, it's our state partners, it's the NYPD, it's the folks who have done an extraordinary job of keeping us safe ever since 9/11. They saw with their own eyes, the NYPD bomb squad saw with their own eyes a live bomb and got it out of here so no one could be hurt.
TAPPER: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, thank you so much for your time, sir. I appreciate it.
DE BLASIO: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: Right now, we have reporters on the scene where suspicious devices were supposed to be delivered to the Clintons, to the Obamas, and one that was sent to former Attorney General Eric Holder. But it was the wrong address. So it was sent back to the name on the return address.
We have some breaking news. The person on that return address, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who obviously did not mail the bombs, just responded after the device addressed to Erica Holder ended up in her Sunrise, Florida, office.
Saying in a statement -- quote -- "We will not be intimidated by this attempted attack of violence. This appalling attack on our democracy must be vigorously prosecuted. And I am deeply disturbed by the way my name was used. Today, my staff and I will hug each other and our loved ones tightly and tomorrow get back to work serving the people I was elected to represent" -- unquote.
Let's start with CNN's Rosa Flores. She's outside the congresswoman's office in Sunrise, Florida.
And, Rosa, this ended up in her office because the person used it as the return address.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right.
And members of law enforcement here in Florida, Jake, dealing with two suspicious packages. And either they were addressed to the congresswoman, or, like you mentioned, it was the return address. So that's why we're here.
But let me start with that first -- that first address that was sent to Aventura that you mentioned in that statement from the congresswoman.
I just got off the phone with Miami-Dade P.D., and their bomb squad is headed to that office in response to that other suspicious package. Now, they do tell me the FBI will take over as soon as they arrive. Now, where I'm standing at right here in Sunrise, Florida, you see a lot of flurry of activity behind me.
This is where law enforcement and the fire department are set up. But I want to show you, Jake, exactly where this office is and how far law enforcement is staying away from her office.
Here is the latest that we have learned from local law enforcement. They told us just after 2:00 p.m. that perhaps we might hear a -- quote, unquote -- 'noise," but that we shouldn't be alarmed, because the FBI was diligently working inside this building to deem this package safe.
Now, we, of course, followed up and asked if the FBI was going to detonate this package inside the building. They would not answer that question. But they did tell us that the FBI actively working in this building to -- quote -- "deem that package safe."
A few other notes they did mention. The FBI is the lead investigator, is the lead investigating agency. They are working to deem that package safe. And then that package will be transported over to the FBI office.
And then one final note, Jake. From what we understand, not only that office building has been evacuated, but all of the other office buildings around me have been evacuated as a precautionary measure, because of this potential package.
And then, finally, we know that the congresswoman was not inside the building when this suspicious package was found and when authorities responded to this area -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Rosa Flores in Sunrise, Florida, outside the office of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thanks so much.
Let's go now to CNN's Jean Casarez. She's in New York outside President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's house in Chappaqua, New York.
And, Jean, President Clinton was home today when this all went down. And Hillary, of course, we saw her earlier. She was on the campaign trail out of state.
[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: -- and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's house in Chappaqua, New York. And Jean Casarez, President Clinton was home today when this all went down and Hillary of course, we saw her earlier, she was on the campaign trail out of state.
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's -- that is exactly right. You know it was late last night and it was the Secret Service here in the Chappaqua area, and they were doing a routine mail screening and they found this package. The Secret Service is telling CNN that they immediately believed it was an explosive device so they immediately intercepted it. It never got here to the family's home. But it was the Secret Service that began a law enforcement criminal investigation on what this package was and who brought it to them.
And we don't know exactly how it got in the hands of the Secret Service because they were doing the mail screening so we don't know if a courier brought it, if it was routine mail. But while the investigation was going on here, Hillary Clinton in Florida gave public remarks at a political rally about the events of the day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILARY CLINTON, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is a troubling time isn't it? And it's a time of deep divisions and we have to do everything we can to bring our country together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CASAREZ: Now details of this device have not become public at all. But billionaire George Soros who lives relatively close to here in Bedford, New York, on Monday at 3:45 a package was put in his mailbox. He, we understand was not home but someone was. They called authorities and here's what we know about that. It was a small device, it was in a padded envelope, there was PCP PVC piping along with energetic material that could ignite.
And Jake, one more thing. This morning Brian Stelter learned through his sources that the courier brought that package to CNN approximately a little after 9:00 nine o'clock in the morning. That is exactly when I was walking through our main lobby to come here to the Clinton estate and it was relatively free of people at that point, all of the hustle-bustle of the morning people had gone their separate ways, so whoever came that courier which is so important to solve this mystery at least the initial part someone may have seen him or captured on video because it was not a crowded area at the time.
TAPPER: All right, Jean Casarez in Chappaqua, New York, thanks so much. CNN Suzanne Malveaux is in Washington, D.C. for us outside the home of the Obamas. Suzanne, do we know if either of the Obamas are home?
Jake, we actually don't know whether or not they're home. They very well could be. I have been speaking with the Obama family. A spokesperson throughout the day and they want to respect their privacy and they also have not tweeted or released a statement. What they have been doing is telling us to refer back to Secret Service and as well as D.C. police and that's what we've done here. I do want the camera to pan over just to get a sense of where we are here. It's beyond that second speed bump is where the fence is and that is where the residence is.
And what we have learned today is that Secret Service say that at no point did this package get close to the Obama family, that this was identified as a suspicious package that it was intercepted at a D.C. postal processing center. That is where they realized and recognized that this device, this package very similar in function and form to what was sent to George Soros earlier in the week so that no time this got close to the Obama family. That is the first thing that could have launched this investigation here.
I should also note as well, Jake, we're probably at one of the most secure places in the city here because it's very, very public that the Obamas live on this street. You've got 24/7 Secret Service that are set up out here on the street. There is a barricade, a concrete barricade perimeter that has been set up for at least a year, people have to produce their IDs, they have to they have to tell you the address of where they're going.
We have seen some FedEx delivery within the last 20 minutes or so but this is a very secure location. This is also where Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner live, about a block south from the residence, as well as Jeff Bezos of Amazon so people are very used to the tight security here, and we have seen U.S. Secret Service actually do a security sweep of our bags, and our crews' bags, just to make sure there are no bad actors among us. But again, the Obama family is safe and secure, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Suzanne Malveaux in Washington, D.C., outside the home of Barack and Michelle Obama. Joining me on the phone is the former Director of National Intelligence under President Obama, James Clapper. General Clapper, thanks for joining us. What kinds of questions do you think intelligence officials are asking behind the scenes right now? What are they looking for in this investigation?
[16:50:03] LT. GEN. JAMES CLAPPER (RET.), FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, I think things like you know, who else might be a potential target, is there any international implication here? I think, you know, the nature of the weapons and what they can derive from that, which will be a law enforcement function. So obviously just anything they can gather and ask about occasioned by the events of the day.
TAPPER: A U.S. intelligence official tells CNN, it's too early to say whether there is a clear connection to terrorism. What do you make of that? The NYPD and Mayor De Blasio, they don't have any such compunctions. They say these devices were intended to terrorize.
CLAPPER: Well, I would agree with the Mayor. At least -- I personally don't think that there's an international implication here. That's obviously something that has to be run down. I think this is pretty clearly a domestic thing unless there is a situation where it's, you know, possibly be explained because of a mental illness or something like that. But to me, this is -- this is domestic terrorism.
TAPPER: Individuals like John Brennan, to whom the package that was mailed to CNN was addressed, oddly, because he does not work for us. But individuals like Brennan and you, you don't get secret service protection. Even though you're both high-profile, you had it when you worked as Director of National Intelligence. Brennan had it when he was head of the CIA. You're both outspoken. Do events like this today make you concerned about your safety or the safety of your former colleagues, like Brennan or Lisa Monaco?
CLAPPER: Well, yes. And, you know, it extends to, you know, kind of a small thing. My wife and I were traveling today, and I was, of course, compelled to call our next door neighbor, who regularly picks up our mail. And to be -- to caution our neighbors about picking up mail. That's kind of disconcerting. That's a small aspect of this. So, you know, the threat rings spread out beyond us.
TAPPER: I know you reached out to John Brennan today, your former colleague in the Obama Administration. You haven't heard back yet is my understanding. What did you want to tell him?
CLAPPER: Well, I didn't -- you know, since we were on the road and my wife was driving and I just sent John a short e-mail, just to say we were thinking of him and to stay safe. And John is not only a colleague, he's a good friend, too.
TAPPER: I know you spoke to the former head of your security detail today. What advice is he giving you?
CLAPPER: Well, pretty much just to be -- first, they called me early on to make sure I was aware of the news since, you know, I was on the move, which I was and to be very careful about mail. And I said I just hung the phone with our next door neighbor about being very cautious about picking up our mail. So I was very gratified. I certainly want to give him a shoutout for thinking -- to call me. And I'm sure the same with John even though we're -- we don't -- you know, we don't get protection any longer.
TAPPER: Obviously, we don't know who did this yet and we don't know the motive of him or her or them, but it's also unmistakable that all of the people targeted from Brennan, to the Obamas, to the Clintons, to Maxine Waters, to George Soros, to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to CNN, all have been the subject of the president's ire. Again, and individuals responsible for his or her own actions. But as an investigative matter, as an intelligence matter, what -- how would that influence the investigation? Would people assume that this is somebody who is an acolyte of president, is this -- would they assume that this is somebody who is trying to get us to believe that they're an acolyte but that they might have some other motive?
CLAPPER: Well, those are all potential -- I mean, obviously -- you're right, Jake. The most obvious theory here is this is, you know, opponents of -- and one way or another president or people that the President has spoken very critically of. And I hope the President himself will abide by what he said today about promoting unity which I found it somewhat ironic in light of some of his incendiary rhetoric at his rallies. I think it would be very interesting to see if he says anything about this rally he's having tonight.
TAPPER: Well, you know --
CLAPPER: What the mayor said is right. You know, we need to -- and what others have said, we need to really tone down the rhetoric here and that starts at the top.
TAPPER: The only thing I was going to say is there are a lot of prominent supporters of the President in social media who are out there saying this is all just a liberal hoax.
CLAPPER: Well, I think that's -- that too is a sign of the time here. You know, the counter-conspiracy. I -- as one who is a potential target, I don't think that's the case at all.
TAPPER: All right, Retired General James Clapper, thank you so much for calling in. We appreciate it, sir. We're glad you're safe. I want to bring in former Secret Service Agent Jonathan Wackrow and still with us is former CIA and FBI official, Phil Mudd and former FBI Supervisory Agent, Josh Campbell. Jonathan, I'll start with you. As a former Secret Service Agent, what's the first concern that comes to mind when you hear about this explosive packages sent to two former presidents and other public officials?
JONATHAN WACKROW, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Well, the first thing that comes to mind is the systematic methodology that the Secret Service deploys to protect you know, former presidents, current presidents and all our protectees working this instance. Mail screening, you know, it's a critical part of the protective paradigm that's built around all of our protectees. In this instance, you know, the device, both multiple devices were you know, screened, the were found off site and render safe protocols were deployed both in Chappaqua and Washington, D.C. for the device that was sent to the Obamas.
So you know, big win for the Secret Service today. They did a great job following all the protocols. You know, what's been referenced time and time again throughout the day is that this was referred to as routine you know, mail screening. There is nothing routine about the mail screening the Secret Service does. This is a very systematic and critical process that's part of the model that they deploy.
TAPPER: Yes, and we should -- we should take a moment to honor that. This was an attempted act of mass murder, and it was stopped. And maybe it was stopped in the mail rooms and not in a cinematic type way, but it was prevented. And kudos to the Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies, as well as CNN security that helped stop that.
Josh, the FBI has sent out this tweet asking for information. It includes a picture of one of the suspicious packages. In this message, if you have info about these packages, contact the FBI tip line at 1800CALLFBI or go online to tips.fbi.gov. If you observe any suspicious activity that requires immediate response please call 911 or contact your local enforcement immediately. You think that's significant. Why?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I do, Jake, because any time there's an incident like this, there is a debate that goes on inside the Command Center at the FBI, the NYPD or whichever agency has jurisdiction and that is what information do we need to keep close to the vest in order to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation and what information do we need to push out to the public? And again, that's a discussion they have to have always opting on the side of ensuring public safety.
So here we have the FBI actually releasing these images, releasing some additional information, and doing two things. First of all telling the public, look, this is what we found. IF you were out there and you see a package that looks like this, you need to stop, you need to call law enforcement. That's important, because, again, that is that public safety rule that the FBI is pushing out. The second thing, if there are people out there who have information that may help with the investigation, if they see something, you know, maybe the particular writing, maybe the style, maybe the -- you know, anything about this device that may key their interest, they want them to pick up the phone and call law enforcement.
So, again, it seems like we've moved past the initial phase where they wanted to keep everything close to the vest. Now they're pushing that out, really putting out the call to the public and listing their assistance, Jake.
TAPPER: Phil, somebody at home might look at that tweet and think boy, they have no idea where to lead. They're crowdsourcing this. But that's not the case necessarily.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: No way. I mean, first, they have information we don't have. For example, what's the composition of the bomb? Are there any fingerprints on that device. They might not -- they might know that already. But the FBI as Josh has said is doing two significant things. They're giving us information on the device. I went home to my house today and looked at the mail to say is there anything in there that's suspicious? When I get off air, I'm going to look at what they tweeted and say now I know what to look for.
But the other thing, this person touched a lot of stuff over time, a lot of devices, a lot of locations. Did anybody see anything? Did this person ever talk to anybody about targets? So I don't think there is anything wrong, even if they have substantial information, for asking the public who is this person, especially since we don't know if there is anything else out there.
TAPPER: Go ahead, John.
WACKROW: Got it.
TAPPER: Jonathan, go ahead.
WACKROW: Yes. No -- actually, just dovetailing off the comments Josh and Phil just said. Listen, we have a shared fate in the situation. This is more about a sense of heightened vigilance in the current state. We have bombs that are being sent through -- sent through the mail that are being delivered to multiple locations throughout the United States. This is a shared fate that everybody has to come together. Law enforcement, the community, has to, you know, solve for this problem.
TAPPER: All right, Jonathan and Josh and Phil Mudd in studio, thank you so much. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER or you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.