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Time Warner Center, CNN NY Evacuated Due to Suspicious Package; Suspicious Devices Mailed to WH, Clintons, Obamas. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired October 24, 2018 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:30:00]

RENE MARSH, CNN ANCHOR: According to Shimon Prokupecz, it was inside of the mail room. This is just one of five suspicious devices over the last 24 hours. I'm going to hand things over to Wolf Blitzer, who's standing by now, to continue our coverage.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Disturbing information, very disturbing developments unfolding in multiple places right now, a suspicious package - a very suspicious package. You're looking at live pictures coming in from New York City. The Time Warner Center, headquarters of CNN in New York City. You're looking at Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto. They, together with all of our colleagues at CNN in New York City, they have been evacuated from the Time Warner Center. Others have been evacuated as well. Once again, a very suspicious package that New York City Police, law enforcement are involved in. Jim Sciutto and Poppy Harlow, I wonder if you can hear me.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: I can hear you, Wolf. Poppy is hear right next to me. And again, the police - we want to respect them because the police are doing their job. We tried to move a little closer to get a better look, but they've asked us to move up to the corner, you know, almost a block away from the entrance. You can hear behind us, Wolf, this is another police emergency squad unit arriving. I've seen now two ambulances arriving. We're not aware of any injuries. We haven't been told of any injuries. Although, the police couldn't confirm to me that the package -- the suspected explosive device did get inside the building of CNN, but again, just to show the level of concern, they're moving us well down the street from the entrance to the building.

And here you it, they're now moving us even further away. Wolf, you know, you've covered situations like this before. You know they do not, rightfully so, leave anything to chance. They want to get you back. We're respecting that decision because the New York Police Department has an enormous amount of experience in this. And we want to follow their judgment here. Poppy -- I'm going to hand the phone to Poppy, so she could hear you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Poppy and Jim, I'm going to get back to you in a moment. I want our viewers to get the latest information. But like the police are suggesting, everybody move away from the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle in New York as quickly as possible. All of this is unfolding, the suspicious package at the Time Warner Center where CNN's New York bureau is located. At the same time, there have been suspicious packages delivered not only to former President Obama's residence here in Washington, D.C., former President Clinton's - Hillary Clinton's residence in Chappaqua, New York, as well as the White House.

The White House has just issued a statement saying this, quote, "We condemn the attempted violent attacks recently made against President Obama, President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and other public figures. These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. The United States Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies are investigating and will take all appropriate actions to protect anyone threatened by these cowards." That, from the White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Poppy, if you're still there, I know our viewers here in the United States and around the world, many of them are just tuning in. Update us precisely what you and Jim Sciutto and all of our colleagues at the CNN New York Bureau were told.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Wolf, this is exactly what happened. Just about 15 minutes ago, Jim and I were on the show anchoring, and the fire alarm went off. That does not happen as a routine practice during the show. We immediately felt something was wrong. We evacuated. The lights were turned off.

And as we got out, the entire CNN team was also - if you can still hear me -- was also evacuated. We are now -- they've moved us, Wolf, from across the street to as far away from the CNN Center as we can possibly, possible get. Jim and I asked to go back to ask the authorities some more questions. They said no, no, no. You could hear the severity in their voice. Jim was also able to confirm with his sources that this package was delivered inside of the building. Wolf, can you still hear us?

BLITZER: Yes, I hear you, Poppy. And I want you and everyone else clearly to listen to what law enforcement in New York City is saying now. Move away as quickly as possible.

Shimon Prokupecz is with us as well. And Shimon, I just want to alert our viewers that we're hear in the CNN Washington, D.C. Bureau. And we're safe. There are no suspicious packages here. But Shimon, I know you're speaking to law enforcement. Update us on what you're hearing.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, certainly a lot of concern within the law enforcement community that there could be other suspicious packages out there. I know this morning law enforcement officials were stepping up security, concern for this kind of situation. They are treating this as a real explosive device. I'm told by law enforcement officials in New York that the bomb squad there believes they have this under control.

[10:35:01] They will likely take this device, this suspicious package, and probably place it in a secure area. They have this truck that they bring in that they put it in, and they will probably detonate it. But serious concerns here now in New York as the police there are treating this as, what I'm told, the real deal. There are similarities in what was found at the Time Warner Center to the other devices, the other explosives that we have been talking about this morning, the other four that were intercepted by the Secret Service and by police in New York. So obviously that is concerning authorities.

And just to give our viewers some idea of what was found at the Time Warner Center, I'm told that it looks sort of like a pipe bomb, kind of what we have seen in other incidents that we've been reporting on. And there are wires attached to this or wires inside this package. But I'm told that you know they believe, most important here, Wolf, is that authorities, they believe at least at this point that they have this particular situation under control.

And also, just so our viewers know, why we keep seeing police move people back is because they now think that they're potentially dealing with a very serious incident and that this is a real explosive. And so, as they start to remove this and start to work on this suspicious package, they need to move people back.

BLITZER: We know that according to our Evan Perez, the suspicious package that was addressed to the White House was intercepted at Joint Base Bowling here in Washington, D.C. as well. Jim Sciutto, Poppy Harlow, they've been evacuated from the Columbus Circle Time Warner Center, the CNN New York Bureau. You guys are pretty far away right now. But Jim, I understand you're getting some more information.

SCIUTTO: That's right. This is coming from the New York Police Department. Police say at this point there are no injuries from this incident.

HARLOW: Here in New York at CNN.

SCIUTTO: Here in New York. Several floors of the CNN Headquarters have been evacuated, our floor included. At this point, negative on the question of whether there have been any injuries here. Of course, our concern was raised because we've seen a number of ambulances. And I think you see behind me here.

HARLOW: Yes, right there.

SCIUTTO: (INAUDIBLE) But I'll tell you. This is - the reason they still have (INAUDIBLE). You can't see them, but we have dozens of -

HARLOW: Everyone.

SCIUTTO: colleagues (INAUDIBLE) the block of this. As if they are exercising active precaution here because they don't know in incidences like this the extent of the threat. Is there a secondary attack plan? Are there other devices that they don't know about? So again, these guys are trained for this. They train for it every day. They stage little mock responses all the time for incidents like this, to get on the scene quickly. We saw them in a real life scenario here do just that.

HARLOW: The first responders have been, Wolf, just remarkable here, as frankly, have all of our CNN colleagues who helped us get out safely - everyone and get us up on the air here to bring you the news as it is happening. How quickly this all transpired, Wolf, I think is important to note. It was at after our show began this morning, Jim and I reported about these suspicious explosive devices going to the homes of former presidents, Clinton and Obama and then to the White House. It was just minutes later that we heard there was one here at CNN as well. This all transpired in less than an hour. The concern is how coordinated could this have been.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a very, very disturbing development because as you guys point out, there have been several suspicious packages delivered to George Soros, the Democratic billionaire who's been funding a lot of these activities on behalf of Democrats outside of New York City, Chappaqua, New York, outside of New York City, the Hillary and Bill Clinton residence. That suspicious package was discovered off site. Similarly, the suspicious package delivered to the residence here in Washington, D.C., of former President Obama. That was found off site. And a suspicious package addressed to the White House was found, intercepted at Joint Base Bolling here in Washington, D.C.

Poppy, how far away from Time Warner - from the Time Warner Center are you guys right now?

HARLOW: So Jim and I are all of our colleagues here are standing on the corner of 9th Avenue and (INAUDIBLE) we are half a block away from (INAUDIBLE). They did not want us to stay anywhere near the building. They would not let us stay across the street even. Wolf, it just shows you how high the concern is. They set the perimeter with the (INAUDIBLE), Jim. And we asked to go there as reporters. We wanted to get as close as we could. Ask questions. And they were not allowing that.

SCIUTTO: Keep in mind, Wolf, you know this is downtown New York. They have shut down a city street here in New York in the middle of the day and deployed dozens of officers, a dozen police vehicles, including the bomb squad.

[10:40:05] Again, a demonstration of how seriously they're taking this.

BLITZER: And we understand, Jim and Poppy, that this device discovered at the Time Warner Center was actually discovered in the mail room at the Time Warner Center. It was not discovered off site. Have all the shops, all the businesses at the Time Warner Center also been evacuated?

SCIUTTO: To our knowledge, what the police are telling me is that several floors of our building have been evacuated. And that's an important detail. They say this package -- and apologies for another emergency vehicle here. Another package made it in the building. (INAUDIBLE)

HARLOW: If you worked here every day as we do, you will know how careful they are in this building in particular. If you try to drive your car, Wolf, into the parking lot at the Time Warner Center where CNN is in New York, they check under each vehicle with mirrors. They check in the trunk of every vehicle before it goes in. There are screening machines, x-ray machines for bags before you walk in the lobby every day. There are precautions in the mail room. So every precaution is always taken, but somehow it is believed from Jim's reporting that this device was able to make it inside of the mail room.

BLITZER: And I just want to get Shimon Prokupecz into this for a second. Is it the suspicion right now, Shimon, based on your conversations with law enforcement that these various - these various suspicious packages are, in fact, connected, the Soros package, the Clinton package, the Obama package, the White House package, and the Time Warner Center package?

PROKUPECZ: Certainly, Wolf. Police right now in New York, the NYPD, the FBI there, are treating it like it's all related. They're not taking any chances. As we said moments ago, because of what's inside this package and how it appears, some metal construction, perhaps piping, some wires, some other things in this box, it's concerning law enforcement, and they believe, at least at this point, that this could all be connected to the other packages that they've intercepted. So while they don't know definitively yet, because I don't get the sense they've been able to get inside what's in this package. You know our mail room in New York x-rays it. The NYPD bomb squad x-rays it. I think the hope here is that they'll remove this and then detonated it and then look inside and see what they find. But certainly every indication here, Wolf, is that they are treating it as if it's related. They are treating it as if it's the real deal, meaning that it's an explosive device.

But the one good thing here is that the NYPD, the bomb squad, which is probably one of the best in the world, they believe that they have this under control and that this package, what's inside of it, isn't going to explode. But they obviously still are taking all sorts of precautions, which is why you're seeing both Poppy and Jim being moved back. Streets around our building in New York on 58th Street have been closed. But they've closed streets north and south of our building in New York. The Fire Department is there. They have ambulances there. All the as a precaution, just in case if something was to go wrong, they could immediately respond to that and treat people.

The bomb squad, you know interestingly, they go in. They're very good at this. You can bet -- I bet, Wolf, 100 percent that this morning the NYPD bomb squad, the intelligence division there was being briefed probably in real-time on these other suspicious packages, these other devices that the Secret Service intercepted and probably as they were being briefed about this, this call came in. So they know what they're looking for. They know what the other devices, how they were constructed, what they were compromised of. So that way, they know what they're dealing with in this situation.

It is perhaps related. Law enforcement officials in New York are treating it as such. They've also taken other precautions around New York, other locations tied to George Soros, other locations tied to both Bill and Hillary Clinton and the Obamas around the country are going to see increased security, certainly in their mail rooms, certainly at the offices, at the homes. And the FBI's joint terrorism task force probably has stood up a command post. They're going to go ahead and move forward and try and stop this before someone gets seriously hurt.

BLITZER: We're getting some conflicting information, Shimon. I'm going to get back to Jim Sciutto and Poppy Harlow. Also, "Reuters" now reporting no suspicious package was addressed to the White House, even though earlier we learned -- we were reporting that a suspicious package was addressed to the White House, intercepted at Joint Base Bolling here in Washington, D.C. Apparently, at least the initial reports, it was connected to the suspicious package over at the Soros home and the homes of Hillary and Bill Clinton in Chappaqua, New York, and Barack Obama and Michelle Obama here in Washington, D.C. as well as now this device that was discovered at the mail room at the time Warner Center in New York City.

[10:45:08] Jim Sciutto and Poppy Harlow, you guys are a few blocks away now from the Time Warner Center. I take it everybody in that building has been evacuated. Is that right?

SCIUTTO: They -- well, several floors, we're told by the New York Police Department, several floors, including certainly CNN's floors. One thing we've just noticed arrive here, Wolf, on the back of a police flatbed truck, is a containment vessel that the police use to transport explosive devices. It arrived under cover just a couple of minutes ago. We already saw the bomb unit. Just a moment -- they were here very quickly. The bomb disposal unit was here very quickly. They would be there to secure the area, assess the device. This device that just arrived now is there to transport the device away. At first I thought -- sometimes you'll see them explode the device, detonate it for safety. They say this is for transport of the device.

HARLOW: That's notable given our reporting earlier that the devices that were delivered to former President Obama or attempted to be in and Secretary of State Clinton's house. They were detonated, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Right.

HARLOW: This one is not at this point, that we know of.

SCIUTTO: Well, there may be a reason for that. Again, they'll make the decision on the spot. But if they want to get any more clues from the device down to design, even fingerprints, you can get that off a device, single person to help you find (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: Exactly.

BLITZER: Guys, I want you both to stand by. Athena Jones, our correspondent is also in New York. She's outside the Time Warner Center. Athena, first of all tell our viewers where you are, what you're seeing, the latest information you're getting.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, guys. If you're talking to me, Wolf, there's a lot going on here. As you can see, there's a huge police presence. We've got another vehicle arriving on the scene. We've already seen more than a dozen, perhaps two dozen law enforcement officials. You can see this caravan driving through here now. We assume investigators are going in to look at the situation. We have seen this. There's a suspicious package here reported in Time Warner Center. We're waiting to hear more information. We understand that this package may have contained pipes as well as other material. And this is clearly a situation that is in flux. You have a whole city block that has been shut down here at 58th Street. I'm standing at 8th Avenue. There's a crowd of people that's already begun to gather.

And this all began just in the last hour when we heard fire alarms inside the building. And you know, oftentimes you think, well, is this really a real alarm? What should I do? Maybe I should ignore it. No, it turned out we learned very quickly that this was a real situation. And so, we evacuated. And now here's the situation we're in now, waiting to find out more about this suspicious package.

BLITZER: Athena, stand by. Shimon, we can show our viewers there's a truck with a tarp on top of it. Explain what local law enforcement is planning to do. There you see a live picture of this truck. Tell us what the mission of this truck and this tarp is all about.

PROKUPECZ: Right. So usually with those trucks, Jim -- Wolf, what happens is the police department has this. They will eventually probably place -- this thing is there so they can place this package in that truck and then drive it away to Randall's Island where the bomb squad is located. That's if they don't detonate it. They could use that truck as a place where they would detonate this. You may see a robot. You may see a bomb squad officer, a detective from the NYPD bomb squad. Sometimes in some cases they walk it out and place it in there. We could see a robot that they usually utilize in these kinds of situations, place the package in there.

But normally that truck is what they use when they believe that they have something that is a real explosive, something that can explode obviously. And what they do is they place it in there. It's a secure chamber kind of so if it does explode, it explodes internally, does not harm anything outside of it. And then they can drive it away to the Randall's Island, where the bomb squad is located and where they can actually investigate and look at what's inside this package.

It could be, Wolf, that they're going to detonate this on site -- in that truck. We'll see what they decide to do here. Also what we'll see is perhaps some movement here at some point, the bomb squad leaving the building. Maybe we get some indications on whether or not they've now successfully gotten inside this package and have figured out what it is. But certainly I think for everyone should know is that the NYPD has this under control.

[10:50:03] Certainly, they are concerned. They believe they're dealing with a real explosive. And they're going to continue to investigate to try and figure out exactly what they're dealing with.

BLITZER: Once again, Shimon, the suspicion is that these various suspicious packages potentially containing projectiles and other bomb- like devices, whether it addressed to the George Soros home outside of New York City, the Hillary and Bill Clinton home in Chappaqua, New York, the Michelle and Barack Obama home here in Washington, D.C., as well as a suspicious package we earlier believed addressed to the White House intercepted at Joint Base Bolling here in Washington, as well as this suspicious package delivered to the Time Warner Center mail room where CNN is in New York. All of them, apparently are related. Right, Shimon?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, they believe they are treating as such authorities. Certainly, the police is the FBI as if they're related. There's some confusion, Wolf, over the White House, whether or not a package was addressed to the White House. We're trying to clear that up.

There you see now, Wolf, the truck that we were just talking about. What's it's called, it's called a bomb containment unit. I'm being corrected here by a law enforcement official. It's a bomb containment unit. They will place this suspicious package in this truck. And then I'm told as what they'll do is they will transport it. They will take it to actual Rodman's neck in the Bronx, which is where the bomb squad, the NYPD bomb squad is located, is housed. That's where they'll continue to investigate this device.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Shimon. Poppy Harlow, you're outside the Time Warner Center. You were evacuated with Jim Sciutto and all of our colleagues in the CNN New York City Bureau. What new information are you getting now?

HARLOW: Wolf, I'm just on the phone with a contact at the NYPD. We're a little bit more of the alert that they got while Jim and I ran here. This morning, a 911 call was made from inside the mail room at CNN that alerted the bomb squad, which immediately responded to 10 Columbus Circle. This is standard operating procedure, the way that they would deal with it that they would come. And if the bomb now he said they're determining if the bomb is inert or not and how they'll deal with it.

I did interestingly, Jim, Wolf, asked him, would NYPD or ATF detonate it outside. Because our reporting earlier on the explosive devices sent to the former president's home said they were detonated. He said no, they would not do that.

SCIUTTO: We saw just a short time ago, Wolf, a containment vessel arriving. It's a secure container that they can put it in and transport that device safely. I think it might be worth it just to show as much as we can. Again, we're under the restrictions from the - understandable restrictions from New York Police, keeping people at a safe distance.

But just give a little vision of the scene here. You have got a fire truck down there. This is one of several ambulances here out of an abundance of caution. Now this is concerning because it's the first time I've seen a stretcher taken out of one of the ambulances. I've been told by New York Police Department that to this point that there aren't any injuries. This could be precautionary. We'll get an update on that as soon as we can.

This truck here is blocking the view down 58th street, but I can assure you behind there you got a good dozen emergency vehicles, including a bomb squad, several police. They have shut down a major New York Street in the middle of the day for safety, in addition to evacuating Poppy and I, dozens of our clears, and several floors of Time Warner Center here. This police response stretches entirely down the street, all the way towards Columbus Circle there, Wolf.

HARLOW: And my sources in the NYPD, Wolf, are also saying of course there is heightened concern and caution given these buildings houses media - houses CNN. They're taking every precaution and just to first responders (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: As far as you know, Poppy and Jim, the suspicious package was delivered to the mail room at the Time Warner Center. The CNN New York bureau is in Time Warner Center in New York City. Do we know if it was specifically addressed to CNN?

HARLOW: We do not.

SCIUTTO: We don't know who it was addressed to. We do know that it made it inside the building. I believe it was a Time Warner employee who called the 911.

HARLOW: It was, yes. We don't know. I'm asking the NYPD that now, but we don't know at this point who it was addressed to.

SCIUTTO: And Wolf, if you see here over Poppy's right shoulder, these are members of the strategic response group of the NYPD. These are the folks who come and respond immediately, within minutes, to calls like this. Respond immediately, within minutes, to calls like this. They train for it every day.

[10:55:00] Schools in responding to terrorists incidents. And they're the ones who came here. You see the firemen there and you see the ambulances here. That's a measure, the abundance of caution they're treating this with. The seriousness what which they're treating this.

BLITZER: Very serious, indeed. I want to go right near where you guys are. Athena Jones is outside the Time Warner Center in New York City. She, like everyone else at the CNN New York Bureau, was evacuated. So, what are you seeing now, Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. The crowd is continuing to gather here. Obviously other news crews have arrived. We were talking a few minutes ago, that was during the arrival -- we saw a motorcade arriving of NYPD officials. We know -- among that motorcade was John Miller, who's the head of counterterrorism and intelligence. He's now on the scene, at least a couple dozen NYPD officials who are here to investigate this suspicious package found in the mail room of the Time Warner Center. We don't yet know for sure who it was addressed to specifically. But it was found in the mail room of the Time Warner Center. It contains packages -- pipes and wires and is being treated as a real explosive. So this is still, of course, a developing situation. We see the vehicles down there. We see the number of officials. But we still don't have a whole lot of answers yet, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. So I just want to be precise also. So the New York Bureau of CNN, that bureau has now been evacuated from the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle in New York City. I'm here in Washington, D.C. Our Washington bureau has not received any suspicious packages or warnings. We're definitely safe, same at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. All of our bureaus are fine right now, with the exception of the CNN New York City Bureau, where you see this major evacuation unfolding right now. I just want to be precise in that.

We're getting more specific information on the actual threat, the nature of this suspicious package. Jim Sciutto, Poppy Harlow, they were among all of the CNN employees in New York, basically, who left the various floors where CNN is in that Time Warner Center.

Jim Sciutto, right now you're a couple blocks away. You can't get any closer. Law enforcement, New York City Police, and I'm sure FBI, ATF, others are coming in to help out. They're keeping everyone at a distance, understandably so.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. They've been moving us progressively back further. First they got us out of the building. Then they had us 10 yards back, 20 yards back, until they had us all down the end of the street. I do notice now, they're at least letting people back, I don't know, a quarter block closer to the building. I don't know if that's significant. But they have taken the time to put up some metal barriers, at least on the block of 58th Street there. So again, they're not letting down the alarm entirely, but we're forced back a little less far, than we had been until a few minutes ago.

BLITZER: We're told the mayor, Mayor de Blasio of New York, has been fully briefed on the latest developments.

HARLOW: Right.

BLITZER: The White House has been briefed. Law enforcement in New York is dealing with a major situation. But let's not forget, suspicious packages were also intercepted. They were addressed to the Obama residence - the private residence here in Washington, D.C., the Clinton residence in Chappaqua, New York, and earlier there was a suspicious package sent to George Soros' residence outside of New York City as well. So there's a whole series of incidents, suspicious packages, CNN had learned earlier. There was also addressed to the White House but intercepted at Joint Base Bolling here in Washington, D.C. All of these interceptions, with the exception of the Time Warner, were taking place at off-site locations which is normal in the aftermath of these various threats. So, Shimon, you're getting some more information. What else are you learning?

PROKUPECZ: I'm being told certainly by law enforcement in New York the bomb squad, Wolf, is continuing to work through this. You see the picture there on our screen now. That's the bomb containment unit. That's the vehicle where they'll likely put this package and drive it off or detonate it. It's highly unlikely they'll detonate it with all these people standing around, obviously. And then they'll just drive it off to the bomb squad base.

You know there's a lot out there right now, Wolf. And just to kind of give people a recap, we're now dealing with at least four devices. The one in New York obviously we don't have definitive word that it's an explosive. Police certainly believe it is similar to the other devices that they have intercepted and have been investigating this morning. So that's the latest here.

The NYPD bomb squad is inside our offices at Columbus Circle. The package was addressed to 10 Columbus Circle. We don't know who specifically it was addressed to. But it did arrive. It was received in the mail room of the building.