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Bombs Sent to CNN, Clintons, Obamas, Others in 'Act of Terror'; Interview with Jeff Flake (R) Arizona. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 24, 2018 - 17:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter, @JakeTapper. You can tweet the show, @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

[17:00:19] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news.

The investigation into homemade bombs sent to CNN, the Clintons, the Obamas and other political figures in what New York City's mayor is now calling an act of terror. None of the devices exploded, but there is fear, serious fear, that there may be more out there.

President Trump called the attempted attacks "despicable," even as critics noted that the intended targets were frequent objects of his contempt.

I'll talk about the breaking news with Senator Jeff Flake. And our correspondents, analysts and specialists are also standing by.

First, let's go to Shimon Prokupecz, our crime and justice reporter. He's getting new information for us. What are you learning?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Six devices, six bombs, basically, that officials are investigating, are looking at. The manhunt for the people or the person who is responsible for this is still under way.

The FBI just releasing photos, new photos of one of the packages that this bomb came in. We believe that's the one that was addressed to Hillary Clinton, Wolf.

And clearly, investigators are not saying much about where they are in terms of trying to find the person or the people behind -- behind this whole series of bombs.

But certainly, a lot of concern across the country now. The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force is running this investigation. They have increased the size of investigators assigned to the investigation.

Remember, this all began on Monday night when one of the first pipe bombs was sent to George Soros' home in New York, and from there, the FBI certainly has expanded the investigation with the discovery of new devices sent to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and, of course, now the one at CNN, which now investigators are reviewing. They have that device in their possession, and they're hoping they can get lots of clues from that device, Wolf.

BLITZER: Shimon, I want you to stand by. Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, he's over in our New York bureau right now at the Time Warner Center. He was evacuated as he was anchoring with Poppy Harlow earlier this morning, once the bomb fear was discovered in New York.

First of all, tell us more about the evacuation and what's going on now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we were one target in what has proven to be a multitarget attack, spread out over a number of states today. Told that this device that made it into the building here at CNN, into the mail room, was an active, explosive device, thankfully spotted by the mail room team as they were scanning it. They immediately called 911.

That call went through a few minutes past 10 a.m. in the morning while we were on the air. We heard that alarm. We evacuated. And it was because of the quick reaction from the New York Police Department. They were here immediately. The bomb squad was here. Members of the police, the fire department, they got us all safely, as well as dozens of other people working on this street here, closed off for a number of hours while they confirmed that it was safe.

First the explosive device, then there was a concern about a secondary attack. White powder found in that device, as well. No hard answer yet on what that white powder was. But again, with that, as with the explosive device, exercising an abundance of caution throughout.

And it was that kind of day. And you can still hear the security services in and around our offices, because the state of alert remains very high. That was the day today we had here at CNN.


BRYAN PAARMANN, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, COUNTERTERRORISM DIVISION: We will turn over every rock; we will turn every corner. We will talk to everybody that we have to in order to mitigate this threat.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, the FBI is actively investigating the explosive device sent to CNN's New York offices. This after a string of devices were sent to the homes and offices of prominent public figures, including two former presidents. Authorities are now calling these attempted attacks acts of terror.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We will take every precaution we can. But we will not let terrorism win. Not today, not ever.

SCIUTTO: The device sent to CNN, which was addressed to former CIA director John Brennan, contained a suspicious white powder, as well. It was removed from CNN's offices and taken to an NYPD facility in the Bronx to be analyzed. This according to a law enforcement official.

This is the moment a fire alarm went off in our New York offices at 10:09 a.m. Eastern Time.

(on camera): -- explosive devices. And to have projectiles, I mean, that's -- that's a -- excuse me. That sounds like a fire alarm here. We'll keep you posted on that.

[17:05:03] (voice-over): One minute later, my colleague, Poppy Harlow, and I joined our colleagues in evacuating the Time Warner Center in New York.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: There's a fire alarm here.

SCIUTTO (on camera): You might have heard it in the background. We're going to find out what the latest is --

HARLOW: We'll be right back.

SCIUTTO: -- here at CNN. We're going to be right back.

(voice-over): The package delivered to CNN was among a series of bombs sent this week to distinguished Democratic leaders, including the D.C. home of former president Barack Obama and the New York home of former president bill Clinton and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE/PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We are fine, thanks to the men and women of the Secret Service, who intercepted the package addressed to us long before it made its way to our home.

SCIUTTO: Another suspicious package intercepted at a mail sorting facility for Capitol Hill, addressed to Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a frequent target of President Trump.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, she is a low I.Q. individual. Maxine Waters.

SCIUTTO: Earlier this week on Monday, a bomb was sent to the upstate New York home of wealthy Democratic donor George Soros, another favorite target of Trump and right-wing conspiracy theorists. Because of an incorrect address, another package, which was intended for former attorney general, Eric Holder, was sent back to the return address. The same return address on the packages intended for Brennan, Clinton and Obama: an office of Democratic congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Florida.

Today President Trump spoke out against the threats.

TRUMP: In these times, we have to unify. We have to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.

SCIUTTO: However, the president has often inflamed the political rhetoric. His crowd in Houston on Monday broke into a "CNN sucks" chant.




TRUMP: I don't like 'em either.

SCIUTTO: Tonight, officials are urging members of the public and politicians to stop the hateful rhetoric for the sake of safety.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: To all public officials of all partisan affiliations, don't encourage violence. Don't encourage hatred. Don't encourage attacks on media. You could disagree, but you have to show respect for people and air your disagreements peacefully.


SCIUTTO: The FBI, the New York Police Department, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, they are all continuing the investigation as we speak. The primary concern is, will the person or persons behind these multiple explosive devices, do they have more to send? Do they have more targets? That is a real concern.

They have an advantage now, though, that including that device found at CNN, they did not have to detonate it. They have it intact. That provides the possibility of gleaning intelligence from the device, including the possibility of fingerprints, other telltale signs that it could help identify the person or persons behind sending these multiple devices, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jim Sciutto, I want you to stand by. Shimon Prokupecz is with us, our crime and justice reporter. And you're getting new information on the manhunt right now. They're looking for a suspect or suspects.

PROKUPECZ: That's right. And, you know, a lot of this now will go quiet and go dark from the FBI, because this is what they do now. Now there's a hunt. They're on sort of this mission to find the person or people behind this.

They have some clues. They have some major clues now that Jim -- as Jim was describing. They have a device that was live, that is intact. They will be able to perhaps lift fingerprints off of that device, DNA, other information that can allow them to try and circle in on where this person is.

The other thing is they're going to look to see where some of these parts that were made -- that were used to make this device, where was it purchased? And wherever that may be, you better believe that the FBI will be there.

The other thing is that we have been told that a courier delivered this -- a messenger, a courier. It was delivered to the CNN building. So that is a major clue also for the FBI and certainly the NYPD.

The concern is, right, if this was a courier, was this mailed to a courier and then delivered to CNN, or did someone actually bring this to the courier and say, "Hey, deliver this to this location?" So we don't know the answer to that yet.

The key there is, though, that they could have someone in New York who's doing this, who is the person behind this.

So obviously, this is what the NYPD is on the big search for now, is who is behind this. And certainly, the FBI. And also the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force has added resources, has added investigators to this. Because that really is the big thing now. They don't want any more devices out there, obviously. And they need to find out where this person is.

BLITZER: And so just to be precise on this whole notion, there's a major manhunt under way for the suspect or suspects. This package was hand-delivered, a courier delivered it to the CNN New York bureau at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Center.

PROKUPECZ: That's right.

BLITZER: What about the other bombs? Were they hand-delivered, as well, to the Obamas, Clintons, Eric Holder, George Soros? What about the other bombs?

[17:10:06] PROKUPECZ: Well, the George Soros, we've been told, was delivered. They believe it was brought there by somebody and placed in the mailbox. They don't believe that went through the mail.

It's not clear the other devices. We know at least one of the devices that was meant for Eric Holder was sent to the wrong address and was returned. That device is believed to have been sent through the mail. We don't know about the Hillary Clinton device or the Barack Obama device, whether or not that was delivered by courier.

But the courier here changes the dynamic, certainly. Because there's going to be interaction. There's going to be additional information that investigators will be able to learn because of that. But having that device, having it fully intact, man, that's going to bring a lot of clues to investigators.

BLITZER: What about the suspicious package that was sent to the congressional office of Congresswoman Maxine Waters --


BLITZER: -- who has often been lambasted by the president?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, that, too, we're told, is now linked. They believe that is connected to the other five. So authorities now investigating a total of six devices, six -- might as well call them bombs that have been sent to various places across the country. Now the key is really to find out who is behind this. And also I think authorities are really concerned that, obviously,

that there could be other devices out there. That is why you're seeing the FBI send out information, and you also saw the police department, like, in Washington. They have tweeted out a photo of the packaging, the envelope that some of these devices were delivered in. Because they want to make sure that mailrooms and homes and people's places of businesses are aware of what to look for, should they get something like this in the mail or should something like this be delivered.

So clearly, authorities very concerned here that there could be other devices out there.

BLITZER: And clearly, it's a connection between all of the -- John Miller, the counterterror official in New York City said the package that was delivered to the Obamas was nearly identical to the package delivered to the Clintons. And then he went on to say that there were multiple similar packages with what you're describing as a live bomb inside. Fortunately, none of them went off.

PROKUPECZ: We are lucky that none of these went off. I mean, certainly, for our colleagues in CNN, how frightening. In New York, and people who live in the building and work in that building, we are very, very lucky. Because this certainly was built in a way to cause damage. Why it didn't go off, I'm sure authorities will explain.

The other thing is, we're going to know how much damage this could have caused, because what happens in these kinds of situations, the NYPD will test this. They will take everything, the ingredients that are inside this bomb and do their own bomb and then show just how much damage something like this could have created. And then we'll see. I mean, the idea that this was perhaps maybe cannot cause as much damage, was rudimentary. This was meant to cause damage, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly was. It could have killed, potentially, a lot of people.

PROKUPECZ: That's right.

BLITZER: I know you're working your law enforcement, counterterrorism sources. We'll get back to you, Shimon.

President Trump condemned the attempted bombings as despicable and called for unity, rejecting political violence.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. She's in Wisconsin right now. The president going to Wisconsin tonight to hold another political rally.

Kaitlan, these rallies are where the president frequently goes after his political opponents, including many of those who were targeted by these bombs today. So what else did the president say today?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. These rallies are typically where we hear the president's most divisive rhetoric. But that's not what he was saying today when he condemned these attacks. He called for unity in the country.

Now, this is at a bill-signing at the White House, and the first lady, Melania Trump, came out first. She condemned these attacks, and then President Trump got up to the microphone, and this is what he had to say.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The full weight of our government is being deployed to conduct this investigation and bring those responsible for these despicable acts to justice. We will spare no resources or expense in this effort.

And I just want to tell you that, in these times, we have to unify. We have to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message, that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America. It's a very bipartisan statement. I can tell you from both sides, we both agree on that.

This egregious conduct is abhorrent to everything we hold dear and sacred as Americans. My administration will provide additional updates as they become available, and I just want to thank everybody for their understanding. We're extremely angry, upset, unhappy about what we witnessed this morning, and we will get to the bottom of it.


COLLINS: So Wolf, there he says he's angry; they're upset about this. But a lot of people who watched the president's remarks noticed that he didn't name the people that these packages were addressed to. A lot of them are his favorite political targets, especially -- especially at rallies like the one he's coming to tonight here in Wisconsin. Maxine Waters, John Brennan, who he stripped of his security clearance recently.

[17:15:08] And he also did not note that that package that was addressed to the former CIA director was sent to CNN. A news outlet that he regularly criticizes and encourages his crowd to go and chant "CNN sucks" multiple times a week. He didn't note -- he didn't note any of that in his remarks earlier at the White House today.

BLITZER: Did the president at all suggest he was going to tone down his comments in terms of -- especially at these political rallies where he goes after the news media, specifically CNN, among others?

COLLINS: Wolf, he didn't mention that at all. He actually did not draw a connection between the fact that those packages were sent to people he regularly criticizes and to an outlet he regularly criticizes. And that's the typical stuff you hear at rallies like this. This is when it's the most divisive rhetoric that we get from the president, and lately, ahead of these midterm elections, these are happening three or four times a week. And it's often a lot of things like this.

BLITZER: Was there --


TRUMP: If you want the fake news to finally investigate Hillary Clinton, we'll just have --




TRUMP: Don't worry, I don't like them either, OK.

You know Maxine, low I.Q. individual.


COLLINS: So there he's going after Maxine Waters, one of the people who a package was sent to during this entire saga.

And he also, we should note last week, praised a congressman for assaulting a reporter, something he later pleaded guilty to.

So Wolf, the question on everyone's mind tonight is the president going to come to Wisconsin, and is he going to tone down the rhetoric? Is he going to cool temperatures here, and to see and echo what he said in the East Room at the White House earlier, when he was calling for unity and denouncing denouncing these attacks. Or is this going to be more of the same: him encouraging the "CNN sucks" chants or going after his perceived political enemies? Those are the questions that we're looking at tonight.

Because Wolf, with other politicians, as we've seen in the past -- John McCain comes to mind -- when their supporters would make comments like that, they would stop them, either correct them or tell them publicly that they disagreed with that divisive rhetoric that they were mentioning. The question is whether or not President Trump is going to take that opportunity when he comes to Wisconsin tonight.

BLITZER: We'll see if he goes after the CNN and the news media tonight. We'll see what he says. We'll see if the crowd starts chanting, as they often do at these Trump political rallies, "Lock her up, lock her up," referring to Hillary Clinton, who was a target of this terror earlier in the day, as well.

Kaitlan, we're going to get back to you in Wisconsin. Kaitlan Collins reporting for us.

Joining us now, Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. He's a member of both the Foreign Relations and Judiciary Committees.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. Do you see what we saw unfold, these various bomb incidents today, were politically motivated terrorism?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Well, obviously, when you have a lot of politicians attacked and also a news organization that covers politics, it's obviously politically motivated. So I think that that's pretty clear.

BLITZER: Let me read to you, Senator, what Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN, said. He just issued a statement, and it's very, very strong.

"There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media. The president and especially the White House press secretary should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that."

Has the president's rhetoric, Senator, against the news media, including CNN, calling us the enemy of the American people, for example, fake news, has that stoked these violent tendencies, at least in some people?

FLAKE: I think that that's obvious. I've been concerned about this for a long time. I spoke about it at length in the Senate, starting in January about the president's rhetoric.

We have a record number of journalists that have been detained internationally, a record number that have been murdered. And to use a phrase that has such a horrible pedigree, like "enemy of the people," continually, and to ridicule and to encourage chants against the media at events, just stokes this.

And so I hope that the president will follow the very good words that he said today. And actually, at the rally, if people start chanting, "Lock her up," or things against the media, that he'll quiet them. That's what, as was mentioned, that's what John McCain did during the campaign. He actively looked to lessen the rhetoric and to tone it down. I hope that this president will do the same.

[17:20:04] BLITZER: You know, because it is so disturbing, and I know this for a fact, so many people, including some of the president's close friends and advisers over the past year-plus have gone to him quietly, behind the scenes, and have appealed to him to stop all the condemnation of the news media, warning him that this could lead --

FLAKE: Right.

BLITZER: -- potentially to violence. He has refused to do so. Why do you think he refuses to tone it down?

FLAKE: Well, it's a good applause line at rallies. And that's what's concerning.

You know, what is most concerning about this is not as much what the president says at those rallies. You can expect that now. It's tough to believe that he'll change. But the people behind him. And to hear them continue and go on and follow the president's lead here. That's really disturbing. Because long after this president is gone, you know, I hope that -- that we can change this.

But anyway, that's what's really disturbing, is not just what the president is saying, but to have people follow it. I hope that people will stop at these rallies. One, the president has an obligation as the president of the United States not to encourage this. But certainly, those behind him and those around him shouldn't participate in this kind of thing.

BLITZER: Because the president --

FLAKE: And I should say, on the other side --

BLITZER: Go ahead.

FLAKE: I should say, people on all sides need to tone it down, as well. The statement that we should be civil after the election, that's not a statement that should be made. Or people encouraging people to go and heckle politicians in restaurants or whatever else. That's out of line, as well. So we could all do a little better here. But it certainly needs to start with the president of the United States.

BLITZER: As you know -- as you know, Senator, the president, he often, as we pointed out, attacks CNN --

FLAKE: Right.

BLITZER: -- and other news organizations as fake news, and he's said that awful phrase, the news media is the enemy of the American people. And he's often --

FLAKE: Right.

BLITZER: -- also tweeted out these memes, depicting CNN being violently attacked.

Given that history, do you believe the president has a unique responsibility, including tonight, in his speech in Wisconsin, to specifically mention CNN by name when he condemns this attempted bomb attack?

FLAKE: I think the president has a responsibility to tone down the rhetoric. I think that he has a responsibility to be the most adult among us here. And given what has been said, given the celebration of someone who attacked the media, who actually pled guilty to attacking the media and to praise that, that's simply out of line.

For the president to stand next to Duterte of the Philippines when he refers to the media as spies, and for the president to laugh along with it, that simply is unseemly.

And words like this matter. That's why you have presidents and despots around the world using the term "fake news" to silence legitimate opposition. So words matter, and I think the president has a unique responsibility to tone down the rhetoric and actually act responsibly here.

BLITZER: Any chance he'll do the right thing and say tonight, "You know, I apologize for some of the words I've said, and I promise not to do it again"?

FLAKE: I would hope so. But that hasn't been the record. So I don't expect that as much.

But I hope that people around him, that we don't hear the chants that we typically do at these rallies. That just -- that doesn't say good things about where we are right now. And so I hope that, if the president won't, that at least those around him.

And other elected officials, I think, have a responsibility. No, we can't respond to every tweet that the president tweets or everything that he says. But when he goes so far out of line on these basic things that are simply un-American to say, like "enemy of the people," we have a responsibility as elected officials to stand up and say that's not right.

BLITZER: These suspected packages, these bombs, were delivered to the homes of two former presidents, a former secretary of state, a former attorney general of the United States, a former CIA director, a sitting U.S. Congresswoman. They were delivered. And some have suggested maybe this is not the best night for the president to be going to a political rally in Wisconsin. Do you believe he should have cancelled that rally?

FLAKE: Well, I think that he ought to use this rally as a way to actually make things better. And if he'll follow on the words that he said earlier today and actually commit to do better and to lead us in a better direction as president, then that will help.

[17:25:08] So I don't begrudge him going to the rally. I just hope that he makes better use of it than he has in the past.

BLITZER: By the way, we've got some live pictures, Senator, of the president. He's heading over to Air Force One. He's going to make the flight to Wisconsin. He's at Andrews Air Force Base. He just got off of Marine One. He'll make that flight to Wisconsin, attend that political rally. We're less than two weeks away from the midterm elections, as you know.

In the past, Senator, you've -- you've blamed both sides for the current awful, ugly political climate that exists here in the United States. But the president, as you note, is the most powerful politician in the United States. He's the leader of the free world. His words carry enormous weight. Is there anyone in a comparable position among the Democrats, for example, that uses this kind of awful, angry rhetoric?

FLAKE: No. There's not, frankly. Like I said, I think all of us share some blame here. Certainly, both sides can do better.

But the president is in a unique position as president of the United States. Republicans control both chambers, the House and the Senate and the White House. And we can do better. And the president is the head of the party. And he's the head of the country.

BLITZER: All right. Senator -- Senator Jeff Flake, thank you so much for joining us. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona.

Our reporters and analysts, they've been working their stories. And Shimon, I know you're getting some more information right now. So let's start once again with you.

First of all, update our viewers here in the United States and around the world on the very latest as far as the manhunt is concerned, the search for a suspect or suspects.

PROKUPECZ: Right. So one of the biggest clues, I think, right now for investigators is this courier that delivered the package to the CNN building in New York. That's going to be key here for them. They know who the courier is. They're obviously interviewing the company. It's a company, they're in New York. They're talking to them. So that's where investigators are.

They're also -- probably already have started trying to pick the forensics apart from the device. They have an entirely intact device, which is going to be -- prove very fruitful, I'm sure, for investigators. They're going to be able to figure out where some of the components used to make this bomb, where they were purchased.

And one thing, you know, that investigators are stressing to us that we've been talking to is that this thing was a bomb. This thing was meant to go off. Why it didn't go off, we just don't know. But certainly, that is something that is going to be part of the investigation.

And there is. There is the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force is overseeing this investigation. They have added investigators. The task force has grown. There is a 24-hour command center that's just dealing with this investigation. And they're spreading out probably all over the country, A, trying to make sure there are no more packages and, B, really trying to find this person or people behind this.

BLITZER: Yes, whoever did this clearly was hoping to kill all of these former officials, former presidents and others. It's an awful situation.

Laura, the president earlier today said that "The full weight of our government is being deployed to conduct this investigation." So walk us through the full weight of the U.S. government.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I think it's really about information-sharing at this point, as Shimon said. The Joint Terrorism Task Force is taking the lead on this. But they're obviously getting full support from the NYPD, from the ATF, from the postal inspector service. And at this point, all about piecing it together to figure out, get to the bottom of who did this, whether it's one person, whether it's more than one person, trying to do as much information-sharing and open communication as possible.

But it's also interesting: the FBI is really calling on the public for help in this. They have blasted out, tweeted out a picture of what one of the packages looks like. They're asking for the public to alert them as soon as they see anything that looks like this. Obviously, there are multiple states involved here, which requires an enormous amount of coordination, Wolf. BLITZER: They have a lot -- Phil Mudd, they have a lot of clues right

now. And presumably, they're implementing -- they're working on those clues.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Sure. One of the things we haven't discussed is you look at the number of devices. You would say the number of devices increases risk to the public and also increases risk to whoever did this. Every one of those devices, you've got to look inside; you've got to look outside. Every bomb has a signature. How did this individual wire these things? How did he tape them? I suspect they know already whether these were made by a common individual.

Simple questions. Are there fingerprints on them? Are there serial numbers on anything within those devices?

And then you're looking outside. Did he touch anything with a fingerprint? I want to know, even minor stuff. Stamps. Did he lick a stamp? That's DNA.

So you look at the number of devices and the multiple -- the multiple number of times this individual might have left anything from a fingerprint to DNA. They must know something already, at least.

BLITZER: And Jeffrey, if you look at the targets of these various bomb plots, that gives some clues to the investigators, as well.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I'll say. I mean, there are all people that Donald Trump hates They are all people that he has used violent, ugly, incendiary rhetoric against, whether it's journalists like CNN, where the John Brennan letter was addressed; or Hillary -- Hillary Clinton, from the "lock her up" chants.

[17:30:20] This is not -- you know, there is a lot of false equivalence that goes on in these discussions. When we say, "Well, you know, both sides need to tone down their rhetoric." This is not a both sides issue. This is a Donald Trump issue.

Donald Trump is the only one who has been using violent rhetoric that suggests and endorses violence, like he endorsed the congressman for criminally assaulting a reporter last week in Montana. I mean, this is all on -- now, I don't know about the legal responsibility. We'll see who -- you know, who did this. But in terms of who's using this kind of rhetoric, it's only Donald Trump. It's not anyone else.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You know, it's interesting. If you take a look at who was receiving these suspected packages, these bombs, George Soros, who's a very rich guy. He's a billionaire. He supports a lot of Democratic, progressive, liberal causes. Former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Former president Barack Obama. Former CIA director, John Brennan. His package was delivered care of CNN in New York at the Time Warner Center. The former attorney general, Eric Holder.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the congresswoman from Florida, her name was on the return address, and the package that was supposed to go to Eric Holder actually was delivered to her, because it was her name on the return.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. It was meant for Eric Holder, and then that went back to -- to her.

The thing is, since the first pipe bomb was discovered, at George Soros' home in New York, the FBI knew that they were dealing with a pretty serious situation. They certainly expected -- they took every precaution. And if you listen to the NYPD talk today, they were expecting other similar devices.

The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force right away came in, took over the investigation. They started sharing information with their partners, with the NYPD, other people, and also, they stepped up security. And they started sharing information about this device.

And that's why the NYPD, as soon as they got the call about what they found this morning, they knew exactly that this was going to be a problem and that this was something much more serious.

And really since Monday, the FBI has been going at this, and they knew that they were dealing with something that was politically motivated. Obviously, they had not said so publicly. But when I was talking to officials in New York about this, they said that they knew that they had something more serious here. And that this was at least the first indications to George Soros' home was that this was being -- this was being done for political reaches.

BLITZER: That was the first of these bomb packages that was, fortunately, intercepted.

The most recent one, Laura, that we learned about, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, had a suspicious package sent to her congressional office, but that was intercepted for us successfully at a clearing center that the U.S. Congress has where they x-ray these kinds of packages.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. And we don't know yet quite why she's not on the list of officials that the FBI sent out just a short time ago. They provided a variety of different names of people whose packages look similar. And we're trying to get to the bottom of exactly why is she not on that list?

We were told that the device that was sent, the package, I should say, had -- bore some similarities to the others. So we're trying to get to the bottom of that.

But Maxine Waters, a frequent target of the president's ires [SIC]. We've heard him call her low-I.Q. multiple times. She's been the subject of threats upon threats, not just from the president, from others to her congressional office. So she's certainly had a target. She's been pretty outspoken, I would say, in response to it, and saying that she's not going to be intimidated by this, Wolf.

BLITZER: What does this say, Phil, that a lot of the addresses and return addresses on these packages clearly had misspelled words? "Florida" was misspelled. John Brennan's last name was misspelled. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's last name was misspelled. What does that say, if anything, to investigators?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I would tell you what it would tell me on the inside. But I'd be cautious on this one. Because until it's a fact, I'm not going to believe it.

What I would be drawing from the initial stage of this is the first question: are there other people involved in this? Going out a step, did someone inspire this individual? Did someone train this individual?

If you look at the nature of the devices and, as you're talking about, packaging that included misspellings, I would be looking saying the likelihood this is a large conspiracy that potentially stretches overseas looks pretty low to me.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, what did you make of the president's statement today when he spoke about this?

TOOBIN: I thought it was ridiculous. I thought the idea that he is calling for national unity when he just last week was celebrating a congressman for assaulting -- criminally assaulting a reporter. I mean, he is the worst messenger there. The idea that he has any standing to claim that the waters should be calmed is completely bogus.

[17:35:05] I mean, he had to say what the speech writers put in front of him. But he has absolutely no credibility on this subject. Absolutely no moral authority. And he is reaping what he sowed.

BLITZER: Phil, what do you think?

MUDD: Look, we're -- let me give a different way to look at this.

The president is taking a risk that we cannot withstand. I'm an analyst. It's a numbers game. Every time he speaks, including encouraging politicians to body-slam journalists, as Jeffrey said, as he did recently. Every time he speaks, if it's 10 or 20 or 30 million people listening, the risk he's taking is that not a single one of them will look at that and say, "That's the president. That's what I'm going to do."

It's not just the environment, which is inappropriate in this country. It's the analytic question that says, "Mr. President, do you want to take the risk that nobody is going to take you seriously?" And this person evidently did.

BLITZER: The bomb that was delivered to CNN, Shimon, was -- they described it as live. Clearly capable of detonating. Do they have any clue yet? And they're working on this bomb and they're going to be sending it eventually over to Quantico for the FBI to investigate, the specialists there. Do they have any clue how damaging, how destructive, how deadly this bomb could have been?

PROKUPECZ: At this point, they probably have some clue, because they'll know some of the components inside. Some of the explosive material, the powder, and exactly how explosive it is. And I think what's going to happen and what normally happens in these

cases is the NYPD -- it could be the FBI, as well, in this case, because they're working together on this -- will recreate the bomb. And then they'll show just how potent it was and how much damage it could have caused. We've seen these in other kinds of cases like the Times Square bombing where they recreated to show the public just how dangerous this could be.

They have a lot of clues already. There's no doubt that the bomb squad in New York, between the FBI and the NYPD, are some of the best. They're working on this in the Bronx. They were able to transport this safely, so obviously, they think they have enough there to work with, where they don't need to detonate it, and they can pull it apart and look at all the different evidence. And they probably have a lot of clues.

We're not going to know about it until they -- obviously, they make an arrest. But I bet they're working off a lot of clues already, just because they have that device. They know a lot already.

BLITZER: They certainly do. All right. Everybody stand by. There's more information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Our law enforcement analyst, former FBI supervisory special agent Josh Campbell, is getting new information. Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is getting more in New York.

Josh, what are you hearing from your sources?


So we're hearing our CNN colleagues here that officers from the New York City Police Department are actually fanning out in multiple locations and attempting to gather evidence, to gather surveillance footage, CCTV footage.

Obviously, this is a critical step in any investigation, where law enforcement officers will want to work their way back, meet with businesses, the city officials in order to gather and then capture this surveillance footage. Again, try to determine, if they're working their way back from the scene of a crime, to help determine who may have been responsible.

Now, to take you quickly inside, Wolf, inside the command center at the FBI office in Manhattan and at FBI headquarters, these are operations that work 24/7. They have people there staffed all of the time. But in a major incident like this, they flip a switch, and they surge personnel to them.

There'll be actually different teams set out in the command center. You'll have a forensics team. You'll have a communications team. There will be a staff, you know, getting leads and generating tips from the public.

And then there's also a section that will be tasking out new orders to include what we see here. You know, gathering this evidence from businesses, from government officials. There will be agencies that are there, again all hands-on-deck approach. That information is gathered in, brought into that central nerve center, the command center and then tasked out to other investigators in order to continue to gather those leads and build that case. It's a major operation, Wolf, and it's continuing as we speak.

BLITZER: Jim, New York City, as we all know, they have a web of cameras, closed-circuit cameras all over the place, especially following the 9/11 terror attacks. And investigators certainly could use those to try to find some more information about who may have been responsible for these bombs.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Listen, Wolf, what we saw put into action today were a whole host of measures and capabilities that the New York Police Department put into effect, much of it after 9/11.

That includes cameras in high-traffic areas here, areas that they consider potential terror targets. And certainly, this neighborhood that we're in here on the southwest corner of Central Park is one of those areas. So those cameras, one asset that they're taking advantage of now.

The other is that in effect quick reaction force. They train all of the time to get to a site within minutes. They do drills oftentimes, every few days, to prove that capability, improve, keep that capability sharp. And we at CNN saw it in action here today. They got here quickly. The bomb squad, the fire department. Investigators, state troopers. Ambulances. We saw them all here within minutes.

And, again, using lessons learned after 9/11, so that they can mitigate if need be, respond to and then find out who's responsible.

[17:40:00] And I'll tell you, it reminds me -- it was two years ago around the same time of year when we had those bombs go off in Chelsea, and down lower in Manhattan. And they used similar resources, cameras, et cetera, to find. And it wasn't long after those bombs went off that they had their suspect in custody in New Jersey.

Doesn't mean they'll be able to move that quickly this time. It appears these devices were sent remotely, although a courier was used here at CNN. So not as easy, perhaps, as finding a device that might have been placed and positioned by someone as opposed to sent. But still, they have a lot of clues.

And as Josh was mentioning there, to have the complete, undetonated devices, that helps, as well. Because they can look, and investigators have told us, they can look for signatures, fingerprints, both literal fingerprints, but also fingerprints in terms of the way this bomb was put together to help, perhaps, lead them to whether it's one individual or several individuals who sent these devices.

And again, just to highlight the point, they believe that the devices sent here and to other two former presidents, a congresswoman, et cetera, they believe those are linked. So possibly looking for one or multiple suspects responsible for all these attacks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. There's certainly a lot of clues. And we'll see how quickly they can find the suspect or suspects.

Jim and Josh, guys, you're doing great reporting for us. We're going to get back to you. I know you're both working your sources.

There are certainly major political implications falling out from this development today from this story. Let's talk about it with our political experts.

And Gloria, let's begin with the president of the United States, speaking out at an earlier event, and he said this.

Among other things, he said, "I'd like to begin today's remarks by providing an update on the suspicious packages and devices mailed to current and former high-ranking government officials. The safety of the American government is my highest and absolute priority."

He then said, "The full weight of our government is being deployed to conduct this investigation and bring those responsible for these despicable acts to justice." And then he added this: "In these times, we have to unify. We have to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America."

What did you make of that statement?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's completely ludicrous, Wolf. I think that, if the president ever listened to himself at one of his rallies, as I did last week, he was in Missoula, and I was doing the Senate race and went to his -- his rally. He would have to say that this applies to his rallies.

For example, "lock her up" chants. What is that about? Is that a threat of violence or -- for Hillary Clinton? What about praising Gianforte for body-slamming a reporter? What about consistently -- he didn't say this at the rally, but he says it many times -- calling the press the enemy of the people? I mean, words matter. They have consequences.

And it's remarkable to me. It's clear to me the president was reading this statement. Because this says "acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America." Well, maybe he ought to think about that a little bit. Because actions have consequences.

BLITZER: Right. I just read what he said. But let's hear precisely -- watch his body language as he reads from the teleprompter.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'd like to begin today's remarks by providing an update on the suspicious packages and devices mailed to current and former high-ranking government officials. The safety of the American people is my highest and absolute priority.

The full weight of our government is being deployed to conduct this investigation and bring those responsible for these despicable acts to justice.

In these times, we have to unify. We have to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message, that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.


BLITZER: Chris Cillizza, what did you think?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: I'm going to sound a lot like Gloria here. We don't know who did this.

BORGER: Yes, that is --

CILLIZZA: We don't know the motive, OK? Here's what we do know. CNN, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Maxine Waters. You go -- you go to any Trump speech, you -- you read any transcript of a Trump address, those topics come up a lot. So that's a common thread.

I don't think Donald Trump created the political environment that we live in. I don't think any of us would suggest it. But there's no question, it is impossible, genuinely impossible to say he has not weaponized this sort of political intolerance. When you say "enemy of the people" about the media repeatedly, when you say about the people who opposed Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation "these are evil people." We're not talking about "These are Democrats, and we disagree." Because both sides say nasty things about one another, in a political context. You are talking about moral judgments.

And a reminder -- I heard this in the last panel -- Donald Trump can say all he wants. Look, I just -- you know, I'm giving a speech. People understand that. Does he know that?

Does he know that everyone who hears when he says the press is the enemy of the people, these are bad people? He's pointing, people are booing, people are -- I'm not going to repeat what people chant. Everyone knows.

Does he know that everyone who is hearing his message knows, well, in some ways -- in a lot of ways, I would say -- this is really a political gambit for Donald Trump because he knows the base doesn't like the media?

Donald Trump -- look, folks, if you think Donald Trump hates the media or "The New York Times" or CNN, ask yourself why he listens to it and reads it so much. I mean, this is -- it doesn't make any sense.

But the problem is who he is talking to, whether it's on Twitter, at a rally. Do they know that? And the concern is they don't. And there's no way he can know whether they do or not. And that's what worries me, broadly speaking, for journalism and just for society.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that's why it's so dangerous. Kaitlan Collins is in Wisconsin. She's covering the President. He's getting ready, flying off to Wisconsin for this political rally tonight.

I understand, Kaitlan, you're getting some new information?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, the President is on his way. He's on Air Force One. He is headed over for a rally and he's been doing a lot of these rallies throughout the weeks ahead of the midterm elections.

He has wanted to get out to support these Republicans that are running ahead of the elections coming up, and tonight is just more of that. But tonight, there is a different focus on this rally because of what happened today and what's going to be said.

Now, before the President left, he got a little delayed from what was on the schedule when he was supposed to depart the White House.

And as aides and White House reporters were waiting for the President to leave the Oval Office, you could see that he was in there meeting with several officials, including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, both senior advisers to the President. And Jared Kushner is traveling with the President, according to reporters who saw him get on Air Force One.

Now, Wolf, this morning as we watched these events unfold and as we learned more and more throughout the hours of who exactly it was these packages have been addressed to and how all of this unfolded, we saw the White House respond to this.

At first through Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, issuing a statement, saying they condemn any kind of violence, whether it's against people like George Soros, who she did not name, the liberal donor, or others -- as we saw, as we learned, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and what not. And then later, she came out and included CNN in that, as well.

One really strong statement we saw was from Ivanka Trump, the President's daughter, who issued a statement. And I'm going to read it to you now.

She said on Twitter, I strongly condemn the attempted acts of violence against President Obama, the Clinton family, CNN, and others.

Ivanka Trump wrote on Twitter, there is no excuse. America is better than this.

And then she went on to thank the Secret Service who played a large role in intercepting some of these packages that were sent to people like Barack Obama and like Hillary Clinton.

Then the President, people were waiting on his tweet, his response. Sarah Sanders had put out a statement, and of course, she speaks for the President. She's his paid press secretary.

And then the President quote tweeted the Vice President, Mike Pence, who issued a pretty strong statement condemning these acts, as well, including labeling CNN and people specifically in his statement.

And we saw the President quote tweeting him and saying he wholeheartedly agreed. And then we heard from the President in person at 2:00 p.m. Of course, you just played that clip there, Wolf, of the President saying that he strongly condemns these acts. He denounces them and he called for unity.

Some pretty strong words from the President about these acts. One thing that people who watched that did notice is that he didn't name the people who these packages were sent to and he didn't name that one was sent to CNN.

A lot of people drew the conclusion that some of those people that these were sent to were people that are the President's favorite political targets, some people he often goes after at rallies like the one he's going to be at tonight. So we're seeing a new focus on this rally tonight, on the things that the President's supporters often say.

And while it's certainly not everyone who supports the President or everyone here at this rally who echoes that sentiment or feel that way, we do often see the "lock her up" chants, referring to Hillary Clinton, someone who was an intended recipient of one of those packages today.

And Maxine Waters is another favorite of his. He often goes after her, labeling her a, quote, low I.Q. individual. That is really something that he has ramped up since we have been here in the midterms season.

As the President has been coming out, rooting for Republicans, trying to gin up some support for them, he has gone after Maxine Waters a lot, saying that that is essentially what the Democratic Party is going to look like and what Washington overall is going to look like if the Democrats do do well next Tuesday when voters go to the polls.

[17:50:00] Of course, CNN is a big part of that, too. It's hard to ignore the crowd chanting, "CNN sucks." And one of our reporters who was at the CNN -- or at the Trump rally in Texas this week noted that it was particularly loud at that one.

So, Wolf, the question, of course, tonight is going to be, does the President take this opportunity to try to tamp down the rhetoric to say, you know, we've said this before but in light of these events that happened today, this is a really serious issue? That's really what people are going to be looking to see, what it is the President says when he comes out to this rally tonight.

But we spoke with some of the people who are in line, people waiting hours for these rallies. We spoke with some of the people, Wolf, and we asked them, would you feel comfortable participating in those chants? What do you think about all of this? And one woman said, yes, that she did feel fine participating in it.

Wolf, we'll see what happens tonight.

BLITZER: We're going to get back to you, Kaitlan. She is in Wisconsin. The President is on his way. He's aboard Air Force One right now heading to that political rally in Wisconsin.

You know, Sabrina, the President, in his comments today, didn't specifically name the targets by name, the targets of these bomb attacks, that included all these -- in these packages. But as Kaitlan correctly points out, he is never shy in talking by name, mentioning these individuals by name, at these political rallies, going after them in very ugly ways. Watch this.




TRUMP: Hillary is a very dishonest person. If you look at the things she says, I mean, they're so dishonest.

I think Brennan is a very bad guy. And if you look at it, a lot of things happened under his watch. I think he's a very bad person.

And of course, the legendary low I.Q. Maxine Waters.


TRUMP: Low I.Q. person.

It was very polarized under President Obama. Unbelievably polarized under president Obama.

He'll go to a person holding a sign who gets paid by Soros or somebody.


BLITZER: All right, so he goes after them often. He didn't, today at his event, even mention them and say it's awful what happened to the former President of the United States, President Obama, the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General, former CIA Director. He didn't have the courtesy to do that.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Look, the President today did the bare minimum that he could do in reading from prepared remarks that simply condemned the attempted attacks without actually -- certainly, what I didn't hear was denouncing specifically efforts to attack or target the media or some of his political opponents.

What I didn't hear from the President was defending the importance of the freedom of the press and the role that it plays in a functional democracy. I didn't hear from the President saying that, even if you disagree with someone's politics.

The Obamas, the Clintons, these are former public servants. They are -- and they have -- they are patriots. We're talking about the former President of the United States and the former first lady.

And I think that we -- to do so would have perhaps been to acknowledge the role that he has played in terms of the rhetoric, both at his rallies, in tweets, that give a cue to people out there who believe that they perhaps could take that as a reason to justify retaliating against some of these individuals.

And the sad part is one day of calling on Americans to come together, that's not going to undo the damage that has been done over the last couple of years. And so the real question -- and I think many of us would be skeptical to think that this will prompt some sort of change in the President, if you look at his history. But the real question is, is this the moment where the attacks end?


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: We have an election coming up next week.

BLITZER: Well, let me get Bianna.


BLITZER: Let me get Bianna to answer that question. What do you think, Bianna? You've watched this president on a day-to-day basis.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: One can always hope, Wolf. I mean, it's another reminder of how isolated this president is from his predecessors as well.

You didn't hear him mention them by name. I'm not sure if there were phone calls behind the scenes to the previous presidents. And if there were, I believe now would have been a good time to make that known.

At this point in a presidency, you typically at least see a few opportunities where a predecessor and their -- or a president and their predecessor have photo ops together. They attend the same events.

It's a show of unity. It's a very special club. Only 45 people have been in this club before, and it would do a lot, I think, for the country to see them together as it always does when you see presidents of different parties together at events.

When you see them laughing together, you're reminded that their one mission is to protect the country that they love. Whether they had different policies when they were in office, you know, that wasn't the most important thing in those circumstances. So, again, like Sabrina said, these are previous presidents who were attacked.

[17:55:03] And obviously, the media as well. It's always uncomfortable to cover the media. You know, I'm so proud of how CNN has handled this. And it's been nonstop for the network, as it always is, and it continues to go on, but, luckily, no one was hurt this time.

You're reminded of how important leadership is in a moment like that and why it matters that you're the President of the country as a whole and not your base. So whether or not we hear different from him tonight, we'll see.

BORGER: Well, that's going to be interesting, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, this is a critical moment for the country and for the President of the United States.

BORGER: Well, we'll have to see how he is tonight.

BLITZER: Tonight, he has an opportunity to do the right thing before this huge crowd that has gathered in Wisconsin. Let's see if he does.

Everybody, standby. We're going to take a very, very quick break. Much more on the breaking news right after this.