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Bombs Sent to CNN, Clintons, Obamas, Others in "Act of Terror"; Interview With New York Police Commissioner James O'Neill; Interview With New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 24, 2018 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:37]

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 on a coordinated attempt to bomb and potentially kill the Obamas, the Clintons and other former and current government officials, as well as employees of CNN's offices in New York City, where hundreds and hundreds of people were evacuated.

New York's mayor is calling it an act of terror.

First, pipe bombs were detected at the Clintons' home in Chappaqua, New York, and the Obamas' home here in Washington, D.C. Then, a bomb addressed to the former CIA Director John Brennan was detected at CNN's Time Warner Center in New York City.

Similar devices were addressed to or sent to the former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder, the Democratic House member Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as well as Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters. In addition, Democratic mega-donor George Soros was also the target of this kind of bomb.

Tonight, President Trump is denouncing the attempted attacks as despicable. He's calling for the nation to unify. He never mentioned, though, that he has personally and very publicly criticized all of those bombing targets.

This hour, I will speak with New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our national correspondent, Miguel Marquez. He's in New York for us.

Miguel, a major federal investigation into these pipe bombs is now under way.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Huge investigation, and the number one question out there for them, are there more pipe bombs out there, are more on the way to different locations? A nationwide hunt for whoever is responsible now under way.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (voice-over): This is the pipe bomb sent to CNN's New York offices.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: What we saw here today was an effort to terrorize. This clearly is an act of terror, attempting to undermine our free press and leaders of this country through acts of violence.

MARQUEZ: The NYPD says the live explosive device was discovered at the Columbus Circle mailroom.

JAMES O'NEILL, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: Responding officers identified a device that appeared to be a live explosive device. Additionally, there was an envelope containing white powder that was discovered as part of that original packaging.

MARQUEZ: It was addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan, who has appeared on CNN air, but is not a CNN contributor.

The package was one of many discovered in multiple locations addressed to prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The incident at CNN unfolded on live television, shortly after 10:00 a.m., when a fire alarm could be heard going off on air.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: They were explosive devices, and to have projectiles, I mean, that's a...

(ALARM BLARING)

SCIUTTO: Excuse me. That sounds like a fire alarm here. We will keep you posted on that.

Tom Fuentes, if you're still hearing us here -- they're connected now?

MARQUEZ: A minute later, CNN anchors Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto were evacuating CNN's New York headquarters, along with hundreds of employees, tourists and New Yorkers from neighbor buildings.

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

SCIUTTO: There's a fire alarm here. You might have heard it in the background. We're going to find out what the latest is here at CNN.

HARLOW: We will be right back.

SCIUTTO: We're going to be right back.

MARQUEZ: About two hours later, the New York Police Department removed the bomb from the building in a specialized truck. Another bomb was addressed to former President Barack Obama's home in

D.C. The Secret Service found it during a routine mail screening before it was sent to the house.

And another was mailed to former President Bill and Hillary Clinton's home just north of New York City. It, too, was intercepted by the Secret Service. A bomb sent to a former Attorney General Eric Holder had the wrong address and was returned to Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz's office in Florida. That was the return label listed on the package.

A suspicious package addressed to Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters was discovered at a congressional sorting facility in Maryland, and, on Monday, wealthy Democratic donor George Soros also received a bomb.

[18:05:00]

A law enforcement official tells CNN that the initial examination of all the devices shows them to be constructed similarly. At least one of the devices appeared to contain projectiles, including shards of glass. The devices are rudimentary, but functional.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now, whoever is sending these bombs is clearly sending a message as well.

For the Holder bomb, the bombs to the Obamas, to the Clintons, Soros, and the package sent to Brennan here at CNN today, all of them had the same return address, that of the former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, so clearly whoever is doing it is sending a very obvious political message -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly, indeed. All right, thanks very much, Miguel Marquez, in New York.

Let's bring in our justice correspondent, Evan Perez. He has been working the story all day long.

What are you learning from the investigators as we speak right now?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, right now, the FBI lab in Quantico is examining at least some of the initial devices.

You know the first device that was found was the one that was found at the home of George Soros in Westchester County, New York. That one is

already in the hands of the counterterrorism investigators at the FBI.

The other ones -- I think there's one in -- the one in New York that was found -- that was delivered to the CNN studios there. That one is still in the hands of the NYPD. But we expect that that will also be sent down.

And what they're going to look forward, they're going to take them apart. They're going to try to see what they can learn there, whether there are any fingerprints on some of the tape that was found on there, whether the stamps might be able to tell anything about when these stamps were bought, where it was mailed, the ones that were mailed.

These are things that the U.S. Postal Service is very, very good at tracking and figuring out, for instance, which mail facilities would have handled this.

In the case of at least the Soros device, the device that was found at the home of George Soros, we're told that that one appeared to have been delivered, hand-delivered in the mailbox. So perhaps there would be fewer fingerprints than if it was handled by different mail carriers, for instance.

So there's a lot of clues that the FBI and the investigators working this can go on based on the devices themselves.

BLITZER: Yes, the devices were apparently very, very similar, all of them.

How dangerous, based on all the information you're getting, were these bombs?

PEREZ: Look, they were pipe bombs. These were real pipe bombs. And at least the ones that have been examined, there were there was a sulphuric substance that appeared to be what would go off was if it was disturbed.

It was designed to go off. So the question is, is this a bomb-maker who is so sophisticated that they knew exactly how they were doing it, or to make sure that they were sending their message, but perhaps not hurt anyone, or was this someone who was inept at their bomb-making and simply none of these devices that we have counted now, six of them, was able to go off?

So that's the big question for investigators. We're told that these were rudimentary devices. This is the kind of stuff that you can learn from looking at videos on YouTube. However, people could have gotten hurt here.

BLITZER: How are investigators looking right now at this as a potential act of terror?

PEREZ: Well, that's the way it's being treated.

The JTTF, the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York, which has got the investigation now fully open, they're handling it as a domestic terror incident. Obviously, that's not presuming that there couldn't be other things that could turn up in this investigation, Wolf, but that's where they begin at this point.

And right now, those are the clues they're working with, is that this is a domestic terrorism. And this is a serial bombing attempt in the United States. So they're treating it very, very seriously.

BLITZER: And all six of these bombs were similar? PEREZ: All of them were similar. All of them had the labels that they appeared to have come from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the congresswoman there in Florida.

In the case of the one that was sent to Eric Holder, he had the wrong address, and so the device or the package was returned to sender, in this case, was sent to Debbie Wasserman Schultz's office in Sunrise, Florida.

That's the similarity. And the devices themselves, from what we have been told, that they have been examined, every one of them appear to be of the similar make, the similar build. So whoever is doing this, it's the same skill set that put it together.

BLITZER: And the suspected package, the bomb sent to Congresswoman Maxine Waters also similar?

PEREZ: Well, that one is still being examined to make sure whether it's of this exact build or whether it's something different.

Again, that's something that the FBI and the U.S. Capitol Police are still going through. But that right now, it appears to be similar. And so they're treating it in that fashion, Wolf.

But, obviously, it's got some of the same similarities, right? She is somebody who has been critical of this administration. And let me just say something.

Let me pause a little bit here and say that, at this point, investigators do not know who did this. They do not know whether it's someone on the left who is trying to make sure that someone -- that the right is blamed for this, or if it's someone on the right who is trying to harm people on the left.

[18:10:01]

They simply do not know. And so right now, for investigators, they're -- everything is still on the table for them.

BLITZER: They're looking at all these various opportunities.

All right, thanks very much, Evan. I know you're working your sources. We will get back to you.

I want to go back to New York City right now.

CNN's Kate Bolduan is on the scene for us.

You have been there all day, Kate. You have been reporting on what's going on. You have been talking to police, investigators. I understand you have the New York City police commissioner with you right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Wolf.

Police Commissioner James O'Neill is joining me right now.

Commissioner, thank you so much for taking the time tonight.

What is the very latest on the investigation that you can share with us this evening?

O'NEILL: Yes.

As I said at the press conference before, we're not probably going to go too deep into where we are. But I just want all New Yorkers and everyone to know that the Joint Terrorist Task Force continues with this investigation.

We got the device that was removed from CNN up to our bomb squad headquarters up in the Bronx in. And we're working with the FBI and their bomb techs to make sure that's brought down to Quantico to be examined and to help us find out who perpetrated this crime.

BOLDUAN: Commissioner, the mayor said today that he thinks there could be more out there. Is that what you're working with right now? Do you believe there could be?

O'NEILL: Well, it's -- I'm not sure if it's what I believe. But this is this is open-ended. All right?

Last night, we had one, and then we have six. So we have to operate under the assumption that there are more out there. And that's why we need, quite frankly, all New Yorkers to pay attention to what's going on in the city.

Go about your lives, but pay attention to what comes in your mail. If you work in an office building, if you work in the mailroom, pay attention to what's coming in. And we're working with the Postal Service to see if we can interdict if any more of these packages do show up.

So I would say it's a great effort by the NYPD. The initial response this morning was just how it's supposed to work. We had some heads-up people in CNN. CNN security called 911. A sector car from Midtown North showed up.

A sergeant showed up. And they requested ESU and then they requested the bomb squad. And we were able to get everybody -- safely and to remove that device.

BOLDUAN: Are you working -- are you looking through video, surveillance camera video? There's so many cameras in and around this building, of course, Commissioner. How much can that help you?

Have you have been able to see anything that gives you any sort of lead this evening?

O'NEILL: As in any investigation that we do now in 2018, there's there's everything on video.

So, video canvasses are being done. And it's -- I'm sure it'll be helpful in this situation, as it has been so many in the past.

BOLDUAN: There was a courier -- it's believed it was a courier who brought the package to CNN. Is that on video? Is that person, you think, going to be caught on video?

O'NEILL: Yes, I'm pretty sure those images will be caught on video and we will be able to find out where that person came from before they entered the building and where they went to after.

This is, of course, Manhattan, and there are video cameras everywhere.

BOLDUAN: Is they -- are you working under -- are you working -- are you looking for one person? Or do you think you're looking at a team of people tonight?

O'NEILL: Not really sure.

I mean, this is that the initial stages of the investigation. So wherever that leads us, that's what we're going to go, whether it's one person or it's a network. Not really sure at this point.

BOLDUAN: Commissioner, can you help us understand how big of a manhunt this is tonight?

O'NEILL: You have the best people in the world, the best people in law enforcement on this. You have the Joint Terrorist Task Force, which is comprised of the FBI, which we continue to have a great relationship with.

And we have NYPD detectives. And we have people from the state police. And if we do identify someone, and that will be done -- I'm quite certain that will be done within the next few days. And we will put the right people on to make sure that there's an apprehension made as quickly as possible.

BOLDUAN: You described it today as a live explosive. It was also described as a rudimentary, but functional device that was at CNN.

What does that mean? Rudimentary, yes, but could it have still killed someone?

O'NEILL: It would -- it would have -- it's a -- we treated as a live explosive device capable of injuring or possibly killing someone.

That's the way the bomb squad does their business. And I give so much credit to the bomb squad detectives. And just from your cameras alone, you see the bomb squad detectives suited up, going in there with a case, removing it, bringing it to the total containment vehicle, and bringing that up to the Bronx.

So, of course, we treat it as a live explosive device.

BOLDUAN: Commissioner, I know you have to go. I know you're very busy.

I want to bring in Wolf Blitzer, of course. Wolf has a quick -- has a question for you as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, thank you, Kate.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Commissioner, what's your message to New Yorkers tonight?

O'NEILL: So, my message to New York is that the NYPD, what is our job? Our job is to fight crime, keep people safe. And more importantly than that is to make people feel safe.

Now, go about your lives, but pay attention to what's going on around you, whether it's this instance with the packages that are being mailed across the country or any day.

[18:15:03]

Anything you can do to help us keep the city safe, if you see something out there that makes you uncomfortable, dial 911, flag down a cop, give us the chance to fully investigate it, and that's how we're going to make New York City the safest large city in America.

BLITZER: You guys do amazing work up there. And we're grateful to you.

Commissioner, thanks so much for joining us.

O'NEILL: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Kate, thanks to you as well. You have been doing excellent, terrific reporting all day from outside the Time Warner Center. We're grateful to you as well.

Appreciate it very much.

All right, let's get some more reaction right now.

Joining us now, the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo.

Governor, thanks so much for joining us.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Thank you for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, so you're deploying, I understand, what, 100 National Guard troops, doubling security at some key sites in New York, throughout the state, Westchester County, where the Clintons clearly live.

What is the ongoing threat right now?

CUOMO: We don't know what the ongoing threat is right now.

We don't know that there won't be more of these devices that are showing up. Our point with the deployment is we want to make sure the terrorist act doesn't succeed. The terrorist act only succeeds if people are terrorized, there's fear, et cetera.

We have the best law enforcement agencies on the globe, and we are deploying them. You will see more National Guards, you will see more state police, more NYPD. They will be in the tunnels, the subways, et cetera.

And we want people to know that they're safe, and we're on it, and there's protection, and that's the point of the deployment. I don't know that the deployment will actually help in the investigation, which is ongoing, which will be more a function of analyzing the mailings themselves, the bombs themselves, which the FBI, the JTTF is doing, to see where we get from there.

BLITZER: But you clearly have authorities on alert right now for the possibility of discovering more bombs?

CUOMO: Well, there's no doubt about it.

You know, the -- this has continually grown, right? It started with the Soros residence, which was in Westchester County. We handled that, and then it was President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton's residence last night, also in Westchester County, then, obviously this morning, your shop, CNN.

And then we have been finding out about the others. So, you don't know where the string ends, right? And, again, it's not just New York. This has been all across the country. There is an apparent political motivation to it.

We don't want to say definitively until the investigation is done. But if you look at the pattern, it's apparently political. And listening to your broadcast, Wolf, this takes us to a whole new chapter in terrorism, right?

Your last reporter said, well, this appears to be domestic terrorism.

When we talk about terrorism, we have always talked about it in the international context. Even domestic tourism -- terrorism was committed domestically, but normally had an international component, right?

This is a different definition of terrorism. This is political terrorism. This would be, if it turns out, political terrorism, left or right, Democrat or Republican. But this takes us to a new chapter, and, frankly, in some ways, a more frightening chapter, because it is internal to the United States.

What it's saying is, we have gotten so vitriolic, so angry, so hate- filled, that our politics has actually gotten to the point where we're looking to harm one another.

Now, the bomb that we're talking about seemed to be aimed at people on the -- quote, unquote -- "left."

My office received a package, which turned out to be the exact opposite. It was a person who was irate at the right. The Republicans in New York invited a group called the Proud Boys last week. The Proud Boys -- and I hate to even give them publicity -- they're a hate group. They call themselves Western chauvinists. They're white supremacists and they had a forum in New York.

There was violence afterwards. Many people were offended by their presence, and the package my office received was information on the Proud Boys.

[18:20:07]

So you actually have on one day both sides aggravated, angry, hostile, hateful to the other, and that's where we have gotten as a nation, and that, my friend, is more sobering than anything else.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Governor, the package that you guys got in your office in New York City included hateful material, but certainly was not similar to a bomb, which we saw at these other locations in New York and Westchester, here in Washington as well.

CUOMO: No doubt. No doubt.

BLITZER: As you know, Governor, the package that was sent to CNN's office in New York at the Time Warner Center, in Columbus Circle, it was delivered by courier.

The package to George Soros' New York home up in Westchester County, that wasn't mailed either. It was put in a mailbox. Somebody just put it there.

Do you believe the perpetrator or the perpetrators right now -- and I know there's a massive manhunt under way -- are still in your state of New York?

CUOMO: Look, you simply don't know. We're working on that assumption, but you simply don't know.

There could have been a network. And my point is, Wolf, of course, a bomb is more dangerous than sending a package of negative material. But the point is, you are at that point of political volatility, where we now have political terrorism, where our dialogue, our discussion, our debate has gotten so ugly, so mean, so fierce that both sides are enraged.

And that is what is frightening. We have gotten to a point of Democrat/Republican, of red and blue, and we have forgotten that it's really red, white and blue, and that we're still one nation, and we have political differences and we always have, but that's not supposed to split the union.

This is not a civil war that we're engaged in, and that the rhetoric has to come down. Leaders have to take responsibility, because you're seeing the fruits of this angry rhetoric. It does have an effect.

I will give you one other fact that's frightening. The number of anti-Semitic attacks in New York have increased 90 percent between 2016 and 2017, 90 percent, anti-Semitic. Now, there hasn't even been much discussion about Jewish people involved.

Why would anti-Semitic attacks go up that high? Because once you demonize differences, you lose control of hate. The hate feeds on hate.

And this is a nation of differences, whether we like it or not. That's how we were founded. We are all immigrants at one time, except the Native Americans. And once you make diversity and differences the demon, now we are in real trouble, because it's injecting a cancer into the body politic, where literally one cell feeds on the other. And we are precariously close to that cliff.

BLITZER: It is a very, very dangerous and scary situation indeed.

As you know, Governor, President Trump today, he condemned the attempted terror attacks, but he never mentioned any of those individuals or organizations, like CNN, for example, that were targeted. He never mentioned them by name.

What was your reaction to what you heard from the president of the United States?

CUOMO: Look, I think it's nice that he expressed concern. But we have to get beyond that.

We know why this is happening. Anyone who has followed the political debate over the past two years knows why this is happening. We're two weeks from a heated election. It's an election that could change the course of the country.

And we have been hyperbolic. There has been meanness, ad hominem. Everything is overly hyperbolic and rhetorical. There are bad people. There are mobs. It's chaos.

That level of hatred and venom has communicated. And people are emotional beings. And you're seeing the product of that rhetoric. I think that's undeniable.

And I hope -- I hope that anyone with any responsibility who believes in their role as an elected leader, which is to serve the public -- and when they take an oath, by the way, they don't say I'm president of the United States, I'm governor, and I'm here to serve the Republicans, or I'm here to serve the Democrats.

[18:25:15]

I'm governor of the state of New York. I serve all the people of the state of New York, Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative. I don't care. And division and anger and hatred is contagious, and we are a nation of differences, and we have demonized those differences. And they can destroy us if we don't stop.

BLITZER: Governor Cuomo, thanks so much for joining us, and good luck to you. Good luck to all the law enforcement and other counterterrorism officials who are searching now. There's a massive manhunt under way for the suspect or suspects of this terror plot.

Appreciate it very much. Good luck.

CUOMO: And, Wolf, one point to you.

I want to thank Jeff Zucker and everyone at CNN for your cooperation this morning. I know it was very disruptive to CNN's operation, but thank you for cooperating with us.

BLITZER: It's a very, very scary situation, and there were hundreds of people at the CNN bureau in New York at the Time Warner Center, but not just at CNN.

As you know, there are a lot of other people who work in the stores, the restaurants, the shops over there.

CUOMO: Yes.

BLITZER: And it was disruptive of all of those people. And it's a very, very worrisome situation.

And the targets, as you know, Governor, of these bombs, they wouldn't necessarily even be the targets, but so many other people who would have to deal with it, postal workers, clerks, law enforcements. They could be killed in the process as well.

Governor Cuomo, thanks. Thanks once again for joining us.

CUOMO: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break -- much more on the breaking news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following breaking news. The ongoing FBI investigation to find out who sent pipe bombs to CNN's New York offices, the Clintons, the Obamas and other prominent public figures.

[18:31:33] Let's bring in our justice correspondent Evan Perez ,who's getting some new reporting. What are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. At this point, one of the things that the investigators are doing is taking apart the bombs, the pipe bombs. And one of the things they've noticed is the use of a sulfur material, which is going to be examined. They want to try to see what the source of it is. It is the type of thing that they could use to cause explosion.

And this is why the FBI, and the counterterrorism investigators who are handling this is handling this as a domestic terror incident, simply because these bombs, these pipe bombs are inherently unstable. Just by handling them, you could set it off.

And so that's the great concern here is that someone is a serial bomber who's been sending these things through the mail, and is trying to cause some harm here. And so they're trying to figure out, and make sure, one, that there's no others that are in route somewhere and number two, to try to find this person as soon as possible.

BLITZER: And so FBI counterterrorism investigators, they've now taken the lead of this investigation?

PEREZ: Right, they have taken the lead of this investigation, beginning with the Soros bomb.

BLITZER: The George Soros.

PEREZ: The George Soros bomb, which was found two nights ago. They quickly, very quickly realized this was something that was of national importance.

BLITZER: Because these multiple, very similar bombs were discovered, very disturbing, could have killed a lot of people.

All right, Evan, we're going to get back to you. You're working your sources.

President Trump spoke out about the attempted bombings late in the day after the emergency had been playing out for hours.

Our senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny is joining us from the White House. So Jeff, you have some additional new reporting?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We do indeed, Wolf. Of course, this is an extraordinary event here, when something like this happened to a former president and a former president before that, and a secretary of state. So there has been a question, if there was any outreach from this White House and this president to the Obamas or the Clintons.

I have confirmed tonight from a couple officials familiar with this. They say there was no outreach at all from this president or the White House, no updates of any information that was happening.

But this was all an unusual turn of events here. We have seen the president react so quickly to virtually everything that happens, but it was a slow reaction this morning as this escalated from suspicious package to pipe bombs. He was being alerted to all of this as it was unfolding. But the president did not address it until about 2 p.m. Eastern Time in the East Room at a bill signing when he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[18:35:03] ZELENY: And you can see the president there was reading that message directly from a TelePrompTer. And I asked him right after that if he believed it was an act of domestic terrorism. He did not respond to that.

We asked him that question again as he left the White House for a campaign rally this evening in Wisconsin, just a short time ago. He did not answer that question, as well.

But Wolf, there's some new developments here. Just a few moments ago, on the ground, in Wisconsin, at that campaign rally, Speaker Paul Ryan was, you know, saying things much more in a direct fashion than the president did. He quieted down the Republicans and the Trump supporters in the crowd, and he said this. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Did you see the news this morning about these devices? That is an act of terrorism. There is no place for that in our democracy. We reject that.

And I just want to say thank God for our law enforcement, who is doing this day in and day out to keep us safe. Let's keep them in our prayers, and let's be thankful for them on a day like today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So by calling that specifically an act of terrorism, the speaker of the House, the Republican speaker of the House, has gone much farther than the president has done.

So Wolf, now the question is this: what does the president say at this rally this evening? Is he going to change his rhetoric? Because as you know, we have been at these campaign rallies across the country. And as we've gotten -- as the midterm elections have approached, the escalation in rhetoric has increased dramatically.

I was in Houston Monday night. We have not heard the vitriol at CNN and at others nearly as strong for quite a while.

So it's a question tonight, Wolf, is the president going to be like he was in the East Room today, with a call for unity, which he has never done before? Or is he going to continue the rhetoric at the campaign rally? But so important what the speaker of the House was saying earlier this evening just a short time ago, Wolf, in Wisconsin.

BLITZER: Yes. And as you -- as you noted, the president, at least so far, has not had the courtesy to simply make a phone call to the Clintons or the Obamas --

ZELENY: Indeed.

BLITZER: -- or any of the other targets of this terror attack. You would think he would simply pick up the phone and call them and express his solidarity.

Unfortunately, he has not done that yet. Let's see if he does that later today. We'll see what he says at this rally in Wisconsin, as well.

Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.

Let's take another very quick break. Much more on the breaking news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:42:05] BLITZER: We're back with our breaking news, coverage of the attempted pipe bomb attacks on CNN, the Obamas, the Clintons, and others.

Let's bring in our analysts and correspondents. And Pamela Brown, what are investigators primarily focusing in on right now?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, the investigation is multipronged, Wolf. On one hand, investigators want to see if there are any more packages, suspicious packages with these types of devices that are out there. In fact, in this press release sent out by the FBI, it acknowledges there could be more packages out there. That is a big focus.

Who or -- you know, was it one person, was it more than one person that was behind this? That is also a focus. And as we know, as my colleague Evan has reported, at least one of these devices has been analyzed at Quantico. We know that, according to this press release, other devices are being sent to Quantico, as well, to be looked at. They're going to look at the signatures of the bomb, compare it to others, try to see if there were any similarities. As Evan reported, there was sulfur found in at least one of these devices, an explosive material.

And also, they're going to look at the targets here. That can also provide clues. These, you know, high-level Democratic politicians under the Obama administration, including former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton; of course, President Barack Obama; the former attorney general Eric Holder, John Brennan. These are just some of the -- some of the targets here.

There was also a suspicious package sent to the Democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters. A law enforcement source tells me that it hasn't been ruled in or out in terms of being connected to the other five targets, but that's only because the analysis is still underway, though the outside of the package sent to her is very similar in its appearance.

BLITZER: Because Shawn, as you know, there are similarities among these bombs.

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: There are, and you know, one of the things that the FBI will be looking at as they investigate this is they're going to -- they're going to comb over absolutely every detail. And because we have multiple crime scenes here, where you had a package delivered to a location. Then you -- you're going to ultimately have a location where these bombs were put together.

They're going to be looking at everything from, as Pam was saying, the signature to they'll get down to the level of detail in the forensics to where the actual components of this device came from.

So the degree to which they're similar will be certainly significant. The degree to which -- the rapidity with which they were put together and delivered will be significant, as well.

So I think it's clear that we're going to find out who did this pretty soon. This is not the era of the Unabomber. And the similarities in these packages will be a big factor in that.

BLITZER: Because Josh, you used to be an FBI supervisory special agent. There are a lot of clues that the FBI and other law enforcement, they have right now.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That's right, Wolf. There are a lot of clues on the forensics side, when we talk about the devices, the similarities. Obviously, you know, examiners will be able to look at all of these devices and determine whether there's a pattern, in order to track them back to the original source.

They'll look at the ingredients. They'll look at the style, and actually compare that with information already in their holdings based on other devices collected throughout the years. Again, in order to determine that pattern of geography in order to find this person.

[18:45:02] But one of the other clues, at least one of the commonalities has to do with the targets here, Wolf. If you look at the people who were targeted, they all seem to have certain things in common, the most glaring of which being, these are Democrats, progressives, John Brennan is the outlier, but he's obviously who has garnered a lot of ire from the right wing circle based on some of the criticism from President Trump. So, that is going to be an important key part of this, not because of the politics, because investigators look at that and say what was the motive here, if this is someone who was actually targeting Democrats and progressives, that will help in their criminology to try to determine, OK, what is going through this person's mind in order to track back and find out who this is, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: How big is the manhunt right now, Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's being treated on a national scale, Wolf, because, you know, they don't know whether or not there might be anymore of these that could be out there.

I think what Josh is saying is very important. This is wide open for the FBI and for these investigators. They really do not know what the motivation is, and you don't want to start small. You want to start big and try to narrow it down.

But every part of these packages, every component is a potential clue and it's being treated that way. Perhaps there could be finger prints, the handling of these devices that could tell you where they came from. I mean, you know, everything here is going to be examined by the FBI and by the investigators that are working this.

CAMPBELL: Wolf, can I add that just, you know, if you look at this? We have been talking obviously with our sources, this is now the most important investigation for the FBI and for federal law enforcement.

If you stop to think about what we're dealing with, this is an attempted assassination against two former presidents. Let that sink in. Obviously there are a number of other officials that were involved but we can bet based on talking to our source, it's very much all hands on deck. This is a very big deal.

BLITZER: It certainly is.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Can I say quickly, just this press release announced by the FBI? Josh you can speak to this. This is not something the FBI does every day, sending out this amount of information, evidence they're using in this investigation. This shows they're taking it very seriously, and they need the public's help.

BLITZER: Someone clearly wanted to kill all of these individuals. This is a massive manhunt.

Everybody, stand by. There's much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:51:45] BLITZER: All right, let's get back to our analysts and our correspondents.

And, David Chalian, someone today targeted President Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Brennan, Eric Holder, Maxine Waters, George Soros, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and CNN. The president responded, what did you think?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think his words were fine in terms of calling out what happened and expressing his resolve. But here's the problem for President Trump. He doesn't get the benefit of the doubt on words anymore. He has to back it up with action because the fact that the president, Wolf, or anyone in his White House refuses to this point thus far today to take responsibility for the context in which today's action has taken place, is a huge problem. It's ignoring the reality that we're living in.

By not accepting any responsibility -- I'm not suggesting he's at fault for the actual sending of these devices today or anyone in the White House. But to ignore the -- his rhetoric, I mean, you could match up, line for line, his rally speeches with every single one of those names that you just listed. This is his rhetoric that has created this moment in time and to ignore that is to ignore a huge component of what's going on here.

BLITZER: Yes, let me play the clip because he's gone after all these individuals who were targeted with bombs, potentially could have been murdered. He's gone after them often. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fake as hell CNN. The worst.

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

I think Brennan's 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 legendry low I.Q. Maxine Waters. 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He -- that underscores your point.

CHALIAN: A hundred percent. He has to take responsibility for that. This is his rhetoric that is creating this moment and this could have been so much worse than what happened today, and I -- this is a leadership test for him if he is going to be able to step up and I am so curious to watch how he handles his crowd of supporters tonight in Wisconsin.

This is a leadership test for him, if he is going to step up and take some responsibility and adjust his actions. He has not done course correction. That's not part of the Trump persona. I think the test is on him right now.

BLITZER: We'll see what he says and if he specifically mentions all these individuals as well as CNN, which was clearly targeted today as well.

David Swerdlick, what did you think?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I agree with David. That the president, though not responsible for sending out these packages or bombs, he is responsible clearly for turning up the temperature on our political discourse over the last couple years. You played the clip. He's made all those statements singling out some of these individuals.

And for him to come out today and make that statement, which was appropriate and called for unity, but not acknowledge that he bears some share of the responsibility for where we've gotten in our politics, I think, one, is insufficient, and two, it's a missed opportunity.

[18:55:00] He does, as you say, have an opportunity tonight to come out in his rally, if he chooses. I'm not sure if he will, to give an Obama-like speech. Think of Obama speaking after Congresswoman Giffords was shot. Think of Obama's race speech in 2008, the Giffords speech in 2011, even his speech trying to bring people together on immigration in 2014.

President Obama specialized in bringing threads together in moments when people needed unity. President Trump is a good speaker but his specialty is more skewering his opponents.

BLITZER: Josh Campbell, the identity of these targets, the political orientation, the fact they've criticized the president but he's really gone after them as well, how significant of a clue is that?

CAMPBELL: Yes, it's a giant clue, because again, when you're trying to get in the mindset of this person who attempted to conduct a killing, attempted to conduct a mass murder, you want to determine, OK, what is it that's inspiring this person? What were they trying to accomplish? And if you look at these characteristics of these officials, these are Democrats, progressives, people that have received a lot of ire from the president, that's obviously an important clue.

I'll tell you, Wolf, you know, one thing that's interesting, whether or not this turns out to be someone who's acting in their right mind or someone who is perhaps suffering from mental health challenges, that doesn't mean that the president is off the hook here. Because we know that he's a bully, he traffics in incendiary rhetoric. When you couple that with someone in a leadership position, they naturally will have a following.

So, if there are people out there, even if they have mental health problems, that look at this rhetoric, and then act on it, it shows you that there are people, thankfully, a small segment of the population, that are predisposed to act in response to these toxic words. The president is responsible if that's what this turns out to be. People are responsible for their words.

BLITZER: That's an important point. Everybody stand by. I want to quickly right now get the latest on the manhunt.

CNN's Brian Todd has been investigating for us.

Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, we're told this is an investigation that's unfolding on several different tracks. There are plenty of clues to sift through. Forensic evidence, but this is a manhunt that also involves putting together a profile of the person or people who did this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Former FBI and U.S. Marshals agents tell CNN the manhunt for the person who delivered five pipe bombs to CNN and others is now one of the most intense searches in recent memory.

ART RODERICK, FORMER U.S. MARSHAL: This is number one. This is all hands on deck. Not just in New York, not just here in D.C. but across the country.

TODD: Experts say the perpetrator left important clues. The packages didn't explode, which means fingerprints, DNA could be retrievable.

A law enforcement official tells CNN all the devices appear to be constructed similarly, pipe bombs, at least one containing projectiles. At least two of the packages, addressed to Democratic donor George Soros and to former CIA Director John Brennan at CNN's Time Warner center had stamps on them that had not been cancelled. Instead, they are believed to have been delivered by hand.

The one sent to CNN was delivered by a courier, so surveillance footage can be used to track that.

(on camera): Could it be a network of people, more than one person doing this?

RODERICK: It could be. I mean, they're not eliminating anything at this point in time. But conspiracies are very difficult to keep under wraps. And generally, when you have more people, somebody's going to say something or somebody's going to know something.

TODD (voice-over): Experts say this is a multi-track investigation tonight. One crucial component, a profile of the suspect.

Mary Ellen O'Toole profiled the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, for the FBI. He mailed several bombs over 17 years, killing three people. O'Toole says investigators are looking closely at the connection between today's targets. Brennan, who the bomber mistakenly thought worked for CNN, as well as prominent people in politics who have all been harshly criticized by the president or his right-wing allies.

She says law enforcement will be looking for specific characteristics in the suspect.

MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Someone that is very angry about the politics in the country and specifically against these individuals. The reason that's important is because there may have been some effort prior to mailing and placing these bombs to contact these people, either through a letter or through posting something on Facebook.

TODD: O'Toole says the suspect could plan on mailing more bombs, could have active devices or other weapons on them when law enforcement approaches. And likely has a desperate outlook. O'TOOLE: This is someone who now cannot go back. He can not change

things and blend back into a common, ordinary life, so he has thrown all caution to the wind, so he has nothing to lose to hurt or kill law enforcement as they approach him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: And O'Toole says the perpetrator may have become energized by all this attention generated by today's attacks and that could make them even more brazen, more apt to send more bombs. But it could also lead them to make a big mistake, Wolf, maybe get them caught.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us -- Brian, thanks very much.

And let me speak for myself and all of our CNN colleagues here in the United States and around the world, want to reassure all of our viewers, we will continue to do our job to report the news fairly and accurately despite these threats.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.