Return to Transcripts main page
Investigators Believe Some Packages May Have Come from Florida; NYPD, FBI on Suspicious Packages sent to Trump's Critics; FBI Says Any Device Found "Should Be Considered Dangerous"; FBI: We're Not Treating These as Hoax Devices. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired October 25, 2018 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R) OHIO: I've become convinced that he is not capable of this. He is not capable of being a unifier. In fact, I've become convinced that he doesn't know how to accept personal responsibility and always find somebody else to blame. Now, I don't want this to be construed as a personal attack. It's an observation that I make.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: What did you make of his observation?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he's 100 percent right. And unless Donald Trump has the kind of conversion he's talking about, which he won't. Remember during the campaign we kept saying Donald Trump will pivot, he will become more presidential once he gets the nomination and all the rest. Well, of course not, looking back in hindsight. He is who he is and he'll never pivot off of that. But he doesn't have people around him who say, you know what, you've got to behave. They may have done that yesterday because like a child, as you pointed out earlier --
BALDWIN: Thank you for reading my mind. In the middle of it all saying, see I'm behaving. I'm behaving. That's like what a six-year- old says.
BORGER: Right. So, what is that about. It's because he was also telling his audience, you know, I'm not can I use my favorite attack lines. I mean, I was in Missoula, Montana when he came out and said -- it was at the rally -- when he came out and praised Gianforte as my kind of guy for body slamming a reporter, which was met by a lot of applause. "Lock her up," is met by a lot of applause. All the lines about Obama and a lot of other people that were unfortunately on that list yesterday who received packages often get applause lines. Most of all Hillary Clinton. And so, you know, he's not going to change. He's not going to pivot.
BALDWIN: The other piece of this though -- and I was talking to Douglas Brinkley about this a second ago as well -- that he never has -- I give him the credit for calling the governor of New York up, calling Governor Cuomo, because a lot of the bombs were sent to this state. But didn't call the Obamas, didn't call the Clintons. Didn't even mention them. These were assassination attempts on two former presidents. This President never picked up the phone.
BORGER: Right. First of all, he doesn't consider himself a member of their club. It's very clear. There's a club and I think he to some degree has felt ostracized. Obama's campaigning against him. Hillary Clinton is campaigning against him. We're two weeks before the election. If he had called them, he might have been attacked by his base. Why would you -- in his mind, why would you want to call these people when they're so despicable?
BALDWIN: Isn't this just humanity? Don't the lines and clubs go away?
BORGER: Well, I think they should. And also, when you're President, you should -- as you pointed out before -- be able to rise above it and say these people deserve phone calls. These people need to know we're working --
BALDWIN: I'm with you.
BORGER: -- we're working to do whatever we can to find out who the person was or persons who did this. I mean, it's just -- I mean, it's being well bred to tell you the truth. It's being somebody who understands that there is a humanity and there is a way to do this as President of the United States. You're not a private citizen. And you may dislike them, you may hate them, whatever word you want to use, but somebody tried to kill them the other day. And you're the President. And so, it's very hard to understand other than from a political perspective why he wouldn't pick up the line.
BALDWIN: Gloria Borger, thank you so much.
BALDWIN: Let's go to this news conference just about to begin.
JAMES O'NEILL, NYPD COMMISSIONER: All set? Good afternoon, everyone. Before you start, I just want at that acknowledge our law enforcement partners joining us here today. Bill Sweeney, assistant director in charge of the New York FBI office, Sean Benedict, special agent in charge of ATF's New York field division and Philip Bartlett, inspector in charge of the U.S. postal Inspection Services, New York division. In a moment you'll hear from Mayor DeBlasio, and then from Bill and then from John Miller. And John will provide you with an update on the suspicious pack and investigations we're conducting here in New York City.
First and foremost, my message today is that New Yorkers are safe. There are no current, credible threats to any individuals, organizations or locations here in New York City. New Yorkers are safe, but everyone, all 8.6 million residents and the millions of visitors who come here every year should always remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings. As always, I urge people to alert us to anything that might seem strange or out of place or anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. They can flag down a cop, call 911 or call our toll-free counterterrorism number, which is 1-888-New York City safe. That's for anything new or if anyone has information about any of the incidents this week in New York.
[15:35:01] We don't underestimate the difference even one person can make toward our collective safety and neither should the people of New York City in New York. We don't underestimate the difference even one person could make towards our collective safety and neither should the people of New York City. I want to reiterate as I did yesterday. As I do any time we talk about far-reaching investigations of this nature, of any other kind that nothing we do in law enforcement do we do alone. For our joint terrorist task force comprised of professionals and the agencies you see here today and others, we are investigating all of this with great precision.
I can say with certainty that we will identify and arrest the person or people responsible for these acts. Make no mistake. New York City's intelligence and counterterrorism capabilities are second to none. Every day of the year, not just this week, our detectives and analysts are constantly poring over the threat stream as we proactively deploy our resources around the city as need. And you're seeing that, too, out of an abundance of caution.
I'll tell you that when we look at the events of yesterday and today. I have immense pride in the incredible work the men and women of the NYPD do each and every day, especially when it involves partnering with the organizations represented here today.
I'll conclude by reminding everyone that law enforcement professionals do not care about the politics behind these acts. What we do care about is keeping the public we serve safe. That's it. That's the job. Fighting crime and keeping people safe. And for the full and willing partnership of everyone who lives in, works in and visits New York City, we'll make the safest large city in the United States even safer. Mr. Mayor.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, (D) NEW YORK: Thank you very, very much, Commissioner. I want to express my appreciation to all the men and women in the NYPD who have done an outstanding job yesterday and today addressing this situation. And to all of our partners, federal and state partners, everyone has been working together to address this forthrightly.
Now look, one of the things that will we emphasize in a moment like this is that you're going to see a lot of police presence. It's important that we proactively take steps to protect those who have come under attack. Clearly what we've seen in the last few days is an attack on media outlets, an attack on prominent public figures. We're going to make sure there's expanded presence as long as we need it to show very vividly that New York City takes these issues seriously, that we are defending people who are coming under attack. That part of how we protect the democratic process is to show that threats like this are not taken lightly. So, expect that presence. And I know that for those who have gone through this in the last few days, that's a presence that they appreciate greatly.
I want to say that every day New Yorkers have responded to this situation with the kind of strength and the kind of resiliency that this city is famous for. It makes me very, very proud of all 8.6 million New Yorkers, that they have handled the situation with a real sense of resolve. They're not going to let an act of terror intimidate them. And that's really important in this moment, to say whatever the motives of the individual involved, the people of this city are not being thrown off their game, are not having their values undermined or their way of life undermined. New Yorkers are standing strong right now.
And the last thing I want to say is, you know, in a moment like this there's a lot of concern, there's a lot of fear. Clearly, it's an upsetting time. It's a time when there's been too much hatred and too much division in the air, and in that context, people can feel powerless. I want to remind people that everyone has an opportunity to play a positive and constructive role here.
First of all, helping law enforcement, this is something that everyone can do. If you have any information at all that you think could help law enforcement to address this situation, share it with law enforcement immediately. Let them be the judges of the value of the information. Don't hold it back. So many times -- and I agree with the commissioner -- law enforcement ultimately has proven they will find the perpetrators but sometimes it because an individual, a citizen, stepped forward with information that really led to the key breakthrough. If you have information, share it.
[15:40:00] If you're concerned about packages that could arrive at your home or your workplace, you see something that worries you, reach out to the police, get their involvement to address the situation. People can be part of solving this immediate challenge.
But, finally, we all can be a part of solving the bigger situation that we're facing as a society, as a nation. A tone of civility, a tone of mutual respect is something we all can create. We shouldn't just ask what are the most prominent voices doing. We also have the ask the question are all of us treating each other with mutual respect is something we all can create. We shouldn't just ask what are the most prominent voices doing. We also have to ask the question, are all of us treating each other with respect? Treating men and women in law enforcement with respect, people in the media who report the news, treating them with respect. This is something that we all have to do as a way of addressing a crisis like this and we can and I have great confidence that we will. Thank you.
WILLIAM SWEENEY, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Thank you, Jimmy. Right now, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force is around the nation are fully engaged on this investigation. We are working quickly to process and process relevant information from the suspicious packages recovered over the last few days. We will continue to do so for as long as it takes and until there is a resolution.
This is a nationwide investigation involving multiple jurisdictions coast-to-coast. To give you a sense of scope just here on the New York JTTF, agencies ranging from ATF, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Secret Service, the NYPD, New York State Police and dozens of other federal, state and local agencies are working shoulder to shoulder. I want to thank those partners for their efforts, their collaboration and hard work. Much of their leadership is in the room with us today. I also want to personally thank the hundreds of men and women that are up the street working on this together.
The FBI will continue to focus all of the resources at our disposal to identify and apprehend the individual or individuals responsible for these acts. The investigation is still in its early stages. I have said this each time that we have faced similar situations but it bears repeating today. It is vitally important that we do not inadvertently disclose information that could adversely impact our investigation or a future prosecution. The public understands the need for their level of operational security. For that reason, I will not be able to answer specific questions on what we know.
But what I can say is that at various time over the last few days, ten suspicious packages were located at multiple locations in New York, Maryland, Florida, Delaware and Los Angeles. Law enforcement responded and each package was collected by experts and examinations are now under way at the FBI lab in Quantico.
As for the devices located in New York which contained a powder, the initial analysis indicates the powder in those particular envelopes did not present a biological threat. Other analysis is ongoing. However, it is worth repeating that any device can be considered potentially dangerous and treated as such until proven otherwise.
We continue to advise the American public to remain vigilant as it does remain possible further packages have been or could be mailed. These devices should be considered dangerous. Report any suspicious package to law enforcement. And it is worth repeating, do not touch, do not move, do not handle any suspicious or unknown package. Leave it to law enforcement professionals.
We are also asking the public to call us with any information you may have. We've set up a hotline nationwide, that hotline is 1-800- callFBI. And we also have a link set up where you can provide information via the Internet at tips.FBI.gov.
We are actively investigating tips you have already provided. Please continue to assist us with our efforts. A moment of your time can make a great difference towards resolving this investigation. Thank you.
JOHN MILLER, NYPD DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF INTEL AND COUNTERTERRORISM: I think most of you are up to speed on the events that occurred outside the Time Warner Center at CNN yesterday. What I'd like to do is kind of walk you through the timeline of the events of this morning on Greenwich Street. This begins in the very early hours of the morning when a retired NYPD intelligence bureau detective who was awake and watching the news saw the image of the packaging that has been common to most of these devices as they have turned up at various locations. And it struck him that that looked very much like a package he had seen on Tuesday in mail he was to screen for Robert De Niro productions at their offices on Greenwich Street.
He contacted -- based on his experience, he knew how to call the bomb squad directly. He spoke to the bomb squad. They advised him to also notify the first precinct and they went directly to the scene. They were met by emergency service, who with the first precinct were able to locate based on the security director's instructions the package where he described it. The bomb squad was then able to use their expertise and equipment to safely package that intact.
[15:45:02] Remove it safely from the building and then place it, with their expertise and equipment to safely package that intact in the total containment vessel, which is our bomb transport vehicle and bring it to the Rodman's Neck Range, where it joined the other devices that we got from CNN and from the FBI in Westchester County authorities. By late this afternoon all of those devices should have been transported by the FBI to the FBI lab in Quantico to be examined by their explosives people so that all the evidence from all of these incidents are in one place.
I'd especially like to commend the work of the JTTF. I was in the command post last night as they pulled an amazing effort together with other joint terrorism task forces around the country to run leads and with FBI headquarters, the work of the intelligence bureau detectives under Chief Galati. Who have been assisting as a virtual extension of the JTTF as lead come in the public, for calling those lead in not just to the FBI hotline but to NYC safe number that goes to our ops desk.
We are up 139 percent in those calls. So, when we ask people to come forward they do it. Particularly to the bomb squad detectives and supervisors who, whether it's 1:00 in the afternoon or in this case 5:00 in the morning are right there with the right equipment, the right training. They know what to do. The emergency service people who drive that truck with the device in the back, the highway people who escort them and of course all of our partners, postal inspectors, ATF and of course the JTTF. It's a large team effort and we're looking for the continued help of the public.
O'NEILL: All right. At this point we're going to take some questions. Second row.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were these devices rigged to explode or are they -- do you think they were more sent to intimidate?
O'NEILL We're not going to -- as Bill said, we're not going to give you 100 percent accurate description of what the devices were, but we have to treat them as live devices. This is a protocol that our bomb squad people use and it keeps everybody safe. In the back row.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe there may be other packages like this out there?
O'NEILL: We don't know that at this time. But with the postal services that are here, we are doing our best to make sure that if there are any out there we identify them quickly. Back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said that the power wasn't biological. Is it a talcum powder or some other type of powder? And also, are you exploding the bombs at Rodman's Neck or are you taking them to Quantico unexploded? O'NEILL: We are transporting whatever evidence we have down to
Quantico. And as far as the powder, we're just going to leave it to what Bill said that it's not biological. We're still testing it. Yes, in the back row.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Questions, first of all, I saw reports that they may have come from Florida. Any of them have they been hand delivered or delivered via courier or it really come through the mail, could they have come from Florida? And then my second question is, in terms of being proactive -- and I guess I'm potentially a green target -- are you doing anything to look for other celebrities or --
O'NEILL: Bill, do you want to talk about the first part of your question and, John, maybe can you get the second part, what we're doing proactively.
SWEENEY: What was the first part again? I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could they have originated Florida? Were any of them sent -- how many of them were sent through the mail versus delivered by courier?
SWEENEY: I'm not going to get into specifically where we think the packages came from. Some were obviously delivered or in the postal system. I'll leave it at that. Other than that, I'm not going to get into a description of where we think the packages originated. I would reiterate regardless of where people think they originated, if you see something suspicious or you think you may know information, please provide that to us at those two tip lines.
O'NEILL: We have a second part of that question.
MILLER: To get to the second part of your question, when there was the first device targeting Mr. Soros, we went to all the locations that were associated with the Soros family, Soros businesses, places that Soros contribute to. When that developed the next day with the bomb at the Clinton residence, then the Obama residence, we really widened our outreach. We have a program called the "Nexus program", we have the "Shield Program."
So, we have a lot of built-in, preset public/private outreach that we just turned on and then turned up. We went to television networks yesterday. We posted police officers in front of locations that we thought might be under increased threat when the bomb -- when the device was discovered at CNN. Police officers in front of locations that we thought might be under increased threat.
[15:50:04] When the device was discovered at CNN NYPD personnel were already there, working with their mail room people on recognition and detection. And that was increased to a wider scope today. I don't want to go through what types of people or places we've increased to because we don't want to single anybody out that hasn't received a package, suffice it to say, we're watching where they go and we're doing extensive outreach.
O'NEILL: Just to add one more thing to that, if you go on the NYPD website, there will be information on how you can identify what might appear to be a suspicious package. Somebody over here. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Question, there's been a lot of speculation and talk about whether they may be hoax devices, not real in some cases. They weren't intended to go off. How would you describe it? Would you describe it as something that is a hoax or should people be taking this seriously?
O'NEILL: No, this is something that should be taken seriously. The NYPD and the FBI we're taking this seriously. We are treating them as live devices. As you see the way our bomb squad detectives went into CNN yesterday, this has to be taken with the utmost seriousness. So, as far as hoax device, we're not treating it that way. Dominic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the Mayor. Mr. Mayor, do you definitely feel this is terrorism related and what do you say to the people of New York?
DE BLASIO: It is absolutely terrorism. Because it's an effort to use violence to make a political impact, that's the definition of terrorism. The people of New York City are as tough as it gets. This city has been through terror attacks before. The people of the city understand the whole game plan of terrorists is to intimidate us. New Yorkers refuse to be intimidated. That's what we see time and time again. Go back to 1993, the first bombing of the World Trade Center and everything that's happened ever since. People in this city are full of resolve, and don't let these things throw us off our game.
And I think that's important to inhibiting terrorism going forward. To consistently show those who would attack us that their efforts are in vain. So New Yorkers have been exemplary. They do heed the warning, if you see something, say something. But I want to remind people, because we see this a lot, people should not hesitate. Sometimes someone is looking at something, there is concern. They think, oh, maybe I should call, maybe I shouldn't. If it is on the cusp, make the call. If you think maybe you should call, you should definitely call. Let the experts resolve something, if there's anything suspicious, let law enforcement be the ones to make sense of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a little confused on how we arrived at this -- as a clarification, are you referring to the white powder that was found in the package to CNN, or is this powder that was in the device?
O'NEILL: No, it's just the powder that was found yesterday, with the packaging yesterday. So, it is not biological. It's still being subjected to private testing. Yes, right here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The officer, the retired officer who found the package, did he (INAUDIBLE) the property?
O'NEILL: Well, I'll say that -- I would like to thank him for doing his job correctly. He saw on the news, thank you for putting it out there, that this package that he saw yesterday was almost exactly like the package that they were showing on TV. And he took affirmative steps to call us to make sure we could take it away safely. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You call this an explosive device, a suspected explosive device or simply a device? What is the proper terminology?
O'NEILL: I would say it's a suspected explosive device, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- the intent is to have them not explode do you believe the intent is to have them not explode, or are they --?
O'NEILL: I'm not going to talk about intent. But, you know, you were the bomb squad detective, how would you treat it? In the back row.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand you don't want to say whether these things are explosive or not, but do you guys know for yourselves whether these are explosives or hoaxes?
O'NEILL: We are treating them as suspected explosive devices.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you feel they are Republican?
O'NEILL: I'm not going to get into that. Back row. Good try though, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are all the devices that were inside the city, and do you think you'll be able to get forensic evidence off those to get identifying information?
O'NEILL: Bill, want to take that?
SWEENEY: I'm not going to describe whether devices are the same or not. What I will tell you is the folks at the lab at Quantico are extraordinarily thorough and everyone will be examined in great detail and we'll go from there.
O'NEILL: Hold on. Mark.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These devices, did this look like they were constructed by somebody who actually knows what they're doing or just (INAUDIBLE) website stuff?
[15:55:00] O'NEILL: I think you asked me the same question that he asked me. I'm not going to go into that. Thanks. Right here. Front row.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a time frame as to when the announcers from Quantico may be rendered for the FBI to continue their investigation.
O'NEILL: It is an ongoing thing. We are discovering things by the hour. Shimon. We'll get you in a second.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe someone can talk about how the postal inspectors, how they're going about tracking this, finding this. I think a lot questions on.
O'NEILL: Sure. An envelope, a lot of people have questions.
O'NEILL: OK. Phil, want to talk about that?
PHILIP BARTLETT, U.S. POSTAL INSPECTION SERVICES, NEW YORK DIVISION So, in terms of tracking, we have over 600,000 postal employees out there right now. So, we have the eyes and ears looking for these packages. I will say in the postal network, we have found nothing in the last eight hours. So, what we have so far is what we have, ten parcels.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If anything -- in terms of how significant is that you haven't found anything else.
BARTLETT: It is not really significant, although, again, it is working. We have our eyes and ears at the postal employees, highly trained postal inspectors out there, searching postal facilities, looking for these devices. And again, we haven't found anything in the last eight hours.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you determine where these packages were mailed from? Without giving location, has there been other people being around and working on it?
BARTLETT: Not at this time, no.
O'NEILL: OK, Thanks, Phil. Dean, last one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been asking people to call, 1-888-NYCS, the national hot line, have people been calling those hot lines with information, and do you have leads?
O'NEILL: Yes, so as John said, our 1-888-New York City safe hot line, we have hundred 39 percent more calls as of yesterday. People are calling and we are going to speak about specifically what the leads are, I'm not going to do that, because we're still in the middle of the investigation. Thank you, everybody. Thank you for being here. Thanks.
BALDWIN: All right, so that's the briefing from New York police, mayor, FBI there, just on the latest, what they know and really more importantly perhaps what they know, but they're not sharing with the public, understandably so. It is still so early in this whole investigation into these ten attempted device deliveries around the country, coast to coast.
Josh Campbell, former FBI, has been with me. And we were listening to this together. All these questions, especially were they rigged to explode? Were they merely meant to intimidate? Shimon's question, you know, are you treating these seriously, or are you treating them as a hoax? Of course, Commissioner O'Neil, we're treating them seriously. There is a lot they could know but they're just not sharing with us.
JOSH CAMPBELL, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: That's right and you keyed in on it. I mean, the main focus here is the subject, the person or the people who are responsible for this. They weren't offering much there at all. We've been talking to some of our sources who indicate that thus far they're not really homing in on one person or one group of people, it's very much an early in the investigative stage.
But what we saw there is the balance of law enforcement officers have to do. So, on one hand, the assistant director of the FBI indicated that they don't want to inadvertently disclose information which is true, right? You want to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation. But it also shows the importance of the media and getting information out. Because but for the coverage, the security officer who worked for Mr. De Niro, would not have found that new device. He actually saw the picture on TV and said, well that's something that looks familiar. So, again, it shows that balance of what do you divulge and you keep close to the vest.
BALDWIN: They also wouldn't say, you know, there had been some reports that maybe one of the devices had originated in Florida. They wouldn't confirm any of the above. Interesting we were talking before, you were reporting on that at least the device from here at Time Warner Center was -- is in route to Quantico, the FBI lab. It sounds like they detonated one of the device but the rest intact are in route to Virginia.
CAMPBELL: That's our understanding. The Soros device, when that was found, they shot that, they detonated it. Which would make sense. Because if this is a one-off, and the bomb squad shows up, they want to render something safe. But once it turns out this looks like it is perhaps several bombs that are involved, now you try to start piecing things together. So, our understanding is that there are at least five devices that are intact. They'll be transported or have been transported back to the FBI lab in Quantico, where that additional analysis will be under way. They have very good scientists and specialists there who can go through -- you much more than an x-ray would do. Actually, get in, surgery, if you will, and actually figure out what the makeup of is of these devices.
BALDWIN: What did a -- 60 seconds -- what are those first few key pieces they look at? To then obviously I imagine there, you know, reverse engineering to then determine who made them and where they are.
CAMPBELL: That's right. So, two parts to the investigation. There's the forensics and then there is getting into the mind of the person that did it. The officials at Quantico will be trying to determine, again, what is the makeup. They're not so much indicating why did the person make this device the way he did. They're trying to figure out what does this device contain? What does it entail? Because again, that will be potentially key leads for investigators to determine what were the ingredients, as they fan out around the country to find out where the materials are sold, for example. But then also, we have been talking about hair fibers, DNA, all the mistakes that someone might make as they're building a bomb, especially a rudimentary bomb may be on the devices that are subject of an intensive investigation.
BALDWIN: Josh Campbell, you have been excellent, thank you so much. And thank you so much for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin here at CNN. "THE LEAD" starts now.