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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta; Interview With New York Governor Andrew Cuomo; President Trump Criticizes Media After Media Targeted By Bomber; More Bombs Discovered, Manhunt Under Way; FBI Warns More Package Bombs Possible as Three Additional Devices Discovered. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 25, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Sources are now telling CNN some of the suspicious packages may have come from Florida. The FBI bomb lab is looking for fresh clues tonight.
Blaming others. We are told President Trump has no plans to acknowledge that his verbal attacks on his critics might have inspire a serial bomber. Instead, he is renewing his criticism of the news media.
And considered dangerous. Police are asking for help in finding other potential bombs that may be on the way to the homes or offices of prominent public figures right now.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the search for one or more of the political terrorists who have sent packaged bombs to prominent figures who have been criticized by the president.
Tonight, sources tell CNN that authorities believe several of the packages went through a mail facility in Opa-locka, Florida, this as police are warning that additional devices may be in the mail right now and should be considered dangerous.
Authorities say they're treating all 10 packages that have been intercepted so far as live devices. Three more were discovered today. One was sent to the office of the actor Robert De Niro. Two others were addressed to the former Vice President Joe Biden.
I will speak with the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and with the former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our national correspondent, Miguel Marquez. He's in New York City for us.
Miguel, we got an update on the bomb investigation from police and the FBI late today.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
And I want to underscore what you have talked about there, that many of these devices, they believe, originated in Florida because they were processed through a facility there and Opa-locka, Florida. Several of those devices were.
Many of these devices either at or on the way now to Quantico, Virginia, where the FBI has his headquarters, desperately trying to get at who is behind planting these devices.
WILLIAM SWEENEY, ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR: We continue to advise the American public to remain vigilant.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): A dire warning for all Americans. There could be more potentially explosive devices out there.
JAMES O'NEILL, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: 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 bump squad detectives went into CNN yesterday, this has to be taken with the utmost seriousness.
MARQUEZ: But offering assurances hundreds of thousands of postal employees are tracking packages for any potential dangers.
PHILLIP BARTLETT, U.S. POSTAL INSPECTION SERVICE: We have over 600,000 plus employees out there right now. So we have their eyes and ears looking for these packages.
MARQUEZ: At least 10 bombs now discovered from New York to Washington, Florida and California, the latest, two suspected bombs sent to former Vice President Joe Biden. At least one was misaddressed, both earlier today sitting in the U.S. postal facilities in Delaware just miles apart.
ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: I just want to make a note of the apology for the idiotic behavior of my president.
MARQUEZ: Overnight, another package discovered addressed to actor and Trump critic Robert De Niro at his downtown Manhattan film offices, TriBeCa Productions.
BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: The device was removed successfully. Thank God, there were no injuries. The really quick- witted work of a security guard there at that facility in Tribeca is to thanks for the fact that nothing happened and no harm was done to anyone.
MARQUEZ: The package sent to De Niro similar to the one addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan and sent to CNN, six U.S. flag forever stamps, but no postmark. The bomb sent to CNN ultimately delivered by courier, the return
address, the Florida congressional office of Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The device is now in the hands of forensics experts, who will look for the bomb-maker or makers' signatures on the packaging and the devices themselves.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A low I.Q.-individual, Maxine Waters.
MARQUEZ: Two devices also sent to Trump critic California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, one intercepted at a congressional mail sorting facility just outside D.C., the other at a post office facility in Los Angeles.
Similar packages sent to President Obama and Hillary Clinton were intercepted before reaching their homes. The package to billionaire and Democratic donor George Soros appeared to be placed in his mailbox.
The device to Former Attorney General Eric Holder was sent in the mail, but was returned to Wasserman Schultz's office in South Florida, which, like, the others, used her address for the return.
Law enforcement sources calling the devices rudimentary, but functional, and at least one was packed with projectiles meant to inflict greater damage, the FBI calling them potential explosive devices.
SWEENEY: Any device could be considered potentially dangerous and treated as such until proven otherwise.
MARQUEZ: Now, authorities are using that term potentially because they can't quite understand why none of them have exploded or if they were even designed to explode.
They're now trying to understand that. Were these actually live devices that could have exploded, or were they meant to just appear as they could have exploded, using all the elements of a bomb, but not actually creating a bomb?
Also, one other piece, there was an ISIS flag on some of the bomb pictures that we saw it. They're not taking any of that any credible -- they're not making that anything credible, they say. They think it was a parody ISIS flag that they could have pulled off the Internet.
A lot of questions for investigators as they're trying to dig in to each of these devices to figure out who was behind it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Miguel, thank you very much, Miguel Marquez reporting.
Let's talk a little bit more about the investigation. Joining us now, our law enforcement analyst, the former FBI special
agent Josh Campbell. Anthony Ferrante is with us. He's a former FBI bomb technician. Pamela Brown is our senior White House correspondent.
Josh, you're getting some new information the manhunt, the nationwide manhunt for the person or persons who may have been responsible for sending these devices. What are you learning?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That's right, Wolf.
Thus far, we understand this to be a nationwide investigation. If you look at the number of incidents, this is spanning coast to coast from Los Angeles to the New York area.
And now all eyes on Florida. We're getting new information about this mail facility where some of the suspected devices were believed to have processed through. This has been a clue that investigators have been looking for, trying to track that back to the actual location that may have processed some of these devices, because it's a potential treasure trove of intelligence.
Now, since the Unabomber case, since the anthrax cases after 9/11, the U.S. Postal Service has increased their capability technologically, analytically, as far as tracking mail as it transits through the U.S. Postal Service system.
So, again, once law enforcement officers are able to track that back to a particular facility, they can then work backwards from there, trying to determine, is there evidence to help determine who actually may have dropped off a mail package at this location?
We're talking to some of our law enforcement sources who indicated that it could be as simple as scanning the vicinity of the area. There could be a bank on the corner with CCTV that saw someone coming or going.
This is now the focus for law enforcement officers. Again, we're told that they don't -- they haven't honed this into a particular person. But having the location is a key development for investigators -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pamela, officials are saying there could be more packages out there.
How are law enforcement authorities now looking for potential bombs?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're holding press conferences like what we saw today asking the public for help, not only in trying to determine who could be behind this, whether it be an individual or a group of people.
So that is really key and also keeping law enforcement on high alert. It's already paid off in terms of what the FBI has done seeking public help. In the Robert De Niro case, Wolf, the retired police officer recognized the parcel based on the images that had been released through the media, said, wait, this looks like the same type of package.
And it turns out that that is now considered one of the suspicious packages, making it 10. So that is a big part of this, is just keeping everyone on high alert and working with the U.S. Postal Service.
BLITZER: The investigators, Anthony say that the devices are now being examined at the FBI Quantico lab, not too far away from here in Virginia.
What clues are they looking for?
ANTHONY FERRANTE, FORMER FBI BOMB TECHNICIAN: So, Wolf, this is an all-hands-on-deck effort right now in the federal government, state and local.
Right now, the U.S. government has dedicated a jet to fly around the country to transport this evidence to Quantico. I wouldn't be surprised if this jet is taking off from La Guardia Airport at least twice a day.
Having worked some of these crisis incidents before, the Boston bombing, for example, this is all hands on deck, and they're not going to waste time transporting evidence. You're right. They're going to bring it to Quantico to TEDAC, the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center.
This is the preeminent explosive laboratory on the planet. Experts who have analyzed the bombing situations of the last 25, 30 years are there, the USS Cole, Boston bombing, Austin, Benghazi. Globally, this is where they collect all the components of an explosive device.
And they're going to analyze it. They're going to determine where it came from. I mean everything, from the ends of the devices, to the wires used, to the material found in the device, to the tape used. And they're going to pull fingerprints from it and the device manufacturers.
BLITZER: Let's be precise, because you're a former FBI bomb technician. You have worked in these kinds of cases.
Officials are now saying these were potential explosive devices. Yesterday, they were saying they were bombs. So what's the difference?
FERRANTE: I mean, that's a really tough line to walk.
The fact of the matter is, is that to make an explosive device, it must have certain components right? You must have power, a power source. You must have an explosive material. You must have wires, of course. And you must have a detonator, a blasting cap, something to initiate that charge, right? Heat, shock, friction, that's what bomb technicians think about.
[18:10:15] That's what it takes to ignite one of these devices. Some of that could be simply unscrewing the ends of the pipe, right? The friction from unscrewing that pipe, that cap of the pipe can actually cause enough friction to ignite that.
That's why these are so fragile and so dangerous. And until a certified bomb technician clears it, everybody, the American people should consider these extremely dangerous.
BLITZER: You speak as a certified bomb technician. You worked in these cases. I want you to stand by, Pamela, Josh. Everybody, stand by.
Joining us on the phone right now, the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo.
Governor, thanks so much for joining us. We have got a bunch of questions for you.
The police, as you know, in New York, they held a news conference over the past few hours. They didn't reveal a whole lot of new details. Are there new leads? Or, frankly, Governor, are the police stumped right now?
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: No, I think the investigation is proceeding very well.
As you have been talking about on your show, Wolf, the federal government, the FBI, the JTTF, they are all over this. They are working very hard. And you can see how quickly it's progressing.
The information about possible mailing from other states, that then gives them a specific location to do research. There have been some caveats to that. If it's a post office that's not in New York, how did they -- how were their -- quote -- "couriers" that delivered packages in New York? They're not necessarily inconsistent, but they're not obviously consistent either.
So that is proceeding. The sophistication of the bomb, I think, is the issue that people are talking about. But, even with that, let's remember, you can now download from the Internet information on how to build a bomb, and you don't -- they don't have to be that sophisticated and work.
We have seen that in New York with terrorist attacks where we have had the -- quote, unquote -- "lone wolf terrorist" download information and ignite bombs.
Some have been successful, some have not been successful. So I think that's a question that they're debating, is the sophistication of the bomb. And then you have a question of, was the purpose -- was the individual purposely not sophisticated in the construction because they wanted to intimidate, or it was just the best job they could?
BLITZER: Have you learned anything, Governor, as far as you know, about the courier who delivered that bomb to the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle in New York City? Has that person come forward? Do you think the person who delivered the package is the bomber or simply a courier who unwittingly was used by the bomber?
CUOMO: That is unknown at this time, Wolf.
BLITZER: Authorities also believe at least some of these packages went through a facility in Florida.
What have you learned about that facility?
CUOMO: They are now -- that is the subject of an intense investigation and in many points a focal point, one of the focal points of the investigation, going through that facility, the cameras in that facility, and who may have seen people come in, et cetera.
But that is no doubt one of the focal points of the investigation. You're right. It then brings you back to the courier theory in New York, for which there is no answer right now.
BLITZER: Apparently, some of the bombs or packages were delivered through the Postal Service, the postal system. I suspect that there are some reports out there that maybe all of them at least went at least partially through the Postal Service.
What does that tell you?
CUOMO: Well, the Postal Service has strict regulations after past incidents on how they track packaging.
I'm sure this is going to open up another chapter of practices and procedures within the Postal Service, when should they be doing screenings, et cetera. If it turns out to be true that these devices did go through the Postal Service, then I think there -- that is going to be a serious line of -- that's going to be a serious line of investigation.
But, remember, on a lot of these situations, Wolf, we -- that's how we learn, right? Things are revealed, flaws in the system are revealed because people exploit them.
But, if it is true, then I think one of the first things the federal government has turn to is better precautions at the Postal Service.
BLITZER: I know you spoke with President Trump today. How did that phone call come about, and what did he say?
CUOMO: The president was -- it was about the investigation.
And the president wanted to make sure that every -- everyone was coordinated. We chatted about the investigation and some of the things from the investigation, and how well the federal government was providing resources, and were we satisfied in the state of New York? Was there coordination? Was there anything else we needed? He basically ended by saying, anything you need from the federal government, let me know. If they're not doing what we need them to do, he would intervene personally.
BLITZER: Did he initiate the call, or did you?
CUOMO: We had missed each other yesterday. The days have blended together.
I think we missed each other yesterday, and then we went back and forth this morning. I'm not even sure who called whom.
BLITZER: All right, Governor, good luck to you. Good luck to all the men and women who are trying to find the bomber or bombers out there. Appreciate it very much. Thank you for joining us.
CUOMO: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, just ahead, we're going to have more on the search for the serial bomber or bombers -- why investigators are now focused again on Florida.
And after first calling for unity, President Trump is now blaming the news media for what he calls anger in U.S. society. But what about his own hostile rhetoric?
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news on the ongoing threat of package bomb attacks targeting prominent figures who have been critical of and criticized by President Trump.
Tonight, the FBI is warning that more dangerous devices may be in the mail, after three additional packages were discovered today.
As investigators hunt for a serial bomber on the loose, we're told President Trump has no plans to take any personal responsibility for his incendiary rhetoric that may have helped inspire the attempted attacks.
Let's go to our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.
Kaitlan, what's the president's message today?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's a lot like what it was before these attacks happened.
Yesterday, the president made these calls for unity, but those calls turned out to be pretty brief. And, today, we're seeing him renew his attacks on the media, saying that they are the ones who are responsible for the divisive rhetoric in this country that is dividing the nation, not him.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump tonight selling a new Medicare drug plan, as much of his administration remains focused on the manhunt for the serial bomber responsible for terrorizing the country.
The president didn't address the investigation late today, relying instead on Twitter to denounce the media, blaming journalists for what he says is angry rhetoric that has divided the nation writing: "It has gotten so bad and hateful that it's beyond description."
Sources tell CNN Mr. Trump believes he's being unfairly linked to the attempted assassinations and has no plan to back off his verbal attacks on the media. One confidant adding: "There's no talking him out of that."
One day after calling for unity and condemning the attacks as un- American, the president changed course, writing on Twitter that: "A very big part of the anger we see today in our system is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the mainstream media."
The tweet a return to the president's standard criticism of the media, after bragging multiple times at a rally in Wisconsin Wednesday night that he had toned down his demeanor.
TRUMP: And, by the way, do you see how nice I'm behaving tonight? This is like -- have you ever seen this? We're all behaving very well.
COLLINS: But even at the rally, his come-together sentiment was short-lived. Trump got one of his biggest applause lines when he said this:
TRUMP: The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories.
COLLINS: Sources tell CNN Trump has no plans to take responsibility for inflaming tensions with his divisive comments.
CNN is told Trump has made no phone calls to any of the targets of the attacks, including Clinton, former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden became the 10th known target of the attacks today, after two packages similar to the ones sent to other prominent figures were discovered in Delaware postal facilities, setting off a new wave of alarm in the country.
COLLINS: Now, Wolf, you just spoke with the governor of New York, and President Trump also spoke with Andrew Cuomo earlier, talking to him about the latest developments in this investigation and, according to Cuomo, pledging the full support of the federal government behind this investigation.
But, Wolf, one thing they didn't discuss, the president's rhetoric -- Wolf.
All right, Kaitlan, thank you very much, Kaitlan Collins at the White House.
Joining us now, the former Defense Secretary, former CIA Director Leon Panetta.
Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.
LEON PANETTA, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Nice to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, so let's talk about two former presidents of the United States, a former vice president of the United States, a former secretary of state, a former attorney general, a former CIA director, two sitting congresswomen, they're among the people who have been targeted in this terror plot.
Have you ever seen an attempted attack on this scale?
PANETTA: I don't think there's any question but that, as the law enforcement officials have said, this is a terrorist attack on the United States.
We don't know where it's coming from. We don't know who's responsible. But when you have 10 bombs that are distributed across this country, that constitutes a terrorist attack on our country. And we have to do everything necessary to make sure that we find out who is responsible and take steps to ensure that it doesn't happen again.
BLITZER: How seriously, Mr. Secretary, should the American people take this current threat?
PANETTA: I think the American people are smart enough to take this threat very seriously.
I know that, in today's political volatility, there is a tendency to take every event and label it as some kind of political effort to undermine others. This is not the case here.
We have got somebody who has sent bombs to individuals and could very well have killed innocent people as a result of that. That's what happened on 9/11. It's what happened when other terrorist bombers have tried to strike at the United States.
This is a terrorist attack, and it has to be taken seriously. And I think that the American people understand what that threat is all about. I would -- I would prefer that the president of the United States take the time to seriously talk to the American people about the nature of this threat and the importance of finding out who is responsible, and to take some steps to lower the rhetoric that has been involved here, because, frankly, none of that helps when we're trying to deal with this kind of threat. BLITZER: But, as you know, Mr. Secretary, the president is rejecting
any suggestion that his rhetoric has shaped the climate that led to these attempted terror attacks.
So, what would you like to hear the president say?
PANETTA: I think -- I think the president needs to think about what other presidents have done at this moment in time.
Bill Clinton faced a terrorist attack in Oklahoma City, and spoke to the American people about the importance of not prejudging what happened and the importance of finding out who was involved, and that the United States would continue to remain strong.
George Bush after 9/11 spoke to the American people about the importance of unifying this country and dealing with those who would threaten our security.
I think the president ought to learn some lessons from those past presidents about the importance of the position of being president of the United States at a time when this country is threatened with terrorist attacks.
This is a moment to speak to the American people seriously and soberly about the importance of protecting our security.
BLITZER: The president also says -- and I'm quoting him now -- he said that -- quote -- "purposely false and inaccurate reporting by the news media" -- his words -- "has led to the current climate."
I will say everyone here at CNN has been working very hard to get accurate information out there during this ongoing terror threat, as we always do.
What do you make of this effort to try to spread the blame and to blame what he calls the fake news media, the mainstream media?
PANETTA: Again, when we face these kinds of attacks, I think it's a time for everybody to act responsibly and not to seek scapegoats or try to place blame on different individuals.
The reality is that the press basically reports what the president says. If you listen to the president and some of the volatile statements he's made at these rallies, those statements are being reported by the press. That's what the press does.
It would help, frankly, to tone down the level of rhetoric that he uses and have others as well tone down their rhetoric, so that law enforcement can do its job, because, frankly, right now, this is a law enforcement and intelligence matter that needs to be dealt with outside of the politics of the moment.
BLITZER Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.
PANETTA: Thank you. BLITZER: Just ahead, as the FBI studies the package bombs, are they
finding clues about who sent them and why? We're going to have much more on the investigation. And the danger that another explosive device may be out there. Stay with us.
[18:35:01] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news on the manhunt for whoever is responsible for sending bombs around the country. We've learned investigators are now focusing in on a city in Florida.
We want to bring in our law enforcement analyst, the former FBI supervisory special agent, Josh Campbell. What are you learning, Josh?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Wolf, the international manhunt here continues where law officers of the United States continue to fan out and gather information; talking to their local, state, federal, international partners.
And now, all eyes are on Opa-locka, Florida. This is just north of Miami, where CNN is learning that there was a facility there, a U.S. Postal Service that serves as a transit point, a procession facility, where several of the packages that were involved and sent to former officials are believed to have processed through.
Now, this is a major development for law enforcement officers, because up to this point, we've seen several crime scenes spanning coast to coast from Los Angeles to Florida to the New York area. Now we're getting that new information indicating that the processing center there may have been the location where some of these packages were sent. Huge clues potentially available there to law enforcement officers.
Wolf, we're also learning that today several of the devices that were involved in this investigation sent to officials were actually transported from the New York area in FBI bomb truck to Quantico, Virginia. This is the FBI's laboratory where they have the terrorist explosive device analytical center, where these devices will be processed.
Of interest, Wolf, all parts of the investigation seem to be focusing now on Quantico. There is that forensic piece, but also at Quantico, there is the behavioral analysis unit. We're learning from law enforcement officials that their role in this will be key in order to try to get into the mindset of this person. These are the quote/unquote profilers that we're familiar with, the people who will try to determine what the motivation is here.
Again, in talking to officials familiar with the investigation, they haven't yet honed this into a particular person or group of people. But it's those behavioral analysts who will be key to bring their experience, again, try to determine what is it about this target set, what is it about the device, the fact that they didn't explode, for example. All of those will be important factors that these professionals will take into consideration, trying to come up with a profile of who this person or group of people might be, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Josh, thank you. Josh Campbell. Good reporting. Appreciate it very much.
Let's bring in our correspondents and our analysts. David Swerdlick, this is an ongoing threat, a major terrorist ongoing threat, but has it been overshadowed to a certain degree by President Trump and the way he's been handling this, the things he's been saying?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So Wolf, I do think that those of us in the print and broadcast media have done a good job of keeping the focus where it should be, on the investigation. You just had Josh there, talking about the latest details, the manhunt, what's going on from a law enforcement perspective.
That said, when I heard the president speak last night, when I saw his tweet this morning, what it made me think of was his sort of, you know, "there are good people on both sides" comment after Charlottesville, that the president can't seem to figure out moments when this is not a time to try and do a "both sides are just as bad" but clearly place the onus where it belongs. And I think that, at least, casts a pall over what should be a moment for people to try and come together.
BLITZER: The White House, Sabrina, is pointing to the president's unity at this sensitive time, the words he said yesterday. But that message seems to be at odds with so much what he said over the past year or so. Watch the contrast.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No nation can succeed that tolerates violence or the threat of violence as a method of political intimidation, coercion or control.
Any guy that can do a body-slam, he's my kind of --
Such conduct must be fiercely opposed and firmly prosecuted.
All right. Yes, get him out. Try not to hurt him. If you do, I'll defend you in court.
We want all sides to come together in peace and harmony.
A future under Democratic mob rule would be a total catastrophe.
Those engaged in the political arena must stop treating political opponents as being morally defective.
I've been going around lately saying the Democrats are the party of crime.
No one should carelessly compare political opponents to historical villains.
Obama is the founder of ISIS. There is one way to settle our disagreements. It's called peacefully
at the ballot box.
We've got so many people voting illegally in this country, it's a disgrace. OK? It's a disgrace.
The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility.
I'm not going to give you a question. You are fake news.
We must accept the verdicts of elections.
Folks, it's a rigged system. It's a rigged system, and we're going to beat it. We're being to beat it.
So let's put it altogether, right? Let's put it all together. Let's get along. A great country. We're going to get along.
[18:40:07] BLITZER: All right, Sabrina, so do his words ring true?
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, the president yesterday did make a call for unity. He condemned these attempted attacks. But he is still very much trying to shift blame toward the media. And he's refused to, in any way, acknowledge what role his rhetoric may have played in cultivating the current political climate.
And look, the president and his supporters, they have a right, of course, to disagree with the media and its coverage, but there have been relentless attacks from the president that have been for nothing more than for reporters simply trying to do their jobs.
There have been perhaps occasional mistakes, as there are in any profession. But when the media has made mistakes, those who are responsible have apologized. They've issued retractions. There are people who have lost their jobs.
One thing we've never heard from this White House, we've never really heard from this president, is an apology. Each as he has used hostile rhetoric, even as he has perpetuated conspiracy theories, even as he has put out continuous falsehoods.
And so his approach right now is what he has always done, which is double down and be even more aggressive. And I think that's very much what's guiding his response, and that's what has contributed very much to this environment.
BLITZER: Phil, what did you think of that contrast?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I mean, we're trying to apologize for what the president is saying in the midst of a crisis.
Every president in my generation has done -- has dealt with a crisis. President Obama dealt with Sandy Hook. President Bush dealt with New York. There are characteristics of how the presidents deal with crises, and they're not difficult to handle.
The president wants us to feel sorry for him. Not so much.
No. 1, show some empathy for the victims. The name not only doesn't mention them, he can't manage to pick up the phone to his predecessors and call them and say, "I'm sorry, we'll protect you."
No. 2, if somebody is reading what you say, whether that person is a Republican, a Democrat or someone who's non-partisan, they shouldn't be able to determine what party you are when you speak. You should speak for America. You shouldn't speak for yourself.
The president keeps talking about how he's offended. Cry me some crocodile tears.
The final thing I'd say is, when I walk away from that speech as I walked away when I saw President Bush speak at Ground Zero, I want to feel like I'm uplifted. I don't want to see negativity. I want to see a president who says this is a country on a shining hill, and you should be proud to be American.
We're in World Series territory, 0 for 3. No empathy, partisanship and entire negativity. I don't really have much sympathy. It wasn't that hard. Every president has done it in my generation.
BLITZER: Yes. He did have an opportunity to try his best to unify the country, Rebecca, but he missed that opportunity.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He did, Wolf. Because this is a president who we have seen in moments like this in the past doesn't really care much for the role that a president has had in the past. He's supposed to have, many people would argue, of being a moral leader, being a leader through crisis and leading by example on these things.
This is, instead, a president who thrives on division, who feels like unifying people, bringing the country together, doesn't benefit him politically. And so instead of looking at his role as a moral leader, as president, President Trump cares about winning. He cares about the campaign side of this. And he has seen, in the past, some success from dividing people. And that's why he continues to go that route.
BLITZER: Is it all about his base right now? Is that what -- what's going on right now? He thinks that works?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think a lot of it is, Wolf. Look, his approval ratings are very similar to what they were when he took office on inauguration day last year. So I think, in the mind of the president and those closest around him, it's working. They're going to continue to pursue this until it doesn't work.
The -- President Trump is a populist. And one of the core definitions of populism is only some of the people are the people. So in his mind, if he's able to demonize a portion of the American populace, to demonize the media as not being truly American, he's going to do that as long as it gets where he wants to go in the polls. BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more on the breaking news.
Everybody stand by. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
[18:48:50] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're back with our analysts following the terror investigation unfolding right now. Authorities are studying a total of some ten suspected package bombs sent to political figures and others who are frequent targets of the president's verbal attacks.
And, Sabrina, officials are calling this officially now, they're saying it's political terrorism. When you take a look at the individuals who were targeted, there's a pattern there.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: There certainly -- this is a list of people who are mostly Democrats, some of them have served in the Obama administration, and almost all of them have been a frequent target of the president and his supporters, either through the -- some conspiracy theories that have been propagated on the far right or also the president's own rhetoric in his campaign rallies and that's why this does come back somewhat to the president. There's some Republicans who are saying, on Capitol Hill, well, let's slow down for a moment, let's take a deep breath. We shouldn't be ascribing blame to the president.
And no one is saying that the president is directly responsible, but you cannot ignore what have been the potential ramifications of all of the "lock her up" chants against Hillary Clinton of making statements such as President Obama -- referring to him as the founder of ISIS and constantly questioning the former president's patriotism, suggesting that George Soros, liberal donor, is somehow funding this caravan coming from Honduras.
[18:50:06] That, of course, is a claim made without evidence just a couple of -- just in the past few weeks. And so, these are the impact of the words that have been spoken by the president.
BLITZER: And the fact is, we don't know the individual or individuals who were responsible for this. We don't know the political ideology, if there is a political ideology of the individual or individuals who were responsible. I suspect we will know all that fairly soon.
We do know that there's a pretty awful political culture out there right now that seems to generate some sort of momentum towards these kinds of horrendous events.
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. Well, we don't know who sent these packages, we do know that the packages seem to have gone toward politicians or media figures who have been critical of the president at times.
Wolf, I want to make a slightly point to the side of that, real quickly, and that is that, it's worth remembering, for everybody, that this is why we have to have so many resources protecting past presidents and vice presidents and their families, right? You know, since the Tea Party, there's been all this talk about why does Mrs. Obama take Air Force One on vacation or why does this other first family get this protection or the adult children. This is exactly why.
We are the most powerful, richest country on earth. These resources are necessary to protect presidents, vice presidents, and their families.
BLITZER: And one of those targeted, Phil Mudd, was the former CIA director, John Brennan. That envelope, that package with some sort of bomb was delivered to him courtesy -- at CNN, the Time Warner Center in New York. He tweeted this today. This is Brennan, the former CIA director during the Obama administration.
Stop blaming others. Look in the mirror. Your inflammatory rhetoric, insults, lies, and encouragement of physical violence are disgraceful. Clean up your act. Try to act presidential. The American people deserve much better. By the way, your critics will not be intimidated into silence.
You used to work at the CIA. You know Brennan. What did you think?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Intimidation is not great in the CIA environment. It doesn't work too well.
I'll tell you, there's a simpler perspective on this. I've heard -- and I was reading, I was on the train up today from New York, reading comments from Americans from all across the spectrum today from people saying, don't criticize the president, he didn't authorize this, to people saying the president created this environment.
I'm entirely with Sarah Sanders. You cannot claim that the president of the United States wants somebody to commit an act of murder. I would agree with that.
Let me give you a slightly different perspective as someone who's been on the periphery of this. I was attacked personally by the president in a tweet. If you're walking into this environment today in late October of 2018 and you have to look at your mail, if you have been attacked by the president in this toxic environment, you have to look at your mail in a different way.
My messages, I recognize the president is not responsible for someone who might be deranged and wants to commit an act of violence, but in this environment, please do not use your forum to name people, shame people, and aggressively attack people when your followers might say that authorizes me to do something against them.
There's a different question. It's not whether you're responsible. It's whether you contribute an environment that's toxic. Don't do it because people like me have to go home and say, I can't have my dad to my house for lunch because I'm afraid maybe there will be a piece of mail that includes a bomb. Don't do it, Mr. President. Don't.
BLITZER: Good point. Well said indeed.
Everybody, stick around. There's a lot more. We'll be right back.
[18:58:13] BLITZER: We're back with our analysts.
And, Phil, where is this investigation heading? You used to work at the FBI.
MUDD: Yes, real quick, Wolf. There's three stages. Stage one, misinformation, chaos, disinformation, I walk out of the White House on 9/11, somebody there's a bomb at the State Department, all wrong.
Once you clear away that initial chaos, stage two, a bunch of data comes in. In this case, data, for example, about how the packages were shipped, data on whether there's DNA on those packages, a hair, for example, and you get all that data, but it's a ton of information.
Stage three, where I expect we'll transition in the next couple days, you look at that mountain of data and you play a game of battleship. One of those bits of data, one of those bits of investigation is going to hit. One of those pieces on where the packages were shipped, one of those pieces on DNA and the next couple days, I suspect we're going to get a hit, like in battleship, and then it's game on. Find the person and find them fast.
BLITZER: This is -- this was clearly an act of political terrorism, even if these bombs weren't going to go off. They were clearly designed to terrorize a lot of people.
MUDD: It was, and that gives me one clue. I wouldn't be worried about motivation if I were on the inside right now. Let's find the person. But the one clue is, are there indications out there from the past that this person has targeted individuals like this in the past? For example, individuals who were at the presidential level or the cabinet level, the U.S. Secret Service should know that, so that will go in to the data pot at this point. Are there people out there who show a profile of targeting people like this in the past?
BLITZER: It's a serious, serious situation. Somebody was going after two former presidents, a former secretary of state, a former vice president of the United States, CIA director, attorney general, two members of -- sitting members of the United States Congress. It's an awful, awful situation.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.