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Man Arrested in Connection with Bomb Packages; A.G. Press Conference at 2:30 Today; Law Enforcement Converge on Van in Plantation, FL. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 26, 2018 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: But our colleagues are going to right now. But our colleagues are going to continue to follow this throughout the day. We have our colleague Kate Bolduan coming up right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Guys, really appreciate it. Thanks so much.

As you said, breaking news out this morning. And a new chapter begins. A man arrested in connection with these bomb packages, with these suspicious devices, and 11th and 12th suspicious devices, intercepted today.

A lot to get to. Let me get to Shimon Prokupecz.

You and the team have been working on this all morning. What do we have? What's the latest on this man?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We don't know who he is. We don't know anything about him.

Here's the bottom line, Kate. Since last night, I would say, early last evening, we had heard there was significant progress made, and that they believed they had identified someone who was responsible for this, or at least that was their suspicion last night, the authorities. They have been doing a lot of work in Florida the last 24 hours. Certainly once they discovered the sorting facility where some of these packages came through, and it was during that time they discovered what they believed could be a person of interest, a person who could be responsible. And they worked off that. We know there's forensic evidence linking him or at least they believe. We don't know if it's him or her, we should say. Forensic evidence linking this person. There may be images that links this person. They're working with a lot of information.

And let's just say, and I'll just tell you in general what happens in these kinds of cases, when the FBI has someone that they believe may be suspected in a crime, they do surveillance. What they call they sit on a person, conduct surveillance. We know there was surveillance, ongoing surveillance of a person. You know, again, we don't yet exactly know where this person was arrested, but this is all sort of started in the last 24 hours, early yesterday evening.

BOLDUAN: Where they were really focusing in on this person in nearby Miami.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. Yes, both Evan Perez and I were hearing this yesterday. We began working this. We knew something significant had happened. That's sort of how we have been explaining it all day, in that they really thought they made a lot of progress in the last day or so. And so now we have word of this arrest. Obviously, going to be probably a huge relief, I would assume, for a lot of people. The other thing that's important is they need to make sure there are no other packages. What's clear is the packages that have been discovered today, if they were sent in the mail recently or --


BOLDUAN: The same time as the others or a different time.

PROKUPECZ: Let's assume this. If this person was under FBI surveillance, then the FBI would know there were more packages placed in the mail and they would have been able to intercept it. So it's probably safe to say that these packages were not mailed in the last 24 hours. They probably were old, part of the old group of packages that he sent.

BOLDUAN: Have you been able to get a sense of how long this person has been under surveillance?

PROKUPECZ: I have not. I have not even gotten a sense that this person is necessarily under surveillance, but in these kinds of cases, that's what normally happens.

BOLDUAN: Of course. What was the break here?

PROKUPECZ: I think, ultimately, and I don't know 100 percent, but just in talking to people, some of the forensic stuff. I also think --


BOLDUAN: That could be DNA. It could be fibers. It could be --


PROKUPEZ: Yes. I also think it's going to be photos that help them link this person to some of this. You have to assume that this person had to go somewhere to mail these, right? Maybe a mail box, maybe a post office, so there could be images from there.

Also, we have become -- law enforcement, you have to think, just in this country, we have become so good at tracking cell phones. So they could have picked something up and triangulated. They look at cell phone sites and triangulate cell phone sites and see if someone's phone was pinging in a certain area. They can use all sorts of methods to try to connect the dots. It's probably going to be several things. But I suspect there will be forensic evidence to ultimately link this person. And also I think they were just waiting to have probable cause to go ahead and make this arrest. Interestingly enough, the attorney general was supposed to travel

today. He cancelled his scheduled trip. Probably because of this. So we'll see. Hopefully we'll hear more from the folks over at the Department of Justice where this person would ultimately be charged.

BOLDUAN: Do you get -- is there any sense -- obviously, question number one is are there more packages out there? Are there more explosive packages out there? Question two, is there anyone else connected?

PROKUPECZ: And that we don't know. We don't know if this is a larger network, more than one person that was part of this. Are they looking for other people? I'm sure by now, the FBI has probably run a lot of that down because they can, you know, also track this individual's cell phone --


PROKUPECZ: -- and they could see who they're communicating with. There's been a lot of work.

I know FBI agents -- since this started, since the first incident --

BOLDUAN: The Soros package.

[11:04:56] PROKUPECZ: -- the Soros, on Monday, there's been an FBI team on this for 24 hours. They were working through the night last night. Through the day today. And they waited. And they waited. We heard there was going to be some movement, and they waited and waited. Finally, for whatever reason, they chose to do it when they did, and finally an arrest has been made.

BOLDUAN: So much more to learn, but this is a huge development in a situation of domestic terror, as we have heard from law enforcement officials calling it.

I want to go back to Washington, to CNN justice correspondent, Evan Perez.

Evan, do you have more information?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Poppy (sic), we now know that the Justice Department is going to hold a press conference later at 2:30. The attorney general, as Shimon was just mentioning, the attorney general had plans today. He cancelled them in anticipation this might happen. So it appears that the attorney general will be able to give a lot more details about this investigation, and certainly as you guys have been pointing out, a huge -- Kate, I'm sorry, Kate. A lot of things going on in my head.

BOLDUAN: No worries at all, please.

PEREZ: And in my ear. Yes, Kate, we expect that the attorney general would be able to announce a lot more details about what went down, how this arrest was made, or this person in custody now with the FBI. As you guys have been pointing out, a huge sigh of relief for

everybody involved here because we knew, as Shimon was pointing out, overnight, they were making good progress. Even this morning, we were told we might expect to see some action today. And now, I think the attorney general is going to want to announce this because this is obviously a huge national importance investigation.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, Evan.

PROKUPECZ: It's also going to be the first time, I think, we see the attorney general speak in a situation like this.

BOLDUAN: I can't think of one.

PROKUPECZ: I can't think of one either. That's going to be certainly interesting.

It's also interesting that it's the Department of Justice announcing the arrest. A spokesperson in a tweet for the Department of Justice. This goes into the politics of everything, sort of the climate we're in, but the Department of Justice here, the spokesperson announcing an arrest. Obviously, the FBI, the NYPD, and really the police in Miami, and really police across this country and the Joint Terrorism Task Force. As the assistant director in charge of the New York office here, the FBI said yesterday, this was a coast-to-coast investigation. They moved fast. And really, they were able to learn clues quite quickly. We can't forget, also, in all this is the postal inspectors. They were key in this because these items were going through their system. And there are things they can do that we don't talk about publicly and they don't talk about publicly and they don't tell us, but that seems to be in all of this as well. Hopefully, we'll learn how they cracked this case. It's going to be fascinating, I think. And I think, as Evan has pointed out, this guy probably made some mistakes. There's going to be a lot of forensic evidence to help authorities here.

BOLDUAN: Is it jumping to too early of a conclusion that if you have the attorney general coming out at 2:30, that they are very -- that you would maybe assume they would be confident this threat has passed?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, perhaps, that the threat has passed, that they're pretty comfortable this is the person responsible. Warrants have already probably been drawn. They were probably waiting for the warrant. A complaint has probably already been drawn. We probably have this person in court at some point, if not later today, tomorrow. Eventually, this person will have to come to New York. The FBI in New York is overseeing the case, so it could be that this person is eventually brought here. So yes, it is for certain that -- look, sometimes in these cases they wait before they make an arrest because they want to make sure there's no other threat. They want to make sure no one else is involved. It could be that's what they were waiting for.

BOLDUAN: I also am curious to find out come 2:30 how careful they needed to be, if there was surveillance. If you're dealing with someone putting together explosive packages, how careful they needed to be in getting near this person.

PROKUPECZ: And they wanted to build a better case. As the news events are happening surrounding the investigation, we're all reporting on it, new information is coming out. How is this person reacting? Who is this person calling, who is this person texting? What are they doing? And, B, also, if the person is on their surveillance, they could build a better case. They think if they have it contained where the person is not going to flee the country or the state and, therefore, run the risk of obviously escaping and them not being able to arrest him. You know, they usually wait until they can build a better case.

BOLDUAN: Shimon, stick with me.

Evan Perez, I'm going back to you.

You have new information, Evan?

PEREZ: That's right. One of the things the authorities were doing today was simply sitting on this suspect. They knew the suspect was from Florida. I think we have been all but hinting and hinting at that issue. Because we knew that the authorities were focusing all of their attention in southern Florida, in the Miami area, and we now know that's where the suspect lived. The arrest, he's now in custody and now in the hands of the FBI. But that was one of the sensitive things they had been working on this morning, was to make sure they were sitting on him, making sure that they couldn't do anything, get away, or harm anybody or harm himself before they were able to move in and arrest him. So it appears that they were able to do all of that without any harm coming to anyone. But we know that the suspect lives in Florida. He's from there. So that was a huge relief for the investigators, as they were trying to get to the bottom of this yesterday -- Kate?

[11:10:34] BOLDUAN: Evan, as you were speaking, I was getting more information.

Let me pop up video we're just getting in. I'm going to look at it with you guys for the first time. This is from our affiliate out of Miami. We're told in Plantation, Florida.

There's a whole lot of activity, Shimon, that you can see right there.

PROKUPECZ: You know, Kate, we know there's been a whole lot of activity in Florida. For the last 24 hours, outside of the sorting facility. You're seeing, I don't know if that's FBI or local. It looks like it's FBI. So those are the teams, it looks like, the kind of s.w.a.t. Teams that go in and make these arrests. They could be serving a search warrant at that home to look for obviously evidence.

BOLDUAN: These two areas are both outside of Miami, right? These are kind of near Miami, outside of Miami. Just looking at it, about a 30- minute drive from Opa-locka to Plantation.

PROKUPECZ: That's where I have been told by a source that's where the arrest was made. It was outside of Miami. (CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: So that would jive. This is Broward County.

PROKUPECZ: That would completely jive. You have these FBI agents there on scene, in this heavily armed gear with protective gear.

BOLDUAN: Of course, there's a palm tree right in the way, but it looks like that's some sort of a tow truck.

PROKUPECZ: That could be his van, maybe. Like a van they're removing.

BOLDUAN: I wish we could go in even further to look at that.

Evan, does this -- I don't know if Evan is with us. Let me know what you think with what we're looking at.

PEREZ: That's right. We're told that's the place where the arrest was made. Now, I don't believe this is the home of the suspect. The suspect lives a few miles away in another location there. This is all in the suburban area of Miami. All of this is all within a few miles of each other. The Opa-locka postal processing facility is just down the road, just north of Miami. Plantation is in southern Broward County. And the suspect lives not far away. Also in that same general region. So the FBI has been certainly moving all their resources. The ATF and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, all of them were sending all of their resources to that same area because they knew that that is the likely place where this is all going to end. And so what you're seeing there, the pictures you're seeing there, I believe it's not a home. It's a business. And this person was put into custody there this morning without incident, it appears, according to sources we have been talking to.

BOLDUAN: Wait, according to your sources, this person was taken into custody at a business, not his or her house?

PEREZ: I believe this is not his home. I believe he lives in another location not far away from there.

BOLDUAN: OK. All right. I'm just watching this with you, trying to see what else we can see, as this tow truck is moving in, positioning near this van. We'll keep an eye on this.

At the same time, I'm also getting from CNN's Liz Stark, Evan, that Jeff Sessions is actually at the White House as we speak.

PEREZ: Right. Right, that's right. Jeff Sessions is probably briefing the president. This is exactly how this situation you would do it, a case of this kind of national importance. And given the fact that this is something touching on politics and political figures, and we're a few days from the election, this is the most important case going on in the nation. So this is something that the attorney general would definitely go personally brief the president to let him know how this has been resolved. I believe one of the things you're looking at, the pictures there of that vehicle, I believe this might be a vehicle associated with the suspect, and that's the reason why you're seeing the tow truck and all of that activity there. But this is how what they would do is they would take this back, make sure is there any components, anything associated, anything of concern. They want to make sure they secure it so nobody in the public gets harmed. That's what you're seeing there in the pictures, is anything associated with the suspect would be taken into custody, would be searched by the FBI to make sure that it's rendered safe and to make sure that the businesses there can go back to doing their work.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Can we just say, in this moment, Shimon, that I mean, we started the morning with an 11th and 12th packages being picked up. Bomb squads being called back in. More fear, more talk of domestic terror. And this moment of real relief to see an arrest made in this case.

[11:15:57] PROKUPECZ: Absolutely. For everyone involved. Certainly for us and then people in the public, and then also law enforcement.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

PROKUPECZ: This is so important to get this. This was consuming so many resources. Obviously, it has to. And also trying to make sure that there were no other threats and making sure no one else was involved. Yes, it's a huge relief.

Look, you could start -- I started to hear the confidence and the optimism --


PROKUPECZ: -- and the tone was changing yesterday, for whatever reason. No one would really tell me, but I could tell in just talking to people that the tone was changing in terms of where they thought they were in this case and this investigation. Which led me to believe that they were close and they were zeroing in on someone, and also, I was told there was evidence. They started gathering evidence, started gathering images, forensic evidence that was all starting to match up. And then they started, you know, as Evan has been reporting, surveillance of this person. Monitoring cell phones, keeping track of where this person was going, and we have the arrest today.

BOLDUAN: This person made a mistake somewhere, maybe a lot of mistakes that added up.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. It's also important to know, we don't know this yet, but interesting the arrest didn't take place at his home.


PROKUPECZ: That's interesting because sometimes in these kinds of cases you'll see the FBI move in early in the morning, catch someone by surprise, SWAT team goes in. Pulls them out. In this case, it's interesting that they watched and stayed with him and then they chose to make this arrest outside in public at a business. It's an Auto Zone, I believe, from what I see there on the building.

BOLDUAN: Clearly, all of the focus is on this van with a whole bunch of decals on the windows.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. There will be lots of questions. Was he going to purchase something, to do something. Those are good questions.

BOLDUAN: Was he just hanging outside in the van?

PROKUPECZ: Or just hanging out. They chose to do this out in daylight. I think I see -- there's FBI.


PROKUPECZ: You can see there, there even may be someone with an NYPD --


BOLDUAN: That's what it looked like.

PROKUPECZ: They would have the Joint Terrorism Task Force assigned. They're kind of designated as FBI agents. Yes, there's an NYPD jacket.

BOLDUAN: That shows the cooperation, the team effort that was going on there.


PROKUPECZ: Yes. Think about all the people who were part of this investigation. You have the ATF, the FBI, the NYPD, postal inspectors, often forgotten in this type of situation. You have the Miami, the local police there --


BOLDUAN: He seems comfortable enough that he was just like touching the window of the van.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, it doesn't seem like anything is closed off there. It could be they're waiting for a bomb squad to come in or robot to come in and take a look inside that van. To see if there's anything suspicious. You're right. The fact they're standing around it. It's going to be interesting to see all those stickers and decals.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly what I was wondering. What is on those windows? It switches its shot.

One thing I'm thinking about --


PROKUPECZ: They're going to tow it.

(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: They're going to tow it, pick it up and tow it.

When you're talking about the coordination that is involved, how many agencies are involved, the manpower involved here, it's huge. But maybe not surprising when you think of who was targeted here. You're talking about two former presidents of the United States that are targeted in this attack.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. I mean, probably hundreds -- excuse me, agents on this case from New York to Miami, all over the country. It was striking to hear the assistant director yesterday say this was a coast-to-coast investigation. We don't know about all the leads they were following. Empty leads. He said they had lots of tips.


PROKUPECZ: They could have been running everywhere on this. Yes, this is quick. And this tells you why kind of the tone changed yesterday and why they really, really started feeling comfortable yesterday.

BOLDUAN: Joining our conversation is former Secret Service agent, Larry Johnson, retired FBI agent, Ray Lopez.

I appreciate you both coming in.

Larry, what do you see here? You see this activity that's all playing out, the arrest this morning, the activity here in Plantation, Florida. What's your take?

LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Well, my take is the investigation is really just starting. One thing about this individual is they're going to do a background, check Analysis, look into associations. They're probably going to get warrants, as previously described for his apartment or his house. But one of the other things is they're going to now clone his phone, what is called IMS eye catchers. They're going to now keep probably not reveal the identity of this individual because actively, they can still collect social media, e-mail, other messaging that might be important to link others that might be involved in this investigation to him.

[11:19:57] BOLDUAN: Ray, you see how things moved today. It started the morning with an 11th and 12th package located, discovered, and now an arrest. Your take on this.

RAY LOPEZ, RETIRED FBI AGENT: I think it was inevitable. I think yesterday we had 10 packages. The investigation was proceeding. I believe yesterday they probably already identified this individual. With the discovery of the 11th and 12th package, I think it becomes a public safety issue. How many more of these things out there? And you know, we don't know the design, the construction fully of all these things. That's going to have to come from law enforcement. But if it becomes a public safety issue, if tomorrow we have a 13th, 14th, 15th, it's a slow, steady drip. You eventually have to get ahold of this guy and say how many did you get out there? Where are they? Where did you send them? Because it becomes a public safety issue. He only has to get lucky once. These guys have to work hard to make sure nothing happens. The bomber only the to get lucky one time. And thank god he didn't.

BOLDUAN: Thank god he did not. That's true.

Ray, what's happening with the suspect right now, in custody, in FBI custody, as Evan and Shimon are reporting. What do they do with him?

LOPEZ: Well, they're going to start questioning him. All the guests are correct. They're going to start going after the digital footprint. In today's world, he may have a Facebook, a Twitter. You know, he's going to have e-mail accounts. And you have to go back and see his associates and what he's been doing. Also, you want to check his accounts to see, did he get this information to build these devices off the Internet? And what other sites was he visiting? We don't know the extent of the knowledge that he obtained on the Internet, when he started this, who helped him plan for it potentially. So there's a bunch of things I think that are critical to do right now. And then the investigation eventually will turn to forensically, as that information gets the fingerprint Analysis and the other forensic parts start to get analyzed and reports are generated, you'll try to tie that individual more and more to those devices.

BOLDUAN: Larry, our Shimon and Evan, their reporting right now is that it's forensic evidence that ended up pinpointing this person. Does that -- so that -- does that have to mean that this person is in some database somewhere?

JOHNSON: Correct. I have not seen an instance where this would be the first time this individual has come to the attention of law enforcement. So whether it's federal, whether it was the Secret Service, one of the incident responders, to the first package that was delivered to the Clintons. There was a trail of evidence, whether it was materials, and

one thing that we haven't talked about is DNA evidence. That evidence could have been in play in this situation, in this investigation. It's also preserving the evidence, chain of custody. All of the investigators are making sure that they don't make a mistake, so what they have collected will be relevant if there's a prosecution down the road.

BOLDUAN: So for everyone who may be just joining us, what we're looking at now, a man has been arrested in south Florida in connection to the suspicious packages, the bombs that have been mailed to now 12 people, including news organizations like CNN. What we're looking at now is Plantation, Florida, a van. A van at a business -- we believe it's an Auto Zone. A van covered up with a tarp. FBI, NYPD, Florida law enforcement on the ground there. They're going to be towing this thing out. This in connection with that -- with that arrest.

If this is one person, Ray, what does it take for authorities to feel comfortable that it is? That they have the one person, there's no one else who knew about it, was working with him, that they have him? LOPEZ: I think it's going to be forensic based. I think they'll go

through all of these devices and ultimately, they're going to put this individual with those devices. If there's other traces of another individual in there, and also his electronic signature, his footprint, his social media, all of that will be tied together to see if they can identify -- if anybody supported him or helped him in any way.

BOLDUAN: Guys, sorry, just getting direction from the control room in my ear.

I'm told CNN correspondent, Randi Kaye, is at the scene of the arrest in Florida. She's joining me right now by the phone.

Where are you exactly and what are you seeing? Randi, it's Kate Bolduan. Can you hear me?

We're going to try to get reconnected with Randi. We're going to try to get reconnected with Randi. I want to find out exactly where she is, if she is --

Randi, where are you exactly and what are you seeing?

[11:24:58] RANDI Kaye, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): What I'm seeing right now is I am just near the scene where they have been covering up the vehicle with the blue tarp. And I can see two helicopters in the sky, as I was coming into this area here in Plantation, Florida.


BOLDUAN: Randi, can you still hear me?

I think we're having a hard time connecting with Randi. We will reconnect because she's the first person we have on the scene. We'll reconnect with Randi and bring you what she can see on the ground.

Larry, Ray, let me bring you guys back in.

I cut you off. What are the next steps right now, as we're watching this continue to play out in Plantation, Florida?


LOPEZ: I think the next steps are actually, you know, identifying fully who the individual is. And that includes major case prints and also getting a DNA analysis of the individual, and then beginning to work backwards. That's to take the evidence that's been collected, the forensic evidence collected and tying that individual to that evidence. Then also, secondly, is also, as our other guest mentioned, taking that footprint, that electronic footprint and finding out who he's been socializing with, who he's been cooperating with potentially and identifying other individuals in his circle.

BOLDUAN: Shimon just jumped back on set.

You said the electronic footprint is going to be key. PROKUPECZ: Yes. The cell phone and electronics was key in helping

law enforcement locate him. And find out -- there's other evidence, clearly, we have been told there's forensic evidence. We don't know if he has any kind of criminal history. Maybe there was something on file. We're working on that.

There's a reason they're covering that van with that tarp. I don't know, but I think there's a reason why, because I think it would give some suggestions perhaps. And I don't know --


BOLDUAN: Full transparency for our viewers. The monitor we can see in studio is probably smaller than as close as to your TV. You might be able to see more than we can at this moment. I promise you, my folks are looking at it, and we're going to see what you can see and bring that to you when we can. Our monitor, when that popped up, was quite small. We were both not able to decipher what we saw.

PROKUPECZ: No, there's a lot of decals and stickers.


BOLDUAN: Let me bring Ray in on this.

That's a great question, Ray. Is covering up the vehicle of a suspect, is that, with a tarp, is that standard procedure? Or do you think this is done for a reason?

LOPEZ: No, in most cases, it's standard procedure. They don't want to disrupt anything inside the vehicle. That's going to be on top of a flat carrier. They just want to avoid any -- they can talk down the road, forensically, saying they made every attempt to keep everything intact in that vehicle. So they're trying to preserve everything in there. You know, it's standard procedure for most vehicles involved in a crime scene to be treated this way.

BOLDUAN: And, Larry, what do you expect to hear? We know the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, they're going to be holding a press conference at 2:30, suggesting to a layman they are confident in their arrest and they're confident they have the person. What are you expecting? What amount of information do you think they're going to be able to provide come 2:30? This moved really fast.

JOHNSON: Yes, I would be -- I'm very interested in what they have to say, because that will tell us a lot. If they come out and continuously talk about it's an ongoing investigation, that will give us clues that there might be more individuals involved. If they come out and identify the suspect or the individual arrested, then that's probably going to give us a clue that it's a lone wolf. Mainly because the investigation will be slowed down because all of that person's associates will not communicate any further with that individual.

BOLDUAN: All right. All right, guys, stick here with me.

Do we have Abby Phillip at the White House, guys? OK. All right. Just hold on with me, everybody.

Shimon, let's bring everybody up to speed on what we have right now. We started the morning with an 11th and 12th package being discovered. One in New York City, in midtown Manhattan. The second addressed to Cory Booker's office in Camden, New Jersey, but intercepted at that facility in Miami, Florida.

Quickly, your sources had a major break, maybe the major break in this case, as a man has now been arrested in south Florida. What led to this?

PROKUPECZ: So, there are several factors, I think, that led to this. From what both Evan and I have been told. Cell phone. Cell phones, forensic evidence, maybe DNA, maybe other. There's a lot of devices here. It could have been a hair. It could have been something else. It could be also fingerprints. I think the cell phone here and the work -- I keep saying this, through the postal services, through the United States postal service, through the postal inspectors --