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Man Arrested in Connection with Bomb Packages; A.G. Press Conference at 2:30 Today; Suspicious Package Addressed to Kamala Harris; Law Enforcement Converge on Van in Plantation, FL; Trump to Address Bomb Package Investigation During Summit. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired October 26, 2018 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: 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 inspects, I think we'll learn some of that was key in trying to track this and trying to identify this suspect who is now under arrest.
And we're learning a little bit more about the suspect.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let me go to Evan really quick. I think he's got that for us.
BOLDUON: That's OK.
Evan, what have you got?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Kate, we know a little bit more about this man who has now been taken into custody in connection with these mail bombs, the suspected mail bombs. He has an Aventura, Florida, address, just north of Miami. He's in his 50s, and he does have some New York ties. He has some criminal history. This is all stuff that law enforcement has been digging into since they sort of identified him and tried to figure out who he was overnight. But now we know. We're not saying his name, but we do know that this man has an Aventura, Florida, address. He was arrested, as you saw in the pictures, arrested, taken into custody at this business. I believe it's an auto parts store in Plantation, Florida, which is just a few miles away, west of Aventura, but he does have some New York ties. It appears he maybe had lived there in the past, but his most recent address that we found is one in Aventura, Florida. Again, he's a man in his 50s -- Kate?
BOLDUON: Evan, thank you so much.
Let me go now to Abby Phillip at the White House.
Abby, what are you hearing about -- we know Jeff Sessions is at the White House. What about the president being briefed? ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. This morning,
we just learned moments ago the president has been briefed on the arrest of this person in Florida in connection with these bombings. Now, as that was announced publicly, Jeff Sessions, attorney general, also had arrived at the White House. It's not clear whether Sessions was also part of that briefing, but I was told by a White House official, the Chief of Staff John Kelly was the person who briefed the president on this latest development in this case. And he's expected here in this room in just a few minutes. This is an event for black Republicans. It's not clear yet whether he's going to address this issue, especially as the investigation continues to be ongoing. But we have heard from him on this subject on Twitter this morning where he tweeted about the bombs, putting the word bombs in quotation marks, and lamenting it has slowed the momentum of Republican going into the midterm elections. This is a very serious issue unfolding throughout the country. He's being briefed by his law enforcement agencies, ongoing throughout the morning. And now that there's potential arrest of a suspect, we will be looking to see what he has to say about that latest development and what he has learned in those briefings about what this investigation is unfolding, what might be the suspect's motivations and what happened after this point.
BOLDUON: Especially after the tweet this morning. Very interested to hear what the president has to say, if he addresses it at 11:45. We know from the Justice Department there will be a press conference on this at 2:30 this afternoon, which, of course, will bring many more details.
We also have more details on the ground in Plantation, Florida, where this van, where this arrest took place, where the van is now being taken, as can see from the video, this van is getting ready to be towed.
Randi Kaye is on the scene of the arrest.
What are you seeing there?
RANDI Kaye, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Kate, right now, I'm standing at a restaurant just across from the scene. They have closed all the streets as we were coming in here to Plantation. There were lots of heavy, heavy law enforcement chasing behind us. Clearly, they were racing to get to that car, that vehicle they have now put the tarp over. They have closed the roads right now for us to get any closer. There's a ton of media here trying to get through, heavy, heavy police presence. They have put that tarp over the vehicle. We don't know exactly what connection that vehicle has to this. There are a couple helicopters, police helicopters in the air. Everyone around here is armed. A lot of the roads are cut off, a lot of the main thoroughfares.
And I can tell you just where we are in terms of Plantation, Florida. We aren't far from Opa-locka, where that mailing facility was where at least some of the packages, we know, we understand had gone through. And we're not far from Aventura, which Evan was just reporting where the suspect is believed to have been living. So it would make sense that this is a clear connection here in Plantation, Florida, and that vehicle that they seem to be very focused on. But as we get closer, we hope to learn more -- Kate?
Randi, thanks so much. Please, stay on the phone, bring me anything you've got. You're our eyes and ears on the ground.
Joining me, along with Shimon Prokupecz in studio, is former FBI agent, Josh Campbell.
Josh, we have been watching this this morning. Your perspective on what we're seeing play out in Plantation. The van towed away, the tarp put over the top.
[11:35:09] JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: This is fascinating, Kate. We have been sitting here discussing, obviously, as the development have unfolded. There's something making law enforcement officers place a tarp over the van. We believe it might be the suspect's van. This is not normal when you're moving evidence. If you think about, we have seen vehicles on tow trucks before being moved from crime scenes. Some cases I worked, we would package up a vehicle if there was a question of whether evidence might come out of it or as you're moving it from crime scene to the police station.
CAMPBELL: But the undercarriage of this vehicle is not being covered. There's something that, at least in my judgment, I am just assuming here based on what we're looking at, that perhaps law enforcement officers don't want us to see right now as they move this. They know once an arrest is made, it will be high profile. You'll have the news media helicopters. It could be as easy as wanting to cover up a license plate for privacy, but that's bizarre to see that kind of covering over what may be potential evidence.
BOLDUON: Important perspective.
Guys, stick with me just one second.
I'll get back to Evan Perez.
Evan, you have new information?
PEREZ: Kate, that's right. One of the big concerns was whether or not there would be additional packages that are still on the way, and we're told, at this hour, that authorities in Sacramento, California, are investigating a package that was addressed to Senator Kamala Harris. Now, again, this is early in this process. They have to identify it, they have to make sure it looks like the other packages, but one reason obviously that they're cautious about this is they have to make sure they look inside or perhaps do an x-ray image to see whether it matches the characteristics of the other packages. Certainly, at this hour, they believe this might be another package that was being sent to someone, another prominent critic of the current administration, Kamala Harris in this case, a Senator from California. At this hour, they're investigating at least one package in Sacramento that was headed -- that was addressed to her office there. So we'll see whether it's confirmed in the coming hours by the authorities, but that's what they're working with right now -- Kate?
BOLDUON: Unbelievable. We could be now talking about, Shimon, 13 explosive packages being sent.
PROKUPECZ: The question is going to be did he mail all of this at one time? Was this done over days? It could be that these are just being located now at the sorting facilities. I don't know how this stuff works. I find it kind of weird. If the FBI, let's say, had this person, this man under surveillance in the last 24 hours, and we know highly unlikely he could have sent anything in the last 24 hours because they would have intercepted it, maybe allowed him to do the mailing but they would have intercepted it and not let it get to its destination. It could be that he mailed these before the surveillance started two days ago, three days ago.
Look, the bottom line is the fact they're finding more is frightening because the authorities yesterday were saying they thought they had this contained, that they had searched sorting facilities, postal facilities, and they thought they had found everything.
BOLDUON: Right, because the question becomes, Shimon, and maybe there will be some clarity come 2:30 when the attorney general we're expected to hear from.
But, Josh, are they finding these packages because now there's so much consistency and similarities between the packages and everyone is on high alert, or are they just now turning up?
CAMPBELL: It could be both. It could be a matter of timing. Obviously, mail is promised at various speed depending on different locations and how things move. Also, this isn't just saying this from a media standpoint. This was law enforcement officers, the press conference yesterday where they actually mentioned that the package that was intercepted, that was sent to Robert De Niro, the reason the security guard knew what to look for is because he saw pictures on TV of what we were basically broadcasting, those images to get that out to the world. I think it's both of those things, the speed, now obviously officers know what they're looking for, but now the public knows to be on the lookout for these types of suspicious packages.
And as we have been saying, I say this as hopefully a public service to everyone listening. We're not out of the woods yet because until this person is fully interviewed, we don't know if he's going to be cooperative, if he's going to lay out everything he's done, the public must remain vigilant because there can be additional packages out there. Just because the failure rate thus far has been 100 percent on detonation, it doesn't mean the next one won't. Folks still need to be on the lookout.
BOLDUON: I just want to make sure everyone is up to speed. We have, according to law enforcement sources, Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz, a man has been arrested in connection to these explosive packages, a man in his 50s with an Aventura, Florida, address, outside of Miami. He has a criminal history. He has ties to New York. He was arrested at a business. This is where the focus of the video is you're looking at here. This van we have been watching throughout this entire hour that has been covered up with a tarp, put on a tow truck. Where it goes next, we will be tracking it.
[11:40:17] David Shortell, our CNN producer, David Shortell, he's on the scene, at the scene of where the arrest took place. He's got a different vantage point than Randi Kaye had.
David, what are you seeing?
DAVID SHORTELL, CNN PRODUCER (via telephone): Hey, Kate. Yes, I'm standing a bit west of the state highway where this Auto Zone is, where we see the van in the blue tarp loaded on to the truck. And actually, I saw a driver get into the truck. It looked like they were getting ready to move the van. Here, there were about a couple dozen -- a large group of law enforcement in camo fatigues. A lot of guys with FBI on the back of their jackets. They have moved in the last two, three minutes. Gotten into big Suburbans and driven out. Now we have six, seven law enforcement authorities. Some in suits, some in their uniforms. Gaggling next to the truck where a driver just got in. Again, that truck looks like a big tow truck. It has yellow flashing lights. And it has that vehicle, the blue tarp on the back of it. This is a residential area where I am, west of the South State Highway 7 in Plantation, Florida, about 30, 45 minutes north of Miami. A residential area. There's a big brick wall between the residential area but there are families and children running around here unaware of what's going on, on the other side of this 10, 12-foot fence. I'm standing on top of my car now, so I can see what's going on, on the other side of the fence. The scene here has slowed down. Again, someone has gotten into that truck just in the past minute. And it looks like they may be transporting the van momentarily -- Kate?
BOLDUON: We've been -- I just to -- David, thank you so much. Please stick with us.
I also am just looking at this new video -- the shot went out -- but what we were looking at previously on the ground for Josh and Shimon, evidence collection?
PROKUPECZ: Yes. It looks like those are evidence bags. It looks like they're looking at something and reading something. It looks like, I don't know, Josh, boxes?
BOLDUON: What do you see, Josh?
CAMPBELL: What we're seeing here are three parts to when you're executing an arrest. There's the arrest team, the investigative team, and evidence response team. These are FBI specialist, agents, analysts trained in the collection of evidence and photography. All of this is now potential evidence that will be used as a prosecution if this person is in fact charged for these crimes. This is a very methodical undergoing we're seeing now. It doesn't appear there's a sense of urgency there. They walked through methodically, step by step, catalog everything they found in the vicinity. They'll notate that, and then we see pictures before the van being towed --
BOLDUON: From earlier. PROKUPECZ: You can also see there's a person from the postal
BOLDUON: Which gets to the point we were discussing, the enormous response and coordination that's gone into this.
CAMPBELL: Correct. Can I point out one quick thing now that we're seeing this video? This is not the vantage point that we saw with the tarp. It looks like there are political bumper stickers trying to zoom in to the pictures. It looks as though we can see that from there. We don't know what the writing is, but that is of interest when we go back to the tarp and the authorities covering this --
BOLDUON: There are stickers that do look political in nature. We're looking.
PROKUPECZ: It struck me, why are they covering it up, because it's not like they're concerned that there's some kind of forensic evidence on actually the van. Sometimes if there's blood or something, so I was struck by that. You know, maybe there's a different explanation before this.
BOLDUON: We have folks looking, trying to take as close of a look as we can from these helicopter images, which we do not control. These are wonderful affiliates giving us access to their shots. We have folks looking at it, but we don't know what they say, I will say that. We do know, though, there's a lot on there, and there's.
PROKUPECZ: There's a lot on there.
BOLDUON: A lot to look at. There's a lot on that.
CAMPBELL: Again, it brings up the question, if you're law enforcement, someone made the decision that we're going to shield this from view, from the public. And again, someone made the decision, we need a tarp. We need to cover this up. I mean, cover this physically up. And then move it without the public seeing it.
BOLDUON: Just came in as well as we were talking about, President Trump tweeted out an announcement he's going to be speaking, as Abby Phillip is at the event at the White House. It's called the Young Black Leadership Summit. He said he'll be speaking shortly and he will be addressing the investigation into the bomb packages. Noteworthy this time bomb is not in quotation marks, Shimon.
PROKUPECZ: Noteworthy that the president has been briefed. He's probably been briefed all along, so he will know -- he should know. I think the FBI has a good idea of what the motivations were here. By this person. So the president would know what the motivations are likely behind this. And you know, it will be interesting to see what the Department of Justice lays out at their 2:30 press conference. There will be court documents -- (CROSSTALK)
[11:45:09] BOLDUON: Now we're seeing the van get moved.
PROKUPECZ: We have seen a lot of trucks and vans moving the last few days.
BOLDUON: A lot of the story in following it. A lot of important things moved around. We're watching this van taken from the scene of the arrest, and where it's going, we're going to be tracking it.
Randi Kaye, CNN correspondent, Randi Kaye, is at the scene of the arrest. I think she's now live with me.
Great to see you, Randi. Bring me up to speed on what you have been seeing.
KAYE: Kate, we're now set up here on the corner of State Road 7 and Peters Road in Plantation. This is a pretty busy thoroughfare normally. I'm not sure if you can see the scene behind me, but what's coming towards me -- let me move out of the way a little bit for you -- is, it looks to me, like the van with the blue tarp, the vehicle with the blue participate. And surrounded by quite a bit of heavy security. You can see that coming through this area. As I said, this is normally a pretty busy thoroughfare, but they have closed all of this off. All of the main corners, as I was saying here. This is the van. Take a look. That's the one they were focusing on, covering with a blue tarp. And that was in the area just on the other side of this thoroughfare from us. They have obviously looped around. Where they're taking that right now is unclear. Certainly, a lot of evidence that they want to get to in that van. Presumably so. And they will take a look at that as soon as they can.
But once again, you can see where we are. There's a heavy police presence. This is in Plantation, Florida. We're about 27 miles away from Aventura, Florida, where Evan Perez has been reporting that the suspected bomber lived. This is an area which is surrounded by businesses, surrounded by private homes. Surrounded by small restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores. Everyone here is sort of standing around and gathered watching this all unfold this morning. We knew they were focusing on Florida as of yesterday. We knew some of those suspected packages had come from this facility in Opa-locka, which again, is not far from here. Now, they have taken this one very large piece of evidence into their custody. That van, that vehicle with the blue tarp over it. Clearly, lots of work ahead for them today -- Kate?
BOLDUON: Absolutely. Randi, pretty amazing that van went right by you as we were watching it from the helicopter.
KAYE: Timing is everything.
BOLDUON: It's at least something. You always have good timing, Randi. I really appreciate it, Randi.
We'll get back to Randi in a second.
I'm wondering, as we watch this, there's so many similarities in all of this, as we watched the bomb truck take the packages from Manhattan to the Bronx. We're now watching this huge piece of evidence, as Randi put it, the van that obviously is connected to the man who was arrested from the auto parts store in Plantation. Where does this van go?
Josh Campbell is back here with me.
Josh, where does this van go immediately from the scene?
CAMPBELL: It's going to go likely to the FBI office, if there's a satellite office nearby, or a local police station, some type of law enforcement facility over which they have control. Again, this is now part of the chain of custody in the case against this person. So obviously, every movement, every step of this vehicle will be tracked and documented.
BOLDUON: There's going to be evidence all over this thing.
CAMPBELL: Correct. It's going to be full of --
PROKUPECZ: They're going to look at the writings.
CAMPBELL: It's going to be full of evidence with regard to his DNA, with regard to possibly maybe indicia of some of these explosive devices being put together.
PROKUPECZ: Also, this van, they likely may have this van on surveillance video somewhere when he was going maybe to ship some of this stuff or to buy some of this stuff.
CAMPBELL: You think about the packages, all the material, all of that, there may be remnants of that. We have to remember, this is just one piece of evidence here. There's also likely going to be a residence or perhaps an office. It will be a major investigation.
PROKUPECZ: One of the reasons also they need to transport it, they need to get a search warrant to search it. They need to do that, get a search warrant, and wherever it goes, they'll search it. There could be components, fibers, let's say, from inside the van found on the devices. It's really mind-boggling when you think about the forensic evidence that can be picked up by the technicians, by the experts who do this. There's fibers in these cars. There's hairs. There could be anything that they can find that would be helpful to link them to this man. But I bet they have a ton of evidence now linking him. You know, the arrest obviously happening. They got the warrant, they have a criminal complaint now drawn. Hopefully, we'll see that about exactly how all of this went down. And obviously the question of how did they arrest him? How did they find him?
BOLDUON: That's something to find out. There have been no words from your sources on how the arrest went down?
PROKUPECZ: No, electronics. I think cell phones will be key in this, too.
[11:50:05] BOLDUON: No, but the actual taking him into custody?
PROKUPECZ: Oh, yes. I'm fascinated -- and Josh can speak to this better than me -- they chose to do this in a public location, not in his home, in the middle of the night, or early morning. You sometimes see these situations.
BOLDUON: Is that a sense of urgency, immediacy, or out of necessity or --
CAMPBELL: What we've seen in the past -- you are right -- there could be an instance where they wait until the early morning hours and effect an arrest. They are obviously more advantageous to the arresting officers because you have someone not expecting it.
CAMPBELL: But one thing I've seen before is sometimes the FBI will surveil somebody while they attempt to gain probable cause to take a person into custody. What we have seen is a cost benefit if they have the person under surveillance, which say massive effort, bringing in untold a number of resources. If this person doesn't pose a threat, they will watch him until they get the court paper. And it's cleaner, he's in the system, and we are off to the races with a prosecution.
BOLDUON: Guys, stick with me as we continue.
What you are seeing on your left is video from earlier when we first had images of this van that FBI, NYPD, local law enforcement, and even the U.S. Postal Service inspectors were on the ground, before it was covered up and put on a tow truck.
On the right is live. Where that van is going as it is connected to this case. On the scene is where this van was is where this man was arrested. This 50-year-old man with a criminal history that was known to police is now in custody.
I want to go now to the White House as we are waiting to hear what the president of the United States is about to say. A tweet going from the president himself said he is going to address this whole situation when he speaks before a summit. We are looking at the White House live right now. Let me bring in Kaitlan Collins.
Kaitlan, are you hearing what the president is going to say?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We know he has been briefed on the arrest, Kate, but is he going to shed more light than we have heard from Evan Perez so far. But tweeted he is going to address it at the top of the remarks. He is attending this Young Black Leadership Summit, a formal event. He is going to take time at the top to address it. It is standard.
Kate, it is interesting. Before the president tweeted that he was going to be speak being this arrest, his last tweet from about an hour ago, he was saying he thought Republicans were doing pretty well in the early voting ahead of the midterm elections that in less than two weeks. But he said this, quote, "Bomb stuff happened and the momentum greatly slows."
A lot of questions were raised about why he had the word bomb in quotes. We reached out to see if he got some intelligence, what that was a reference to? Was it a reference to the conspiracy theories that we heard that this was a false flag operation? Kate, they didn't get back to us on what the president was referencing in that tweet. A lot of people drew conclusions because he said it is very unfortunate what is going on. Not the bomb situation, but the fact that it was slowing down Republicans in the early voting and that politics was not the main focus of the news coverage.
Kate, we know that President Trump has been frustrated by this coverage because he thinks he is being unfairly linked to whoever this person is that sent these suspected package bombs out and his allies have said the same. We saw his focus turn over the last few days when we saw the developments happening as a number of bombs came in. From the president, calling on unity to abandoning the calls and renewing his attacks on the media, saying they are the ones responsible for the division and not President Trump and his rhetoric. That was, of course, a conversation that came up since the people who were targeted in this were also targets of the president's verbal attacks.
Kate, the president hasn't made any phone calls still to anyone who has been a target of the attacks, not president Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton, not Joe Biden. None of these people have been called or any contact from the White House to update them on the investigation. I talked to someone last night, a senior official said there were no plans for President Trump to do that. That raised a lot of questions as well.
But back to the developments, we could hear from President Trump maybe a little bit more on who this person is that was arrested in connection. We do know the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who has been spearheading this investigation, is here at the White House right now. It's unclear if he met with President Trump before this event to give him an update on what exactly is going on. Vice President Mike Pence is in the air right now. But we should be finding out more soon from President Trump himself and hopefully he will shed more light on who this person is who has been arrested. BOLDUON: And is this over? Is that the working assumption that the
threat and the danger and the risk is passed?
Kaitlan, thank you so much.
The president was supposed to speak a little while ago and it's delayed at this moment. We will bring it to you as soon as the president begins speaking.
[11:55:07] You can see on the left, live pictures of the White House waiting for the event to begin.
On the right is where I would like to venture to guess, the nation's eye are at this moment. Looking at Plantation, Florida, near Miami, this van on a tow truck. We are following its progress. This was a van in the parking lot of a business, an auto parts business, where the arrest went down. A man, according to our sources, Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz, according to a law enforcement source, the man arrested in his 50s. He has an Aventura address and has a criminal past and he has ties to New York.
You see the video playing from earlier this hour. The video on the left is where the arrest went down. We saw them -- Josh Campbell is here.
We saw them, after the tarp went on, we saw them collecting evidence and a lot of that work taking place. Maybe because I don't know, but I'm struck by how public it seems that arrest would be in the parking lot of a business versus if his address seems to be nearby.
CAMPBELL: That's absolutely right. One key factor that sets this crime apart from others is the presence of explosives. If you were an arresting team, you would much rather take this person away from his residence rather than risk injury to officers as they enter the residence. Perhaps there could be a type of booby trap or the presence of explosives in the residence that may cause concern for officers. Whenever they do --
BOLDUON: Great point.
CAMPBELL: Sometimes they'll do a manual breech or explosive breech if they need to get in. That's all incendiary components that are dangerous when you couple that with the presence of explosives. Taking him in public, officers would weigh if there's a threat to the public in the vicinity.
CAMPBELL: I don't think -- but I know they wouldn't move on this person if it might injury people around him. They waited for the sweet spot when the person was away from his vehicle, which is another potential crime scene, and they were able to take him into custody apparently without incident.
BOLDUON: At the moment, as we see, on the left, there were no vehicles nearby when we at least started seeing it. We are watching the live pictures as the vehicle continues to be towed. Where it's headed. Josh said as a suggestion, an FBI field office, if it's nearby.
Let me bring in Juliette Kayyem, a former official at the Department of Homeland Security.
Juliette, thank you so much for being here.
You have been watching this develop this hour. What sticks out to you at this moment?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So specifically, something that Josh has been raising, the tarp issue. This is a political time. We don't know or are not reporting on what the bumper stickers, but covering it will have next-phase implications. I agree that they covered it. Already, the investigation may be over. We don't know if he's an accomplice or accomplices, or a piece of the investigation could be over. They are thinking about the court case and thinking about a jury. The law enforcement does not want to have anything that would be viewed as potentially tainting or damning a potential jury. This is how smart our law enforcement and agents are. They are thinking about phase two. They are thinking about, how do we now put this person potentially behind bars?
On the macro level, I want to make it clear. We do not know if the person taken is an accomplice, is the person, or is the only person. So stay tuned in some ways. But we simply do not know the reasons for the arrest. We will find out in the next couple of hours. There could be other investigations going on. In particular, what I'm looking at is the New York connection. Is there someone in New York that he was in contact with, given the scope of the delivery and the known addresses and things like that.
Just open questions right now, but good news. I think most of us anticipated an arrest like this relatively soon, given the resources focused on this case.
BOLDUON: You make a very important point. On some level, be it big or small, a relief that there's a break in this case. But still, it seems that this opens up a very important next chapter in this investigation because there are still important questions that are not yet answered. Is he alone? Is this person acting alone? Is this person the suspected bomber or someone connected to it?
We are following all of this as we follow the progress of that van and the developments in this case.
We're keeping our eyes on the White House as well. President Trump is expected to speak any moment --