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Two New Packages Found, One Addressed to Senator Cory Booker and Former Intelligence Director James Clapper. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired October 26, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: So it's James Clapper. This package I'm told by sources was addressed to James Clapper. We don't know -- now I know James Clapper. He doesn't live in New York, so it's going to be interesting to see where it was going.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Where it was addressed.

PROKUPECZ: Was it addressed to perhaps CNN? Only why I say this was because the sorting facility is six blocks south from where our offices are. So we don't know that yet.

CAMEROTA: No, of course but that's what happened to --

PROKUPECZ: That's important to keep I mind.

CAMEROTA: -- John Brennan who doesn't work here.


CAMEROTA: But it did come to CNN.


CAMEROTA: Because some of the -- the culprit thought that he --


CAMEROTA: -- should be able to reach out here.

So again, and your sources are telling you that this bears all the same hallmark.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. Very similar. And the fact that it's addressed to James Clapper, you can see why the postal inspector this morning when they saw it quickly notified the FBI once they got a hold of it and once they found it, and the FBI and obviously -- look, I mean, there's going to be a pretty large response now over at this sorting facility.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Just to be clear. The scope of this all just expanded before our very eyes. An 11th device, a suspicious package, presumably a bomb addressed to Cory Booker, Democrat from New Jersey, recovered in Florida. Here in New York City, you're looking at live pictures right now at a postal facility six blocks from here. Another suspicious package presumably, a bomb, addressed to James Clapper, former director of National Intelligence. And Shimon?

CAMEROTA: Shimon has new reporting. Go ahead.

PROKUPECZ: It was coming to CNN.

CAMEROTA: It was addressed to CNN.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. For James Clapper.

CAMEROTA: It was for James clapper addressed to CNN.


CAMEROTA: That's the newest information you just got from your sources.

PROKUPECZ: That's the newest information. Yes. Yes.

CAMEROTA: All right. This is obviously breaking news and a developing story. And we should hand it over now to our colleagues Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto who will pick up this breaking news.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. It's happening again. Yet again. Another day this week more packages targeting former officials. First the FBI has confirmed another package. 11th found last night in Florida. That, similar to the others, addressed to the current sitting New Jersey senator, Cory Booker.

HARLOW: And happening right now, six blocks from where I am sitting, the New York Police Department is responding to a suspicious package at a postal facility at 52nd Street and Eighth Avenue in New York City. A law enforcement official says the package is similar to the others.

Our Evan Perez has the latest on everything. And Evan, we have learned now very disturbing information in terms of to whom this address -- this package was addressed and also that it was intended to come to CNN.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. This is now the 12th package that's been recovered and it has all of the hallmarks. It bears all the same markings as some of the -- as the other packages that have now been tied to what is believed to be a serial suspected bomber.

And so the package that was recovered in New York just a few blocks away from CNN was addressed to CNN. And it was addressed to James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence. Obviously, the -- this and the package that was recovered in Florida overnight which was addressed to Cory Booker has all of the same similarities and these are all people who are critics of the current administration.

We shouldn't make any assumptions about the motivation of these people simply because they still have not arrested a suspect. This is something obviously that is not lost on all of the investigators who were working this case. And all of the attention on this case right now, all of the focus of the investigation by the FBI counterterrorism investigators is focused on Florida because they believe that at least some of these packages originated there.

There is particular focus on one facility in Opa-locka, Florida. This is just north of Miami. And this is a processing facility where a lot of the packages went through. So that's a huge, huge breakthrough for this investigation.

This is something that they were looking for, which is a nexus point where some of these packages were coming from because they can then from there track back to see where some of the packages were mailed from. They can look at surveillance cameras. They can even try to recover DNA.

No matter how careful this bomber was, this person who was constructing these devices, even if they were using gloves, it's very likely that they left behind some DNA. And that is something that the FBI is combing through every one of these devices to try to recover. And we expect that we're going to see a lot more attention on this today simply because when you have 12 packages that means 12 devices that they can deconstruct and they can find little clues from.

And so that's what I think is happening behind the scenes right now. Obviously, law enforcement, you can see the pictures there, now have another device to look through. And the fact that it obviously has not exploded is also another thing that they can work with -- Poppy and Jim.

SCIUTTO: Evan, let me ask you this, because, as you properly emphasized, it is early. They don't know who or who the person or persons are behind this.

[09:05:03] And they don't know the motivation. That said, you look at the list and there is a consistency in this list. The two names added today, Cory Booker, frequent critic of the president, frequent target of the president's criticism. James Clapper, frequent critic of the president as well as a target of the president's criticism.

How relevant is that at this stage as the FBI and law enforcement look at this and try to build a profile of whoever is behind this now spate of 12 bombs sent to people around the country.

PEREZ: Well, it's a big data point. Obviously it's something that cannot be ignored, it cannot be lost on anyone who is doing this to see, well, look at the commonalities of who these packages were addressed to.

But that said, Jim, as you know, I mean, having covered these stories over time, you know, it may well be that the person who is doing this wants them to think a certain way, wants the investigators to be thinking a certain way. It could be someone who is aligned with the right who is trying to target people on the left, people who are critics of the current president. It could also be someone on the left, someone who is politically left-leaning who wants in the run-up obviously to the midterm election wants there to be blame put on people on the right.

So they cannot make any assumptions. I'm told that that is exactly what they're doing. They're making sure that they don't make any assumptions simply because of the data that is now public that we know of. They are keeping an open mind as to the motivations of this person. They -- once they go talk to this person, hopefully once they have arrested them and they can get an interview with them, they can maybe get a better sense of the motivation. But I can tell you one of the things that they're doing at this stage is, you know, looking through the packages, seeing if they can gather any DNA, see if they can look at cell phone records to try to identify a person.

One of the things they're going to do is look at the internet history of that person. If they've identified the person. They're going to look through to see what kind of searches they made, what kind of comments they've made on the internet to try to get a sense of their mindset, which helps in their -- in this investigation. But at this point, I think, as you said, it is very, very clear that --

SCIUTTO: Let me toss to Poppy with a thought there.

PEREZ: That there's some commonalities about this. Correct.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: Evan Perez, thanks very much.

And, you know, Poppy, as you and I were speaking to Governor Cuomo yesterday.

HARLOW: Right. Right.

SCIUTTO: What did he say to us on the air? He said the worry is there could be more packages out there, and that's exactly what we're seeing today.

HARLOW: That's such a good point. And we heard the same thing from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio who you can bet is being briefed on this and likely heading to the scene here as he did when this happened just a few days ago here at CNN.

OK. Jason Carroll is there, our colleague on the ground.

Jason, if you can hear us, what are you seeing? We see bomb-sniffing dogs. What are you hearing? What are you seeing?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A familiar scene from what we saw earlier this week. The police came here on 52nd Street and Eighth Avenue. As you can see investigators down the street now in front of a postal facility where that package was discovered, again a package that we now learn has been addressed to James Clapper, former director of National Intelligence, addressed to CNN, discovered here at the postal facility sometime this morning. That's when we got the alert.

That's when investigators descended on the scene here at Eighth Avenue and 52nd Street just six blocks south of CNN where you are right now, Poppy. So again you've got the streets cordoned off. You've got investigators descending here on the scene as they take this package -- excuse me, sir. As they take the package and start investigating what they have discovered here.

I spoke to a postal worker this morning very quickly. I said what happened. They said it was very calm, it was very orderly. But the word had spread throughout the facility that a package had been discovered. They asked everyone to evacuate. They went across the street here at Eighth Avenue, and were told simply just to wait.

So that's what's happening here at the scene at 52nd and Eighth Avenue. It's a postal facility here in Hell's Kitchen. That's what we call it here in New York City again just six blocks south of CNN headquarters here in New York City where you've got investigators again investigating yet another package -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Unreal. Jason Carroll, thank you for being there. You and your crew hustle down there. Stay with me as well.

Let me go to our Shimon Prokupecz, who's working his sources on all of this.

Again very similar package, Shimon.


HARLOW: Addressed to James Clapper, former director of National Intelligence to us.


HARLOW: Here at CNN. He is a contributor here to CNN.

PROKUPECZ: That's right.

HARLOW: What else are you learning?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, so this package was discovered by a postal inspector this morning who then directly called the FBI and then the FBI called the NYPD bomb squad which is now on scene. I'm told that the FBI is in the midtown site now. This is where the sorting facility, this postal facility, it's where they sort mail here in midtown. So it would make sense that some of that mail would come here.

[09:10:02] It's six blocks south from us. So that's something that would make sense.

What I'm told is that the bomb squad is in there. They have evacuated a school, which is next door to this sorting facility, and they have also ordered people to stay inside. Significance here, obviously because of the intended target here.


PROKUPECZ: And it seems like the fact that we -- these other packages have been out there. People know what to look for. And that's what happened in this case.

HARLOW: And James Gagliano, who's also here with me. What is striking to me, and I know to Jim as well, and let's bring Jim into this conversation as well, is the fact that still 12 of these, and we have no suspect. And even Shimon, I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, you were telling me yesterday even your sources aren't even telling you sort of on background they have whiffs of someone.

PROKUPECZ: No. Look, I think what I am going to tell you is there is significant activity that's going on in south Florida. The sorting facility certainly has changed everything. The fact that they were able to locate where some of these packages were sent from has changed the game here. I think law enforcement is very confident in that they have some good, strong leads. And we'll see what today brings.


PROKUPECZ: But this is going to step up whatever it is that law enforcement is trying to do in terms of apprehending someone. This perhaps could -- these new discoveries could accelerate this.

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: And let's keep in mind also -- I'm sorry. Go ahead, Jim.

SCIUTTO: No, I was just going to say as we're watching the picture there, that is now a familiar sight on the streets of New York. NYPD bomb squad truck there, was outside CNN offices a few days ago. There it is again.


SCIUTTO: I imagine, Poppy, what we're going to see very soon is that containment vessel looks sort of like the back of a cement truck that has carried away.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: These devices to safely carry them away to a location just north of Manhattan where they can investigate, try to glean whatever intelligence they can from it.

Shimon, Evan, if you're still with us, I just want to ask this question because it's a question that we struggled with a bit this week. You have what law enforcement has consistently said are viable explosive devices inside these packages. And yet still a question as to how they would explode, how they would be triggered, whether they were intended to explode.

Do we know more, Evan, at this point since they have had several of these packages to look at for several days, do we know any more at this point exactly -- anything about them and the degree of the threat and how they might have been detonated?

PEREZ: Yes. That was actually a -- still a big part of this investigation, Jim. I think one of the things that early in the week, certainly in the first couple of devices. And if you remember, they actually detonated the first ones because they were very concerned in the way of the appearance and everything, all the components made them believe that this was something that was set to go off. And certainly after testing them they found what they thought was pyrotechnic powder, something sulfuric, which again is ignitable.

So the fact is now we have 12 devices and none of them have gone off. And so now the theory, the theory that law enforcement has again it's still a working theory is that this person put these together, these devices with the right components to make people be scared, to scare people but perhaps, you know, specifically not to go off. And so that's what the working theory is.

Again, there is a lot of work to be done here. The FBI is deconstructing these things at the Quantico lab. Some of them are still on their way to the lab there in northern Virginia. So there is a lot more work to be done. But at this stage the fact is, you have 12 devices. None of them have gone off. I'm told that, you know, they've jostled them. They've purposefully shaken them just to see whether or not they would go off by accident, and they have not.

So that tells us that perhaps not everything was done right or this person was a good enough bomb maker to know how not to set it off. So again, these are the working theories that they're going on at this point, but I think you've pointed out the right thing here.

HARLOW: Yes. That's a really interesting nugget there of information. They're even shaking these to see if they would go off.

James Gagliano, to you, what's your initial read?

GAGLIANO: So a couple of things, Poppy. First of all, important to understand that there is a difference between a post office and a mail sorting facility. There are about 250 mail sorting facilities throughout the country.

HARLOW: Right.

GAGLIANO: I believe there were three of them within about 20 blocks of where we are right here in the CNN building. Another important thing here, the -- you mentioned the total containment vessel, which is the vehicle that the NYPD is going to bring to take the device out, place it inside there. It looks like a white spear or orb and potentially transport it up to Rodman's Neck up in the Bronx which is where the NYPD has an outpost. Take it out of the city. We have 8.4 million here. Want to get it out to someplace beyond the suburbs where it's safe.

Now here's the thing. Those total containment vessels are designed to hold a device up to and including, and withstand the blast of 25 pounds of TNT.

[09:15:00] And the way they work, it literally is like an inside-out dive vessel. Meaning --

HARLOW: You take a submarine, you put it under water, you want to keep the pressure out. In this instance, the device goes off because it's unstable en route, we want to keep the pressure in.

SCIUTTO: James, a question for you. Because as for -- listen, the focus now -- here's one thing that's clear, is that the New York Police Department treating these as serious. You can see they've closed off the street there, they brought the bomb squad --

HARLOW: Right --

SCIUTTO: They're going to take it out in that vessel you were describing. So they're not taking any chances with how they treat it. The fact is that bomb makers sometimes make mistakes. Do they not? I remember I was in London, I covered the 77 bombings a number of years ago, targeting trains and a bus.

And two weeks later, they were copy-cat bombers, they did everything right, but they didn't get the detonator right. So they --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: You know, they had little booms but it didn't ignite the larger explosive there. So in your experience, bombers can have the worst intention but make a mistake along the way that doesn't get the result they wanted, right? I mean, that's a possibility as well.

GAGLIANO: Fair point, Jim. Here is the thing that takes me to another realm, that these might be -- being sent just for message sake. There is 11 of them now. Now, we've heard no --

SCIUTTO: Twelve --

GAGLIANO: Reporting yet --

HARLOW: Wow --

GAGLIANO: Twelve, I'm sorry. We've heard no reporting yet that there was an initiator blasting cap in these devices. And the type of switch that was used, it was a timer. That's not what we typically see. Historically, going back to the 60s, when bombings were much more prevalent, historically, we've not seen that type of a switch used for a package bomb, why?

You want the package to open when it gets to the intended recipient. In this -- in this case, it was set to a timer. So you would have to set a particular -- ten seconds, two minutes, four hours, some type of delay on it. Also the fact that there were stickers on it, parody stickers, it's like --


GAGLIANO: This bomber is either taunting us --

HARLOW: Can I -- guys, let me jump in. We have former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper joining us on the phone. Director Clapper, thank you for being with us. I'm sure you've seen all of this, but this package, this 12th package was addressed to you. It was addressed to you here at Cnn, where you are a contributor.

Two days ago you said that this was domestic terrorism, and now it is targeting you, sir. Your response?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE (via telephone): Well, first, Poppy, to you and Jim, just want to commend the great job you did on the street corner the other day when the package arrived at Cnn addressed to John Brennan. It appears at least in this case, they got the correct spelling in my name and they got the right network.

I guess more seriously, I'm really not surprised and in some sense relieved. My wife and I are away from home right now, and our neighbors have been retrieving our mail, I've been very concerned about them. So in one sense, it's kind of a relief, but it's not a surprise.

And, yes, this is -- as I said last night on with Chris Cuomo, this is definitely domestic terrorism, no question about it --

HARLOW: Yes --

CLAPPER: In my mind.

SCIUTTO: Director Clapper, you were of course -- just to remind our viewers, the nation's senior most intelligence official. You had access to intelligence, you tracked threats to U.S. national security around the world and countered terror here at home.

Place this in context for us. Have you seen a state of attempted attacks like this, if we can call it that, domestically, this kind of explosives sent to so many prominent officials. How serious do you view this?

CLAPPER: Well, it's serious, obviously. But at the same time, knock on wood, thank God, there have been no injuries or deaths from this. And I guess from what I read, there is some question about whether these things are actually functional or not. Obviously, you have to assume they are.

And whether or not this is just only intended to sow fear, intimidate, that sort of thing or they are for real, and I actually don't -- I don't know that. I do want to just echo one thing that John Brennan said, and that is, this is not going to silence the administration's critics.

HARLOW: To that -- yes, to that point, Director Clapper, and it won't stop us, you know, from doing our job every single day. The fact that we are living in this scene where, you know, Jim and I and the entire Cnn community had to evacuate from this building just two days ago and now a very eerie and similar scene playing out as we look at these aerial shots of the streets of New York six blocks away from Cnn.

[09:20:00] This is terrorizing the American -- the American people. What is your message to everyone at home watching, you know, thinking, you know, where could the next one come?

CLAPPER: Well, I think anyone who has in any way been a critic of -- publicly been a critic of President Trump needs to be on an extra alert and take some cautions -- precautions particularly with respect to mail. But at the same time, we shouldn't get too overblown about it -- to over what I guess is the right word at this point.

I have a lot of confidence in all the law enforcement elements involved in this. Certainly NYPD is phenomenal. The FBI, and I'm really quite -- you know, it's amazing how we looked to an organization like the FBI, so professional, so dedicated. And I'm just glad that our president is not characterizing them as being in tatters because this proves once again they're not.


CLAPPER: But and I need to include ATF in that, too. And so, there is a lot of, I know, a lot of resource, a lot of dedication, a lot of energy and a lot of professionalism being dedicated to tracking down the perpetrator or perpetrators and people should take heart in that.

SCIUTTO: Well, you make a good point, Director Clapper. The -- listen, terrorism by definition is designed to terrorize, to strike fear as much as anything else, and you know, we're seeing that. And I will say that, having been there in New York during one of these that New Yorkers -- yes, they'll be blocked off their street, but the moment police open that street up, they'll be back, they'll be buying coffee, they'll be walking to work.

We saw that on Wednesday. I know we'll see it again. Let me ask you this, the president was up in the middle of the night last night, and he was again taking a shot at the media's coverage of his response to this. What words in your view from the commander-in-chief would be calming, helpful, encouraging to the American people now, right now?

What would you -- what kind of statement would you like to hear from him?

CLAPPER: Well, I thought the teleprompter statement that the president made from the White House initially sounded the right note. I think it would have been a lot more appropriate, a lot more sincere, had he actually named the targets and said something reassuring to them.

And as well, I thought it was -- and I'm sure it was intentional, not even to mention Cnn. And in this -- you know, this is an assault on one of our most important institutions in this country, which is a free press. And Cnn has set the example here by continuing to exercise that important responsibility. And you serve -- you serve as an example to all the rest of us. We can't stop. We can't stop our lives. We have to go on.

HARLOW: We do. We will --

CLAPPER: And as far as the president is concerned, I wish -- and again, this is purely a fantasy because he's already made it clear that he's not going to do this. And I'm not suggesting a direct cause in effect a relationship between anything that he said or done and these -- and the distribution of these explosives.

But I do think he bears some responsibility for the coarseness and incivility of the dialogue in this country. And that he needs to remember that his words count, his voice is the most important in this country, and then for that matter, the world.

HARLOW: Yes --

CLAPPER: And he should think about that in the way he addresses the country. And so, if he could continue what he did the other day when this first announcement -- and I think it would have been a lot better had he skipped the rallies because they seem to have an effect on him.

HARLOW: Yes, look, Director Clapper, you could not be more right. Words matter and they matter the most right now. Now, what will we hear from the top? Before you go, sir -- again, if you're just joining us, a 12th suspicious package delivered to a mail sorting facility six blocks from Cnn, addressed to the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, addressed to him at Cnn where he is a contributor here.

[09:25:00] Director Clapper, given the prior package sent to John Brennan and other targets, do you have any additional security that people have been putting around you, et cetera? Have any other precautions been taken for you personally?

CLAPPER: Well, I probably shouldn't comment on that right now. I'll probably ought to pass on that.

HARLOW: Understood, thank you very much, Director Clapper, and Jim, I think we're going to get a quick break in here as we gather more information, and we'll be right back.

SCIUTTO: We're going to stay on it.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back, the breaking news. Two new suspicious packages discovered today, 12 in total now this week. The 11th addressed to Cory Booker, that found at a mail facility in Florida. The 12th -- and these are pictures you're seeing here live found at a mail-sorting facility in midtown Manhattan addressed to the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper with the address, the CNN Headquarters in New York.

And what you're seeing there now is a picture that might be familiar to you. That is a --