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Package Found in New York; Investigators Look at Florida Sorting Facility; Officials Continue Removal of New York Package. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 26, 2018 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:30:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: National intelligence James Clapper with the address of the CNN headquarters in New York.

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

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

SCIUTTO: That is a containment vessel the NYPD brings in to place an explosive device. We saw them take it away from CNN's offices a couple of days ago. And now it's arrived again for this package.

Our Jason Carroll is on the scene there now in midtown Manhattan.

Jason, tell us what you're seeing there and what the police are saying to you.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you know all too well, a very familiar scene to what we saw earlier this week. We've got a number of investigators here, NYPD, state police, FBI, who have all descended here at 52nd Street and 8th Avenue, just about six blocks south of where you are, at this postal facility where once again that suspicious package was discovered early this morning. That package addressed to former director of national intelligence James Clapper. The package fitting a similar description to the packages that we have seen discovered earlier this week with the manila envelopes, with the similar markings.

In addition to that, I had an opportunity very quickly to speak to a postal worker who was here at the facility this morning. I said what happened? He said --

SCIUTTO: Jason, sorry to interrupt, just because we're seeing a live picture there of EMS workers bringing a stretcher in. Have you heard or seen or been told of an evidence of an injury, or is this just precautionary?

CARROLL: No, that's just precautionary.

SCIUTTO: OK.

CARROLL: And, in fact, we saw that a little earlier. And when I said, what's happening here, what's going on with that, they said, we're just doing this because we're just doing what we're told.

I spoke to John Miller, who is the deputy commissioner of intelligence in counter terrorism, as you know, for the NYPD, and he said, look, what we're going to be doing, it's just we've going to be following the same protocol that we followed earlier this week. We bring everyone in. We isolate the package. And then, as you know, the package is removed. We saw that earlier when they brought in that special bomb vehicle earlier this week. They're going to be doing that again. In fact, bringing that vehicle in on 52nd Street, which has been blocked off.

So, they're going to be following the same protocol they followed earlier this week. John Miller also telling me that they expect sometime early this afternoon, perhaps late this morning, to have some sort of an update here with officials as they get more information.

HARLOW: OK, Jason Carroll, thank you. Please standby for us.

Let me bring in Shimon Prokupecz, who's literally working his sources on set here, making calls, and James Gagliano, who's with us as well.

Shimon, in terms of a suspect, leads, what can you tell us at this point? Because we're talking about 12 packages now.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: So basically I think what -- the only thing we can really say at this point is that there has been significant progress in the investigation. Authorities focusing, it's quite clear from what we know, and based on video, based on our presence at this sorting facility in Florida, that investigators are now focused on that area, focused on the south Florida area and that they've made some progress. We don't know what that progress is. We don't know where the investigation stands.

But, you know, I can tell you, in talking to folks, certainly throughout today, already this morning, and then even last night, that there was optimism in terms of where this investigation was heading and that investigators were feeling pretty good about what they know. But they're not there yet. And certainly they're not at a point where they can release anything publically.

HARLOW: OK.

SCIUTTO: Evan Perez, I understand you're getting new reporting about package number 11 discovered in Florida addressed to Senator Cory Booker.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. That's a package that was actually addressed to Senator Cory Booker's Camden office in New Jersey, which I think there's now a police presence there. They're doing a protective sweep of the -- of the building to make sure that there's nothing else there. It's not -- there's no indication yet that there is actually something dangerous there, that there's actually another package there. But this is what we see that they do when they discover a package that has been addressed and that is intercepted on the way. In this case, I'm told by sources that this package was intercepted in

Florida at that Opa Locka facility, the sorting facility, processing facility that the postal service operating there just north of Miami.

And just to underscore what Shimon just said, I think the fact that they were able to isolate or at least find a nexus for the commonality for some of these packages to this facility in Opa Locka, which collects mail from a certain part of the Miami area, really is a huge break-through in this investigation. And as Shimon said, I think the -- certainly the change in the law enforcement stance in the last 24 hours, I think they do feel a lot more optimism that they're going to be able to stop this, they're going to be able to find this person simply because they've been able to isolate the place where this appears to have originated.

[09:35:04] Again, at this point, it appears they feel that these packages originated largely from southern Florida. So this is where they're sending their resources. They're going to be pressing forward to try to make sure they can get to this person before anybody gets hurt.

SCIUTTO: Hey, Evan, just a quick question on that. I mean is it the way the postal system works? I mean if it went to a sorting facility in Opa Locka, Florida, does that mean, necessarily, that the first point of origin was somewhere in Florida, or do these things work regionally?

PEREZ: Yes.

SCIUTTO: It sounds like you're saying there that that -- that things coming from the Miami area, elsewhere in Florida, all go in that direction.

PEREZ: That's -- that's my understanding, and that's the understanding that investigators are working with is that that facility serves a particular area, a particular zone in southern Florida. So the fact that the packages -- or at least the commonality for many of the packages was in that facility I think gives them a smaller universe of areas, of postal -- of post offices and other collection points to focus on. And they can go through surveillance video. They can see who might have been dropping off packages that looked like this in the past, you know, week or so, Jim.

I think that's one of the big breakthroughs in this investigation. And it's one of the things that we were looking for, which was, you know, we've seen this in other investigations. For instance, the Austin, Texas, bombings earlier this year. The big breakthrough was to find the commonality of the shipment and this is what has happened here for these investigators in the last 24 hours there in southern Florida.

HARLOW: OK.

Shimon Prokupecz joins us now as well. He's working his sources on the phone right now.

Shimon, do you need a minute? All right, let's give Shimon a minute.

Jim -- is Jim Maxwell with us, former bomb tech?

Jim, can you -- Jim Maxwell, hi.

What can you --

JIM MAXWELL, RETIRED FBI SPECIAL AGENT BOMB TECH: Hi.

HARLOW: What we've learned so far from these previous packages that we know this one is similar to is that some of the powder found in the one that actually made it in the CNN building here earlier this week on Wednesday was pyrotechnic powder, right? And, again, all 12 of these so far have not exploded. What would you be looking at right now if you were with that team, with that containment vessel, removing this suspicious device from the postal facility at this minute?

MAXWELL: Well, pyrotechnic material, it's a general term. I'll give you an example. What was used by the Tsarnaev brothers in the Boston Marathon bombing, it was material -- chlorite (ph) material culled from fireworks. This type of material is very sensitive. It's impact sensitive. It's static sensitive. And it's sensitive to an electrical charge. So just handling this material is potentially dangerous, especially if it's confined inside a vessel, like a pipe bomb or a pressure cooker. So, in that regard, I would be concerned.

But based on what I've seen so far of the x-rays, I haven't seen anything that would indicate that this was a functional device. You know, some of the pictures I've seen, or the images I've seen, you know, you don't have the whole picture there, but I'm a little skeptical whether or not these devices are function -- will function as designed.

And that's something for the laboratory to figure out. And we're in the process now. We have a potential wealth of forensic information here. The laboratory is going to look at each one of these devices separately and then start making comparisons.

SCIUTTO: Can I ask a question?

MAXWELL: And there are things as simple as the type of tape used, you know, whether or not the tape matches up to other devices. Whether or not the hardware in each device match up or there is any similarities in the chemical content of this material.

The fingerprints, DNA, there's quite a bit of material to go through. And this is a very tedious, time-consuming process. This isn't a CSI. We don't do it in between commercials. So we're going to have to give the lab some time to really sort this out. But I think, from a prosecutor's standpoint, there's a wealth of information here that could be used against this individual once he's identified.

SCIUTTO: Jim, just a quick follow there. There are a whole host of things that terrorists do, or wannabe terrorists do from sending real devices, to devices intended purely to scare, to making a device that doesn't work as they had hoped.

In your experience, as a special agent, a bomb tech, is there precedent for a serial bomber, if we can call it like this, to send out bombs purely to scare, ones that were not capable of exploding on contact but that the intention is simply to terrorize?

[09:40:08] MAXWELL: The -- it's not likely. The only times I've ever experienced this is in extortions or bank robberies where individuals comes in with hoax devices and make a threat or an extortion, a demand, just showing the device, and the device turns out to be a facsimile device, not something real.

When you have somebody that's as prolific as this, he's making a statement, obviously, and obviously he's catching everybody's attention. But none of these devices have functioned. So to really break down the motives here, until we identify this person, I think we're just purely speculating as far as the motive as to why he's doing this.

SCIUTTO: All right, Jim Maxwell, retired FBI special agent tech.

We've got our whole CNN team looking at this, reporting it out.

We're going to take a short break here. Poppy and I will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:45:33] HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. Jim Sciutto and I are on top of the breaking news.

You're looking at the first images we're getting of this 12th suspicious package delivered to former director of national intelligence -- meant to be delivered to former director of national intelligence James Clapper, delivered to him here at CNN. It was stopped, however, six blocks away at a postal sorting facility on 52nd Street, on the west side of Manhattan.

But, again, this looks really exactly the same except for the intended recipient, Jim, than the -- than the other ones.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: The same return address of Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Of course, it is not believed that it came from there. Florida is spelled wrong in that return address. But, again, six postage stamps, just like the others. And from first glance here, it does not appear to have a postmark, which is part of what has really confused authorities at this point in time.

Let's go down to 52nd Street, very close to where we are. Our Mark Morales, a CNN law enforcement report, is there with more.

So, Mark, we saw the total containment vessel that will take this away up to the Bronx to be -- to be looked at, possibility detonated, right there with the other vehicles. We see it pulling up here. What else can you tell us from the scene?

MARK MORALES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT REPORTER: Well, it's a full emergency response here. We've got high ranking officials from the NYPD, FDNY, even some state police are here. The head of the counterterrorism division, John Miller, at the NYPD, he's here as well. It's really sort of -- it's the NYPD sort of keeping everybody behind police tape away from the post office.

The post office has been fully evacuated. And anybody that leaves the surrounding buildings are escorted away from the area for the time being until this package is in the containment vessel and on to Rodman's Neck.

SCIUTTO: Thanks very much, bringing us the latest from the scene there now.

And, well, a familiar scene. Bomb squad, containment vessel for explosive device, streets closed off in New York, the 12th package now sent. This one, as we've been saying, you see it there, to James Clapper.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Addressed to CNN's offices in New York. He is a contributor. And like you say, Poppy, all the hallmarks of those other packages we've seen.

HARLOW: Yes. Exactly.

SCIUTTO: The six American flag stamps, the return address with the state of Florida misspelled.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: The yellow package with the bubble wrap inside. Of course the next step will be -- and they're doing this -- I'm sure they've already made an assessment.

HARLOW: Right. Hey --

SCIUTTO: What's inside? Is it identical.

HARLOW: Jim -- Jim, I just wanted to jump in with you here and tell our viewers some new information that we have from -- from the worldwide president of CNN, that is Jeff Zucker, confirming that all mail, Jim, that is destined for CNN, as this package this morning was, is now being screened first at an offsite location. It is not coming into our mailroom. It is being screened first, which, you know, this is six blocks from CNN. It was screened there first.

Shimon.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, so, here's the thing that I want to know. Is I want to know -- I would want to know, when did they receive this? When did the sorting facility -- this is midtown Manhattan. The location, I'm told, is a sorting facility. Why this is important is so the postal inspectors yesterday said that they had searched these facilities, sorting facilities, and they had an entire day where they did not find anything. And so they were feeling good. They were feeling that some confidence that they weren't going to get anymore.

HARLOW: You know they searched this facility yesterday?

PROKUPECZ: We don't know if they searched this facility.

HARLOW: OK.

PROKUPECZ: We know that they searched facilities in general. They had said that they had searched postal sorting facilities and they had not found anything suspicious.

We know that the one from Cory Booker, the one that was sent to Cory Booker, was found last night. So that could have been sitting at the sorting facility for a few days.

The reason why that's significant is, we need to know if this was something that was sent yesterday or the day before. Obviously that's something that investigators are going to want to know. And then we're also going to want to know if this went through that sorting facility in Florida where a lot of the FBI investigators are now focused on certainly in the south Florida area, that is something that they're interested in because there is obviously a lot of focus in that area because the belief is that some of these packages came from that area, which then lead to the person who perhaps is responsible for this to be in that area. So there is a large focus on that now by authorities there.

[09:50:02] SCIUTTO: Shimon, a question for you. These packages, of course, discovered today, one in Florida overnight, now this one just now. Is investigators' sense that additional packages are still being sent, or as they look around for these things, they're now discovering packages that were sent at or around the same time as the others?

PROKUPECZ: Right. And that's sort of what I was getting to, I guess, Jim, that we don't know. And I think that's important to know because it would help investigators in knowing and leading to some questions about the person who is responsible for this. So there are things that are going on that we don't know about that investigators are doing. So if someone was mailing something new, let's say yesterday or the day before, they would probably want to know that because it would help obviously in their investigation. And it would help them, I think, make it a little easier for them to pinpoint a suspect.

We don't know, because yesterday the postal inspectors had thought that they had searched facilities. They did not see anything suspicious. So they thought that they were in the clear in terms of anything new entering the facilities. So this could be something that has been sitting there at this midtown location and they just discovered it this morning.

SCIUTTO: And just correct me if I'm wrong on the issue of postmark, which was an initial question. They now know that all of these packages were sent through the postal system. A courier's involvement, that's a regular part of -- that oftentimes you'll have a courier do the last mile, in effect, of package delivery from the postal system to whatever the specific address is. But they -- authorities are convinced that all of these things were mailed through the U.S. postal system?

PROKUPECZ: Right. So there is -- yes, it seems that now that they've been able to confirm that all of these came through the mailing system, that this came through the postal service, which is why they're involved. It seems that a large part of these came through that Florida facility where we've been at the last two days and also where the FBI agents were searching and local authorities there have been searching. But there's every belief now that this came through the postal system, through the mail system.

HARLOW: OK.

Let me jump in, guys, with some breaking news.

We've just found out that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of course the former chair of the Democratic National Committee, congresswoman from Florida, will hold a press conference live from Florida at 10:00 a.m. That's in about less than ten minutes time. Of course, the relevance here is that it's her office's return address that has been placed on all of these packages with the word Florida misspelled, of course. It is not believed they are from there. But she is going to address this in less than ten minutes time, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely.

And just to our former FBI agents who are with us now, we've got a few of them. We've got Manny Gomez, we've got James Gagliano, we've got Jim Maxwell.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: A lot of -- a lot of collective experience there.

Look and place into context and give us a sense of the significance of the collection of targets. Former officials of the Obama administration, current sitting senator and congresswoman, Democratic Party, folks that have criticized the president and been criticized by the president.

Manny Gomez, as you begin to try to build a profile of the person or persons behind this, is that relevant information?

MANNY GOMEZ, FORMER FBI AGENT: Absolutely. For example, Secret Service takes very copious notes and has files on people that have threatened these former officials. I'm sure these are all persons of interest. The Secret Service, as well as the FBI, will be talking to most of these people to see if they had any part in it. But also the fact that we know who the targets are. And they are building a profile. The FBI also has tremendous behavioral analysts that are currently working on a profile of this person so that investigators could then have a better idea of who we're dealing with.

But I think the best information is the fact that a lot of these packages have come from that facility in Opa Locka, southeast Florida. And that, through videotape, through other evidence, such as like Jim Maxwell was saying before --

HARLOW: Yes.

GOMEZ: Once they start dissecting these devices, hopefully we can get some sort of DNA evidence, some fingerprint, perhaps a hair sampling. These are a lot of packages --

HARLOW: Right.

GOMEZ: And I am very confident that a mistake was made along the way, which investigators would capitalize on.

HARLOW: OK.

All right, everyone stay with us.

Again, if you're just joining us, the breaking news, a 12th package attempted to be delivered to the former director of national intelligence, attempted to be delivered to CNN, intercepted.

And just before we go to break, Jim, the 11th package meant for Senator Cory Booker, our Suzanne Malveaux just spoke to the senator who said to her the package was sent and, quote, intended for me but was intercepted. He would not comment further.

[09:55:09] We'll bring you up to speed on all of it right after this. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

HARLOW: All right, it is the top of the hour, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, here on Friday morning. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.

A familiar scene, a riveting scene, a sad one, two more package bombs have been found today, this morning, bringing the total to 12 so far this week. One in New York City addressed to the former director of national intelligence James Clapper at CNN's New York offices.

[10:00:13] HARLOW: That's right.