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Bomber Identified as Cesar Sayoc In Florida; Suspect Arrested While Shopping at Auto Zone; Sayoc Has Criminal Record and Once Threatened to Blow Up a Florida Utility; FBI Put Tarp Over Suspect's Van to Protect Stickers and Show Political Motivation. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired October 26, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, everyone, I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Here's the breaking news for you on this incredibly busy Friday afternoon. This is the man now in custody in connection with the series of expected explosive packages isn't to two former Presidents and a number of other top officials. Federal investigators arrested Cesar Sayoc today in south Florida. He has an Aventura, Florida address near Miami. The suspect we are told also has ties to New York.
This guy has quite the criminal history. The mug shot is from a previous arrest. The pictures are from the scene of today's arrest where authorities seized this van, among other items. You can see the van. It is covered in stickers, including huge images of President Trump, Vice President Pence and a sticker that is critical of CNN.
In just a couple of minutes, the Justice Department is planning to hold a news conference. Live pictures there. We'll of course bring that to you the moment we see them speak. But today, even more packages have been intercepted, including one to new jersey senator Cory Booker and another to former intel chief James Clapper, which was addressed to us here at CNN. Authorities are investigating two additional suspicious packages to Kamala Harris and Tom Steyer. The President spoke at an event. He once again did not mention the people targeted by name.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We must never allow political violence take root in America, cannot let it happen. I'm committed to doing everything in my power as President to stop it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So, let's take it straight to Florida, to our colleague there, Randy Kaye where the suspect was arrested at that Auto Zone. Tell me how they found them and what you know about the arrest.
RANDY KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's unclear how long they had been tracking him. We know he was a customer there. It's about 30 minutes north of Aventura, where we're told the suspect lived. They came here this morning, they arrested him, we don't know what went down. We were arriving here as he was being arrested but we didn't see the actual arrest. But here at the Auto Zone is where they took that vehicle you were just talking about, the vehicle that had those stickers all over it with the President and Vice President and derogatory statements about CNN, very fitting of course with the packages he had sent allegedly and the targets he had allegedly had. So, this is where it all went down. Then inside, Brooke, for about an hour while we were here, we watched FBI investigators look through the computer, perhaps looking for things he might have purchased here. Maybe that played a role in this investigation. They were taking very serious notes on what they were seeing in the computer, they were taking pictures around the store, pictures of the front area. One thing also to note is what's unclear is if there are any security cameras inside that store that maybe they were able to get some security camera video of him here as well. But that is how the arrest went down here in Plantation, Florida.
BALDWIN: OK. Randy, thank you very much. In Florida, we'll delve a little deeper into that more in a little bit. Let's just get all the details I have a lot of questions.
With me, CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupesz, CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell, a former FBI supervisory agent, CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers, a former prosecutor, and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd, who once served in the CIA and the FBI.
Shimon let me start with you more on the suspect. When I mention the suspect has quite the history, he has quite the history. Florida records indicate a string of arrests dating back to the 90s, most notably for an offense described in the records as a, quote, threat to bomb and threaten to discharge destructive devices.
SHIMON PROKUPESZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, that's the one from 2002. It was an arrest by Miami police. They're describing a threat to bomb. Sounds like he threatened someone, made a bomb threat. It's clear when you look at this guy's history, and we've done a lot of our own work now that we have his name and we're digging.
[14:05:00] We're being cautious about it. It's important everyone take a deep breath and be cautious about the information. We know a lot about him, as does law enforcement. His political leanings certainly. We have a lot of information. His criminal history probably shows someone, there are assault and battery charges, drug possession, probation violations. You can argue maybe he has some anger management issues, maybe other issues going on. Look, I've been talking to law enforcement since this arrest has been made and they clearly say this guy has a problem. There's issues with this person. We always hear in these situations it's someone with psychiatric issues. It probably could be that there's an element of that in this case. However, you know, what he did here allegedly and what authorities are saying he did here was very destructive. It may not have hurt anyone, but think about the fear that he caused. Think about the money that has been lost to businesses because of evacuation, the money spent on this investigation. So, look, this was a very scary situation. Hopefully this is now over. I know they are finding more devices or suspicious packages but these could have been sent days ago. We'll see. When you look at this guy, this is a troubled -- I mean, it's obvious but this guy is really troubled.
BALDWIN: Hopefully he was also acting alone. Josh Campbell, just over to you, Shimon has his past and the fact that they arrested him today, public view at this Auto Zone instead of going to his private residence, why?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, so law enforcement officers will typically attempt to arrest someone and not in a public area. They want to take someone down where there won't be a larger threat to a public or other people. Often, we'll see an early morning arrest at a residence, for example, or where a person might be. Sources are telling us actually that one factor in the decision to arrest him in a public spot here pertained to the nature of explosives that were used in some of these packages. The theory being if, for example, the S.W.A.T. officers are going to have an explosive breach at his door, that might set off additional explosives. They decided instead of actually going to the residence, they would take him at a time and place of their choosing and then send the bomb technicians through the house to do a methodical examination once he was safely in custody.
BALDWIN: What does this, Phil Mudd, tell you about his history or interest of explosives and bombs?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Think of it like a kaleidoscope. Were talking about how you find somebody like this over time. He's got a criminal record, I am guessing that law enforcement in South Florida was looking for people who may have made threats like this. You match that against DNA evidence and obviously the tracking you get from the United States Postal Service, you start to get a sense of what a classic investigation looks like. Different bits and pieces, sort of like sand on a beach and slowly you build a beach and all of a sudden somebody walks into your office and you are game on, you got them. We see a piece of it but they must have a lot, a lot.
BALDWIN: They have the sand. Because of his reporting we know they used DNA, they used a cell phone to track him. Can you walk through how that would have found those pieces and how that led them to him?
MUDD: The first piece, DNA, when that bomb goes down to the facility at Quantico where the FBI would look at it, you're not on looking for things like hair or saliva, you're looking for the forensics on the bomb. Did he buy anything who had a serial number on it? You're going to go out to whoever sold out and say who are the stores you sell it to? Let's say you find something like that in the device.
You then realize the package was sent from south Florida. Who got that stuff delivered in south Florida? DNA, whether they had DNA when they were arrested initially or whether you have a criminal record of someone with that DNA, it's all that stuff swirling and it comes together and gels so fast and here you go.
PROKUPESZ: I want to know why he was going to Auto Zone today. We saw them interviewing people there.
BALDWIN: Do we know if there was a connection? Did he work there?
PROKUPESZ: No, he didn't work there. Was he going there to buy more stuff to do this? It would be hard to believe he would given all the publicity about this now. We saw FBI agents inside the store interviewing people. I was wondering why he went there today. The other thing is we had heard honestly there would be an arrest coming soon. We thought it would be maybe later in the day. I wonder what happened and why they chose to arrest him at that time?
BALDWIN: Maybe something will come out during this D.O.J. news-er in just a second. Jennifer, I am going to come to you in just a second.
[14:10:00] Josh, take us inside. Once he's at the facility in Florida, you've got investigators sitting across the table, staring and wondering why and how and was anyone else involved, what are those questions and how do they get him to talk?
CAMPBELL: Up to this point we have forensic evidence. Now you have the ability to sit in front of a subject, at least an alleged subject, and gather additional information. A lot will come down to whether this person is actually cooperative. Is he proud of what he did? This is now the opportunity for him to describe for the world to interviewing agents, to brag. We'll see exhibit some of those mental health issues that may exist based on at least some things that we are learning about his past? Or does he clam up? Does he decide that he is not going to cooperate? But again, potential gold mine for law enforcement officers if he does decide, are there are additional packages out there. In these types of incidents, once a subject is in custody, he has to be Mirandized but there is this public safety exception that exists. It will be interesting to learn whether or not the interviewing officers, again, and this will now move to the prosecutors, who have purview over this, did they hold off to find out if there were additional packages?
BALDWIN: Can you speak to this? You were reporting on your former SDNY in the news you have on him, and look what happened.
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think they would have tried for a Mirandized statement, they could say and they would have done that first. Once he clams up, it's time to give him his warnings and proceed from there. It will basically go to court now. When they're done with the public safety questioning, he'll be moved to be presented in court in Florida and then because this or district of New York is going to handle the case, at least be the primary office on the case, he will be brought up here after that. But he has to see a judge within 24 hours and the judge he will see will be in the district of his arrest. First, he'll see a judge down there where they'll read him his rights, get him a lawyer, make sure he understands the charges against him and then talk about bail, which he obviously won't be getting in this case.
BALDWIN: Stick around everyone. We have to talk about the van, the van that the FBI tossed the blue tarp over, littered with pro Republican, anti-CNN, anti-Democrat, what this will help investigators learn about his motives in coming up. We're watching and waiting for this department of justice news conference where we should learn more about the details, how they got him, got him so quickly, charges, any kind of new details the public can glean from all of this and hopefully the fact that this was it and he was acting alone. You're watching CNN special coverage here on this Friday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.
[14:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: As we wait for new details from Department of Justice officials, we now have a name, we have a face. This is a man who has been arrested just a couple of hours ago, his name is Cesar Sayoc, his 56 years of age, lives in Florida but has ties to New York and he has a criminal history. And let me show you this. This is his van. It is plastered with photos of President Trump and Vice President Pence, it shows pictures of former President Obama and Hillary Clinton and it includes a sticker that is critical of CNN. So, I've got my panel with me, Jim Clemente, a former FBI profiler. Let me turn first to you, Josh Campbell. On the pictures of the van, as we mentioned, highly political, how does it help law enforcement understanding?
CAMPBELL: So, from the moment we first saw these pictures and Shimon and I were watching in real time as the officers approached and then they placed a tarp over this van, the question is why is the FBI doing this?
CAMPBELL: There are instances whenever you're moving evidence or moving a vehicle you might want to pack it up so evidence doesn't want to come out. I don't think that's the case here. We've seen cases where they've put it on a tow truck to take it to the office to process it.
I think what we're looking at here is probably two things, two theories and both can be true. The first is obviously politically charged now and people will be seizing on these and try to leap to motive. And also, more of a legal reason, again now this is moving over to the purview of prosecutors, this van has potential evidence and prosecutors will be wanting to do everything they can to eventually perhaps present this as evidence. This is avoiding missed opportunities that you can avoid if you don't have to. You don't want to prejudice a jury, for example, that might be watching these broadcast images over national television.
[14:20:00] They're going to go through every step of the way to try to preserve evidence to present it. There are a number of different reasons why this could take place.
PROKUPESZ: I know from the beginning since Monday when that first bomb was discovered --
PROKUPESZ: Soros. Law enforcement and the FBI knew they were dealing with something likely politically motivated. When you look at the van, that gives motive a lot. When I looked at that given what I know about law enforcement, to me it appeared they just wanted to cover it up. Imagine that van with media cameras, helicopters, covering it for an hour as it went down this highway in Florida, and all of us just constantly talking about it. I think they were aware this could potentially be a problem. All the evidence they need is really inside that van. What is on the outside, they would need to preserve.
BALDWIN: Jim, you note that it shows meticulousness, how so?
JIM CLEMENTE, FORMER FBI PROFILER: We typically think of stickers on vans as very shoddy and disorganized. This is extremely organized. I think this would mirror his personality. I think he's a very obsessive, compulsive person. Somebody who is trying to get a message out by driving this van around with all of these extreme messages on it. I think he was frustrated and went an extreme step further and sent out these bombs to try to get his message across.
BALDWIN: Phil, how do you see it?
MUDD: Pretty simple. People are going to jump to political conclusions. I think a practitioner would use a phrase, E.D.P., emotionally disturbed person. In the old Al Qaeda days people immediately say that is a Muslim terrorist. People like me on the inside say don't go there until you figure out the rationale of someone who is decided in this case to send out a dozen bombs or more. I would say there is some E.D.P. potential, emotionally disturbed even if there are political undercurrent that people are going to try to pull on.
BALDWIN: On the E.D.P. notion, we've got no information. We were talking earlier he has a record of arrests. So, we are now getting a bit more on this 2002 arrest in Miami where, Shimon, jump in, where he threatened to blow up a Florida utility company and said it would be, quote, worse than 9/11.
PROKUPESZ: This happened in 2002. According to this report, he contacted a representative from the Florida power and light company and threatened to blow it up and, quote, would be worse than September 11. It says according to this document that the call came in from one of the customers, he threatened to blow up the building if the utility company turned off his lights and that he threatened the individual, the employee of this utility company with bodily harm. They called police and police arrested him. Maybe this goes to the point that Phil would make. I was talking to law enforcement and they probably would agree with this assessment, he has problems and they're digging through all that.
BALDWIN: Jim Clemente, if this is the kind of individual who threatened if they turned off his lights, he would blow this entire facility up. This is 16 years ago, this penchant for explosives, bombs, what does that tell you?
CLEMENTE: Well, it's very similar to the situation that we found in the mad bomber of New York, an historic bomber who actually had a long campaign of bombing and hurt a lot of people. So, it's not unusual to start with the utility companies. This is something that he obviously had trouble paying his bill and therefore they were going to turn off his electricity. That is one level of frustration. He's also now aiming at what's going on in the country. He's using that as his goal now to try to overcome that.
BALDWIN: Hang on. There is frustration and you write a letter. Then there's this level of frustration when you threaten to bomb a utility company.
BALDWIN: How -- where does that come from?
CLEMENTE: He may very well have some sort of mental disorder. It may be pushing him to the extreme. Obviously, he's actually gone to an extreme that 99.99 percent of the public would never do. It's fortunate that no one was killed because he obviously had the intention based on what he stated to actually hurt people.
BALDWIN: Thank goodness. I appreciate you for jumping on and everyone. Again, we are minutes away from a department of justice briefing. We'll take it live. We should get quite a bit of information about who this person is, why perhaps the beginnings of a motive, why he would want to do this. Stay with me. You're watching CNN.
[14:25:00] BALDWIN: All right, we now have a suspect in custody. You're looking at him now after 14 suspicious packages have been intercepted. We learned about the most recent in the last hour here, which brings us to number 13 and number 14. This suspect was arrested in Plantation, Florida, which is near Miami but apparently has ties to New York and has a criminal history. We're about to get a lot more information about who this information is and if he was acting alone. Pamela brown is standing by at the department of justice. What should we expect from this D.O.J. news conference?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We're expecting it at any moment now in the wake of the arrest of 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc who authorities believe was behind this string of pipe bombs sent to people really around the country. At last check we're at 14 suspicious packages, the latest to Democratic donor Tom Steyer and Kamala Harris. Our latest reporting, Brooke, is that some of the evidence, such as DNA found on at least one of the packages, as well as the suspect's cell phone use helped lead authorities to him today and to make that arrest. Of course, there are many unanswered questions, including were there more people involved potentially or could anyone else have encouraged him to be a part of this.