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Serial Mail Bomb Suspect Arrested in Florida; Trump Calls for Civility but Continues to Blame the Media; Journalist's Fiancee Says His Death Was Unthinkable; New Airstrikes on Gaza; Duke and Duchess of Sussex Cheer Invictus Athletes. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired October 27, 2018 - 03:00   ET

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


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CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The manhunt is over and a suspect is behind bars. Details on the crucial clue that led U.S. investigators to the suspect accused of sending explosive packages in the mail.

U.S. president Donald Trump said he doesn't need to tone down his rhetoric and could really tone it up.

Plus the bereaved fiancee of killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks about what she was feeling going to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta. I'm Cyril Vanier and it is great to have you with us as always.

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VANIER: U.S. authorities believe that they caught a serial bomber who waged a frightening campaign this week against prominent Democrats and others. Authorities say a fingerprint on a package led them to 56- year-old Cesar Sayoc in South Florida.

He's now linked to at least 14 explosive devices intercepted across the U.S. since Monday. Police also impounded his white, van covered with pro-Trump imagery and propaganda as well as negative images of many of his intended targets. Jim Sciutto has more on the suspect.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc is in custody.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: These are not hoax devices.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Officials say he was living with his parents but they had kicked him out so he was now living out of his van, which authorities took into custody after his arrest.

The van, covered in political decals, images of the president and vice president and one saying "CNN sucks," a frequent chant at the president's rallies. Sayoc attended one of those rallies in Melbourne, Florida, in 2017 and held up a sign with the same message.

He had been active across social media, posting images of himself at Trump rallies, pro-Republican messages, attacking many of his alleged targets, such as Hillary Clinton and former president Barack Obama, even posting memes attacking billionaire investor George Soros after a potential explosive was found at Soros' home.

Other alleged targets: former vice president Joe Biden, Senator Cory Booker and Congresswoman Maxine Waters. And Sayoc posted a series of threats directed at CNN, its anchors, correspondents and contributors.

"The Washington Post" quoting one his of former employers describing the disturbing images on his van.

"It was puppets with their heads cut off, mannequins with their heads cut off, Ku Klux Klan, a black person being hung, anti-gay symbols, torching, bombings."

Online records show that Sayoc had an extensive arrest record across two states including grand theft, battery, fraud, drug possession and one in Miami in 2002, which according to a police report, he threatened to blow up a Florida utility company "worse than September 11th." He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year's probation.

Now he faces five federal charges, up to 48 years in prison.

GEOFFREY BERMAN, U.S. ATTORNEY, SDNY: The defendant's conduct as charged is cowardly and reprehensible and totally anathema to our democracy.

SCIUTTO: Sayoc will make his first court appearance on Monday. Ultimately we're learning that this case will be dealt with by federal prosecutors in New York, the Southern District of New York, same prosecutors, same court that have handled many international terror cases -- Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Authorities now believe a mail bomb intercepted Friday that was addressed to democratic megadonor Tom Steyer was also from the suspect. Steyer has been an outspoken critic of President Trump, even pushing for his impeachment.

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THOMAS STEYER, BILLIONAIRE DEMOCRATIC DONOR: If you look, in fact, at where this gentleman has been sending his bombs, that it reflects the kind of violent rhetoric that we've heard. It reflects the attacks on the press, which have been consistent.

And it really reflects the attacks on open, peaceful democracy that have been going on now for several years and which Mr. Trump should absolutely apologize for and promise never to do again. But I don't think we're going to hear that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VANIER: CNN counterterrorism analyst, Phil Mudd, says he has personally felt how the president's words could have incited bombing suspect Cesar Sayoc. He says earlier this year, Sayoc, the very same man, tweeted a threat about him right after President Trump verbally attacked Mudd by name.

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PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: On about August 20th, the president attacked me publicly on Twitter. Now 96 hours later roughly, this individual, who was arrested today, uses my name in a tweet and suggested --

[03:05:00]

MUDD: -- he wants to kill me.

And that's coincidence?

I don't have the profile of a movie star.

How do you think that guy got my name?

Meanwhile, I got to call my 86-year-old dad and my sister and then contact my girlfriend and tell them they're going to hear about a death threat against me tonight because the president attacked me on Twitter.

Meanwhile, I also called the local police department and said, I'm going home to Washington tomorrow. If there's a bomb in my house because this guy sent one before he got arrested, I'll give you a ring.

Twenty-five years in that but that's what you get. The president is playing with fire; 55 million Twitter followers, I'm not suggesting he's responsible for the acts of a deranged individual.

I'm saying when you got 55 million Twitter followers and you say "lock her up" and "CNN sucks" and then you take a shot at people personally, somebody is going to look at it and say, I went to a rally where people are really aggressive. Now I'm going to act on it.

And finally, we saw it happen this week. I am irritated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: That was Phil Mudd speaking to us earlier.

Earlier I also spoke about the arrest with Jim Clemente, a former FBI profiler. I asked him, what comes next for the FBI after they've caught the suspect?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM CLEMENTE, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Well, they're building their case. He's been caught but he has to actually be proven to be the bomber. And then they want to build a case that will survive prosecution.

So they're interviewing everybody around him, all his work employees and work colleagues, people who have witnessed what he's done. Obviously, he's been living in his van reportedly.

Did he use that as his bombmaking facility or is there another place?

They have to find where he's been. They'll track him with his cellphone records, track him through videos, where his car, his vehicle shows up. And they'll track him with respect to all the packages. They're going to be forensically looking at every single detail of those packages and how they got to the people he sent them to.

VANIER: And would they be looking for possible accomplices?

I ask you this question because the former attorney for Sayoc and his family spoke to CNN earlier on Friday. He said this all seemed to him, based on his knowledge of Sayoc, a complicated plan for Sayoc to pull off alone.

CLEMENTE: Well, I think that's a very convenient excuse for his attorney.

(CROSSTALK)

VANIER: He's not his current attorney, just his former attorney offering insights into what he knows about the man.

CLEMENTE: Well, it is possible. Certainly they will look at that as a possibility. But the fact is -- there has been no actual report or evidence that would lead us to believe that. The fact is that he had a lot of time to do this. He appears to be a very meticulous guy.

If you look just at how these political images, these extreme political images were on his van, they very meticulous, very well ordered. And that's probably mirroring his life and his personality.

And somebody like that is a perfect person for a bombmaker because you have to be meticulous. You have to be very careful when you're making these devices because many times would-be bombers end up blowing themselves up.

VANIER: So in that case, consider this: none of the 14 bombs, at least 14 bombs that were sent, actually went off.

What does that tell you?

CLEMENTE: Well, I think it might have been factor, based on the fact that the first bomb went to Soros and was discovered. That put everybody on alert. And so all of the people who were in security, that is the marshals and the Secret Service who were protecting most of the other people that the bombs went to, all of those people were on high alert. Everything was being screened at a higher level. And therefore I think they intercepted many of them that would have gone through. Had somebody actually opened one, then we might have seen somebody

getting really hurt because there was shrapnel and it's my understanding that the FBI did say that these devices could have caused serious harm.

VANIER: Absolutely, they said they were not a hoax, unlike what we've been hearing in some quarters over the past few days, they were not hoaxes; they were dangerous to those to whom they were addressed.

CLEMENTE: Yes. It is dangerous just having a bomb delivered to your workplace or your home because people can get hurt trying to escape from that. And then there are millions of dollars' worth of law enforcement that had to kick in, in order to address the issues.

VANIER: Politicians on both sides of this are calling this domestic terrorism. But the suspect wasn't actually charged with terrorism.

So does this, in your view, constitute domestic terrorism?

If so, why wasn't that a charge?

CLEMENTE: Well, I'm not sure. And of course, they can always amend the complaint and add that if that's the case. But I think they had to really look at it in terms of what actually was intended and what could be proven of what he did.

The fact is that he had a very specific set of targets. And people in general were not really targeted by him. Of course, when the bomb ended up at CNN, everybody in the building was vacated. And there are many, many people, many hundreds of people that work in that building.

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CLEMENTE: And there's a mall downstairs. More civilians were actually exposed to that risk. So I don't know if it actually would be provable that he was trying to cause terror. However, it is clear that he was trying to cause at least his targets to be in fear for their lives.

VANIER: All right, Jim Clemente, great to have you on the show. Thank you.

CLEMENTE: Thank you.

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VANIER: And President Trump praised law enforcement for quickly arresting the bomb suspect and called the terrorizing acts "despicable." He also urged unity and an end to the politics of personal destruction.

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TRUMP: The bottom line is that Americans must unify. And we must show the world that we are united together in peace and love and harmony as fellow American citizens. (END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: And yet, shortly after making those comments, the president criticized the media.

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TRUMP: We get these poll numbers and a lot of them are fake polls. I call them fake polls. I can do the greatest things for our country and on the networks and on -- it will show bad. They will take it back because fake news.

They call globalists. They like -- they like the globe. I like the globe, too. I like the globe, too, but we have to take care of our people. We have to. Globalists.

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VANIER: Let's talk about. Let's bring in political analyst Peter Mathews.

Peter, Donald Trump wants peace, love and harmony -- his words. That's nice. But in his telling of it, the media are the ones getting in the way.

PETER MATHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: Yes, I think that's completely outrageous that he would blame the media when, in fact, he was blaming CNN and saying the media's the one responsible when really his rhetoric has been a major part of this from the beginning of the campaign.

What he exhibits is a protecting leadership style, Cyril. There's three types of solid leadership. First, you have the initiating leader, one who offers bold new vision and plans to probably to solve problems, like President Roosevelt, for example.

The maintaining leader wants to keep the status quo going, like President George H.W. Bush.

The protecting leader stirs up fear in the hearts of his followers by exaggerating threats. And he's exaggerated a lot of threats about illegal immigrants coming in and taking over the country and all those things create fear and they offer the return of a stable past by saying follow me.

And this fearmongering is a big part of it and dividing and conquering is a big part of it. So I think it is misplaced blame that he's coming up with, saying it is the media, of all people. The media's here to enlighten the folks about what's going on in the country.

VANIER: Donald Trump also talked about importance of setting the tone. We heard him there.

Now compare this for me. Compare Donald Trump, when asked if he bore any responsibility for the actions of his supporters, a bomb suspect who was just arrested, versus the tone of Bernie Sanders last year, after one of his supporters had opened fire on Republican congressmen. Listen to this.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does it bother you at all?

TRUMP: Not at all. No, there's no blame. There's no anything. If you look at what happened to Steve Scalise, that was from a supporter of a different party.

Well, I think I've been toned down, you want to know the truth. I could really tone it up because, as you know, the media has been extremely unfair to me.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I am sickened by this despicable act. And let me be as clear as I can be. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society. And I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: So quite the contrast. Your thoughts.

MATHEWS: No parallel whatsoever because Bernie Sanders was not inciting violent activity by blaming other people. And he was instead -- right away he came out and said, no room for violence whatsoever.

The president equivocated. Actually he read the teleprompter and in that case he said there's no room for it. But he wouldn't -- it took him -- it took the teleprompter to get him to say that.

But Bernie was natural, was spontaneous, was a condemnation of any kind of political violence immediately. There's no parallel whatsoever. And I think that to even make a parallel is a false equivalency there. And the president is kind of flatting (ph) out the blame or trying to fly out from the blame by doing that. It's completely wrong, I think. And his supporters are wrong also for trying to do that.

VANIER: Peter, good to talk to you. We'll talk to you again soon. Thanks.

MATHEWS: Thank you, Cyril.

VANIER: Now Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee speaks out. What she is saying about the journalist's death and President Trump's reaction to it -- when we come back.

Plus dozens of people in Gaza are wounded after Israel's powerful retaliation for a rocket attack. We will have the details, don't go anywhere.

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VANIER: We're hearing more from fiancee of killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi. She was one of the last people to see him alive when he entered the Saudi Istanbul consulate earlier this month and she tells a Turkish broadcaster that he was worried about going in. But what happened was unthinkable.

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HATICE CENGIZ, JAMAL KHASHOGGI'S FIANCEE (through translator): I tried to think positive things. It has never crossed my mind that such a thing could have happened, never, never.

Not even 10 percent of the facts that we learned 25 days later came to my mind while I was waiting there that day.

Yes, U.S. president Donald Trump invited me to the United States during the first days of the process. But his statements had very short time periods in between and they were contradictory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: Even Saudi officials now admit that Jamal Khashoggi's death was indeed premeditated. Sources say CIA director Gina Haspel heard an audio recording of the journalist's death while she was in Turkey. And the Turkish president is putting pressure on the Saudis.

CNN's Nic Robertson joins us from Istanbul -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, Cyril, more demands for Saudi officials to say where Jamal Khashoggi's body is, to talk more about the so-called collaborator that the hit team that came to Turkey from Saudi Arabia to kill him, why haven't they spoken more?

The Turkish president essentially saying both the king and the crown prince know how to --

[03:20:00]

ROBERTSON: -- get people to talk. So really upping the pressure and perhaps pursuant to what Gina Haspel has heard and again more pressure on Saudi Arabia. The Turkish president saying don't think that we don't have more documents. Tomorrow is another day, hinting that at any moment the Turkish authorities could reveal yet more information that they haven't made public yet.

The chief prosecutor here has demanded now the extradition of those 18 people being held in detention in Saudi Arabia. The justice minister here says that Turkey is ready, capable of putting them on trial. And the president has said if Saudi Arabia really wants to clean the slate and show that it is being transparent and fulsome in cooperation, then this is the way to do it. But James Mattis, the U.S. Defense Secretary, is traveling in the

region and said that this is a grave situation. The United States continues to monitor it and continues to wait in judgment, if you will, for what its next move should be.

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GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Due to the gravity of the situation, I will continue to consult with the president and secretary of state as they consider the implications of this incident within our broader strategic framework.

We will maintain our twin imperatives as stated by secretary of state Pompeo, protecting America and our interests and holding accountable those responsible for this murder. Our secretary of state has already revoked visas and will take additional measures as the situation is clarified.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: Tomorrow, Sunday, the Saudi chief prosecutor coming here to Istanbul and he'll meet with the Turkish chief prosecutor. No doubt he will reiterate his demand and reinforcing the extradition request to Saudi Arabia for those 18 people in detention in Saudi right now -- Cyril.

VANIER: Nic, bear with me. I want to ask you about a totally separate topic. A major international meeting is taking place where you are in Istanbul on Syria, on the Syrian civil war.

What do you expect from that?

ROBERTSON: Yes, this is a significant summit. It really follows on from the situation that was developing in the north of Syria and the sort of last enclave, if you will, of opposition to President Assad's role in Idlib, where there's an estimated 3 million people living. Many are displaced from homes across the country and about an estimated 10,000 jihadist fighters, many hundreds of foreign fighters among them.

It had become sort of a collection zone where Assad's forces cleared out fighters and populations from some parts of the country. They have amassed, if you will, in Idlib. About a month ago it looked like the Syrians were going to go in, backed by Russian forces, to clean out the area.

But there was a deal; the first phase of that deal was a border zone around this Idlib area, a border zone that was going to be clear of fighters and clear of heavy weapons. And that first phase was actually successful.

So far Turkey helps enforce that on its side and the Russians on the Syrian government forces' side. So this summit is very much about the next phase.

How do you implement the next phase? Which is get all those fighters in that whole big area to put down their weapons. That's a huge weight on Turkish shoulders, the responsibility does appear to lie with them to get some of these disparate groups.

There are some groups that support Turkey's position but others who trace their lineage back to Al Qaeda or they have a nationalist strand at the moment. So the next phase could be about getting them to disarm and put their weapons down, a huge lift.

That's not going to happen overnight. May get to humanitarian issues and may also get to reconstruction and rebuilding. But of course, the key members at this summit, Turkey, Russia have the power on the ground.

Also there Germany and France, Europe desperately interested not to have more waves of refugees coming out of Syria through Turkey and into Europe, politically destabilizing as we've seen, Cyril.

VANIER: Nic Robertson, reporting live from Istanbul in Turkey, where it is past 10:00 am local time. Thank you so much.

Israeli jets pounded what Israel calls terror targets in Gaza after rockets were fired toward Israel.

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VANIER (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) along the border with Gaza, Palestinian officials said four people shot and killed by Israeli soldiers and 180 were wounded. Oren Liebermann is in Jerusalem with the details.

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OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Israel carried out a series of airstrikes, including fighter jets and helicopters following a barrage of rockets fired from Gaza. More than a dozen rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel late Friday night, according to the Israeli military.

Many were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome aerial defense system. In response, Israel carried out a series of strikes against what the military described as terror targets in Gaza. The sharp escalation --

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LIEBERMANN: -- follows protests along the Gaza border earlier in the day. These protests have become commonplace on Fridays and other days as well. But they have grown in recent weeks.

The Israeli military said some 16,000 Palestinians protested along the border on Friday. Some, they say, hurled grenades and fire bombs. The Palestinian ministry of houses four Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli forces during the clashes. But Israel's defense minister has vowed to step up the country's

response to the protests. And we saw Israel target three Hamas military posts in Northern Gaza earlier Friday, part of a build-up to the escalation of the evening.

In past weeks, we've seen Egypt and the United Nations step in here to act as mediators between Israel and Gaza, urging both sides to step back from the edge. They have succeeded up until now. But each escalation makes that more and more difficult -- Oren Liebermann, CNN, Jerusalem.

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VANIER: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are in Sydney on the final leg. Prince Harry and his pregnant wife, Meghan Markle, cheering on the athletes on the last day of the Invictus Games, last leg of their autumn tour to the South Pacific.

The Invictus Games -- that's the Olympic style tournament created by the prince for wounded veterans -- promotes rehabilitation and healing through sports. Next, the royal couple will complete their tour with a visit to New Zealand.

The players in this year's World Series are definitely working overtime. At last check, game three of the World Series was in the -- wait for it -- 18th inning after more than seven hours of play.

Now keep in mind, a regular game is only nine innings. The Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers are tied at two runs each. It is officially the longest World Series game ever. Until it ends, Boston leads the seven games series two games to none.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I've got the headlines for you in just a moment. Stay with us.