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Death Penalty Possible for Synagogue Shooter; Interview with State Representative Jay Costa; Trump Continues to Blame Media for Heated Rhetoric; Suspicious Package Addressed to CNN Intercepted at Atlanta Post Office; Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 29, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:05] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. In just a few hours, two different suspects will have their first court appearance in two different states for two different crimes. What they have in common, they were both fueled by hate. One, a serial mail bomber who targeted political enemies and the free press. The other, an anti-Semitic gunman who killed 11 people worshiping on Saturday in a Pittsburgh synagogue. The deadliest attack on Jewish people in the history of this country.

SCIUTTO: We want to make clear that you will not hear the shooter's name or see his face at all on our broadcast. We're going to keep to that. We're going to focus instead on the victims. We're going to remember the victims of this massacre. Want to show their faces and share their stories.

Last night, thousands gathered to honor them in Pittsburgh. But this morning, synagogue leaders have conflicting opinions on whether President Trump should visit this community now.


LYNNETTE LEDERMAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: I do not welcome this president to my city. He is the purveyor of hate speech.

RABBI JEFFREY MYERS, TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: The president of the United States is always welcome. I'm a citizen, he's my president. He is certainly welcome.


SCIUTTO: What is the president saying this morning? He's using his favorite platform, Twitter, to take aim at a favorite target, the media. Blaming the media for fueling the anger. Calling the media the enemy of the people once again.

Joining us now live from Pittsburgh is CNN correspondent Jean Casarez.

Jean, you have been here with this community for some hours now, days. Tell us what's happening today as they cope with this. JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, we're downtown Pittsburgh

right now, and it's business as normal. The hustle and bustle of the city, but the reality is the city is mourning. It is mourning so hard. But another fact is that within hours of the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue, federal criminal charges were filed. And that means that a defendant needs to have their initial appearance very shortly thereafter for constitutional reasons, and we are right outside the federal courthouse. And that initial appearance of this defendant is set for 1:30 this afternoon.

It will be very short, but it will talk about the charges. He will be apprised to be given notice and acknowledged that he understands the charges before him. He will be told that he can have an attorney to represent him, although we fully expect an attorney to be by his side.

Now this is a case that is being brought as a hate crime. And you cannot bring a case like this unless the attorney general of the United States or his designee signs off in writing. So that had to have been done before Saturday night.

It is also death penalty eligible. And that is because of one particular charge, the intentional obstruction by force of the exercise and enjoyment of religious beliefs resulting in death. And those are the 11 victims in this case. That is what allows this to become a death penalty case.

Also, there are charges in regard to the four officers that were wounded. There are firearms charges. The carrying, the use, the discharge of the firearms. That elevates this and can enhance the penalties. And finally, this can become a death penalty case if this is murder. The intentional infliction with malice aforethought, and we know the autopsy, cause and manner of death, many of those victims were shot directly in the head, which shows to the prosecutor the intent of this shooter -- Jim, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Jean Casarez there in Pittsburgh.

Joining us now, CNN legal analyst Paul Callan, a former New York City homicide prosecutor, and CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell. He's a former FBI supervisory special agent.

Josh, I want to ask you this question because these are cases of domestic terrorism. Right? I mean, they're designed to kill and to strike fear. And there's often been this question as to whether enough resources are being focused on this kind of terrorism, as opposed to the one we tend to talk about when we talk about terrorism, which is Islamist inspired great threat.

Does domestic terrorism in your experience get the resources it needs from law enforcement to prevent these kinds of attacks?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it has resources, but it doesn't have the same legal underpinning as international terrorism. So when you think about Islamic extremism, a lot of the groups, ISIS and al Qaeda, and the like, there are statutes in place to -- and severe penalties for those who operate, you know, in violation of those laws. Not the same with domestic terrorism.

Now federal law actually defines domestic terrorism, but it doesn't make it a criminal act per se. So what law enforcement officers have to do is actually find some other violation, whether it's use of weapons or you know, another charge that they can then use to fit. This is the debate that's going on right now in the country. Actually in the last couple days, the FBI Agents Association has been calling our Congress and the White House actually renewing their call to actually pass domestic terrorism legislation. But again the other side of the debate is people say well, what -- who gets to decide what a political agenda is or, you know, what the back and forth --

HARLOW: Well, as Jean reported, not Trump, but, Paul Callan, the attorney general has a bit of a say here as well, right, in terms of what can be charged here?

[10:05:05] PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Absolutely. And of course that's why in these hate crime cases that the attorney general generally signs off on it. I mean, there could be a big dispute as to whether certain kinds of expression or political commentary is hate or motivated by something else. So it's a very careful analysis that is made by the Justice Department before they proceed with hate crime charges.

HARLOW: Death penalty you think likely here?

CALLAN: Yes, I do. With 11 victims, such a clear cut case. I mean, obviously, it appears there's not going to be a big issue about guilt or innocence here. What I think we will be looking at is whether he has a history of mental illness and whether there might be an insanity defense or at the very least on mitigation of the sentence, you may see his attorney saying he was mentally disturbed and therefore should not be sentenced to death.

SCIUTTO: Josh Campbell, the president's -- one of his immediate reactions to this has been a familiar one to other shootings is that, well, they could have had armed guards in the synagogue and prevented this.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: He said this after school shootings before. I'm just curious, in your years at the FBI, the nation's premier law enforcement agency, were there ever serious discussions about armed guards? We haven't done the count, but there must be thousands of synagogues in the country, tens of thousands of schools, thousands of Kroger stores where this other shooting took place. Was there ever a discussion of deploying tens of thousands of armed guards at these places as the way to prevent violence like this?

CAMPBELL: So that's the debate is what kind of country do we want to be? Do we want to be one where you can't walk into a house of worship without essentially walking into an armed compound. Again that's the debate. The one interesting question that we all often hear about after school shootings and these types of incidents, and the president actually said essentially minutes after this, without having a full understanding of what was actually taking place inside, he said well, a good guy with a gun would have stopped a bad guy with a gun.

Here's a problem with that from a law enforcement perspective. Law enforcement academies to include the FBI, officers fire thousands and thousands of rounds in order to achieve a certain level of proficiency under a non-stress situation. You want them to be the best of the best because when you're actually in the fight, stress hormones coursing through your veins, that adrenaline will significantly degrade your accuracy. And that's kind of baked into law enforcement training.

They know you're going to be worse of a shot during a very intense situation. What do you expect the public to do? What do you expect people who haven't gone through that type of rigorous training, whether it's a security guard, whether it's just a general member of the public can potentially at least creates the opportunity to cause even more violence, more infliction, but again, we have seen instances where a good guy with a gun has stopped a bad guy with a gun. So that's why it continues to be this very serious debate.


SCIUTTO: There were cops there, they got shot. Right? Some of them did.


SCIUTTO: Put their lives on the line. Thanks to both of you.

HARLOW: Thank you both very much. We appreciate it.

Again just a few hours until they're both in court.

Joining now is Democratic state senator from Pennsylvania, Jay Costa. This is his district.

Thank you for being with us very much, and I'm so, so sorry because your ties run deep, right? I mean, you serve this community as the state senator for 20 years. You have lived in the community for 50 years. Your childhood friend's mother Rose was one of the victims killed.

SEN. JAY COSTA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: That's correct. And -- yes.

HARLOW: Yes. Go ahead.

COSTA: It is very tough. This community has been part of my life for a number of years, as I mentioned, and it's very sad. It's hard to believe that these type of offenses are taking place in our backyard. But I will tell you, Pittsburghers are strong as been mentioned throughout. This is a great community, and the city of Pittsburgh and our region will rally around folks here in Squirrel Hill and our Jewish community.

SCIUTTO: We had a member of the community on earlier who said she wants to make sure that Squirrel Hill is not forever now identified with this shooting -- in a list of shootings that she mentioned, whether it be Columbine or Sandy Hook. Tell us about the community and -- that's different from what we saw here, right, and how you maintain that going forward.

COSTA: It is a different community. It's a wonderful place to live and raise a family. As we have done here with my parents. I would tell you, it's a welcoming community, but I also recognize that it's one that will work together and join together to do what needs to be done to remember certainly the individuals who lost their lives here but more importantly how we go forward as a region. And not to want to be recognized as one of those horrible incidents we heard around the world and around the country.

We have a lot of work to do, we have a lot of healing to do, but together, knowing that the Pittsburgh region will join together, everyone in this region will join together to work to make sure that that doesn't happen.

HARLOW: We've heard mixed reaction, Senator, from leaders in the Jewish community about whether or not they would like the president to come visit. Of course, he condemned the attack in the minutes after it happened and he has done so subsequently. There -- he's also pointing a finger of blame at the division in this country this morning again to the media.

Politics aside, you're a Democrat, yes. Would you like the president to come?

COSTA: You know, I've got mixed feelings. I think I would like him to come only if he's going to come here and renounce -- and denounce the hatred that's taking place through social media and other types of ways.

[10:10:08] Denounce some of the anti-Semitism that's gone on in this country. That would have to be for me to want to be accepting of him to be here, to spend time in this community when it's hurting so badly is that he'd be here to help heal and help denounce some of the things that have taken place. And it really begins, in my view, at the top. Some of the rhetoric that comes from our administration, our president, concerns me, and I think needs to be toned down quite a bit.

And that's going to be the reasons why he's here, then I would be accepting of that. But for the most part, if it's a continuation of things that we've heard over the course of many, many months he's been in office, then I think it's probably better that he doesn't come here because I think it would only add hurt to folks who are trying so hard to heal and folks who are trying to come together here.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you then what people there want to hear in terms of healing words, or want to see done as well. You heard the president suggest, well, there could have been an armed guard at the synagogue. Are your constituents coming to you asking for that kind of step? What are they asking for?

COSTA: They are asking for an opportunity to be able to worship without being in fear of somebody doing exactly what occurred here. In Pennsylvania here, we've taken great lengths to try to strengthen our safety with respect, for example, to our schools. And with legislation and money we put aside to hardening our schools and the like. Whether or not we get on this path to expand it to places of worship remains to be seen, but at the end of the day, I think what they want to be able to do is worship in peace.

And we can't even provide that to them right now. So they're concerned about going forward, and we will have that conversation going forward about whether or not we need to come together to figure out how we protect those who want to worship, whether it be here at the synagogues here in Squirrel Hill or any, for example, the Catholic churches here whatever the case might be.

HARLOW: Finally, before you go, if the president comes, if you have a chance to talk to him, what will you say?

COSTA: If he comes and I have a chance to talk to him, I would tell him to really step up his denouncing of the anti-Semitism that takes place and to speak up and stop being a part of the dialogue in this country that spews hate. That's what I would like to say to him. Change the tone, turning it into a more positive way to allow folks to come together and not spew the type of hate we hear oftentimes.

SCIUTTO: Senator Costa, thank you for taking the time. Please pass on, if you have a moment, our thoughts and prayers to the members of the community there. We support you, and we're going to do everything we can to draw attention to what happened there.

HARLOW: Thank you.

COSTA: Well, thank you both very much. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Still to come, in just a couple of hours, the man investigators say sent those pipe bombs across the country to prominent Democrats, former presidents, CNN as well, will face a judge for the very first time.

HARLOW: Also, the rhetoric and the blame, as the nation reels from this latest massacre, the president is pointing at the media this morning for creating the division in America.

And a desperate search is under way after an Indonesian plane crashes into the sea over night with 189 passengers onboard. We'll bring you the latest.


[10:17:53] HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. In just a few minutes, the man suspected of mailing 14 pipe bombs to former presidents, other prominent Democrats and the free press, CNN, will make his first appearance in a federal courtroom in Florida.

Rosa Flores is outside with more.

So, Rosa, this happens in just a few hours. What will happen today? ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Poppy, this is supposed to

be a very short proceeding. It's his first appearance, as you know, for federal charges. Five of them. Here they are. Interstate transportation of an explosive. Illegal mailing of explosives, threats against former presidents and certain other persons. Threatening interstate communications and assaulting federal officers.

If he were convicted of all of those charges, he could face up to 48 years in prison. But this morning, he is waking up in the federal detention center here in downtown Miami. That's the building with the tiny little windows that you see behind me.

During today's proceeding, what we're expecting is for the judge to read Sayoc his charges, ask him if he needs an attorney, if he indeed needs one, one will be appointed to him, and because this is a very high-profile case and because the Southern District of New York has already said that the prosecution will happen in New York, then Sayoc is also entitled to a removal hearing, which could happen today.

And it could happen at the same time. It just depends on what the judge determines, what his attorney determines once he gets to speak to Sayoc.

So, Jim and Poppy, we will learn more about how quickly Sayoc could be transferred to New York, probably today at 2:00 p.m.

HARLOW: OK. Thank you, Rosa, for being there, for the reporting. Again this happens in just a few hours. We'll keep you posted.

SCIUTTO: The mail bomber, the killing of two African-Americans in Kentucky, the horrific attack at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, all hate fueled crimes that occurred within one week, just a few days here in the U.S.

HARLOW: This morning, the president is taking to Twitter. He is blaming the media for what he calls the, quote, "great anger in this country." His critics say he is one of the people at the top, at the top, amplifying this atmosphere allowing hate to thrive.

[10:20:08] Let's talk about this. CNN political commentator Steve Cortes and CNN political analyst Joshua Green join us now.

Thank you, gentlemen, for being here. It's an important discussion to have.

Joshua, obviously you're the author of that book "Devil's Bargain" and you have some important reporting that you lay out in the book, but for people who haven't read it, why don't you reiterate to us what your reporting taught you about anti-Semitic themes that you report were used during the campaign?

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. I mean, this isn't -- I would say this isn't the first time that anti-Semitic themes have cropped up in regard to Donald Trump. And during the campaign, Trump was well known for not only re-tweeting anti-Semitic imagery, but in some of his ads featuring prominent Jewish bankers and propagating well-known anti-Semitic themes.

His closing ad in the campaign talked about a dark web of financial corruption, flashed images of people like George Soros and Lloyd Blankfein, and he came under criticism from the Anti-Defamation League at the time telling him these are painful and dangerous stereotypes. You're essentially energizing anti-Semites, anti-Semitic energy in a way that is very harmful to our culture.

I think with the shooting in Pittsburgh, you can see the effects of those types of messages on some disturbed people. But at the time, Trump and his campaign rejected that criticism from the ADL and fired back. And it's been clear to me, anyway, I think to anybody who follows what Trump says and what he tweets on social media, that he hasn't backed down one inch from those criticisms and continues to use these tropes and this language talking about invaders.

You know, pushing the idea of, you know, nefariously funded migrant caravan moving up to invade our borders and all the kinds of language that have, you know, stoked and energized some of the people we've seen sending pipe bombs, conducting a massacre in Pittsburgh, and you can't separate the language from the events that we're seeing in the news.


SCIUTTO: Steve, give you a chance to respond to that.

CORTES: There's one giant problem with your argument. And that is that this monster who committed this atrocity --

GREEN: Well, it's not an argument. Just laying out the facts.

CORTES: Well, it is an argument. It's not just the facts. It's not just the facts. Here are the facts. The monster who perpetrated these atrocities -- this atrocity in Pittsburgh, he absolutely hated Jews. He also hated Donald Trump because he thought -- hold on.

GREEN: Because he didn't think --

CORTES: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.

GREEN: -- Trump went far enough in his hatred of Jews.

CORTES: Let me talk.

HARLOW: Let's --

SCIUTTO: Let him finish. Let him finish please.

CORTES: Let me talk.


CORTES: Because he thought that Donald Trump himself was controlled by Jews. So for you to then say that he was motivated to commit these acts by a man that he reviles, Donald Trump, is such an absurd leap of logic that it just defies any reasonable explanation.

SCIUTTO: Well, Steve, to make a point --

CORTES: A hateful man who hated the president and hated Jews.

SCIUTTO: To make a point, and you're right. He did say -- he did make a case that in effect that President Trump was not nationalist enough.

HARLOW: And that he didn't vote for him.

SCIUTTO: But he shared, Steve Cortes, this feeling that the migrant caravan was full of invaders and that Jews were behind it. We had someone on earlier from a Jewish group that helped refugees that was specifically targeted and mentioned by the shooter in Pittsburgh. How do you answer that, that the president's portrayal of this, you know, sort of rabble approaching the border as a serious threat to the country, does that add to the anger that leads someone like this to take action like this?

CORTES: Right. Well, no. The president didn't add to it because he certainly never said that Jews were in any way behind the caravan. But nonetheless, the caravan is a threat to American sovereignty. When you have a group, a large caravan of border trespassers who are waving foreign flags and promising to break and enter into the United States and demand that we as a country accommodate them, and I don't care if they're from Honduras or Norway or Japan --

SCIUTTO: Steve, I've got to interrupt you.

CORTES: -- that is an affront to America.

SCIUTTO: I'm sorry to interrupt you here, just because we have some breaking news just in to CNN. In the environment here, another suspicious package addressed to CNN has been intercepted this time at a post office in Atlanta.

CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez joins us now with the latest. This is just going out in a CNN announcement. What do we know, Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. At this point, that's all we know. We know that the package was intercepted at a postal facility in Atlanta. It was addressed to CNN. We don't know to whom it was addressed to at this point. But the president of the network, Jeff Zucker, in a note to the employees today, said that all mail to CNN is being screened at an off-site facility, this is for all bureaus here in the United States certainly.

[10:25:05] And if this is confirmed to be related to the mail bombs that were terrorizing the country last week, this would be number 15. Again, that is not confirmed at this point, but obviously, it's something that is being investigated. Again this package was intercepted. It appears similar to ones that were being sent to prominent Democrats and to people at CNN in the past week. And we, of course, know that someone has already been -- a suspect has already been arrested in that case on Friday. However, we were told by law enforcement that there might still be

additional packages out there, which is why this one is being treated with the abundance of caution that it is. But at this point, again, they're still investigating to determine what the nature of this is, whether or not this is related to it. And if it is confirmed to be related, it would be package number 15 at this point.

The network is certainly taking all the precautions that you would expect to make sure that these packages are all screened off-site before they get to any CNN building -- Jim, Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. And again, Evan, thank you for the reporting. Again, that's where our headquarters is, CNN Atlanta. Bureau where CNN was founded.


HARLOW: But again, no harm at least, none of the employees faced imminent danger, correct, Evan?

PEREZ: Correct. There was no danger to employees.


PEREZ: It never actually got to the CNN center in Atlanta -- Poppy.

HARLOW: OK. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Evan Perez, thanks very much. Certain a story we're going to continue to monitor and we will be right back.