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As Trump Points Finger at Media, White House Rejects Any Responsibility For Recent Attacks; Another Suspicious Package Sent to CNN. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired October 29, 2018 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Brooke Baldwin. And you're watching CNN's special coverage, as a string of hate-filled attacks has just really rocked this country.

Amid the devastation for those lives lost is this nationwide gut-check about what is happening in America.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Anderson Cooper live in Pittsburgh, where an anti-Semite, police say, committed a massacre inside the Tree of Life Synagogue, which is just behind me.

Moments ago, the White House held its first briefing in three-and-a- half weeks. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders became emotional as she spoke of the president's support of Jewish Americans.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president cherishes the American Jewish community for everything it stands for and contributes to our country.

He adores Jewish Americans as part of his own family. The president is the grandfather of several Jewish grandchildren. His daughter is a Jewish American and his son-in-law is a descendant of Holocaust survivors.

Tomorrow, the president and first lady will travel to Pennsylvania to express the support of the American people and grieve with the Pittsburgh community.


COOPER: Well, just minutes later, Sanders defended the president against accusations that he's inflaming anger and divisions within the nation as it faces the death of 11 members of the synagogue, plus a man accused of a racially charged double murder in Kentucky and a suspect accused of sending more than a dozen mail bombs to critics of President Trump.

Here was Sanders moments ago.


QUESTION: This morning suggesting that the news media is responsible for the anger in the country, how does he do that, when, in the case of the pipe bomber, this was somebody who went to Trump rallies, this is somebody who had a van covered with attacks on the media and praise for the president?

The shooter in Pittsburgh is somebody who was provoked, it seems, by the caravan that the president has spent so much time talking about.

Why is he out there -- when you say he's trying to unite the country, why is he out there making these attacks?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: The very first -- Jonathan, the very first thing that the president did was condemn the attacks, both in Pittsburgh and in the pipe bombs.

The very first thing the media did was blame the president and make him responsible for these ridiculous acts. That is outrageous that that would be the very first reaction of so many people across this country.


HUCKABEE SANDERS: The -- I'm not finished. The only person responsible for carrying out either of these heinous acts were the individuals who carried them out.

It's not the president, no more than it was Bernie Sanders' fault for the individual who shot up a baseball field of congressional Republicans. You can't start putting the responsibility of individuals on anybody but the individual who carries out the crime.

QUESTION: But why is the president suggesting it's the news media? The president is the one placing blame here.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: No, the president is not placing blame.


HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president is not -- not responsible for these acts. Again, the very first action that the president did was condemn these heinous acts.

The very first thing that the media did was condemn the president and go after him and try to place blame, not just on the president, but everybody that works in this administration. The major news networks' first public statement was to blame the president and myself included.

I mean, that is outrageous that anybody other than the individual who carried out the crime would hold that responsibility.


COOPER: Well, we're going to delve deeper into the politics and the hate crimes as well over the next hour. I want to begin with exactly what happened here in Pittsburgh at the

Tree of Life Synagogue.

Federal prosecutors are now seeking approval to pursue the death penalty for the suspect who shot and killed 11 people in the synagogue Saturday and wounded six others, including four police officers.

I want to go to CNN's Jean Casarez. She is outside the federal courthouse where the suspect had his first appearance this afternoon. He arrived in a wheelchair.

Jean, explain what happened.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I was in that courtroom, and we already know the date of the next hearing. It will be on Thursday, the preliminary hearing, at 10:00.

The defense actually waived any issue of bail today, so this defendant remains in federal custody at this hour. But he was wheeled in to this federal courtroom. He did not walk in. He had civilian clothes on. I saw his face very, very clear in this relatively small courtroom.

When he was wheeled in, he was appearing to be extremely aware, very calm, very collected. I didn't see outwardly any nerves at all or any anxiety. And then once he sat between his two assistant public defenders, they actually took the handcuffs off of him, so he could sign paperwork.

He consulted with his attorney and then signed the paperwork. The handcuffs were put back on him. And that's when the proceeding actually got started.

And the magistrate judge looked and spoke directly to him and asked him, first of all, if he was the defendant, saying his name. And he said, "Yes, I am." And it was a very loud, booming, confident voice.

And then he was asked if he had received a copy of the complaint. He said, "Yes, sir," in answer to that.


The judge actually listed the charges. He asked if there should be a full reading of the complaint. The defense said, "No, Your Honor, we waive that, as well as we waive you saying in court the possible penalties in all of this."

I noticed on his right side, right leg, right foot, white. And I think it was a bandage. He was obviously wheeled in the wheelchair. But the proceeding did not last long, very long at all. He announced that he financially -- the judge asked him if he signed financial forms saying he could not afford an attorney. He said, "Yes, I did."

And the judge said, well, then one will be appointed for you. It will be from the public defender's office, not necessarily the attorneys in court today. But with that, it was over and on to the next preliminary hearing, and

I should say, if the defense doesn't waive it, because this is a full evidentiary hearing, where you put evidence on to see if there's probable cause that this case proceeds to trial.

That would be on Thursday -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, the next -- that would be the next time that he would be in court, Thursday?

CASAREZ: Yes, that is correct.

COOPER: All right. Jean Casarez, thanks very much.

I want to go back to the White House, to the White House response in particular to this tragedy.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, was in the Briefing Room.

I wondered what you made of Sarah Sanders' responses, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, as you heard, the press secretary did say that the president and the first lady will be heading to Pittsburgh tomorrow to remember the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre.

But then it got pretty contentious, as you saw, in that briefing. Members of the press, including myself, were trying to press Sarah on some of the president's rhetoric, which the White House doesn't want to take any responsibility for.

They're obviously pushing back on the notion that the president's rhetoric has anything to do with any of these violent acts we have seen over the last week.

At one point, Sarah Sanders said that we in the press were blaming the president for these acts, which I don't think is the case. I suppose there might be some individuals out there who are blaming the president directly for these attacks.

But I think what has been said, by CNN and other news outlets, is that the president's rhetoric has created this climate where these sorts of things can occur and that the president doesn't recognize the power of his own words on occasion.

As we saw earlier this morning, Anderson, the president was tweeting that the fake news is the enemy of the people, as he likes to put it. And soy asked I Sarah about that, noting that even former members of the administration -- there's one particular former member of the administration, David Lapan, who used to work under Chief of Staff John Kelly over at Department of Homeland Security, who said that the press is not enemy of the people, and here's how the exchange went.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: You're not going to state for the record, then -- I mean, if the president is going to say the fake news media are the enemy of the people, and if you're going to stand there and continue to say that there are some journalists, some news outlets in this country that meet that characterization, shouldn't you have the guts, Sarah, to state which outlets, which journalists are the enemy of the people?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I think it's irresponsible of a news organization like yours to blame responsibility of a pipe bomb that was not sent by the president, not just blame the president, but blame members of his administration, for those heinous acts.

I think that is outrageous and I think it's irresponsible.


ACOSTA: Anderson, we went back and forth there for a couple of more minutes and Sarah Sanders just did not want to name individual outlets. She went on -- she said that there were individual journalists, I suppose, that the president refers to as the enemy of the people, but we did not get a straight answer out of this White House as to which news organizations they deem to be enemies of the American people.

And I asked whether or not Sarah and the president and others here in this administration should reserve that kind of language for true enemies of the American people. And she just offered no regrets, no apologies.

And my guess, Anderson, is we're going to continue to see this kind of rhetoric going forward -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. We should point out a third pipe bomb mailed to CNN was intercepted. Just stunning.

Jim Acosta, appreciate your reporting.

I want to go back to Brooke -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Anderson, we will take it. Thank you.

Coming up next: The man accused of sending those pipe bombs to 14 critics of President Trump goes to court just after another suspicious package was intercepted, this one addressed to the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Find out what we're learning about the suspect's disturbing past on social media.



BALDWIN: We are back with our special coverage here on this Monday afternoon. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. In just the last hour, a serial bomb suspect has made his first court

appearance, his court hearing happening as federal authorities are investigating yet another suspicious package that he is believed to have sent, this latest package addressed to CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

It was intercepted as a post office near the CNN Center today, and it appears identical to other mailings. Law enforcement sources now telling CNN the suspect had a list of more than 100 people to whom he intended to send these packages.

And some investigators are now reaching out to alert those people on his so-called hit list.

Andrew Kaczynski with me, is with me now, as in, of course, CNN's KFILE. And he's been digging into this suspect's troubling social media past.

And what did you dig up?

ANDREW KACZYNSKI, SENIOR EDITOR, CNN KFILE: So, it was interesting that you mentioned when we were coming to this that they have 100 people whom he targeted.


We were looking through all of his tweets, and we found more 230 separate threats that he sent on his Twitter account alone at people. So, you know, looking through 4,000 of this man's tweets...


KACZYNSKI: ... we were able to see how he was just taken in by so many of these far-right conspiracy theories.

We're talking -- there's this sort of this usual stuff that we see on the right, believing Obama's a Muslim. There's the fake Pizzagate conspiracy.

But he also sort of bought into many of these anti-media conspiracy theories. He thought CNN had faked polls, faked live shots, was funded by Obama. He really believed all sorts of very, very far-right crazy things.

BALDWIN: This is the guy, when we were all covering this sitting here on Friday when the news was breaking that they found him in his van down there in Florida, that he was standing there at a Trump rally in 2017 with a sign that was critical of CNN, right?

KACZYNSKI: Yes. Yes, that's absolutely right. He had that sign critical of CNN. And so when we're looking through this, too, it's very interesting, because you see sometimes his rhetoric sort of following the president's.

We know that he was, you know, a Trump super fan, went to rallies, went to the inauguration. But, at times, when sending death threats at CNN, he actually used the same rhetoric as the president, calling CNN the enemy of America.

BALDWIN: Using the president's own words.


BALDWIN: So frightening, all of what at least investigators have, this treasure-trove of evidence and ramblings online to use, to use against him, presumably.

Andrew Kaczynski, thank you so much for looking in all of that for us.

We also, of course, are following another attack seemingly fueled by hate. In the state of Kentucky, a white man is accused of killing two African-Americans last week at a grocery store. This is near Louisville. Police say, just moments before the shooting, the suspect was seen on surveillance video trying to open the door and get into this predominantly black church down the road.

Thank goodness he couldn't. Moments after shooting in this grocery store, the 51-year-old suspect exchanged gunfire with someone in the parking lot, an armed civilian in the parking lot. No one was injured during that shoot-out, and the suspect was arrested a short time later.

The common thread in the Kentucky murders, the mail bombs, the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting is that, in hindsight, the warning signs always seem to be there. The suspects have either a lengthy arrest record or a history of posting racist -- as we were just chatting, posting racist or extremist threats, sometimes both.

So why are these attacks so hard to stop before they happen? We will discuss that next.



BALDWIN: We will take you back to Pittsburgh and our coverage of the Tree of Life Synagogue with Anderson here in just a second, but -- and, also, we should mention, where the White House where President Trump and the first lady are planning to visit tomorrow.

But people are questioning the nation's divisive political discourse and if it's directly fueling the violence and hate we are seeing across this country, extreme rhetoric about immigrant caravans, contentious midterm election that is just eight days away.

Let's delve into this whole conversation, too, about the role of social media.

Oliver Darcy is our CNN business senior media reporter, Samantha Vinograd, CNN national security analyst, and Laurie Segall, our CNN business senior technology correspondent.

And so, Laurie, just starting with you, really simply, you know, to my understanding, part of the reason why this is happening -- we were just talking to Andrew Kaczynski, right, about the ramblings online -- is social media.


BALDWIN: Tell me more about that.

SEGALL: I think they have struggled with getting on top of content.

I have just spent the last month out in the Bay Area in San Francisco having these hard conversations with these leaders. And they can't seem to find this fine line. There's a lot of nuance here. And, you know, I think regulation is coming down the pipeline, but a lot of these social media companies have forever been uncomfortable with being, you know, the role -- taking the role of editor.

And I think you're seeing this play out. They haven't moved quickly enough. And then there's the problem that, as they move, a lot of the evil, a lot of this stuff is going to other platforms, where there's less moderation, like Gab.

And you're seeing a lot of the issues. And one thing I will say that's really stuck with me, about a year ago, I interviewed someone that studies the Internet and the state of social media. And he said, I'm worried that our world is becoming a chat room. It's beginning to resemble a chat room, that hate is moving offline.

And look no farther than last week with the police sirens and people screaming, move back. And you hear that hate moving offline. We hear -- or heard it here personally.

And I think we're seeing this. And in my time covering tech, I don't think it's ever been so bad. I think this is a very challenging time for tech companies and their role and also a lot of this hateful rhetoric and a lot of the misinformation that's feeding it and going viral, making our world begin to resemble a chat room at its worst.

BALDWIN: Sam, what do you think?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I worked in tech and I know how important it is for these platforms to be neutral platforms and not to become the arbitrators of what's good and bad, particularly because hate speech is not illegal.

But the fact of the matter is, in a digital age, when there's instantaneous content amplification, I think many tech companies are thinking about what inciting violence, which is a crime, means in the digital age.


But, Brooke, hateful propaganda existed well before social media.

In the Holocaust, six million Jews were killed without a single tweet that was sent.

BALDWIN: Which your father survived.

VINOGRAD: He did. He did. And we often talk about the characteristics of hateful propaganda during that time.

And so to really counter hatred and extremism of any kind, you have to go to the source. Social media is a vehicle, just like media outlets of any kind are. And to really fundamentally address it, we have to go into the communities, we have to go into the schools and start spreading real information.

BALDWIN: So part of the conversation is, of course, what's happening online. The other part is what's happening on TV, like a segment earlier today on FOX.

I'm getting to you on this, because Matt Drudge, in a rare rebuke of FOX News, was all over this segment. Here's a clip.


KENNEDY, FOX NEWS: People came together after 9/11, and, you know, watching vigils and other parts of the world as they prayed for us and prayed for our country to heal. And it feels like we have really lost part of that.

What I will say is, try becoming a member of a third party for a little while.


KENNEDY: And then you will see what it feels like to lose every single election and to still walk around with a smile on your face.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My libertarian friend.


BALDWIN: Yes, it's just so entirely inappropriate. You know, 11 people were just murdered on Saturday, and they're laughing. And he called them out.

We have got the Drudge tweets, and I wanted to ask you about this, where essentially in one of them he says: "Is it really funny? Check your soul in the makeup chair."

And FOX has now responded.

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yes, FOX has released a statement to these rare Drudge tweets criticizing them.

They say that: "Kennedy made an unrelated quip at the end of the segment which was focused on unity. There was absolutely no joking or laughing about the events of this weekend. And a screen grab of her smiling is hardly indicative of the entire segment. The lower third should not have been up during the duration of the segment, because it was not fully reflective of what panelists were saying."

That said, I did watch the entire segment, Brooke, and, you know, they were sort of joking throughout the whole segment. While that lower third was up about the slaughter at the synagogue and these bomb scares, they were joking and they were laughing pretty freely.

So while the segment does -- or the statement does pin it on Kennedy and at the end what we just watched, I think it was a problem through the whole segment. And I want to point out, too, that imagine if this were a CNN segment, right? If this were roles reversed...

BALDWIN: It would be plastered all over.

DARCY: Right. If FOX had received a bomb from a left-wing person and CNN had that segment on-air, where we were laughing at it and joking about things while having that Chyron, I think they would be pretty outraged.

So Matt Drudge is not someone who's a snowflake. He's a conservative, he has a lot of credentials, and he's even calling them out.

BALDWIN: Words matter. We know that the synagogue shooter invoked caravans and he specifically called these people invaders, back to your points about what we found on social media with him.

So, let me just show you something that Newt Gingrich wrote for FOX News on Friday, the lead line: "The caravan of an estimated 7,000 Central American invaders trekking through Mexico towards the United States is roughly 11,000 (sic) miles from the nearest point of entry." And he goes on and on.

But the word I wanted to point out was invaders, because that is the exact same language, that is the exact same language that was used. And it's not just Newt Gingrich. Lou Dobbs is being called out.

And I'm just -- back to you, is FOX just spreading pure propaganda at this point?

DARCY: Well, I think it's certainly irresponsible to use this term, because what do you do with invaders, Brooke? Do you let invaders come in?

BALDWIN: No, of course not.

DARCY: And Brooke asked -- Newt Gingrich asked in his column, like, we have to do something about these invaders.

And the natural question is, what do you do with invaders when they're coming? You stop them using probably all force necessary. And so I think it's irresponsible for FOX to be running these segments and these columns that call migrants invaders.

And another point is, it's just misinformation. The fact is, if you want to declare...

BALDWIN: But it gets repeated and repeated and repeated.

DARCY: Right. These people aren't just going to come and flood over the border.

The likely scenario here is they're coming to the nearest checkpoint and they're going to declare asylum. And to declare asylum in the U.S., you need to be physically present in the U.S.

So the only way for them to do this would be by actually marching toward the U.S. and declaring asylum at a checkpoint. So not only is it just irresponsible and really frankly disgusting language, it's spreading misinformation to the FOX viewers.

BALDWIN: I want to move off that.

And, Sam Vinograd, I just wanted to end with you.

I know you and I were here Saturday night, and it was a tough night for a lot of people covering the breaking news and the synagogue. And I mentioned earlier, you know, this is personal for you. Your father survived the Holocaust.

And I just wanted you to -- I just wanted you to have the last word.

VINOGRAD: Thank you for that.

I spoke with my father after a segment. And he was deeply appreciative of all the compassion that's being shown.

But the most poignant thing that he told me yesterday was that, at our synagogue in Connecticut, the vigil last night was filled with many members of the Jewish community, but members from all faiths.

And that, for him, was so overwhelmingly important, because what he has told me is, scapegoating the Jews is nothing new. And when you scapegoat something, you displace blame onto them.

It was the Jews on Saturday. It was African-Americans earlier in the week. And so, right now, what we have to do is quell that hate, because it will move on to another minority group.