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Whitey Bulger Killed in Prison; Controversy Erupts Over Trump's Visit to Pittsburgh. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired October 30, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:03]

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That is what Zinke, Interior Secretary Zinke is telling CNN about our story.

And the Justice Department, we should note, declined to comment. Interior's Inspector General's Office said it would not comment on Justice-related issues.

But, Brooke, President Donald Trump's Cabinet secretaries have faced scrutiny over their use of government resources, as you know, as we have been reporting for months, and that includes former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Is Zinke the only Cabinet member that DOJ has been looking into?

BROWN: Brooke, we have also learned that Justice Department investigators began probing Scott Pruitt, of course, a former administrator at the EPA, questionable ethical conduct before he left office as the EPA administrator.

This is according to multiple sources familiar with the matter. This inquiry was also opened up after a referral from the EPA inspector general regarding whether Pruitt took any action to benefit an energy lobbyist that he rented a condo from for under market value on Capitol Hill. You will recall that reporting several months ago that, for six months at least, that Pruitt had rented from this energy lobbyist and his wife this condo on Capitol Hill for under market value.

And so DOJ was looking into whether, in exchange for that, this energy lobbyists who did business with EPA benefited. But we are told through our sources that that probe appears to have stalled ever since Pruitt left office over the summer, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Got it.

Pamela, keep us posted on your reporting and Evan's reporting.

BROWN: Yes.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much.

Now we continue on.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome. I'm Anderson Cooper. Welcome to Pittsburgh, a city in mourning.

Funerals, the first funerals taking place for those killed in the deadliest attack on Jewish people in the United States of America. The lines to pay respects are long for brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal, buried today. They lived together in life and they are together in death.

And for Dr Jerry Rabinowitz as well, an extraordinary physician.

But as mourners unite in their grief and their solidarity, the city of Pittsburgh has been divided amongst some over whether President Trump should be visiting today. Moments ago, the president, the first lady, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner boarded Air Force One.

They are expected to get here later this afternoon. The president will not be with any of these congressional leaders who have declined a White House invitation to Pittsburgh.

Mr. Trump is set to visit some of the six survivors of the massacre in the hospital. But a top county official says he and the governor are opting not to see the president, instead focusing on healing within the community.

Want to go to CNN's White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, so the president is going to be here soon. Any more specifics on what he's going to be doing when he lands?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No. They have already boarded Air Force One to come over here, but the White House still has not released any kind of schedule that the president is going to have.

They just have a general block of time, about three to four hours, that the president is scheduled to be in Pittsburgh. But other than that, Anderson, they kind of left us guessing.

We do know that President Trump wants to go to a nearby hospital. He wants to visit with the first-responders, those police officers who were injured in this shooting here on Saturday.

That is certainly something he wants to do. We do know that he's coming with the first lady, Melania Trump. We saw Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump also board with the president, but they did not take any questions.

However, Anderson, they're going to land to a city that generally the consensus is this visit is ill-timed on the behalf of the president. A lot of the people that we have spoken with who have come to pay their respects at the synagogue over the last several hours that we have been out here this morning have said, if the families don't want them to come, if the members don't want them to come, then the president should not come, he should postpone this visit. But inside the White House, aides see this as the best time for them to come, because, starting tomorrow, President Trump is going to kick off his campaign rally swing right before the midterm elections, and they think it would be bad optics if he did come and it was in a period of mourning and grieving with the members, and then went on to a politically charged campaign rally.

Now, some of the officials have said it's not just because they don't want the president here. It's the logistics of having the president here, with the mayor of Pittsburgh saying, if the president is here, they also have to have not only officers to help with the president's arrival, but also with these funerals that are going on.

They're worried his visit could spark some protests in the area. And they're also worried it could interfere with some of the individuals; families coming to visit, coming to visit with their families from out of town and that that could create a problem.

But, Anderson, the president has insisted to aides that he said he was going to come, he wants to come in. He wants to pay his respects. Whether or not he's going to come to the synagogue here behind me and meet with anyone who's out here paying their respects also is still an open question.

And we will likely find out once he hits the ground.

COOPER: Yes, Kaitlan Collins -- Kaitlan, thank you very much.

That picture we were showing a moment before of people linking arms, singing, that's by the -- one of the memorials that has sprung up around the synagogue. You see people there singing, embracing.

[15:05:10]

There's been a lot of that over the last several days. The crowds today are probably the biggest they have been, as these funerals have begun as well.

David and Cecil Rosenthal. David -- I want to show you a photo of both of them. David was on the left. He was 54 years old. Cecil was 59. They were brothers, sort of considered the unofficial ambassadors in the Tree of Life Synagogue.

You talk to anybody in this neighborhood, they knew them, they saw them, they talked to them. They would greet congregants at the start of service for years.

A funeral was also held for 66-year-old Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz. His nephew says that, when the doctor heard gunshots, he ran to see if anyone was her. Dr. Rabinowitz which is legendary in this community for his work early on with HIV/AIDS, people who had -- people who were suffering with HIV/AIDS, at a time in this country when many even medical professionals were afraid to touch them without gloves, to treat them.

With me now with two friends of the doctor, Jean Clickner and Jon Pushinsky. They're members of the Dor Hadash Synagogue, which shares the building with the Tree of Life Synagogue. Thank you both for being with us.

JEAN CLICKNER, FRIEND OF VICTIMS: Thanks for having us.

COOPER: So sorry for all your losses of your friends and those you know in this community.

First of all, what -- how are you doing? How are you both holding up?

JON PUSHINSKY, FRIEND OF VICTIMS: It's hard.

Our children who live out of town both came in over the weekend when they heard the news. So we have been surrounded by family. And members of the congregation have been gathering either formally or informally together to spend time together and to provide comfort each other.

COOPER: And you went to the funeral for Dr. Rabinowitz.

CLICKNER: We went to the funeral this morning.

COOPER: What an extraordinary man he sounds like.

CLICKNER: Oh, he's bigger -- he's so big. I mean, he's a little guy, and he's bigger than life.

And his -- he has impacted probably three-quarters of people of this city.

COOPER: Wow.

CLICKNER: I mean, not to mention his family.

COOPER: Right.

CLICKNER: But everyone knows him. Everyone's been touched by him. He was one of the leaders in our congregation. We do not have a rabbi. We have a lot of lay leaders. He's one of many.

But anything you wanted done, Jerry was there to do it. He always helped out. And he also, as I knew him over 20 years or so, because I attended Torah study also with him, which is what was going on when the shooting happened.

I have seen him grow spiritually, because he really -- that was his focus. He wanted to learn. He married a very spiritual woman. And since then, it's become a great Torah study and...

COOPER: It's so moving to be here and hear the sounds of people singing at the memorials, which is just half-a-block away. And there's to me such a sense of, I mean, obviously of sadness and morning, but also of resolve and hope and determination, that this will not divide people and that this will not scare people.

PUSHINSKY: Well, we have been -- suffered from persecution for thousands of years, the Jews. And we have always survived, and we will survive. And each generation recommits to continue on and to prove to those who would harm us that we're here to stay. And we're going to stay.

COOPER: One of the things that, as a reporter, that I have always believed in very strongly is bearing witness and bearing witness to the struggles of others, to the -- to what is what is happening all around the world.

That's also something that's very important to you. And, in fact, today, as an act of bearing witness, you actually wanted to go, I think it was yesterday, to the court proceeding to just be there and witness it.

Can you talk to me about that?

(CROSSTALK)

CLICKNER: Yes, bearing witness is -- is a way of making something real.

We bear witness to happy events, but you have to bear witness to the unhappy events, because we don't want to forget them. I mean, that's how our genes have survived over thousands of years, is by remembering our past, not being brought down by it, but remembering it, and taking strength from it and moving forward.

(CROSSTALK)

CLICKNER: And these people over here are bearing witness. Everybody's bearing witness around the city and across the country.

We know of caravans of buses who are of people, Jews probably, coming to Pittsburgh just to attend the funerals to bear witness, to support people and to bear witness that, you are not alone, we are one.

PUSHINSKY: And, for me, it was important that the people who were killed and the people who were injured were unable to be in the courtroom to show that they are here.

And so, for me, it was important to you be there as personal representative for those who were unable to be there themselves, either because they were killed or are still in the hospital.

[15:10:13]

COOPER: So many times, when one is confronted with hate, and you meet people who have hate in their hearts and who have committed horrendous acts, they don't look like we think they might.

And we're not showing this person's -- I'm not showing this person's picture. I'm not saying this person's name. But when you were in the room, what -- did that -- what struck you?

CLICKNER: I was -- it's so underwhelming. I was prepared to see the devil. I didn't know what. But he just looked like a regular man, just nondescript, regular man.

PUSHINSKY: When we were riding up the elevator to the eighth floor, I turned to my wife and I said, steel yourself. Be prepared to see -- look evil in the eye.

And when this person was brought into the courtroom, unremarkable. I saw nothing. It's -- it was not what I thought I would see.

COOPER: So often, the people who do this kind of thing, they are not remarkable. In fact, they are anything but. And they are -- they have not done anything with their lives. They have not contributed. They are just pathetic.

CLICKNER: Yes.

PUSHINSKY: Yes. Good word.

CLICKNER: I can't say -- they're humans. And it's really hard to speak badly of them because they are people. And there's something going on with them that, you know, it's horrendous.

But we don't know what his life was, and...

COOPER: Do you have fears that this community will divide, that this community -- we had Mr. Mohammed (ph) on earlier, along with the rabbi who -- they worked together for a long time.

The Muslim community here has raised, I think, more than...

PUSHINSKY: Seventy thousand.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I think, at this point, it's like $100,000, more than $150,000.

PUSHINSKY: Oh, great.

COOPER: It doesn't seem like, if that was the desire of this killer, to divide, it seems to have had the opposite impact.

CLICKNER: Absolutely.

PUSHINSKY: It's Pittsburgh and..

CLICKNER: Well, it's the world, too. The world is...

(CROSSTALK)

PUSHINSKY: Right.

But the -- in Pittsburgh, the diverse communities come together and stand together. I can't tell you -- the Muslim community, as you said, has been fantastic, how many churches have offered to open their doors to allow the congregations to use their space until we could go back into our home. It's just great. It's everyone standing together.

COOPER: Well, Jon and Jean, thank you so much for your strength and for bearing witness.

CLICKNER: Thank you.

COOPER: Thank you.

PUSHINSKY: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: It's an honor to talk to you.

PUSHINSKY: And that's Mr. Mohammed.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Yes, just over there. You can say hi to them.

All right, you're still wired. Just wait one second.

Brooke, let's toss it back to you. And we will come back here shortly.

BALDWIN: We will take it.

Anderson, thank you. Just listening, that was incredible. And hearing a woman say, I was prepared to see the devil, and he was in fact quite unremarkable. And just her point about bearing witness, I thought that was pretty profound.

We will come back to Pittsburgh.

Meantime, one of the nation's most notorious mobsters has been killed just a day after he was transferred to this new maximum security prison. We will talk live to the man who wrote the book on Whitey Bulger.

And President Trump adding more fuel to the midterm fire, claiming he will end birthright citizenship in this country with an executive order.

Hmm.

We will explain that, why he cannot, cannot do that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:17:48]

BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Here's more breaking news. The notorious Boston mob boss and FBI informer James "Whitey" Bulger has been killed this morning in a West Virginia maximum security prison one day after he was transferred there. Whitey Bulger had eluded federal authorities for more than 16 years before his arrest in 2011. The 89-year-old was serving the rest of his life in prison for a catalog of crimes, including his role in 11 different murders.

So, Dick Lehr is with me. He is co-author of "Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil's Deal," which was later turned into a movie starring Johnny Depp. Here's a clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK MASS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I want to nail Whitey Bulger. He seems to be involved in every crime in the city and yet the bureau keep saying he is clean.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, what has Bulger done?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What's he done? Everything.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Oh, that was a good movie.

Dick Lehr, good to see you, sir.

I mean, 16 years on the run, basically hiding in plain sight, having been convicted of participating in 11 murders and everything else, and this is how it ends for him? What do you think?

DICK LEHR, CO-AUTHOR, "BLACK MASS": Well, he lived violently, and he apparently died violently.

I think it marks the full circle of a terrible life.

BALDWIN: Walk us down memory lane. Remind us of what he did.

LEHR: I think his greatest notoriety or mark in history is the fact that, starting in the mid-'70s, and carrying on into the early '90s, he was at the center of the worst informant scandal in the FBI's history.

He succeeded in turning the tables and having a band of corrupt FBI agents here in Boston basically be an extension of his gang. So -- and we're not talking about like a single case or a single incident. We are talking about what became a way of life that caused incalculable harm to the victims and their families, to the city of Boston, to the nation's top law enforcement agency, the FBI.

[15:20:00]

There were so many tipoffs and cover-ups. And he had a license to kill, in effect.

BALDWIN: So, how did they finally find him? LEHR: How did they find -- that was the 2011 surprise in Santa

Monica, California, where a -- he was living under the radar as an apparent retiree with his girlfriend.

And, periodically, and on CNN, there were these public service announcements regarding that he was the FBI's most wanted at that point. And someone from Santa Monica, a woman from Iceland who vacationed in Santa Monica, recognized his girlfriend.

And that set in motion very quickly his apprehension in the next 48 hours.

BALDWIN: It's incredible. I remember -- I remember when we covered it, and he was just living, what, a couple blocks from the beach, and thinking he was living the good life, until the knock, the bang came on the door.

What about -- I was reading...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: No, right. Go ahead. Southie, right?

LEHR: No, I was going to say -- I mean, yes, I mean, Santa Monica, he walked the beaches there, just like he walked the waterfront in South Boston. He had just kind of gone California.

BALDWIN: Right.

I was reminding myself, because we covered this so extensively years ago, and Bulger's former sidekick and fellow FBI informant, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, so he's still -- he's still in prison serving out that life sentence,correct?

LEHR: Yes. Yes.

He ended up folding and cooperating with the authorities. A number of Bulger's former sidekicks became government witnesses. And Flemmi, in exchange for his life, frankly -- he faced the death penalty in a couple of states -- gave testimony against Whitey Bulger and is in prison without the possibility of parole.

BALDWIN: Yes.

And then I just wanted to read. This is from Brian Kelly, one of the former federal prosecutors who tried this case against Bulger.

LEHR: Sure.

BALDWIN: And he has just said: "Hopefully, the seven years he spent in prison, as well as his recent death, bring some closure to the families of as many victims."

I mean, can you just imagine how those different family members must be feeling today, hearing Whitey Bulger, age of -- age 89, is killed in a maximum security prison? LEHR: Yes, right.

No, I mean, I can't imagine. I don't know what that's like. I know it had to be a huge moment in 2011, when they did finally capture him, a huge moment when a lot of their unsolved murders involving a brother, a father, an uncle, whomever, was finally officially solved.

So this -- again, this does bring the end of at least the life chapter -- lifetime of Whitey Bulger.

BALDWIN: Dick Lehr, thank you so much for the time. Appreciate it.

LEHR: You're welcome.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, the executive editor of Pittsburgh's largest newspaper, who is also a member of the Jewish community there in Squirrel Hill, he will join Anderson live.

And we will get his take on the president's visit today and hear how the community is coping several days after 11 lives were lost in the Tree of Life Synagogue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:27:50]

COOPER: Welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper in Pittsburgh.

We continue to cover the aftermath of the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in American history.

It was an assault not just on the Tree of Life Synagogue behind me, but all of Pittsburgh, and particularly the historic diverse Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

One person who lives in this community is the executive editor of "The Pittsburgh Gazette" newspaper. David Shribman lives just three blocks away from the synagogue. His phone rang shortly after the gunfire started, as he was alerted the breaking news had hit awfully close to home.

He has since written number of powerful pieces in his newspaper. One is entitled "Dispatch from Squirrel Hill: Dread in a Peaceful Place."

And I just want to share part of what he wrote. "Because this was our neighborhood," he wrote, "caught in the crossfire of the strains of the global village and, for once, sadly, so very sadly, the hurt was ours, and the victims were ours, and the need to heal is ours. For now, it has happened here. For millions across this wounded nation, we are the focus of anguish and anger and solace, the it-can-happen- anywhere-place of the moment. And we know, given the tempo of tragedy in these times, that ours, that the title will be ours -- won't be ours for long."

David Shribman, the man who wrote that piece, joins me now.

Appreciate you so much for being with us. Thank you.

DAVID SHRIBMAN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE": Thanks, Anderson,

COOPER: It is one of those sick facts of life that the focus is on here now, and soon it will be on somewhere else.

SHRIBMAN: Right, sad to say.

COOPER: What do you want people to know about what happened here and about this community?

SHRIBMAN: Well, that this was an unspeakable tragedy, I think that's well-known.

I think it's becoming known that this is a remarkable community. It's a mix of Jewish people and of people who are not Jewish, who have respect for each other, who have respect for the way we live here, which is -- it's more than tolerance.

It's welcoming. And it's a community that cares about itself, that cares about more than just the Steelers, though it does devoutly care about the Steelers.

(LAUGHTER)

SHRIBMAN: It cares about the fact that we can walk these very streets right here ordinarily in peace and in total comfort and total security.

(CROSSTALK)

SHRIBMAN: I remember my first week here. I was driving up the street just about two blocks from here.

And I ran into a young woman who I knew -- knew from Washington, where I used to live. And I stopped and I said, "Oh, I need to give you a ride."

But she said, "Well, why?"