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Coast Guard Officer Arrested, Accused Of Planning Mass Killing, Washington Post: Skeptic May Lead WH Panel On Climate Change; Interview with Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA); Impact Your World: A Safe Place For A New Beginning, Candidate's Son Testifies In N.C. Election Fraud Probe. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired February 21, 2019 - 11:30   ET




[11:32:02] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth. Those are words of a man out to commit mass murder. According to court documents, prosecutors are dissecting this statement and much more from a Coast Guard officer now being accused of trying to carry out domestic terrorism. He is now in custody, in police custody, and scheduled for a detention hearing later today.

After his arrest, investigators found these, stockpiles of guns, ammunitions and a hit list.

CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider has more details on this. Jessica, what are authorities saying that he was going to do and how soon?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Prosecutors, Kate, are saying in court filings that, really, at the same time this Coast Guard Lieutenant was plotting mass murder. He was actually going to work every day on assignment at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C. Eventually, the Coast Guard noticed some red flags. Law enforcement then got warrants for a search of the suspect's work desk and apartment, which is in suburban Washington,


And what agents found was an arsenal inside this Coast Guard Lieutenant's cramped basement apartment.


SCHNEIDER: Court documents providing chilling details about a Coast Guard Lieutenant who prosecutors say hoped to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country. Before being arrested in Maryland last week, 49-year-old Christopher Hasson is facing federal charges of illegal possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance. But prosecutors say these charges are just the tip of the iceberg, writing, "The defendant is a domestic terrorist bent on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect government conduct." Investigators say they found this hit list on Hasson's computer containing names of prominent democrats including, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as a number of 2020 democratic candidates, including Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, the list also containing the names of several journalists from CNN and MSNBC.

Federal agents say they found 15 firearms and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition in Hasson's Maryland apartment. In addition to a stockpile of steroids, the government says Hasson was using to increase his ability to conduct attacks.

In emails outlined in court filings, Hasson calls himself a white nationalist and was inspired by a manifesto written by Anders Breivik, a Norwegian terrorist convicted of killing 77 people in 2011. Prosecutors say roughly a month before his arrest, Hasson Googled topics including are Supreme Court Justices protected, where do most senators live in D.C. and civil war if Trump impeached.


SCHNEIDER: And Lieutenant Hasson is scheduled to face the judge. He'll be in court in less than two hours at a detention hearing in Maryland Federal Court. That starts at 1:00 P.M.

And, Kate, prosecutors who were there are really pushing the judge, we saw it in this detention memo, to keep him behind bars because they say that he does pose such a major threat.



BOLDUAN: Jessica, thanks so much.

Coming up, a new report says the President is planning a White House commission on climate change, but that commission could be led by a climate change denier, details ahead.


[11:39:51] BOLDUAN: Climate change. President Trump's Director of National Intelligence, he calls it a threat to national security. Dan Coats telling Congress and a threat assessment this, the United States will probably have to manage the impact of global human security challenges, such as threats to public health, historic levels of human displacement, assaults on religious freedom and the negative effects of environmental degradation and climate change.


With that in mind, The Washington Post is now reporting that the Trump administration is putting together a panel to look into the national security implications of that threat of climate change. And internal documents obtained by The Post gave a window into how seriously they seem to be taking the threat.

The man spearheading the proposed presidential committee is William Happer, not known to many. But he is known to deny climate change as a real thing, going as far to say, this one is about carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas.


WILLIAM HAPPER, TRUMP NOMINEE FOR CLIMATE CHANGE PANEL: The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler. Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world and so were the Jews.


BOLDUAN: So it's carbon dioxide that's getting a bad rap these days.

Joining me now, one of the first co-sponsors of the Green New Deal on Capitol Hill, Democratic Congressman Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania. Congressman, thank you for coming in.

REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D), P.A.: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: So the Green New Deal is big on goals when it comes to climate change, light on details and movement to tackle climate change. What's your reaction to this Washington Post report?

BOYLE: It's just one more sign that this administration doesn't take the threat of climate change seriously. You know, there was a federally mandated study, a pretty large one that was scheduled to come out in December. The Trump administration released it the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend, Black Friday, because they wanted to release it when people weren't paying attention. And here is what their own administration study showed, a 10 percent projected drop in our nation's GDP by the end of the century if we don't deal with climate change. In addition, $50 billion increase in energy cost by the year 2050.

Those were just two of the dozen or so catastrophic conclusions of this report. So the administration really doesn't need yet one more study or one more group to be put together to recognize what 97% of climate scientists have concluded that climate change is real and our window of opportunity to deal with this is closing. We need to take it seriously now.

BOLDUAN: This is still, as far as we know, a proposed presidential committee that they're talking about and nothing has been announced. If William Happer, this man, wasn't the head of it, would you support the idea behind the White House putting together a group of experts to look at the national security implications of climate change?

BOYLE: If it's a group of genuine experts that would then be tasked with coming up with a concrete action plan on what exactly we are going to do to address climate change. But, you know, Kate, over the last two years, the only time we hear about climate change from President Trump is him mocking the concept. The actions that we have seen from this administration have been hostile toward addressing climate change. He pulled us out of what was really a major achievement of the Obama administration, leaving almost 200 nations around the globe to sign the Paris accords. Unfortunately, now, the United States is outside of that treaty.

So based on the first two years of the Trump administration, I really don't have confidence that this is something that the President takes seriously.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you about the Green New Deal for a second. You are co-Chair of the Blue Collar Caucus, you and I have talked about this before, which was formed to fight for American workers. Some unions are skeptical in withholding support of the Green New Deal. I was looking at some of the statements. And one of the unions that's in your district is the Laborers' International Union of North America and they told Reuters. "We will never settle for just transition language as a solution to the job losses that will surely come from some of the policies in the resolution." I mean, what do you say to them?

BOYLE: You know, I certainly am proud to be supported by the laborers and proud to support them in return. You know, one of the things that I see as a great economic opportunity for addressing climate change is the retrofitting of buildings. For example, there are right now public-private partnerships that are on a smaller scale. And what they do is they fund the retrofitting of older buildings, bring them up to code, make them energy efficient and then the savings from the energy costs is actually what funds the future projects.

BOLDUAN: So do you disagree with their statements, this whole like just transition language?

BOYLE: No. I understand their concern though. You know, we have to make sure - first, we have to actually acknowledge that climate change is real and is an existential threat, I would say, we as a nation. But, second, we have to make sure that the workers, our blue collar workers are actually those who will benefit from changing to a more energy efficient economy.


I believe that that can be done. I think it's a false choice that people presented that we either have to address our environmental challenges on the one hand or improve our economy, and we can't do both. I think that's false thinking. In many ways, this can be a great economic opportunity especially for blue collar workers and blue collar jobs here in America.

BOLDUAN: Do you think whoever the eventual democratic nominee is for 2020, do you think they should have to throw their support behind wholeheartedly the Green New Deal?

BOYLE: Well, what I think will likely happen, and right now, the last time I checked, there were approximately 200 democrats running for president, so I don't who our nominee is going to be, but I have a strong suspicion that whoever he or she may be will be someone who is 100% committed and has an actual concrete plan toward addressing climate change. It has to be real, it has to be something that would have teeth to it and it can't be something that ignores our legitimate economic concerns.

But, again, too many people on the other side of this issue are creating a false choice simply because they oppose doing anything to address climate change.

BOLDUAN: I clearly haven't looked at Twitter in the last five minutes because a few more people clearly jumped into the race if we're at 200 people at this point.

Thank you so much for coming in, Congressman. I really appreciate your time.

BOYLE: All right, thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, an emotional day on the stand as the son of a republican congressional candidate testifies that he warned his dad that election fraud could happen during his campaign because of who he could be hiring. The dramatic testimony next.


[11:49:08] BOLDUAN: Reports of sex trafficking have increased alarmingly in the United States. For those who escaped, there is often nowhere to go. But now, activists are trying or working to change that. Here's today's Impact Your World.


GABBY: I was trafficked out of an apartment. There would be several men on the hour, every hour one, at a time. I was just a shell.

Well, how do you help somebody who is going through this? How do you get them back into life? How do you get them to be able to take care of themselves?

My name is Gabby and I am a survivor of sex trafficking. It was a miracle that I made it to Wellsprings.

MARY FRANCES BOWLEY, WELLSPRING LIVING: The mission of Wellspring Living is to transform lives of those at risk or who have been victimized by sexual exploitation.

Residential programs are providing everything, a safe house, food, clothing, those basic needs.


And then we're also providing life skills, we're providing therapy, we're providing a safe place for their lives to be restored.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll be going to a job fair.

BOWLEY: Our Women's Academy helps our young women get into living wage jobs in an environment where there's a lot of grace and there's a lot of love and care.

GABBY: They're so great. I just absolutely love them. And, you know, Wellspring really taught me how to love myself and that I was worthy of love.



[11:52:36] BOLDUAN: Emotional testimony and a dramatic turn in the North Carolina election fraud case, pitting a father against his son, essentially. Yesterday, John Harris told the elections board he had warned his dad, republican congressional candidate Mark Harris, that a political operative he was using was suspicious and may have broken the law to get votes, something the elder Harris has denied knowing. Listen to this.


JOHN HARRIS, SON OF N.C. CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I raised concerns about what I had then learned at that point that McCrae Dowless had been hired to be part of the 2018 campaign.

I love my dad and I love my mom, okay? I certainly have no vendetta against them, no family scores to settle, okay? I think they've made mistakes in this process and they certainly did things differently than I would have done them.


BOLDUAN: The son's testimony left his father in tears. Today, Mark Harris was on the stand to respond.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is live in Raleigh following this. Dianne, this was so tough to watch a son testifying, essentially calling out his dad for mistakes on the stand. What did the candidate, his father, say today?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It was emotionally draining just to be in the courtroom, Kate. And I can tell you that, look, his son currently is an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Now, Mark Harris said today when he got on the stand that he was actually very proud of his son and the fact that he testified yesterday, because Mark Harris didn't know he was going to be there. But he went on to say, at that time, my son was just a 27-year-old lawyer in Washington, D.C. looking at data. I didn't heed the warning because he never had been to Bladen County or met McCrae Dowless, that operative. And I talked to plenty of officials who vouched for him and said McCrae Dowless was okay.

He even talked about the first time he met Dowless today on the stand and said that the operative assured him that he was not valid ballot harvesting. Take a listen.


REP. MARK HARRIS (R), N.C.: He said - and I'll never forget, he said it again and again, he said, we do not take the ballot. He said, I don't care if it's a 95-year-old woman in a wheelchair or on a walker, you don't take the ballot. But you can walk her on her walker to the mailbox and she put it in and raise the flag, or you can push her in a wheelchair to the mailbox and she can put it in and raise the flag. He said, but we don't touch ballots.



GALLAGHER: Yes. So we were actually supposed to wrap this up yesterday. It's still going. Harris is inside right now continuing his testimony, Kate. I really don't see an end in sight today. We will most likely still be here tomorrow and potentially into next week.

BOLDUAN: And what is - I mean, this has been a remarkable and a twisting and turning case all along the way. But what's also most remarkable is the people of this district, this congressional district, are still without a member of Congress right now. There's no - the seat is vacant as we speak. It's really amazing. Dianne, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, Roger Stone will soon be back in court, this time over a controversial post on social media. Could it land him behind bars?