Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Coast Guard Officer Charged With Planning A Mass Terror Attack Is To Appear In Court This Afternoon; A Woman Raised In Alabama Now Fighting To Come Back To The U.S. After Marrying ISIS Fighters In Syria; Trump Tweeted That It Was His Idea And Agrees To Not Allow Hoda Back In The Country. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired February 21, 2019 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL)

HARLOW: All right, welcome. The Coaster Guard officer charged with planning a mass terror attack is said to appear in court this afternoon.

A judge will decide if he will be held in jail or released on bond.

SCUITTO: Look at this arsenal that he had gathered. This is remarkable to arm a small army. Authorities say he had a hit list that included Democratic politicians, several journalists including our colleagues here at CNN.

He was arrested Friday on gun and drug charges. CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider, she is following the latest.

Jessica, do authorities know how far along this plot was? Was it eminent?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well they were very concerned about it and you saw the arsenal there. They say that this has been in the works for two years and the problem is they probably don't know how eminent it was, but right now later today in court prosecutors will be pushing for the judge to keep this Coast Guard Lieutenant detained because they do say that he was planning mass murder at the exact same time he was showing up for work at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington D.C.

And really prosecutors put it most starkly in that first line of their detention memo, they put it this way saying, "The defendant intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country. He must be detained pending trial".

So the Coast Guard launched this investigation when they saw some red flags about Lieutenant Hasson's behavior and in fact when agents searched his apartment they found that arsenal, 15 firearms and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

They also found draft e-mails where Hasson declared himself as a white supremacist for the last 30 years. And he also wrote this, chillingly he said, "I am dreaming of a way to kill every last person on the Earth".

And in addition, Lieutenant Hasson also allegedly drafted a hit list where he named several prominent politicians like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as well as Chuck Schumer and several of the current Democratic candidates for President in 2020.

And then he also pin pointed media figures including people here at CNN like Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon and Van Jones.

And stunningly, the suspects Google searches also invoked President Trump's name. He searched things like civil war if Trump impeached and he also searched out media figures addresses, also asking Google where in D.C., does Congress live.

So, all of this will be told to the judge, stressed to the judge when this suspect is in court in Maryland this afternoon at 1:00 PM.

Jim and Poppy it will be a detention hearing where this judge decides whether or not to keep him locked up because as prosecutors say, he was planning mass murder, guys.

[09:35:00]

HARLOW: Jessica Schneider, thank you very much. Ahead for us, a 24- year-old woman raised in Alabama is now fighting to come back the U.S. after marrying ISIS fighters in Syria. Her lawyer lays out why she should return in their opinion. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCUITTO: Welcome back. An Alabama woman who left the U.S. to join ISIS now wants to come back to the U.S. Hoda Muthana says she was quote, "naive, angry and arrogant young woman." More than four years later she says she has changed, but President Trump ordering Secretary of State Mike Pompeo no to allow her to return to the U.S., claiming that she is not a U.S. citizen. Now her family plans to sue over this issue.

Joining me now to discuss is Hoda's family attorney Hassan Shibly. Mr. Shibly, thanks for taking the time this morning.

HASSAN SHIBLY, ATTORNEY FOR HODA MUTHANA'S FAMILY: My pleasure.

[09:40:00]

SCIUTTO: So, you're aware of the president's comments here. In fact, he tweeted that he's instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and he fully agrees not to allow Hoda back into the country and Secretary Pompeo repeated that vow this morning.

What is your argument, why, in your view and her family's view, should Hoda be allowed back into the U.S.?

SHIBLY: Well, it's interesting because Hoda's not just asking to stroll on home with a free pass as if nothing wrong happened. What she's actually asking is to be held accountable to our legal system, to have the due process that any American citizen is entitled to.

She was, in fact, born in the United States. Her father was not a diplomat at the time that she was born. She's an American citizen and the great thing about America is we have a legal system.

When people break the law they can be held accountable to our legal system and we believe in our legal system and Hoda is willing to pay the debt she owes to society, including facing jail time for the mistakes that she's made after she was brainwashed by ISIS.

And I think what's very ironic about this is Hoda's asking to be accountable to our legal system and pay the debt she has to society, while Trump is essentially giving her a free pass. He's actually almost letting her go.

He's saying that the United States doesn't have jurisdiction over her and in doing that not only is he giving her a free pass, but he's essentially undermining birthright citizenship, something that he's actually been trying to for quite some time now.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you though, in terms of her willingness to accept responsibility, in an interview with ABC News when asked if she was willing to face punishment on return to the U.S., she said she should get therapy, she said therapy classes. What's she talking about there? Is she willing to face jail time for joining a terrorist group?

SHIBLY: She is. Correct. Hoda's made many, many remarks that she understands that she may face decades behind bars and she's willing to pay that price. That was her first national media interview, she was really scared, she was nervous. She's not a professional and she's not here to spin anything. She's very genuine.

We've had many conversations that she's willing to spend decades behind bars if that's the debt she owes to society, but she's asking for a chance to be processed through our legal system. We have one of the greatest legal systems in the world and we shouldn't try to circumvent it like the Trump Administration repeatedly tries to do.

SCIUTTO: Has she told you and is she willing to give an accounting of what support she provided ISIS while in Syria, beyond marrying three ISIS fighters and giving birth to the child of one of them?

SHILBY: She's willing to offer a full accounting, she's willing to take responsibility, she's willing to pay whatever debt she has to society. I don't think anybody in America really -- there's very few people in America right now who resent ISIS as much as she does, because she does recognize that she was completely brainwashed by them.

She's destroyed her life, her future, the future of her child and not only does she want to speak out against them and let the world know how evil they are and how great America is, but she also wants to speak out to ensure that she can help protect other people from falling victim to manipulation and brainwashing and committing the terrible mistakes that she herself did.

SCIUTTO: She was though -- she was though 19. She was an adult when she went over to join. It's a long trip over there, there's a lot of time to think about it. Did she support any acts of terror while she was in Syria?

SHILBY: You know, it's difficult to know what exactly she did at this point while she was in Syria because she didn't have complete control over her social media and I think what's mind boggling right now is that the "New York Times," "The Guardian" and ABC News have all been able to interview her on the ground, get her side of the story and they've all found her very, very genuine in her tremendous remorse. They found that she was very naive, vulnerable and was brainwashed. But ...

SCIUTTO: But, I'm asking you about ...

SHILBY: ... but, but, but what's troubling is the FBI.

SCIUTTO: ... the specifics. I'm not talking about social media, I'm saying, did she provide support for acts of terrorism that ISIS carried while she was there.

SHILBY: As far as we know she did not. But this Sunday I actually called the FBI and I told them that, the media's out there interviewing her, I think you owe it to this country that you go and you interview her, you see what laws she's broken, you see if she's a threat. Do your job, go interview this American and they've refused to do so. So, that's really mind boggling to me.

SCIUTTO: Well, give me the opportunity, I will happily speak to her, I'm just -- and that's the reason why I'm asking you to see if you could give us an accounting of what she did while she was there.

SHILBY: Right. As far as we know she did not. As far as we know -- so, what happened is, once she got there -- it was very reminiscent to sex traffic ...

[09:45:00]

SCIUTTO: ... to speak to her as well.

SHIBLY: My pleasure. Thank you. God bless you. God bless America.

SCUITTO: Coming up, House Democrats are ready to introduce their bill to block the President's emergency declaration but the likelihood of it actually working is slim. So why do it? Is it symbolic?

We're going to ask a law maker and that's next.

(COMMERCIAL)

HARLOW: All right, so right now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is urging House Democrats to back a measure that would terminate the national emergency declaration from the President to get money for his border wall. The bill is set to be introduced tomorrow. With me now is Democratic

Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York. Good morning.

GREGORY MEEKS, (D) NEW YORK CONGRESS: Good morning.

HARLOW: Thank you for being here. So this is going to happen in the House, but then the question becomes what happens in the Senate? McConnell's going to have to bring it to the floor and it's going to force Republican's to vote on this to make their stance clear with a vote, but beyond that what do you expect it to actually accomplish?

[09:50:00]

MEEKS: Well I think that it will show that the members of Congress both on the House and the Senate side are going to uphold the Constitution because clearly what the President is trying to do is to avoid and go around the Constitution - violated the Constitution.

HARLOW: That means that you think that enough Republican Senators will vote with you on this?

MEEKS: Well I know this is very disturbing to a number of Republican Senators.

HARLOW: Its one thing to be disturbing and to comment on it it's another thing, as you've seen for them to vote against the President.

MEEKS: I would hope that they understand what their Constitutional responsibilities are. The power of the purse is clearly set out in the Constitution and clearly this is not a national emergency.

The President said it himself, basically when he even announced that he was going to try to declare it.

HARLOW: And the White House has made very clear through Stephen Miller, Senior Advisor to the President that they'll veto it. So then what?

MEEKS: Then it's clear - then we try to - if we have the numbers to override the veto that's what we have to do, but we want to make sure that the America people that this is a clear and transparent process and the American people understand that we have a President that is continually trying to divert around the Constitution.

And as his friends, Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin that he wants to be - he does not want to follow Democracy and it'd be a...

HARLOW: I wouldn't call Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un his friends. Yes he has praised them and shocked people with some of his redirect.

MEEKS: He has said they're his friends. He says, "I get along great with them". He says that, "I respect them". He has - this is out of his mouth not mine.

HARLOW: I know the words he's used. MEEKS: So that would indicate to me that they're his friends and then

when you go to our allies like Chancellor Merkel and our European allies, he's called them all kinds of names.

I just came back from Europe.

HARLOW: Right, you were in Munich.

MEEKS: I was in Munich and to see what Vice President Pence had to say to our European allies in comparison to what he says to - about these brutal dictators it's really contrasting to me.

HARLOW: Let's talk about the Mueller report. CNN's reporting some great important reporting done by our team that broke the news yesterday that the Mueller report could be wrapped up and handed over to William Barr, the new Attorney General as soon as next week.

If Barr opts not to release the full report to Congress, what will you do?

MEEKS: Again, it is the responsibility of the House of Representatives and members of the Senate to then call Barr in and or subpoena documents.

I think that the American people need to know what was in that document and we know that this President continues to try to put people in place to tap down the investigation. That seems to be clear.

HARLOW: It seems to be clear that you think Congress should subpoena is necessary. I'm interested in what subpoena power you think Congress should use in terms of subpoenaing the document, subpoenaing Robert Mueller for testimony?

MEEKS: Well I think it might be both. There is no limit on what we should do is to make sure that it is clear and transparent. You know look, I look at the contrast with Democrats and Republicans.

Loretta Lynch spent two minutes with Bill Clinton. Republican's demanded that she recuse (ph) herself and step down and guess what? That's what we did. Democrat's did also.

Here you've got a President who has continued to meddle into this investigation and put people in place specifically to try to be loyal to him not to the country. So we can't - we can not allow that to continue and we've got to be clear and open about that.

HARLOW: One thing I think you would be encouraged by and that's the new CNN polling that shows that 80 percent of Republicans also think that this report should be made public.

Let me get you on two other quick things before we're out of time and that is of course 2020 because it's never too early to talk 2020.

As you know, Senator Bernie Sanders entered the race. An independent who's a self described Democratic Socialist raised $6 million almost in the first 24 hours.

Here's what a new political op-ed writes about him, editor of the NATIONAL REVIEW Rich Lowry writes, "... among the flaws on Sanders resume for many progressives is one that he can do nothing about - he is a white male, and an old one. Sanders is burdened by his utter lack of intersectionality".

Do you agree and if so, if that also true for Vice President Joe Biden if he jumps in?

MEEKS: Look, the difference for me is Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat. So I don't understand why Bernie Sanders, who does not want to become a member of the Democratic Party...

HARLOW: He vowed he would run and if he wins rule, reside as a Democrat.

MEEKS: Run as a Democrat. We've asked him on a continuous basis if in fact you want to be the Democratic nominee you should be a Democrat.

If you're not a Democrat you should not run. He should run as an independent.

[09:55:00]

He's not a Democrat, so to me I wouldn't allow a Republican to run as a Democrat, for the Democratic nominee.

HARLOW: You don't think he should be allowed to run in the Democratic Party?

MEEKS: I don't think -- he should be a Democrat. I think that he should say if he wants to be a Democrat, he should register in the Democratic Party and then you can talk about running and to be my representative. I want a Democrat to be my representative as President of the United States and be my nominee.

HARLOW: Well, he's doing it and he raised a whole lot of money. We'll watch.

MEEKS: And we'll see what happens.

HARLOW: Thank you very much Congressman.

MEEKS: My pleasure.

HARLOW: It's nice to have you. All right, so we're just moments away from Chicago police updating us in the live press conference on the arrest of actor Jussie Smollett, now accused of filing a false police report. We'll bring it to you live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:00:00]

END