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Otto Warmbier's Parents Speak Out after Trump Says He Believes Kim; State Department Offers Reward for Information to Capture New Al Qaeda Leader; TSA Employees Still Haven't Received Back Pay a Month After Shutdown; Chicago Police Report Significant Drop in Violent Crime. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 1, 2019 - 13:30   ET



[13:32:33] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: In a stinging rebuke, the parents of Otto Warmbier are pushing back at President Trump. This comes one day after the president said he believes that North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un did not know about the circumstances leading up to the death of the American student.

In a statement the parents write, "We have been respectful during the summit process. Now we must speak out. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son, Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that. Thank you."

CNN correspondent, Brian Todd, is with me now.

It's important to note that the Warmbiers attended the State of the Union last year, right? They were guests of the president. They had been supporting him up to this point. Is this a statement that came as a surprise or was it really the president's statement that came as more of a surprise?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think you would have to say it was the president's statement that was more of a surprise. Brianna, you're right, they were guests of him at the State of the Union. Mike Pence met with the parents at the Winter Olympics last year. They really held up the parents as a symbol of what they were trying to work against in North Korea. And then the president comes out yesterday, I believe, and says he takes Kim at his word when he says he doesn't know what happened to Otto Warmbier.

Today, Kellyanne Conway tried to spin that a little bit, saying what the president was saying is he believes Kim when Kim said he didn't know at the time when Otto Warmbier fell ill or the time when Otto Warmbier was rushed out of the country. Do you believe that part? That's something you can dissect. There are some people, analysts told me today, it is feasible Kim might not have known what was going on when they were frenetically trying to get Otto Warmbier out of the country. But for him not to have known anything about this coma? The doctors said when he got back he had been in a vegetative state for 14 months. If he's in a vegetative state for 14 months, does Kim Jong-Un not know about that? That's where you have a problem -- Brianna? KEILAR: It seems like it's a pattern, right? The president is siding

with a dictator or authoritarian ruler and taking sides, really, against the facts and also his own country.

TODD: This is the third time, right? Kim Jong-Un about Otto Warmbier, Mohammad Salman regarding the death of Jamal Khashoggi. Trump took his word on that. Trump has taken more infamously the word of Vladimir Putin when he said he didn't interfere with U.S. elections. There are some who think Trump does this for political expediency when he's face-to-face and trying to make a deal with them. Maybe he did this in Hanoi with Kim Jong-Un knowing he's trying to get a deal. Either way, it's not a great optic, right?

[13:35:21] KEILAR: Definitely not.

Brian Todd, thank you for the report.

TODD: Thank you.

KEILAR: New CNN report just in, more than 1,000 TSA employees are still owed back pay from the shutdown.

Also you may not know this but you will know his name. Why the State Department is offering up to $1 million for information leading to his capture.


[13:40:15] KEILAR: The State Department is offering up to $1 million for information on an emerging leader of the terror group, al Qaeda. While you may not recognize his face, you may think that it is familiar and you will certainly know his last name, bin Laden. Hamza is the son of the late al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, who directed the 9/11 attacks on the U.S.

We have CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen, with us. He was part of the CNN team who interviewed Osama bin Laden back in 1997.

What can you tell us about Hamza bin Laden?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Hamza is around 30. He's been a true believer since he was a kid. He shows up in propaganda videos all the time when he was a child. The SEALs went in on the night of May 1st, May 2nd of 2011 to kill bin Laden. They were carrying little cards about who they thought would be in the compound, and they thought Hamza would be with his father because they're very close. Bin Laden, we know from documents recovered in that compound, bin Laden exchanged letters with his son. He's been grooming him for a long time. He's a true believer. Some of bin Laden's other sons have left the group or got away or just sort of eschewed their father. Hamza is certainly not that. And I think the fact the State Department is putting $1 million on his head, they see him as a leader. The guy who leads al Qaeda right now, he's in his 60s, not a particularly charismatic guy, doesn't appeal to young people. Hamza appears to be that person.

KEILAR: How do you read that as his role and what it means for al Qaeda regrouping?

BERGEN: The drones strike tomorrow, the leader of al Qaeda if he dies just naturally, Hamza would be a natural person to make him a leader or the leader of the group. He's got a famous last name. It's in the power of the world, of course, where hereditary -- you think about so many countries in the region are led by family members who share the same name as the previous leader. So it would be exciting for al Qaeda to have a bin Laden in charge again.

KEILAR: They're up against ISIS here.


KEILAR: They're fighting for the turf.

BERGEN: They're fighting, yes, for sort of brand and all that, and ISIS, as you know, Brianna, is certainly geographically on its last legs. Al Qaeda is pretty strong in places like Syria. It still exists in North Africa, still has a presence in south Asia.

KEILAR: Right now, CNN is reporting that the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have begun a ground operation to clear the last ISIS enclave in eastern Syria. You mentioned, yes, ISIS is losing territory.


KEILAR: But will they ever truly be defeated?

BERGEN: I think they'll be completely defeated. They used to control territory the size of the United Kingdom and a population the size of Switzerland. That's why 1500 people a month came to join from around the world so they had this caliphate. That is gone. Their main claim for excitement and recruitment, the basic factors that produce them, extremism, sectarianism, failed states, failing economies, that continues. So there will be the son of ISIS, the grandson of ISIS. Particularly if we leave, as one point we're going to do in Syria. We talked about leaving Afghanistan. We'll see what happens there. We've run the tape before. We left Iraq in 2011 and it helped create a vacuum and that became ISIS. It's great to leave but there are costs associated with it.

KEILAR: The grandson of ISIS, but it illustrates what the U.S. is up against here with this challenge.



KEILAR: Peter Bergen, thank you so much.

A first on CNN, more than a month after the government shutdown ended, at least 1,000 TSA employees are still owed money.

[13:44:07] Plus, Michael Cohen implicated the president in several crimes. Where is the president exposed legally? Hear why one of the president's allies say U.S. prosecutors may look to indict the president after he leaves office.


KEILAR: First on CNN, when the government shutdown ended in January, most government employees thought the worst was over. Now we're learning a significant number of TSA agents still have not received all of the back pay that they are owed.

We have CNN aviation and government regulation correspondent, Rene Marsh, here with us.

This is a stunning revelation. Why is this hung up?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, you remember this. When we talked about this shutdown and the people being impacted, these TSA employees, many of them living paycheck to paycheck. They were depending on food banks. Some of them got eviction notices. So it was so unbelievable when CNN learned that we're talking about more than a month after this government shutdown and more than a thousand of these TSA employees still have not received all of their back pay. This includes screeners, inspectors, K9 teams.

Here's the thing. The reason for the delay stems in part from an unusual move by TSA administrator, David Pekoske. During the shutdown he said he would pay a partial pay to workers in order to keep them on the job. Hundreds of TSA workers were calling out of work during the shutdown.

This current problem with the back pay was the subject of a phone call that TSA headquarters held with field offices around the country. This phone call happened on Wednesday. And according to a partial transcript obtained by CNN, on the call, the agency said that their partial payment to employees coincided with the end of the government shutdown when the funding got restored. And I'm quoting, "Our timing could not have been poorer in terms of when we executed the final pay.

[13:50:26] So the result was an administrative mess. So now, the agency is working to make sure that people are getting the accurate balance. They have to look all of people that received this prior pay, make sure they're not overpaying them now that they are due this back pay.

It's just really created a mess here. And, in the end, you have more than a thousand people who are still waiting for their money.

KEILAR: That's nuts that they would do that without some sort of plan about how -- it's just sort of baffling that they wouldn't have an idea of how to do that considering the shutdown could have ended at any day. Nonetheless, what is the timeline? When are people getting paid?

MARSH: We reached out to TSA about this whole issue and the agency does tell us that of the -- this is their statement: "Of the 60,000 employees, approximately 1,000 throughout the country require some sort of pay correction." And they say they're working through that process right now. But they don't give us a timeline, so we don't know, really, the short answer is when everyone will get the back pay that they deserve and that they are owed. They point out, of their 60,000 employees, 1,000 are left to receive back pay but, as we said earlier, one is one too many. We're talking about more than a month since this shutdown ended.

KEILAR: My goodness.

Rene Marsh, great reporting. Thank you so much for bringing this to light.

The president reportedly overruling intelligence officials by demanding his son-in-law get top security clearance despite concerns. And then the president lied about it. The question is, why?

Plus, Chris Christie says the president should be more worried about the Southern District of New York prosecutors than the Mueller probe. What he's certain the Southern District will do once the president leaves office?


[13:56:52] KEILAR: Chicago police are reporting a significant drop in violent crime, including a 40 percent reduction in murders compared to the same period last year. They say that this is a sign of progress in the city's effort to tackle the problems of crime and gun violence.

National correspondent, Ryan Young, is in Chicago.

Tell us more about these numbers and tell us what police think is behind this drop.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know a lot of people like to make fun of Chicago when it comes to crime numbers. They always cite this. This is one of the biggest drops we've seen in quite some time.

So far this year, there have been 44 homicides compared with 80 last year. That's a 44 percent decrease. The Chicago police also tell us 214 shootings have happened this year, that's compared to 282. To get you to the last number I'll give you here is the victims that have been shot this year. We see a change in the numbers, 253 people have been shot this year compared to 345 last year. When you put that all together, you're asking, why have you seen the changes? A thousand new officers have been put out on the streets so far, so the force is getting younger. They rolled out new technology like shots fired. A lot of time you're seeing 9-1-1 calls come in after police are already on the way to the 9-1-1 call because the shots fired technology gives them a heads up. Then they've created small labs where they have officers and analysts together working to push out the latest data.

I'm throwing all of this out at you, it's really significant in terms of what they've been able to do. Even today, they're rolling out something new, they'll put more detectives together and start going through some of these unsolved cases with parts of these new technology. With this video technology they have, they'll be able to stitch the scenes together like we saw in the Jussie Smollett case. They really want to make a difference and a change in the city. We've been talking to them about this for about four years now and we've really seen the most significant change happen in the last 12 months or so.

KEILAR: And what about the trust? That's a number you can't quantify exactly the way you would crime, but there really does need to be a rebuilding of the trust between the police department and the community. There have been these series of high-profile incidents that have really rocked the trust of Chicagoans in their police.

YOUNG: I think that's a great and fair question. One of the things we've seen from the police department, one, you have someone who's local and who's the superintendent of police who understands what's going on in some of these pockets of the city. That hasn't helped in terms of making sure that people in the city trust the police department as well. We've also seen the city and the police department working together to go out in some of these communities and try to offer services to the community. So if you have an issue on a corner, where it's either a gang member or a drug dealer, they're able to call in now in a different way and talk to detectives to make sure people are out there to try to put some of this down. For instance, there's a shooting case right now where there's a 1-year-old child that was shot and killed and now they're working trying to get the community to talk to them. You have to have someone turn these folks in. It can't be all detective work and that's what they're trying to impress on the public.

KEILAR: That's a very good point.

Ryan Young, thank you so much for catching us up on the situation in Chicago.

That is it for me.

"NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

[14:00:08] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: It is Friday. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me.