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Federal Authorities Thwart Alleged Terror Plot in L.A.; ISIS Leader Appears in Video; Ex-Diplomat Says Trump Authorized $2 Million Pledge to North Korea to Return Otto Warmbier; Trump vs. Biden. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 29, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00]

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: What they're calling an alleged terror plot involving what they're describing as several targets here in the Los Angeles area.

That's all the details we have right now. We expect to hear from officials here in just about an hour, as they will take to the microphones. And officials from the U.S. attorney's office, the FBI, Los Angeles Police Department, as well as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service will be addressing the press, again, here in just about an hour's time.

As you mentioned, this is a state that has seen a number of violent incidents here just within the span of the week. You think about the car crash up in Sunnyvale, where the FBI and officials believe that it was a person who was targeting Muslims in that attack, also obviously the deadly shooting at the synagogue in Southern California at the mosque there in Poway, and now we're hearing today in another alleged plot that has been thwarted by officials.

We hope to gather more details on the subject or subjects that were involved. And, of course, we will bring that to you in due time.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Obviously, I don't want to get ahead of law enforcement. And we will wait for them to debrief everyone.

But do you know -- because you mentioned Sunnyvale and you mentioned Poway. Of course, you know, we have been talking a lot about the string of attacks targeting places of worship, right? And so I'm just wondering, do you know, can you say if these were houses of worship, these targets?

CAMPBELL: Those details, we don't yet have.

BALDWIN: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

CAMPBELL: We hope to have more from officials later on.

But, obviously, the one thing officials always worry about in the wake of incident are follow-on copycat attacks. And, again, it's just too soon to say what the characteristics of this attack are, whether we're talking the international terrorism route, whether we're talking perhaps domestic terrorism, but, again, the FBI having their hands full here in California in the span of a week covering three incidents.

BALDWIN: One more for you, Josh, and then I will let you go.

For all of the domestic or even international terror attacks that we cover, I'm always wondering, how many are we unaware of because they were thwarted by law enforcement? Can you respond to that?

CAMPBELL: Yes, absolutely.

And I can tell you, having been an FBI agent, that is always the concern, is what you don't know. You have law enforcement officers that are obviously aggressively working to detect threats. There are a number of systems in place that they have conducting investigations involving sources and obviously tips from the public, which they are always, again, asking the public that call in to provide information.

That's something that they want to do in order to answer that question. What don't they know?

But, as you mentioned, that is always the biggest concern is, what is being missed? And at least according to what we're hearing just very generally for now from officials, there was an attack that was thwarted, thankfully, and we will get additional details on what this person or persons were planning to do this and just how wide a magnitude this was, Brooke.

BALDWIN: I have got one more, because, as you were talking, we got a bit of new information on the Poway synagogue shooting.

And so we have just learned, Josh, that FBI officials informed of a threatening social media post five minutes before the Poway synagogue attack. An FBI official tells CNN that the agency was made aware of an 8chan post from an individual identifying himself as John Earnest, though -- through submissions to its online tip Web site and a tip phone line.

The FBI was not able to determine the author of the post or the location of his intended attack in time, but five minutes was the heads-up that they had off this online platform. What does that tell you?

CAMPBELL: Yes, so goes back to what we were just talking about, about having concerned citizens that will call in.

I was actually speaking with a law enforcement official just a little while ago on this very matter. And what they described was concerned citizens reaching out to the FBI's tip line both by telephone and via their online portal.

They saw this tutor there in -- at the synagogue post something that was concerning to them. They flagged that for law enforcement. But, again, we're talking about five minutes' time. So, there wasn't much that the FBI could do that in short period of time to fully identify the person or the location.

So, with that constrained time frame, there wasn't anything that they were able to do to actually stop the shooter. But that's exactly the type of action from the citizens that we were just talking about that law enforcement wants them to do, when they see something that is concerning, to call in and to provide information, because you never know what law enforcement will be able to do with the -- and, again, in this case, there was sadly loss of one life and then there were the injuries as well.

BALDWIN: Yes.

CAMPBELL: But, again, that's what law enforcement is always trying to tell people to do.

It becomes -- it's become somewhat cliche now, but if you see something, say something. But that's what they want you to do. Again, you never know what piece of information may help save lives.

BALDWIN: Josh Campbell, I appreciate you for hopping on the phone.

And, again, the top line, the news that we were just getting, and we will wait to get more information, as they're going to brief the press, federal law enforcement has thwarted an alleged terror plot involving several targets in the Los Angeles area, according to that federal official.

We will wait for information there.

Let's talk politics.

Joe Biden is kicking off the first full week of his campaign in a place near and dear to his heart, his home state of Pennsylvania, supporters of the former vice president gathering right now in Pittsburgh, ahead of his speech that should begin next hour.

Biden is expected to lay out all the reasons he is the right person to help the nation's middle class. But, before he does that, and way before any potential face-off in the general election, Biden is battling with President Trump, and, where else, on Twitter

[15:05:07]

The two men fighting over a coveted endorsement from a firefighters union, one that Biden received this morning.

And CNN's Jessica Dean is live for us in Pittsburgh ahead of the big speech. And we will get to that endorsement there in just a second.

But, first, Joe Biden got into the race, Jessica just on Thursday. President Trump has attacked him nearly every day since. So what's going on today?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is exactly right, Brooke, and good afternoon to you.

I was just looking on Twitter. I counted four tweets from the president about Joe Biden and about this endorsement. So, certainly, it is on the president's mind today. And he's trying to talk a lot about it, this as our White House team is reporting that his advisers are telling him not to elevate any one particular candidate, but to show you some of the tweets that came out from the president.

One in particular, he said, "I will never get the support of dues- crazy union leadership and went on to say, "but the members love Trump."

So President Trump putting those out about this endorsement from the firefighters union that Joe Biden received today. Joe Biden then responds on Twitter. Let's bring that up and show you what he said. He says: "I'm sick of this president bad-mouthing unions. Labor has built the middle class in this country. Minimum wage, overtime pay, the 40 hour-workweek, they exist for all of us because unions fought for those rights. We need a president who honors them and their work."

And, Brooke, it's that message there at the bottom we -- honors them and their work, that we have heard the former vice president come back to already in the past few days that he's been in this race.

When he was on national television last week, he talked about connecting with these middle -- these working-class voters, elevating the middle class by talking about the dignity of work and really trying to connect with those people and making sure that everybody has an access to that version of the American dream.

So, that's what he's going to be talking about here in Pittsburgh today, of course, Pittsburgh -- Pittsburgh, here in Pennsylvania, Brooke, a critical state in '16. Going to be a critical state here in 2020.

And we know President Trump also has a lot of attention on this state as well.

BALDWIN: Trump winning Pennsylvania by less than 1 percentage point.

Jessica Dean, thank you very much in Pittsburgh.

DEAN: Right.

BALDWIN: Let's continue to talk Biden.

Susan Crabtree is both the senior national political correspondent for RealClearPolitics. And her latest column is called "Biden Uncut Could Rival Trump's Reality Show."

So, Susan, nice to have you on.

SUSAN CRABTREE, REALCLEARPOLITICS: It's great to be with you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: I want to dive into your piece in just a second, but first, as Jessica was just reporting out, this fight back and forth between Trump and Biden, and sources tell CNN today it is one of the president's political advisers, they have actually warned him, essentially saying, Mr. President, please don't start now, right, because they don't want to have him ultimately elevating any of the top Democrats, like Biden.

Why do you think Joe Biden so totally gets under this president's skin?

CRABTREE: Well, obviously, we're seeing a general election already starting here, because the president is very nervous about the strengths that Joe Biden brings.

It's almost like he has some of the same strengths, the blue-collar appeal, the scrappiness, the ability to come out fighting. Nobody doubts that about Joe Biden. And I was speaking to a number of his political consultants over the weekend, and they were concerned about his lack of discipline.

And I said, well, I wrote this piece and saying this is not really his biggest weakness. This is a strength of Joe Biden's. It's going to be -- we all know it's going to be a knife fight. It might be a septuagenarian knife fight.

It's these two men come out brawling in their 70s, kind of a strange phenomenon in American politics.

BALDWIN: Septuagenarian knife fight, now, that's something I...

CRABTREE: Precisely.

BALDWIN: I mean, but that is precisely what could be happening.

And I want to quote you, because this is really why I wanted to talk to you. You wrote: "In the era of Donald J. Trump, authenticity reigns supreme over more scripted, polished pols. What amounted to weakness in Biden's previous presidential campaigns could emerge as strengths."

How did you mean?

CRABTREE: Well, I'm saying that we all are very well-versed with Joe Biden's misstatements, his careless ways. He's too handsy with people, with women, and even some men.

We all know that about him. But authenticity is reigning supreme right now. That is one of the reasons why I believe and others have said that President Trump won his reelection (sic). Certainly, Hillary Clinton was not good at authenticity.

So here we have Joe Biden. That's one of his greatest strengths. Let Biden be Biden. He has an incredible connection with people. You saw that on "The View." He talked about his son, telling him, hey, before he passed away, I don't want you -- me to stand in the way of your public service. Come out there and come out fighting. That could have changed. If he had gotten in, in 2016, that could have changed the whole dynamic in that race. So, right now, we're saying -- I'm saying people are sick of political correctness.

[15:10:01]

We're seeing that nationwide. He does need to run in the Democratic primary. He does need to be sensitive to the race issues. Obviously, he already is with his opening video set in -- based on the debate in Charlottesville and that terrible incident.

But he needs to also remember that his greatest strength is his connection with people and his ability to come out fighting.

BALDWIN: You said it. Authenticity reigns supreme.

Susan Crabtree, thank you so much for coming on, on your piece. I appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: We are learning the Trump administration did agree to reimburse North Korea $2 million for the release of American college student Otto Warmbier.

Here's what Joseph Yun, the former U.S. special representative for North Korean policy, who was sent to North Korea in 2007 (sic) to bring Warmbier home, this is what he told CNN this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH YUN, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR NORTH KOREA POLICY: Well, as soon as the North Korean said told me that -- that his bill for $2 million would have to be paid, of course, I contacted my boss, then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to ask him.

And he got back to me very quickly thereafter to say, yes, go ahead and sign.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Was it your understanding that Secretary Tillerson had the president's approval for that OK?

YUN: That was my understanding. I never asked him, but that was my understanding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Otto Warmbier was held as a prisoner in North Korea for more than a year for taking down a poster. He came back to the U.S. in a coma, unresponsive and severely brain-damaged. And then he died just six days after coming home.

And here was what President Trump said Friday about paying ransom for him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We did not pay money for our great Otto. There was no money paid. There was a fake news report that money was paid. I haven't paid money for any hostage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Jean Lee, I want to bring you in, the director of the Center for Korean History and Public Policy at the Wilson Center.

Here's my question, pushing this forward. Right? What happens if North Korea captures another American and the Trump administration or just a U.S. administration goes into negotiate with them, and knowing that maybe we never paid the $2 million for Otto? What's the message to North Korea? Why should they give that American back?

JEAN LEE, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: I should point out that this type of demand from North Korea is nothing new.

I -- we have had more than a dozen Americans detained in North Korea over the past decade. So, clearly, they see the benefit of capturing and holding onto Americans to serve as a diplomatic pawn.

BALDWIN: Yes.

LEE: But, now, I should say that it has been routine for the North Koreans to issue an invoice for the detainment of these Americans.

So this is not the first time. It's certainly the largest amount I have heard. But it did call to mind, when I saw this report, a case in 2013 of another American who had been detained for about a month. And he was also issued with a bill for $3,000.

So it's nothing new. And these bills, as far as I know, haven't been paid. So what I wanted to point out is that there are a number of these invoices that have gone unpaid. And that hasn't stopped the North Koreans from trying to negotiate with the Americans.

And it will be interesting to see what happens now, with the attention around this unpaid invoice. Will it insert itself into the negotiations at such a tricky time between the Americans and the North Koreans?

BALDWIN: With Trump walking away most recently from the -- from the nuclear talks, et cetera.

I want to come back to that in a second. But let me play some sound. This is John Bolton. This is what he said when he was asked about whether the Trump administration paid to get Otto Warmbier back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Did North Korea demand money for the release about Otto Warmbier? JOHN BOLTON, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It appears that they

did. This occurred before I came into the administration, but that's my understanding, yes.

WALLACE: Did the U.S. official who was there to get him out of the country, Joseph Yun, did he sign a document pledging the money in order to get him out?

BOLTON: That is what I'm told, yes.

WALLACE: So, basically, we signed a document, fully intending not to honor it?

BOLTON: Well, I don't know the circumstances. I think when people leave government, sometimes, their recollection of things that happened inside tend to be a little bit different from what actually happened.

But it's very clear to me, from my looking into it in the past few days, no money was paid. That is clear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Your response to that, Jean?

LEE: Certainly, if there's some confirmation that they pay that, that would set a very dangerous precedent. It would raise the stake for the kind of -- the allure of America -- detaining Americans in North Korea.

What I would say is that it certainly also does raise the question of whether the Americans can be trusted to honor an agreement, going back to your earlier question. But what this does really is draw attention to the case of Otto Warmbier.

And that's something that we should remember. As we are engaged in this kind of diplomacy with North Korea, what the attention to this case does is puncture that illusion of normalcy that Kim Jong-un is trying to create and that the president is trying to create.

[15:15:08]

It does serve as a reminder that this is a regime that does routinely detain Americans for lapses or alleged crimes of just pulling down a poster in a hotel, crimes that do -- punishments that do not match the alleged crimes.

You know, he was kept from his family, really wasn't given proper diplomatic counsel. And so it's a reminder of how Americans are treated in North Korea.

BALDWIN: Yes.

Jean Lee, thank you.

In the past six weeks, there have been six different attacks on places of worship around the world, begging the question, are we safe to pray?

Plus, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appearing for the first time in five years in a just-released ISIS video -- what the terror leader has to say. We have got Paul Cruickshank analyzing that for us.

And an internal crisis within the NRA has sparked an investigation by the New York attorney general. The president, not surprisingly, is now calling it illegal. We will take a look.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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BALDWIN: The leader of ISIS hasn't been seen in video in nearly five years. And that changed today, ISIS releasing a video purported to be of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

And it, the terror group's leader boasts his followers have carried out dozens of vengeance operations and he praised the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka which killed hundreds of people.

So, with me now for some analysis, CNN terrorism analyst and editor in chief of "The CTC Sentinel," Paul Cruickshank.

So, Paul Cruickshank, a pleasure, sir.

You tell me. Five years later, why is he doing this?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, another video, and the only consensus in the analyst community is that it's really him in this video. This is only the second video we've ever seen of him. The first was in July 2014, when they were announcing the caliphate.

Why is he doing this now? Well, ISIS is on the back foot. It's lost all its territory in Syria and Iraq. And he wants to say, we're still relevant. It's sort of rather desperate in a way. They're saying, we're relevant. We're still players here.

It's a very, very risky move to put out a video like this. It gives the United States intelligence services perhaps an opportunity to see what the chain of custody of this tape was, to perhaps get some intelligence to try and find out his location.

There's a reason we haven't seen a lot of these videos from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It's because of operational security calculations.

BALDWIN: Is the significance in -- I know he references Sri Lanka, which tells me this would have been made in the last couple of weeks. Is the significance less in what he says and more on just the sheer symbolism that he is alive?

CRUICKSHANK: That's right.

In terms of ISIS supporters around the world, even in terms of ISIS rank-and-file fighters, there's been some infighting in the group. There's been some theological disputes. I think he would be keen to say, I'm still in charge. I'm still running things.

He also clearly wants to energize ISIS' support base worldwide. I think there will be a lot of concern in the counterterrorism community, here in the United States, also in Europe, other parts of the world, that this could energize some of ISIS' supporters.

There's obviously been ongoing concern about ISIS-inspired attacks and attacks with some kind of link to the terrorist group, as we saw in Sri Lanka.

One footnote here, there were -- there was strong intelligence that came in that the United Nations recently cited that he was injured at a certain point. Well, I have looked at this video. I don't see any...

BALDWIN: Any injuries.

CRUICKSHANK: ... sign of any injuries in this video.

They're trying to portray him as still very much in charge. You see him being briefed by these ISIS fighters around him, that he's reviewing these reports coming from the different so-called ISIS provinces, wilayat, around the world.

It's a message of defiance from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The intelligence services are going to be poring over every last frame...

BALDWIN: I'm sure they will.

CRUICKSHANK: ... to see if there are any clues about where he is.

BALDWIN: I'm sure they will. Five years later, here he is.

Paul Cruickshank, you are excellent, as always. Thank you so much.

Just in to CNN, the family of the suspect in the synagogue shooting in Poway is now reacting to the attack. Hear what they say in a revealing statement.

Plus, more on our breaking news off the top of the hour here, that the feds say that they have thwarted a terror plot targeting several locations, several targets in Southern California. We're waiting for officials to speak very shortly. So, stay with us for that.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:28:36]

BALDWIN: Just into CNN, a Florida judge has ruled that the surveillance video showing New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft at a South Florida massage parlor will not be released. The recordings have become a key point of contention in this case, with Kraft and other patrons, including some not charged with crimes, trying to prevent that release. So, there you have, will not be released.

Meantime, funeral services in Southern California for Lori Kaye began -- begin in just a short while from now. She is the brave woman who was shot and killed Saturday at a synagogue after she jumped in front of her rabbi to protect him from the suspected gunman.

The shooting happened on the last day of Passover in the San Diego suburb of Poway and unfolded exactly six months after the deadly synagogue attack in Pittsburgh.

The 19-year-old suspect is booked on one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder. Investigators say he did act alone.

His family issued a public statement saying that they are -- quote -- "shocked and deeply saddened" and that their son is now -- quote -- "part of the history of evil that has been perpetrated on Jewish people for centuries."

The rabbi, by the way, who was shot in the hand, says Kaye's husband is a physician who rushed to the synagogue to administer CPR, only to find out that the patient was his own wife.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RABBI YISROEL GOLDSTEIN, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: And I walk into the lobby, and I see Lori laying on the floor unconscious.

And her dear husband, Dr. Howard Kaye, who's like your brother to me, is trying to resuscitate her. And he faints. And he's laying there on the floor

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