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At This Hour

Sources: Machete Attack Suspect On Terror Watch List, Interviewed By FBI; McCarthy Offers Key Concessions To Secure More Votes In Speaker Race; Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Is Interviewed About Biden Agenda Faces New Hurdles, Investigations With GOP-Led House. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 02, 2023 - 11:00   ET




JESSICA DEAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. At This Hour, we're learning new details about the man police say carried out machete attack against police officers near Times Square. Kevin McCarthy's quest to become House speaker is on the brink.

Time is running out ahead of tomorrow's big vote. And the FDA could decide this week to green light an experimental drug to treat Alzheimer's. That is what we're watching At This Hour.

Thanks so much for being here. Hi, everyone. I'm Jessica Dean in Washington in for Kate Bolduan today. And we begin with new developments in the investigation into a machete attack near Times Square on New Year's Eve. CNN has learned the 19-year-old suspect was added to a terrorist watch list more than two weeks before the attack, which injured three NYPD officers.

Sources telling CNN FBI agents interviewed the suspect in mid-December after family members grew more concerned about his plans to travel to Afghanistan to join the Taliban.

We begin our coverage with CNN's Gloria Pazmino, who's live in Times Square with the latest. And Gloria, we learned the suspect was carrying a diary with him. What did authorities find inside?

GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jessica. We have been learning more about Trevor Bickford, 19 years old, from Maine, and as you said, he was carrying a diary with him on the night that he attacked those three police officers, the night of New Year's Eve.

He ditched a backpack near the scene, which contained that dairy. In it, Trevor Bickford wrote about his desire to travel to Afghanistan, his desire to join the Taliban, and about his willingness to die for his religion. That's all according to law enforcement sources.

We've also learned that it wasn't that long ago that Trevor Bickford got the attention of the FBI. That was after his mother and his grandmother became increasingly concerned about Bickford's plans to travel to Afghanistan. That triggered an investigation. In fact, FBI officers in Maine interviewed Bickford last month and put him on a terrorist watch list.

Now, that's important to highlight, because Bickford traveled here to New York City via Amtrak train and did not trigger any kind of warning or red flag in the system. He traveled here to New York City on Saturday.

He checked into a hotel in the lower east side of Manhattan, and then he traveled here to the area of Times Square, one of the most recognizable spots in the world on one of the most watched evenings on New Year's Eve, thousands of people were pouring into this area at the time.

He approached a security checkpoint where he tried to attack these NYPD officers, striking one of them on the head with a machete, injuring a second officer. And then a third officer fired a gunshot from his service weapon. Those three officers are expected to recover.

Trevor Bickford has not been officially charged yet, but we are waiting to learn more from federal authorities and local law enforcement as the investigation continues, trying to figure out what exactly was the motivation behind this attack. Jessica?

DEAN: All right, more to come on that. Gloria Pazmino in Times Square for us this morning, thanks so much. And joining me now, CNN chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst John Miller. He's also the former deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism for the New York Police Department.

John, it's always great to see you. I'm curious, based on what you're hearing about this suspect and his movements, what Gloria just walked us through, what is your take on his possible motive here?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT & INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: I think the way the picture is coming into focus now is that his target was Times Square because that's the big event. That's where the eyes of the world were. His victims were to be police officers. He passed dozens of civilians who were unarmed and would have been far more vulnerable to focus on those three police officers.

And I believe his outcome was intended to be suicide by cop, understanding that if you attack three armed police officers with a machete, you're likely to die in that instance, in this case, because of their firearms discipline, they fired a shot, he was struck in the shoulder, that stopped him and that stopped the gunplay and they took him into custody.

But sources familiar with the investigation are telling me that the last entry in his diary, which was found near the site of the attack, was a last will and testament. It says, this will likely be my last entry. And then he lays out how to divide his belongings among family members, where he wants to be buried, and messages basically the family. So he went into this thinking he wasn't coming out of it.


DEAN: Right. Here we are. That is not what happened. How is law enforcement determining if the suspect was working alone? What do they do now to kind of put all of these pieces together?

MILLER: Well, first of all, it appears he was working alone because his family, when they spoke to the FBI, they said he had become increasingly withdrawn, much more of a loner, had shunned his friends and associates, and had really drawn inward.

Secondly, when he checks into the hotel in New York City, he arrives by himself, he leaves by himself. He has no visitors. So it appears he's working alone.

But that's not going to be the answer until they get through every computer, every e-mail, every phone message, everything they can get access to in this investigation to determine was there someone else that he was either in contact with, sharing information about this plot with and so on.

But stopping short of overturning, you know, every rock and looking underneath it appears right now that he was a lone offender, which is typical in a growing sense in these cases. They respond to propaganda, and the propaganda says act alone.

DEAN: Right, right. And to that end, what does law enforcement do about stopping those lone wolf attacks? Because if they're working alone and to your point, not posting publicly about their plans or chattering with others, how does law enforcement drill down against those lone wolfs?

MILLER: You know, Jessica, that's a fascinating question in the prism of this case, because there's the question, what can they do? And what do they do? In this case, his family came forward to the FBI out of concern, and law enforcement went and interviewed him. Basically he told them, no, I want to travel overseas and help, you know, fellow Muslims, but I'm not planning any attack, and I'm not part of any terrorist group.

And in fact, the Taliban, because of the politics of dealing with the Taliban diplomatically, is not a designated foreign terrorist organization. If he'd said ISIS or al-Qaeda, and that's what he wanted to join, that would be material support of terrorism.

All they could really do is document the interview, open a full investigation, and start to look into other avenues to see what could be done about this direction. And I think that's one of the challenges the FBI faces, which is people can come on their radar, but that doesn't mean that they can take them into custody.

There's no such thing, nor should there be, as preventative detention, nor is there the ability to keep people under surveillance 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They gave the travel warning to Customs and Border Protection, flagged any attempts to travel, but that didn't stop him from coming to New York on a train.

DEAN: Right. It's a real challenge. All right, John Miller, it's great to see you. We always appreciate your analysis. Thanks so much.

MILLER: Thanks, Jess.

DEAN: The suspect in the killings of four Idaho college students is now set to appear in court tomorrow. The lawyer for 28-year-old Bryan Kohberger says his client plans to waive his extradition. CNN's Veronica Miracle is in Moscow, Idaho, with the latest on this. So, Veronica, walk us through the next steps for Bryan Kohberger in this case.

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, right now he is in Pennsylvania. And if, in fact, he does waive extradition, as his public defender says he will tomorrow, he could be back here in Idaho as early as tomorrow. It could possibly take a couple of days. And I did ask the police chief, what is that process going to be? How quickly could he be here? For security reasons, they are not divulging that information.

Now the reason why Kohberger is in Pennsylvania right now is because the public defender says his public defender says that his father flew out here to Washington State, where Bryan Kohberger is a graduate student at Washington State University.

And they took a cross country drive in that white Hyundai Elantra that police have been looking for back to his parents house in Pennsylvania so that they could be back in time for the holidays, so that he could spend it with his family.

Sources tell CNN that's where he was being monitored by police, and that's also where he was apprehended. Our Jean Casarez spoke with the public defender over the weekend, and here's what he had to say.


JASON LABAR, ATTORNEY FOR SUSPECTED IDAHO KILLER: He's doing OK. He's shocked a little bit. Obviously, he's calm right now. You know, we don't really know much about the case.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, your client is highly educated, very intelligent. He has to appreciate the seriousness of what is happening right now.

LABAR: Oh, absolutely. He is very intelligent. In my hour conversation with him, that comes off. I can tell that. And he understands where we are right now.


MIRACLE: And, Jessica, despite the fact that his father took him on that cross country trip in that white Hyundai Elantra, police have not indicated that there's any reason that his father is implicated in these killings at this time. Jessica?


DEAN: Veronica Miracle for us in Idaho, thanks so much for that update.

A powerful winter storm could make travel conditions treacherous today after historic rainfall drenched the San Francisco area over the weekend. CNN's meteorologist Chad Meyers has a look at the forecast. And Chad, what part of the country is most at risk today?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, for severe weather, the south and the mid-south and then for snow and ice, parts of the upper Midwest, even parts of Nebraska and Iowa. Kind of a messy system rolling out of the Rockies, severe weather down here, snow and ice to the north in the coldest part of the storm. The snow is already beginning here across parts of Nebraska into South Dakota. But we'll have an ice event here to the west of Omaha, probably west of Lincoln, but run up towards Sioux City.

Ice and snow and the snow will be to the north of the ice. That's always how it happens. And there will be some significant snow over a foot, probably up not near Valentine, Nebraska. Here's your severe weather event for today and for tomorrow. There's going to be a pretty significant outbreak of very heavy rainfall as well. Some of these storms could be rotating.

Here's what it looks like this afternoon. Notice all the storms are all in that little area that I just showed you. But by tomorrow, they roll through Memphis and into parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and even into Georgia.

This will be a multiday severe weather event. You're going to have to keep a radio on or make sure the app is on your phone, especially the ones that happen after dark and possibly even when you are sleeping. We'll watch this area closely. Jessica?

DEAN: Yes, everyone there, especially my home state of Arkansas, take care, be careful, and pay attention. Chad Myers, thanks so much for that weather update.

The clock is ticking on Kevin McCarthy's bid to be the next House Speaker. Does he have the votes to make it a reality? We'll have the latest from Capitol Hill. That's next.



DEAN: The 118th Congress will be sworn in tomorrow, with Republicans regaining a narrow majority in the House. The focus today is Republican leader Kevin McCarthy's bid to become the next speaker. Hours before tomorrow's vote, McCarthy is making some concessions, but it may not be enough to get him there.

CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox is live on Capitol Hill this morning. And, Lauren, we know that McCarthy has been working behind the scenes for weeks now to secure the votes that he's made some concessions along the way. But I guess at this point, has anything he's promised made a difference? LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that's the real trouble for Kevin McCarthy right now, Jessica, is the fact that he has made some very important concessions. And he announced one of them last night on a call, a private conference call of Republicans, where he told them that he had agreed to reduce the number of individuals it would take in the House to try and oust a speaker.

Basically, right now, the rule is that you cannot bring up that vote unless you had a majority of the conference, but he would change that threshold to just five members. That is a key, key important distinction for a lot of conservatives who have been fighting for that. But Matt Gaetz, one of the Republicans who is opposed to him, said on that call he was still a hard no, Jessica.

And then after the call, nine Republicans released a letter saying they still had concerns. Just to remind people back home, you can only lose right now, just four Republicans if Kevin McCarthy is going to become the next speaker, he has far more than that he has to convince before tomorrow, Jessica.

So a lot of stumbling blocks. It'll be very important to see whether or not McCarthy can cement those votes before tomorrow's vote or if they go to the floor really uncertain about the outcome.

DEAN: Right. And then we're kind of an unprecedented territory. Lauren Fox will be keeping an eye on that. Thanks so much for that reporting.

President Biden will soon head back to a changed Washington. His agenda faces new hurdles, and his administration will also face Republican-led investigations. But the President is planning to promote bipartisanship within that new reality. CNN White House correspondent Arlette Saenz live in the U.S. Virgin Islands where Biden is wrapping up his vacation. Arlette, how does Biden plan to manage this divided government?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, and President Biden's ideal world Republicans and Democrats would be working in a bipartisan partisan manner in this next contrast. But he's also fully aware of the political challenges ahead, as Republicans are expected to take or set to take control of the House tomorrow.

But heading into this week, the President is planning this big push geared towards bipartisanship. He's traveling to Kentucky on Wednesday, and there he will be joined by Democrats and Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine.

The President will be there to promote the bipartisan infrastructure law that he signed, as some of the funding from that will be geared towards a bridge that connects the state of Kentucky and Ohio. This is just one of those measures that the President is expected to be touting in the weeks heading into the State of the Union Address.

Of course, last week or last year, the President did have some bipartisan wins. In addition to that infrastructure law, there were investments for the semiconductor chip manufacturing in the United States, also getting gun safety reform passed in Congress, as well as more aid for Ukraine. But the President is also keenly aware of some of the Republican resistance that is set to be in place as Republicans take control of the House tomorrow.

DEAN: All right, Arlette Saenz for us. Thanks so much for that reporting. And joining me now is Democratic Representative-elect Robert Garcia. He's the President of the House Democrats incoming freshman class. Congressman-elect, great to see you. Thanks for making time this morning.

You and your 33 other Democratic freshmen are entering the House in the minority. We just heard Arlette's reporting, President Biden starting off this New Year trying to prove that he's willing to work across the aisle. I'm curious where you see opportunities to work with the new Republican majority in the House.

REP. ROBERT GARCIA (D-CA): Yes, well, thank you. Thanks for having me. I mean, I think first, I think we're obviously always interested in bipartisanship. We also have to make sure that we stand up for our values and focus on the things matter to working people. We're willing, I think, on day one to talk about immigration in a way that is uplifting folks. We have 11 million people in this country without a pathway to citizenship.


We know that there's a lot of work to be done on guest worker programs. We want to talk about ensuring that we, of course, have a border that's secure for our country and for everyone. But we think there are some Republicans that actually want to work on immigration, which is the place that we can actually work together on.

And of course, anyone that wants to work on issues around security, voting rights, making sure that we expand, protecting democracy, those are things that are really important for us on day one. But we're not going to also back down on having a good fight on the things that we value, the things we care about and supporting, at the end of the day, working people in America.

DEAN: And I want to talk about that more too, because this new Congress is going to have a record number of Latino members. You are the first Peruvian American in Congress, and you were quoted in "The Washington Post" this morning saying, quote, we're going to work really hard to not just change our own progressive caucus but our Hispanic Caucus and try to bring a new sense of urgency. We do not want to wait anymore. What do you not want to wait for? And do you think that incumbent Democrats have just not shared a similar sense of urgency?

GARCIA: Well, I think, of course, you have the largest Latino class coming in of Democrats we've had in the history of the Congress. You also were, I think, definitely bringing the age down a bit. You got a lot of young Democrats, young progressive Latinos coming in. So we're going to, I think, shake things up. We're going to try to change as much as we can, but we also have an immediate sense of things have to happen now.

The fact that we haven't had an immigration reform bill since the 1980s without any pathway to citizenship for people that are here, that's not supporting Dreamers, that's not supporting folks that are served in the military, that's not supporting any type of guest work program, is something that we should be ashamed about.

People deserve a pathway to citizenship. So I think it's our hope as young Latino progressives to really push the caucus to ensure that we get immigration done. And we're going to fight every single day to uplift and remind people this country is built and is a country of immigrants.

DEAN: And so let's talk about immigration for a second because Kevin McCarthy, who is the most likely incoming House Speaker, but we're going to see how that plays out tomorrow, has been clear that this new majority is going to zero in on the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. He's called for his resignation. He hasn't ruled out impeachment.

At the same time, you've seen, we've all seen a surge in the border in recent weeks over the uncertainty of Title 42 as it works its way now through the courts and is going to stay in place for a little bit. Many say Congress has to act. I hear you saying Congress has to act to do something about immigration.

But a cynic, or even someone who's just looking at this from pure numbers would say how with a Republican controlled House, where are they going to find the middle ground on this? Because immigration has been something that Congress just has not been able to get done in decades really?

GARCIA: Yes. I mean, I think it's a couple of things. I mean first, Kevin McCarthy has his own problems, and we'll see if he actually becomes a speaker or not. You know, obviously, Republicans are in complete disarray right now in trying to get their leadership House in order.

I think it means there actually are Republicans in the Congress that are interested in immigration reform. They are hearing from their business community. They're hearing about labor shortages across the country, agriculture. So there is actually a group of Republicans that actually want to work on immigration.

Number two, we've got to work every single day to win back the House in 2024. We are in a much stronger position than were, than people thought were going to be. We're going to work every day to win back. We've only got a handful of seats that we have got to win. And so we are going to win back the House in 2024. We are going to get the majority, and we are going to pass immigration reform.

And so we're optimistic that all of that is going to happen and that we're going to fight every day for it. In addition to that, I would say that there is a growing sentiment in this country that it is time to act on immigration. It has been decades, and so the time is now. House Democrats, Latino Democrats, particularly those coming in, are committed to that.

DEAN: And you also have mentioned that one of your top priorities is going to be protecting democracy. And my colleague Dana Bash asked outgoing Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger about the future of American democracy, and he kind of said, in the short term, he's fearful. Let's listen to what he said.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): We're in a moment where facts don't really matter. What matters to people is just what your opinion is and the facts that comport to that matter. We're in a moment where about half the country believes that the election was stolen. Maybe a third of the country now believes the election was stolen. But if you're in a democracy and you believe that your vote doesn't count, that's dangerous.


DEAN: And so the question is, how do you change that? If you have a third of the country, as he's saying that doesn't believe the election was valid, you know, how does a democracy stand on that? And what do you do to change that?

GARCIA: I mean, first, we got to remind ourselves what our country is all about and what democracy actually means. I immigrated here when I was five years old. I became a citizen at 21. I love this country. We vote in every election. It's an honor to become an American. I think as Americans, those of us that are here, we have to take protecting our democracy seriously.

We have an information problem in this country. We have attacks that are happening on media. We have folks like Margaret Taylor Greene attacking something as scientifically sound as vaccines for our country. And so we've got to push back everybody and remind people that facts, that the media, that science actually is in our best interest as a country and that we've got to actually listen to rational people.


And so it's not OK to sit back and allow what's happening on the far right, just completely take back our institutions or completely attack everything that we know is fact and is true. And so I think as Democrats coming in, we got to continue to remind folks that science is important, that facts are important, that the news media has an important role to play in providing us this information.

And unfortunately, the far right and Kevin McCarthy has caved into them are continuing to attack facts and the truths every single day. I mean, look at George Santos. I think we've got huge problems, and I think it's our job to call those Republicans out every single day.

DEAN: And just quickly, because we're running out of time. You brought up George Santos, of course, there's more and more discrepancies, outright lies and what he told voters and what has actually been proven to be true. What do you think should be done there? How does he move forward?

GARCIA: I mean, first of all, George Santos is a total disgrace. I mean, lie after lie, I think he should resign. I think nobody is interested in having George Santos being sworn into this Congress tomorrow. And so he should do the right thing. He should resign.

He should go back home, get his own house and or stories in order. I can tell you that the freshman class is united in that. And we are Democrats, at least. I think that he needs to take care of things back home, and he should not be in Congress.

DEAN: All right, Congressman-elect Robert Garcia. Thanks so much for making time. We appreciate it.

GARCIA: Thanks so much.

DEAN: Ukraine claims hundreds of Russian soldiers have died in a missile attack in the occupied Donetsk region, details and a live report from Kyiv. That's next.