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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Thousands Of Police Sweep Boston Area; A City On Lockdown; Suspects' Mother: "This Is A Setup"; Suspects' Uncle: "Shocked" At "Atrocity"; Interview with Rep. Peter King

Aired April 19, 2013 - 16:30   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I want to bring in Congressman Peter King, Republican from New York. He's a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and the former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. He's also chairman of the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.

Congressman, do you have any new information indicating these two suspects are part of some broader threat to the United States? We've been told by a U.S. official, Barbara was told, that there is no indication necessarily this is part of any larger threat from al Qaeda.

Have you learned anything that contradicts that? Have you learned anything new?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Jake, so far, there is no indication of that. I know there is a concern about it because there is a question whether these two on their own could have done all that's been done. But the fact is, right now, there is no evidence at all. I know there is some concern about the fact that his older brother took the trip to Russia last year and there is a question whether maybe that's when they were radicalized.

To be honest with you in all the years I've been doing homeland security briefings I've never heard of the Chechen community in the United States having been radicalized. The question was on radicalization, it does not involve the Chechen community here.

I know they fought alongside al Qaeda in Afghanistan, but not here in this country. Again, I think we do have to look carefully to make sure there are no other conspirators or accomplices and find out what happened on the trip to Russia last year.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Congressman, do you have any information about possible travel outside the country by Dzhokhar? We know about his older brother traveling to Russia in 2012. Do you know anything about any other travel by the older brother or any travel outside the country by the man that authorities are looking for so intensely right now?

KING: Jake, I'm not aware of any of that travel and I don't know of anyone who is on to that. I know that is one thing we looked at carefully. My understanding is as of now there is no evidence that the younger brother has traveled outside the country at all. TAPPER: Obviously events are unfolding and not everything on the internet is necessarily accurate but on the older brother's purported YouTube account, we don't know if we're 100 percent sure that it is his, but on what is believed to be his YouTube account he posted a preaching by a radical named Fez Mohamed I believe was his name. What do you know about this radical cleric?

KING: I'm not aware of that radical cleric, but I do know that the idea of radical clerics in the Muslim community, again, a small percentage, but they have had a disproportionate influence and that has to be looked at. We can't be politically correct.

We have to see if radicalization has extended into the Chechen community. Obviously, something happened to these two and it is something that has to be really examined and examined fully.

Also I think we have to realize that, you know, earlier in the week there was talk, there was no intel, no chatter, no evidence or indication that this attack was going to come. And I guess because we rely on foreign intel.

The fact is I think it is very typical for al Qaeda to carry out attacks from overseas. We have to be very concerned about radical movements in this country, in this community, in this country that carry out the attacks as we saw in New York in 2009 and 2010 by people living in the community.

That's why I think it is important for the police to build up their intelligence to find out what's happening in the communities among disaffected people or people like these two brothers who seemed to have everything going for them.

TAPPER: Lastly, Congressman King, I am told you compared what happened here in Boston to what happened in Mumbai. Please explain. I assume I'm correct with, but if not then correct me.

KING: I was saying that I -- my speculation is I don't think these two ever intended to escape. I think they had so many explosives. They had explosives for the marathon and with them today. You don't have the second round of explosives unless you are going to carry out a second wave of attacks.

When they went out today I don't think it was to escape. They had so much explosives in their vehicle with them. They had heavy duty weapons. I think they were going to go down fighting, just go and again almost random use of explosives.

This was not just a one off as far as attacking the marathoners as bad as that was. They had apparently quite a few other explosives with them, which to me could only be used for the second round of attacks.

TAPPER: All right, Congressman Peter King of New York, Republican, former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, thank you for your time.

Coming up, police are still going door to door in Watertown. More on the manhunt for the Boston bombing subject that's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's continuing coverage of the crisis in Boston. The streets here are eerily empty save for the heavy presence of police who are hunting down a fugitive suspected in the bombings at the Boston marathon on Monday.

We also know that police in New Jersey are searching the apartment where the sister of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev reportedly lives. They're recovering items from that home. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, of course, is the 19-year-old suspect still on the loose.

We've also learned that on August 10th of last year he tweeted this phrase "Boston marathon isn't a good place to smoke though." It was in response to another user. We don't have more context or know if it is even relevant, but he did tweet about the Boston marathon.

His older brother 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot dead by police overnight. We now know that 15 police officers received minor injuries in the shootout. Those officers have since been discharged.

A source briefed on the ongoing investigation tells CNN that authorities have recovered a pressure cooker bomb like those believed to have been used in the marathon. Much of the police activity in the last several hours has focused on Watertown, Massachusetts where our own Don Lemon brings us this report.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK, this is what happens. This is up close to one of those door-to-door searches. You see the police officers here in full gear. What they do is either go to the front of the house, knock on the door, to pan over to the right here and you see one of the residents. Look over to the right.

There is a resident right there, the lady in the tan shirt and also the gentleman, knocked on their door. And then back here if you go around here they have been going into -- walk this way -- into people's yards and into their garages. They have been -- they opened the garage.

They go in. They do a complete search. The police are asking us to move back a little bit to stay on the sidewalks so we do exactly what they say. You see there is about maybe 10, 12 police officers in full tactical gear here and then also on the other side of the house, this house over here, going into that garage.

Police officer moving another reporter back from one of the foreign stations. That is exactly what happens. Every single door in this neighborhood, every single home really in this town, within a 20-block area, radius that they have blocked off, is going to get this type of treatment with police dogs.

Those are the K-9 units right there. You see them with their military style rifles drawn, wearing helmets, wearing the vests, and that's what they're doing. Then further back here, you see there is a police line. They move the line back when they search a particular area. The secure line comes back and each area they search they open up so that either residents or members of the media can get closer and closer. Once they do search out the particular area and particular homes. Again, look at this. Here they're going into this yard.

They've already searched the garage. Now they're going into the back yard presumably into the house and all residents can do is comply. Can you imagine living in these neighborhoods and having to have your house be opened up to the police officers if they're wanting to come in? But most people here want to comply and that's how it works.

TAPPER: The city on lockdown and the frantic search for the suspect. Don Lemon, thank you. Tom foreman joins us to map this out this crisis in Boston. Tom, explain how the authorities have been able to systematically shut down the town in hopes of finding this one guy Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jake, this is really unprecedented. I haven't seen anything like this. If you think about the hunt going on here what they've done is really shut down an entire metropolitan area more than 4 million people in an effort to contain these folks.

Here's really how it happened. It all began with that shootout last night with the MIT police officer where he was tragically killed. When that was done, this is what authorities knew. They knew that these people were still in the area.

A short time later in the next gun fight they also knew this one had been killed. So what did they have left now? Now they knew who their other suspect was and they knew that he stayed around here. That he lived around here.

So they took action and this really is unprecedented. The first thing they did was asked about 600 or 300,000 people in six different communities to lock their doors, to seal up, not open their doors. They shut down this part of town.

Shortly after that they went beyond that and focused on the Watertown area and really said, we're going to keep any cars from coming in and going out. So you can see which way it is headed here. They're trying to isolate that suspect in the area.

Boy, did they go further than that. It was quite extraordinary. They had taxi cabs and buses and subways stopped throughout the city to cut off any way in which he might flee. There are 5,500 taxi drivers in this city, more than 300,000 people use public transit every day, all of that shut down.

Then they asked businesses to shut down. They said, close your doors. We don't want to give him any place to go in these areas. It kept on going. Schools shut dow, more than 130 schools. Dozens of universities like Harvard and MIT and Tuffs and Boston College shut down around town.

Beyond that, then, train service was cut down. They even cut back the air space overhead. They increased security out at the airport, and you can see if you look right now what is happening here. See that red area?

That red area is being surrounded by this net of obstacles, things to keep him from going on the run. They're enclosing, basically, everything that he knows in his world and hoping he is still in there -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you so much. He is still on the loose and every hour we're learning more about the 19-year-old suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Next we'll hear an interview with the suspect's mother and some surprising claims about the manhunt for her son. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: There's a frantic manhunt is on right now for the surviving suspect in the Boston marathon terrorist attacks. Now we're hearing for the first time from his mother.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZUBEIDAT TSARNAEVA, SUSPECTS' MOTHER (via telephone): It's impossible, impossible for them to, for both of them to do such things, so I am really, really, really telling you this is a setup. My son -- my son never would keep it in secret. I would know whoever would be -- if there was anyone who would know it would be me.

He would never -- he would never hide it from me. He would tell me that, but never, never ever a word. My youngest one was raised actually from eight years in America. And my oldest son, he is like -- really proper in our house.

Nobody talked about terrorism. And my son Tamerlan got involved in the religion, you know, religious politics five years ago. So he never, never told me that he would be like on the side of Jihad.

He was counselled by FBI for three, five years. They knew what my son was doing. They knew what actions. How could this happen? How could they -- they were following every step of him and they're telling today this is a terrorist act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That is the mother of the suspects in the Boston marathon terrorist attacks, Dzhokhar Tsarnaeva and Tamerlan Tsarnaeva. She was pleading she did not believe the charges against them. We also have confirmed the suspects' father was questioned by Russian security forces, but he has been released.

I want to bring back Congressman Peter King for his reaction to this. Congressman King, obviously parents like to believe the best about their children. Is there anything that the mother said that surprises you?

KING: Well, I don't find any of it to be true, and I think it would be better. Again, it must be traumatic for the mother and the father but, again, to be saying the FBI set them up or the FBI controlled them, is just absolutely wrong. It's really offensive.

Here's a country that gave them sanctuary and asylum, the United States, and to turn against the country like this is bad enough what their sons did, but for the parents to attack the country to me is wrong.

I also wonder about his father who in fact is in Russia for medical conditions, and Boston has the best hospitals in the world, to go back to Russia, but for the two of them to be lashing out at the United States, listen, I don't blame them for saying good things about their sons even though they're murderers.

But at least that would be your parents' compassion, but to be lashing out at the United States after what the united states did for them and the opportunities the United States gave to their sons is really going much too far. I just find it really wrong.

TAPPER: Congressman King, the mother seemed to be suggesting that the FBI knew about her sons before this week. Do you know anything about what she is talking about? Were they on the radar of law enforcement in any way?

KING: No. I'm not aware of that at all. I have not heard that. It's always possible somebody could be on a list somewhere, but I am not aware of that. I can assure you that there is absolutely no issue of control, no issue of -- in any way the FBI knowing this was going to happen or happened. So even, again, I see no basis at all, you know, in what she is saying none whatsoever.

TAPPER: All right, Congressman Peter King, thank you so much for your reaction.

KING: Thank you.

TAPPER: To the reaction from the parents of the suspects. We're now hearing there will be a press conference at 5:30 p.m. Eastern with the latest on this investigation. We will of course bring that to you live. We're going to be right back after these messages.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake tapper here in Boston, Massachusetts, just a couple blocks from the site of the Boston marathon terrorist attack where there is a huge manhunt in this town.

Police officers are sweeping the streets here in Boston, going throughout the area, racing to find 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect in the terrorist attack here, the one surviving suspect in the terrorist attack.

His older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout in Watertown, Massachusetts last night. His parents and his brother's parent claiming their children were set up despite mounting evidence against their sons. Police in New Jersey are also at this time searching the apartment where the sister of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev reportedly lives, removing items from that home. We've learned on August 10th of last year, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev tweeted a phrase about the Boston marathon.

It may not have any relevance to this investigation, but it was in response to another user. We don't have more context. Of course, it is interesting that the suspect in the Boston marathon terrorist attacks would mention the Boston marathon a year ago.

His older brother as I mentioned, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in a shootout with police overnight. We now know that 15 police officers received minor injuries in the shootout and have since been discharged.

A source briefed on the ongoing investigation tells CNN authorities have recovered a pressure cooker bomb like those believed to have been used in the marathon. Kind, intelligent, friendly, and accepting, those words don't seem to fit the profile of a suspected terrorist.

But that's how friends and family members have been describing the younger of the Tsarnaev brothers. CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes and CNN national security analyst Fran Townsend are live in Washington.

Tom, does any of what we know about these suspects gel with how the FBI may have profiled the marathon bombers before they had a name or a face? They are uniformly, all the descriptions of Dzhokhar are positive.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, that's true. The descriptions have been positive from classmates and friends, but they may not have seen the other side of him, the Jekyll Hyde aspect of his personality. They also comment on and say they don't know the older brother.

That would also mean they are unaware of the hold, you know, pressure, intimidation that the older brother would have over the younger. So that's the other aspect of this is that if his older brother is intimidating him, pressuring him, persuading him to go along with this and he goes ahead and does it, you know, his other friends may be completely unaware of that side of his personality.

TAPPER: Tom, you're a former assistant director of the FBI. Are you surprised that at this hour the law enforcement have apparently not been able to locate Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? I assumed having been covering the story since the wee small hours of the morning the older brother was killed roughly at 4:00 a.m.?

I assumed that with the huge police dragnet 9,000 or so law enforcement officers going to the town of Watertown, searching home to home, I assumed that by now there may have been more -- a greater likelihood they would have caught the older brother, at least have an idea where he is. Are you surprised or is this normal?

FUENTES: No, I'm not surprised. I think they probably could have gotten him much earlier and then sacrificed several police officers and citizens in the process. The reason this is taking so long is because every one of those apartments could be booby trapped.

Every one of those apartments he may have conducted a home invasion and be holding hostages inside with him. Again, like we've seen in the most recent case of Dorner in California two months ago the hunters became the hunted last night when they assassinated the MIT police officer.

So there are a lot of issues where the police that are interested in public safety and their own safety, officer safety as well, that's why this has been so deliberate, taking so long when you look at the number of residences they have to clear.

TAPPER: OK. Tom, thank you so much. I want to go now to our own Brooke Baldwin in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Brooke, you've spoken with an auto body shop owner who apparently has new information on the case. Brooke, what have you learned?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake. What an interview it was. This entire city has really been on this hunt for the killer or killers from Monday. This 19-year-old suspect walked right down the street from his apartment in Norfolk Street to this auto body shop and acted very curiously with this auto body owner saying he thought he was on drugs it was so bizarre. Never seen him like this, the day after the marathon. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GILBERT JUNIOR, JUNIOR AUTO SHOP: Tuesday I saw the youngest one, the youngest brother. He came to my shop. He was standing right there. He was working on a car and he came I would say around like 12:30, 1:00.

And had a car dropping here, which was two weeks ago, and he told me the car belongs to his girlfriend. You know, he disappeared for two weeks and one Tuesday he came here to see where is the car?

It's in the parking lot, but I haven't worked on it yet. I removed the rear bumper and the tail lights. He said I don't care. I need the car right now. I say why? You know, you know me. You know it takes time.

He said, no, I need the car right now. He was biting his fingernails, which he has never done before.

BALDWIN: So he was nervous.

JUNIOR: Very nervous. I thought he was on drugs, to be honest with you, because I never seen him, you know, I know him for probably two years and never seen him acting the way he was acting.

BALDWIN: Did he appear injured at all?

JUNIOR: No, no. He was -- nice dressed, had another friend, you know, he had a pair of shoes, you know, which cost like $900 and a friend of mine asking him where did you buy the shoes? How much did you pay?

He said I paid 900, which was Louis Vitton, whatever it is. He said give me the key. I said the car is in the parking lot, but there is no tail light. He said I don't care. I'm going to take the car the way it is because my friend, she wants the car back.

BALDWIN: Was he here -- we're just feet from where he was?

JUNIOR: I was working on a car here, putting a car together, and he came, you know, and he goes in a circle first, you know, he bite his fingernails, which I thought was strange. I say, this kid's on drugs and after he, you know, wanted the key. I got to take the car right now. I said OK and I gave him the key and he left.

BALDWIN: Was he here alone or with someone?

JUNIOR: Alone. He lives right across the street. That's why he always used to come here. You know, to see the cars, bring friends repair the cars.

BALDWIN: What kind of car was it? A nice car?

JUNIOR: It was a Mercedes, probably a 2007 Mercedes, wagon, station wagon, which is a nice car. You know, worth a lot of money. All of his friends, they say they're from Turkey. You know, they go to MIT. They own new cars all the young kids.

They bring in brand new cars, talking about high end cars, Range Rovers and Porsches and BMWs, which is nothing new. Boston is a college town. Some kids come from overseas. They have the money to afford to buy new cars.

BALDWIN: Has he always had the kind of money to afford $900 sneakers?

JUNIOR: I mean, as far as I know, you. He always dreamed of buying new cars, but I don't think he could afford to buy a new car though. He always, you know, riding with his friends which they own, you know, expensive cars, but himself I don't think he could afford it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: So obviously, Jake, I followed up then if he had all this money and these nice cars why would he and his brother go rob a 7-11 here in Cambridge? You know, Junior really couldn't answer that.

Clearly, after now talking to the FBI because they came to Junior, Junior immediately recognized this 19-year-old, once he saw that surveillance photo from the 7-11 he said, that's the guy. That's Junior he started connecting the dots and realizing perhaps that is why he was acting so bizarrely just on Tuesday -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Brooke Baldwin, thank you so much. This is a city and an area on edge since the early hours of this morning we've been told and hearing about all sorts of police operations, chasing down leads, controlled explosions of suspicious packages throughout the city obviously, the Tsarnaev brothers proficient to a degree in explosives.

There has ban lot of fear and a lot of concern. Boston, of course, is in a state of self-imposed lockdown with individuals told not to leave their homes. Of course, the manhunt is most intense outside the city in the Watertown area.

I want to bring in right now Wolf Blitzer. I'm going to be handing over the show to him in a second. Wolf, we've covered a lot of terrorist related activities throughout the years. I have never quite seen anything like this.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The city is intense right now. The manhunt is intense. Right now, people want it over with. They want it over with now, but it's going to take some time. People have to be a little more patient. But basically people are being told stay home.

TAPPER: All right, I'm handing it over to you right now. Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."