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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Bill Clinton Goes There; A Mother's Pain And Denial; Looking To Be Radicalized Online; Prayers, Tears For Texas Blast Victims; Obama Consoles Devastated Texas Town

Aired April 25, 2013 - 16:30   ET

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


ANDREW CARD, FORMER G.W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: -- education and bipartisan change to trade policy and a lot of other issues. People tend to gloss over that, but he is saying take time to understand the nature of the presidency, the tough decisions and reflect on the documents and the real story of President Bush rather than your emotional connection to what happened over the last several years.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Andy, before you go, I want to get your reaction to an interesting moment in President Clinton's remarks today. Let's play that sound.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Your mother showed me some of your landscapes and animal paintings, and I thought they were great, really great. I seriously considered calling you and asking you to do a portrait of me until I saw the results of your sister's hacked e- mails. Those bathroom sketches were wonderful, but at my age, I think I should keep my suit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Is President Bush comfortable with all this very public talk about his paintings?

CARD: Well, I don't know how comfortable he is, but President Clinton kind of spoke the truth. I've seen many of his paintings and his paintings of animals are phenomenal. His painting of landscapes really do define, I think they're great art.

But I understand the portrait that he painted of his dad wasn't very good. I think his father was polite when he kind of said, OK, but crimped his mouth to kind of reflect the vision he saw in it. I don't think First Lady Barbara Bush thought it was very good at all. Probably president bush should not think of himself as a portrait artist.

TAPPER: All right, former White House chief of staff Andy Card thanks so much for joining us live from Dallas at the Bush Library.

CARD: He's a great man though. He is a grounded, great man. Thank you. TAPPER: Thanks, Andy. After that event in Dallas, President Obama traveled to Waco, Texas where he is in a minute about to speak at a memorial service for victims of last week's explosion. We will go there live as soon as he starts speaking.

Coming up, next, just how did the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly learn to make their bombs? One FBI agent has an idea after he spent months infiltrating radical web sites.

And she refuses to believe her sons are capable of murder, and now she is claiming the whole thing was made up, the bizarre and insulting interview with the suspects' mother. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper in Boston. You're looking at live pictures. We are waiting for President Obama to speak at a memorial in Waco, Texas. We'll bring it to you live when President Obama begins speaking.

She is a grieving parent, so the claims she is making have to be taken in context. Our Nick Payton Walsh sat down with the mother of the Tsarnaev brothers. Despite the bloodshed and the agony and the overwhelming evidence stacked against them she still not only denies her sons were behind the Boston bombings but claims the whole thing was a hoax.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZUBEIDAT TSARNAEV, BOMBING SUSPECTS' MOTHER: I saw a very, very interesting video last night. That the marathon was something like a really big play. There was like paint instead of blood, like it was made up, something.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You really believe that?

TSARNAEV: That's what I want to know because everybody's talking about it that this is a show. That's what I want to know. That's what I want to understand. I never, never would say anything good about it, and I've never said -- I really feel sorry for all of them. Really feel sorry for all of them, but I do not want to believe that these were my sons. OK? And I don't believe. I don't believe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Nick Paton Walsh joins me now from Dagestan. Nick, I understand she is grieving, but I mean that's nonsense and it's frankly insulting to the people who lost their lives and limbs in this attack. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that people actually died, were wounded, were maimed. Does she really think her sons have done nothing wrong and does she really think this was a hoax?

WALSH: I think to this point she wants to believe so badly that her sons didn't do it that she'll believe almost anything no matter how unfeasible or insulting to the victims of Boston that might necessarily be.

She also told us in the same conversation that in February -- in 2011, the FBI had been to see her because they were concerned about what she referred to as the radicalization of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, her eldest son and said they needed to put him under monitoring and keep an eye on him.

So he didn't become anything -- and I think this came as the result of a relationship the family started with a man called Misha who was living in the nearby area, came to see them, an Armenian who converted to the Islamic faith.

She said he opened their eyes to more devout ground of Islam. Even Tamerlan who seemed to be closer to Misha telling her to cover up her hair, feeling a sense of shame they all say they felt when Misha was around because he was more devout than them. Let's listen to what she had to say about Misha.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TSARNAEV: Misha, everybody is talking about Misha now. I don't know -- Misha, yes, Misha -- when Misha visited us we just kind of -- he just opened our eyes, you know, really wide about Islam. He was really -- he is devoted and he is a very good, very nice man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALSH: Clearly, deeply troubled by what she hears her sons accused of trying to reconcile her love for them, her views many parents have had of their children as being angelic and these increasingly convincing drum beats of accusations she hears through the media and from U.S. officials -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Paton Walsh, thanks for the great reports, as always.

Officials have told me that according to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in these interviews so take it with a grain of salt if you will, but he says the bombers, particularly the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, were self-radicalized on the internet.

My next guest knows that online process well. E.J. Hilbert spent part of his time at the FBI posing on the internet as a young Chechen named Ivan looking for someone to try to radicalize him. He joins me now from Los Angeles. E.J., thanks so much for joining us.

Talk us through this process. You were posing as a young Chechen. Who would approach you online and how would they try to convert or manipulate you?

E.J. HILBERT, FORMER CYBER AND COUNTERTERRORISM FBI AGENT: You have to understand my role was to -- I originally started working cyber crime, which was identifying international hackers and then 9/11 occurred and I was asked to take my role and move it into the counterterrorism realm and attempt to ingratiate myself with the various different radical elements online. Primarily around the investigation of an individual by the name of Adam Godan who is the American al Qaeda charged with treason responsible for the videos. So basically I would try to get into these different groups and I just tweaked my online profile as a Russian hacker to be a young Chechen named Ivan who had been forced to America by his family and I didn't like it.

I was, quote, "disaffected" and didn't like being here and had converted over and was looking for somebody to commiserate with and through a very lengthy process of being groomed into that, into that role and really going against everything I believed in.

But everything that these guys were trying to put forward as the mother said open my eyes, listened to them and as it progressed over time eventually they start sharing things like how to make videos of bombs, recent convoys that had been destroyed in Afghanistan, and Iraq, from the bombers' point of view how the bombs were loaded up.

All of this was fantastic intelligence for the U.S. government, but it was also something we could trace back from a law enforcement perspective trying to identify these individuals.

TAPPER: Why did you specifically pose as a Chechen?

HILBERT: Chechnya was easier. What few people realize is for a very long time well before the U.S. had to deal with al Qaeda, the Russian republics were dealing with al Qaeda in their support of Chechnya during the Chechen revolt. And I learned that from a group of Russian law enforcement officers I was working with and they had shared this.

So having been a, quote, "Russian Hacker," this was a very easy transition for me. But understand, you pick one of these online identities. It doesn't stay that way all the way through. Sometimes you get found out or people don't believe you. So you have to tweak it around.

Ivan was one name. I've used Alexi. I've used all types of various different names until I got to the correct group, the truly radical individuals, which could have been any religion. It wasn't a religion specific. It just worked out for us in this regard knowing that this was a group where I didn't have to speak Arabic.

I could speak English. I could type in English. I could do everything from where I was here in the states as well as being on the west coast of the U.S., an eight to ten-hour difference so I'd be talking at night time their time, which was morning time my time.

TAPPER: It's a fascinating story, E.J. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

HILBERT: Sure.

TAPPER: Coming up, President Obama is in Waco, Texas remembering the victims in that horrific explosion last week. We'll bring you his remarks live. And she lost part of her leg in the Boston terrorist attacks. Now one victim is telling her story of that day and talking about the optimism she feels for her life going forward. You won't want to miss this. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper live in Boston at the Westin Copley. Exactly one week ago today, President Obama came to this city to offer words of comfort and healing to those affected by the horrible terrorist attacks.

In a few moments, he'll deliver a similar message of hope, but with a strikingly different tone because this message was for the people of West, Texas, a memorial service for the 14 victims of a fertilizer plant explosion and it is happening right now in Waco just steps away from the stage where the president will speak.

The flag draped coffins of those who lost their lives trying to save others. CNN's Martin Savidge is live in Waco where the memorial is taking place. Martin, we've heard thousands of first responders from around the country are at this memorial.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Jake. Yes, quite a moving scene at the beginning before the memorial itself it was a procession of over 200 fire engines and on top of that came the procession of the first responders, said to be over 3,000. This has been described as the largest event of its kind since 9/11 to remember those who fell.

The important thing to remember in this particular story is the fact these were volunteer firefighters, and that is huge in this part of Texas. Many of the small towns rely on men and women who volunteer for their firefighting departments. These particular men allayed down their lives as we know on that terrible night, a Wednesday, in which that huge blast shook.

And as one person said not only caused buildings to collapse, but broke the hearts of many in the town of West, Texas. They are still grieving. We are anticipating the president will speak shortly. The first lady is with him. We know that the helicopter flew from Dallas and passed over the site where the explosion occurred and then came down to Waco.

You may wonder why Waco. The town of West is so small. There is no facility that is large enough to handle all of the thousands of people who wanted to attend this memorial service so Baylor University was the choice for this -- Jake.

TAPPER: We're looking at live pictures from the memorial ceremony and waiting for President Obama to speak. It should be any minute. Martin, one of the things that is so striking about covering these stories, it's been rough couple weeks for the country with both the terrorist attacks here in Boston and the horrible explosion in West, Texas. Here in Boston one of the things that is so striking is the four individuals who were killed were so innocent and sweet, Officer Collier all the way to Martin Richard. Looking at the stories and watching the coverage of the horrible incident in West, Texas, what strikes me is that these were people who were brave, the ones who died. There were people who volunteered to run into danger and for that reason their deaths are all the more tragic.

SAVIDGE: The fact that these are friends and neighbors. And back to the theme of the volunteers, these were men who left their dinners, left their homes, kissed their wives and then headed off because the pager on their waist had gone off. They knew there was a problem in their community.

They were the ones who inserted themselves between the danger, which they knew. They knew the plant was extremely dangerous and the potential for explosion, but they also knew there was a town counting on them and as has been pointed out time and time again they answered that call.

They stood in front of that plant and they bought time. That's the part that is often brought up by members of the community is that they literally bought time so that their friends and neighbors could evacuate. That is why so few other lives were lost.

They were there, telling police officers get into the streets. Tell people they have to get out of here because they know the danger that was in the plant. They bought that precious time but of course, Jake, they paid for it with their own lives.

We should point out that the investigation as this service goes on is continuing. There are investigators for the ATF still at that site sifting through the debris. There was a moment at which they paused to remember just as this service was going on, but then they went right back to the job of trying to find out exactly what went wrong and caused the fire that led to the blast.

TAPPER: Martin Savidge in Waco, Texas. We're waiting for President Obama to speak. Texas Senator John Cornyn is now speaking. He will introduce President Obama and President Obama will address the citizens of Waco and West, Texas in a moment.

Martin, before I let you go, do you know if President Obama had an opportunity to inspect the blast site?

SAVIDGE: He did that from the air, Marine One helicopter passed over the site. He was able to get a good look. It's from the air that you see the tremendous power of the blast, which triggered a 2.1 earthquake and was also felt some 50 miles away.

And the shattering impact it had on not only a small town of 2,600 people, but on this full part of Texas here. There are many still out of their homes who will not be able to return to that community for some time. This is going to affect as one person put it that small town for generations to come -- Jake. TAPPER: You're looking at live images of a memorial ceremony in Waco, Texas where President Obama will address the nation momentarily. The explosion last week destroyed not only the town but took a number of more than a dozen residents of the town, many of them volunteer firefighters who were running into danger. Let's take a listen to John Cornyn as he introduces President Obama.

SENATOR JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: -- the town of west and this great community have shown the world. Mr. President, I know the events of this terrible week have captured your attention. As we grieve for those mourning in Boston, people who suffered injuries there, and we know today you've seen the great loyalty, the fierce loyalty that we Texans feel for one another.

I will never forget what one resident of west told me when I came here last Friday. He said being a Texan doesn't just describe where you're from. It describes who your family is. I'll never forget that. Today our family is mourning for its lost members, our loved ones, families, friends, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles.

Mr. President and Mrs. Obama, let me join Governor Perry and all of us gathered here today as we express our profound appreciation for your presence. My fellow Texans, it's my honor to present the president of the United States.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you, Senator Cornyn, Governor Perry, President Starr, gathered dignitaries, the communities of Baylor and Waco and, most of all the family and friends and neighbors of West, Texas.

I cannot match the power of the voices you just heard on that video and no words adequately describe the courage that was displayed on that deadly night. What I can do is offer the love and support and prayers of the nation. The Book of Psalms tells us, for you, o God, have tested us. You have tried us.

We went through fire and through water, yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. We went through fire and through water, yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. For this state, for our country these have been trying and difficult days.

We gather here in Texas to mourn the brave men who went through fire and all those who have been taken from us. We remain mindful of our fellow Americans and flooded states to the north who endure the high waters. We pray for those in Boston who have been tested and the wounded whose greatest tests still lie ahead.

But know this, while the eyes of the world may have been fixed on places far away, our hearts have also been here in your time of tribulation and even amidst such sorrow and so much pain, we recognize god's abundance. We give thanks for the courage and the compassion and incredible grace of the people of West.

We're grateful for Mayor Mushka and Mayor Duncan and all those who have shown such leadership during this tragedy. To the families and neighbors grappling with unbearable loss we are here to say you are not alone. You are not forgotten. We may not all live here in Texas, but we're neighbors, too. We're Americans, too.

And we stand with you and we do not forget. And we'll be there even after the cameras leave and after the attention turns elsewhere. Your country will remain ever ready to help you recover and rebuild and reclaim your community.

Now, until last week I think it's fair to say that few outside this state had ever heard of West. I suspect that's the way most people in West like it. Now it is true that weary travelers and now the wider world know they can rely on the check stop for a brief respite in the middle of a long stretch of highway.

I want to say, by the way, all the former presidents in Dallas send their thoughts and prayers and George W. and Laura Bush spoke longingly about the company as they've driven through West.

And what they understood and what all of you understand is what makes West special is not the attention coming from far flung places, what makes West special, what puts it on the map is what makes it familiar -- the people who live there. Neighbors you can count on.

Places that haven't changed. Things that are solid and true and lasting. Most of the people in West know everybody in West.