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@THISHOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Boy, 17, Arrested for Murder Plot; Obama, Merkel to Speak on Ukraine; Russia Calls for Security Council Meeting as Ukraine Attacks Pro-Russia Separatists; U.S. Troops Deployed to Poland; Baltic States.
Aired May 2, 2014 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Just getting information and confirmation that a Brooklyn-bound F train has derailed. That happened less than an hour ago in a tunnel at 65th street.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The transit authority of MTA says the train was on the express tracks. Passengers as you can see there, being evacuated on the sidewalk. First responders are on site. There are more en route. We'll keep you apprised of the situation as we learn more.
PEREIRA: We are learning today about a sinister plot that was allegedly dreamed up by a 17-year-old high school student from Minnesota. Police say John David LeDue (ph) planned to kill his family, set off bombs at his school, then gun down his fellow students.
BERMAN: He allegedly had the tools, but ran out of time. Police say a concerned citizen tipped police off. A phone call that could have prevented a horrifying tragedy.
Nick Valencia is covering the story.
Police say things started to unravel.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. It was a plotted by a watchful local resident who saw suspicious activity at a local storage unit, leading police to John LeDue (ph). And inside that locker, bomb making material, things like a pressure cooker, a steel ball bearing. He had a plan to kill his parents and sister, setting a diversionary fire, so he had more time to carry out the shooting at his school where he planned to be killed by the SWAT team there.
PEREIRA: Initial reports seem to say police found him at the storage unit. They also found ammunition and a journal.
VALENCIA: That's where the details become more chilling. In that journal, he said he was inspired by events like Columbine High School, like the heartbreaking shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. He wanted to carry this initial attack out on the 15th anniversary of columbine high school, but because that anniversary on April 20th landed on Easter Sunday, he didn't have the time to do it, but authorities do believe, John and Michaela, he intended to carry out this attack in the coming weeks.
BERMAN: Details are just horrifying. Plans included a plan to kill his family as a distraction.
VALENCIA: That's right. That's the diversion I was talking about, setting that fire so he had more time to carry out his attack.
And we should mention, we just got new details in a moment ago, as he was being transferred, after he was taken into custody, he was take to a juvenile center where he made a homicidal threat to a councilor there. That led authorities to transfer him to another facility. He's still in custody. His initial court appearance will be on May 12th.
He is being treated as a juvenile, but some of the charges, two counts of attempted criminal damage to property, four counts of attempted first degree murder, as well as six counts of possession of an explosive.
We did reach out to his mother and spoke to her on the phone yesterday, but she was unwilling to give a statement about the circumstances surrounding her 17-year-old son.
PEREIRA: What does a parent say at that point? There are going to be questions for the parent, the teachers, questions for the other students. Early on in this, they thwarted this. Obviously, early stages of the investigation, getting indication that was a troubled kid?
VALENCIA: He seems to be a typical teenager. On his Facebook page, there are elements and indication that he had maybe a darker side, but on the surface, a typical teenager. He liked to play electric guitar. His grandmother said he was very close to his sister, the same sister he told authorities he planned on killing. But on his Facebook page as well, he had liked heavy metal music. He had affinity to sort of darker literature, but on the surface, that could be any typical teenager. It's this journal that really sets him apart and these detailed plans he had to carry out this detailed attack.
BERMAN: A lot of kids like heavy metal music. The journal and details that are deeply troubling.
Nick Valencia, great to have you with us. Really appreciate it.
PEREIRA: Thanks goodness for that quick-thinking neighbor who thought something didn't seem right.
BERMAN: It goes to show, as you say.
35 minutes after the hour. In just a few minutes, we expect President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to speak in the Rose Garden at the White House. The two have been meeting for some time now and one of the most crucial items on the agenda, the crisis in the Ukraine.
PEREIRA: For Russia, they're saying all hope is lost for a diplomatic deal and calling for a meeting of the U.N. Security Counsel. That is scheduled for noon today. After Ukraine launched a counterassault to dislodge pro-Russian separatists. Two Ukrainian helicopters were taken down in the clashes. Now, Ukraine says it's holding four suspects.
BERMAN: And there are hundreds of U.S. troops now deployed to certain countries in that region on stand by in Poland, also, the Baltics, so the U.S. has a keen interest here and watchful eye on what's going on.
Let's go to Washington where wolf Blitzer and the political team are waiting for this news conference expected any minute in the Rose Garden-- Wolf?
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: John, Michaela, thanks very much.
We are following very important news. We're standing by for a major news conference. We're looking at live pictures from the Rose Garden just outside the Oval Office. The president of the United States has been meeting inside with the visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel. They're about to speak. The president will make an opening statement, followed by Angela Merkel, then they will open it up to questions from reporters.
We have extensive coverage coming up here on CNN. Joining us in the studio, our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto; along with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. At the Rose Garden awaiting the start of this news conference, the lady at the start of this news conference, our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski is standing in New York; chief business correspondent, Christine Romans; and in Moscow, our senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance.
Michelle, to you first.
Set the scene for us. These are very important talks underway right now.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: From the beginning, we've seep such alignment between President Obama and German Chancellor Merkel. She has been talking to Vladimir Putin consistently as well. Just within the last few days, another conversation between them. So, we're waiting to hear more about really at this point, the lack of progress that has been made in those diplomatic attempts. Early on in the start of this crisis, Merkel would speak to Putin and say, it seems like he's agreeing to some of this. There might be a movement of troops back from the border. That he's agreed to meet with a contact group. There really seemed to be an openness there and we've seen that erode over the course of weeks and weeks to the point that when you would get the read out from some of her conversations with Putin, it would say yes, similar to what Obama said, there just seems to be this enormous disconnect between what the West views as the events on the ground and what Putin is describing them as such -- Wolf?
BLITZER: And my understanding is, Michelle, correct me if I'm wrong, an opening statement from the president followed by an opening statement from the visiting chancellor, and then there will be four reporters who will be called to ask questions, two Americans, two Germans. Is that right?
KOSINSKI: Right, it's really followed that pattern on the president's foreign trip as well. So, it's a limited number of questions. I think to remedy that, each reporter tries to ask several in one shot. So, we're not going to be here for an hour taking questions on a number of topics. We expect it to be pretty brief, but the questions, where is this going, really, is the question and also these sanctions. Right now, they're not even completely aligned between the E.U. and U.S. But there seems to be a real loss answering the questions as to what if anything these sanctions would do and where is the progress, if any, going to come from at this point?
WOLF: Michelle, stand by.
Jim Sciutto is here.
Jim, how much daylight, is there between the U.S. and Germany on the imposition of sanctions?
JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Clearly enough to keep the real biting sanctions, sector sanctions that everyone agrees are really the step that's going to make a difference and impose a real economic price on Russia. And we saw that difference in the last week when you had the Obama administration seemingly teeing up harder sanctions than they were able to deliver when announced earlier this week. But, two, I think also the U.S. administration has made clear that they're holding those sanctions for the event that Russian troops roll across the border into Ukraine. And they'll make the point we need that step, we need to impose some sort of price. The trouble is, that lays out the possibility for what's happening now, which is, in effect, the stealth invasion. You have what U.S. official says are Russian-directed separatists, militants on the ground, taking over cities and towns, causing disruption, shooting down helicopters. It's a real problem.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: The U.S. has made the point, administration officials make the point over and over again, the unity of the United States with the European Union is what's all important here because that's where the power comes from. And that's why the United States should not step too far out in front of people like Angela Merkel, who's under great pressure back home from major industries not to do more.
I think the question here is about American credibility and leadership. Is there a red line beyond which Putin cannot cross that Europe would finally get in line with stronger sanctions that you still can impose and move together or will the United States have to move on its own?
SCIUTTO: They seem to have set that red line for a true invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, you're seeing what appears to be a self-invasion.
BLITZER: I want to quickly go to Christine Romans in New York.
Christine, the news conference is taking place, three hour, four hours after some very positive jobs numbers were released in Washington. 288,000 new jobs created. Last month, the unemployment rate going down from 6.6 to 6.3 percent. That's the lowest in many years, so this is good news certainly for the country, good news for the president and fellow Democrats.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And you can expect the White House is going to say if they still have work to do, every time there's even a glimmer of hope or a sign of a turn around in the jobs numbers, they're careful to say they've got a lot of work to do. There are still a lot of people out of work and there's a lot more work to be done, but strongest job growth in two years. Unemployment rate, 6.3 percent, the lowest in five and a half years and going the right direction. When I look at these numbers, I see broad-based jobs numbers. I see accountants and lawyers, I.T. professionals, along with those low wage jobs that we've been creating. So you seeing more broad-based jobs and we want that to continue.
I keep using sort of this metaphor from the movie, "Frozen." We were frozen for three months in the economy. GDP report showed almost nothing happening, but companies hiring managers are saying the spring thaw is here and you can I guess to continue that. Wolf, I don't know if you have kids, but let it go.
Things are getting better.
BLITZER: I'll be curious to see if the president refers to these numbers in the opening statement. That's the Oval Office. The president and the visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, they will be walking out of the Oval Office, going to the microphones. We'll have live coverage.
We'll take a quick break. Much more right after this.
BLITZER: The Rose Garden at the White House, the president of the United States, the Chancellor of Germany, they're wrapping up their meeting inside the Oval Office. They'll be walking outside into the Rose Garden. You see the American and German flags there. They'll open up with statements, presumably, at least, in part, on Ukraine, the nature of the U.S.-German relationship, other issues. Then, they will answer reporter's questions, but clearly, the most pressing issue on the agenda for these two world leaders right now, what's going on in Ukraine, what are the Russians up to.
Let's go to Eastern Ukraine now. Our own Nick Paton Walsh is on the ground.
Nick, it seems very disturbing. The fighting is escalating. What is the latest as we await the president and chancellor?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's deeply confusing. The one thing is absolutely clear, the Ukrainian Army have a series of check points now in their hands around town. We've seen, myself, three to four check points that are now being taken over from pro-Russians by the Ukraine army. They haven't moved all the way in and they are, sometimes, they are quite close to those pro-Russian militants.
The latest we've just heard from the self-declared mayor on the pro- Russian protest, he says to me that five pro-Russian activists or militants, call them what you will, have been killed today and two civilians. That's higher than the death toll that his spokeswoman posted on social media earlier, so we can't verify those numbers. But all the same, the impact will be there. The Kremlin will seize on these numbers and say, look, the Ukraine military is moving against its own people. And in the background, of course, constantly that threat overshadowing actions here. What will those 40,000 Russian troops do on the other side of the border?
In many ways, this is a nightmare scenario, Wolf, because these Ukrainian soldiers have moved into a town that's infuriated, frankly, by their existence. Blocking bridges, blocking the way in and out. In one instance, we saw they seemed to drive an APC, and all-personnel carrier, over the legs of an elderly man, who was injured. He tried to block the way of the armored personnel carrier. So it's an extraordinarily volatile situation there. The concern is what do these Ukrainian troops now do? They're in place for the night. They ones we spoke to aren't going anywhere at all. They're surrounding the town. Do they get attacked during the night by these remnants of the pro-Russian militants here? Do they stick it out? And as one soldier suggested to me, is it possible that another force is coming in to enter into the city? That's where you could see bloodshed. And of course, the geo-political stakes are so high, Wolf, because of those Russian troops across the border -- Wolf?
BLITZER: The Russian troops are not far. At least 40,000 just across the boarder. We'll see what happens.
Nick, I want you to listen to this news conference. We'll get back to you afterwards as well.
I want to go to Michelle Kosinski. She's over there in the Rose Garden, our White House correspondent, right now.
They're running a few minutes late. Clearly, they have a lot to discuss in the Oval Office, Michelle. I know Ukraine will be atop the agenda, but I suspect there could be other questions not only on the state of jobs. Good jobs numbers coming out today on the U.S. side, but also Benghazi, the latest developments. I'm sure the White House preparing the president to answer a question or two on that.
KOSINSKI: Also, you know, with the NSA spying issue, how that affects Germany, that could also come up during this. There's a large number of German press for this conference now. I feel like there's no doubt someone is going to bring that up. Again, it's limited to two questions on each side, two American and two German journalists. I'm sure this will focus heavily on Ukraine, Wolf. What we expect is really kind of a show of unity between the U.S. and Germany, which they've tried to establish from the beginning. Even though there have been some differences. You mentioned the economies and the reluctance, strong pressure on Angela Merkel not to issue those sectoral sanctions or to align themselves too much with a stronger line on it. Nobody wants to hurt the global economy, and it seems like both the U.S. and Germany are kind of at odds with what to do right now. We've been talking about this being essentially an invasion of Ukraine. And I know, from the U.S. standpoint, we hear constantly the same phrases, especially, you know, going along with international law, respecting a country's national sovereignty and territorial integrity. But we've seen this incredible violation, some would call it outrageous, and the world seems to be really tied as to what to do about this. It has already happened. I think the hope now is there will be an announcement today of some, I don't know, nuance in the course of action that could -- could sort of put some clarity for future at least on the course. We've already known for some time that there won't be these sectoral sanctions on big swaths of the Russian economy, unless there is an invasion. Leading up to that, though, there's been a lot of pressure to really do something, because we've seen nothing but escalation -- Wolf?
BLITZER: The escalation continuing.
Michelle, I want you to stand by.
Michelle makes an excellent point. I suspect one of the German reporters will ask the president of the United States about NSA spying in Germany. This is an extremely sensitive issue in Germany right now, including the reports that the U.S., the NSA was even listening in on Angela Merkel's cell phone. So this is a sensitive issue. We'll see what comes up at this news conference.
We'll take another quick break.
Much more right after this.
BLITZER: The Rose Garden over at the White House. You see the German flag, the American flag. The president of the United States is still inside the Oval Office meeting with the visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel. They'll be walking out momentarily.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting from Washington. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
As we await for these two leaders to emerge, make their opening statements, and answer reporter's questions, let's bring back Jim Sciutto and Gloria Borger to assess what's going on.
Jim, Ukraine clearly the highest concern to both these leaders. There's deep fear what's going on could clearly escalate. As you reported yesterday, you saw Ukrainian pro-Russian elements in eastern Ukraine going up to those Ukrainian soldiers who had the batons, the shields, taking those away, ripping off their body armor, forcing them to run away humiliated. These are the Ukrainian military troops in eastern Ukraine. It was one of the most embarrassing moments. It underscores the potential for real disaster over there.
SCIUTTO: The Ukrainian security forces, both riot police like we're seeing there, but also the Ukrainian military, are not up to the task, right. They're just matched by these Russian militants, pro-Russian militants, that U.S. officials will say consistently are backed by Moscow. And that's a problem, and funded, trained, in communication with, associated with Ukrainian intelligence. Ukrainian officials have been honest about that. They said, listen, we cannot control this. That's a problem. That's why you do hear some Republican lawmakers asking for more robust military support, arm, et cetera. The point the administration makes there is any aid you give at this point is not going to quickly change the calculus on the ground and might, in fact, flame the situation.
BORGER: Look, the president has his hands tied here. He has an American public, obviously, that is not in favor of any kind of military intervention, military escalation. They're war weary. They're over Iraq and Afghanistan. He himself feels exactly the same way. On the other hand, it is an issue of American credibility and leadership in the world. And if we were to go out and impose stronger sanctions than, say, Angela Merkel is willing to impose, will that hurt American business? You know, that could just -- as the president used the word, back-fill, that other country could just back-fill where we were stopping. I think this is an issue for him that's really troubling, because I do believe the American public see what's going on there and thinks it's wrong, but they would not support any kind of escalation. And American business would be very troubled by an escalation of sanctions in which they would lose business to Europe.
BLITZER: You know, the other point, this companies at a time when on several foreign policy fronts, Jim, the president is facing major challenges, not only in the situation with Ukraine, but elsewhere around the world, there have been serious setbacks.
SCIUTTO: Syria, attempts for diplomat situation solutions there, stymied in the peace talks earlier this year. And the situation with Iran, ironically, is the one going well in the midst of this. Mideast peace talks, you know, Syria setbacks just in the last couple of weeks. And who would have thought that Europe would be the focus of the administration's attention in 2014 with all these other things?
BLITZER: Guys, I want you to hold on.
We're waiting for the president of the United States, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. Clearly, their meetings are continuing a bit longer than had earlier been scheduled. They were scheduled to end, to have that news conference about 20 minutes or so ago. But they're continuing their talks.
We'll continue out coverage. We'll stand by here in Washington. We'll have live coverage of this, statements, the news conference, the Q and A with these two world leaders. That's coming up.