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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With Maryland Congressman John Delaney; Baltimore Protests; American Hostage Killed in U.S. Drone Strike; Protesters Swarm Baltimore City Hall Demanding Justice. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired April 23, 2015 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The governor of Maryland sending state troopers into Baltimore.
I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.
The national lead. Freddie Gray's body is now with his family, as the family promises to conduct its own autopsy to try to find out just what happened to him before or after he got into that police van, as Baltimore braces for more protests.
Plus, this death, gruesome and mysterious, and it may have happened before, another man put in the back of a police vehicle, suffering a serious spinal injury and winding up dead. Could that case from Baltimore's history tell us something about this one?
And the world lead, President Obama saying he takes full responsibility for the deaths of two hostages held captive by al Qaeda, including an American, Warren Weinstein. They were killed in a U.S. drone strike. How did an attack meant to kill only terrorists, only members of al Qaeda go so tragically wrong?
Good afternoon. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Two major breaking stories we're following at this hour, right now on the streets of Baltimore, protesters gathering over a potential case of police brutality, and here in Washington a tragic mistake with huge potential national security implications.
This morning, President Obama walked into the White House Briefing Room and took full responsibility for the deaths of two hostages held by al Qaeda.
But today we're going to begin in Baltimore, where confusion and outrage is building in the streets as we have passed 11 days since a 25-year-old Baltimore man, Freddie Gray, was severely injured while in police custody.
Tuesday night, we saw Gray's parents marching alongside protesters. And today spokesperson for the family say they now have their son's body back and they plan to conduct their own autopsy.
Let's go live now to the streets of Baltimore. That's where we're going to find CNN's Brian Todd.
Brian, thousands are expected to come out tonight, Maryland's governor sending state troopers to help control the crowds.
What's the scene where you are right now?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, we're in the front of City Hall in downtown Baltimore. A spirited crowd has been organized by the NAACP to come to this rally.
And we are -- take this off for a second -- we're here in the middle of this crowd. And various speakers have been speaking for the last 30 minutes or so, this crowd determined to kind of keep up the energy and the pace of these demonstrations. We have been out in the streets the last couple of nights, where they have been matching through the streets, but this crowd here just kind of staying where they are in front of City Hall.
There have been various protests here in front of City Hall. Basically, these people are just inpatient with the pace of this investigation and kind of frustrated with the fact that they're just not getting the answers that they need from the police, from City Hall to some key questions, what happened to Freddie Gray inside that van, how did he become so severely injured and are the police going to be held accountable for it, part of the frustration for this crowd. And they have been voicing this for the past several days.
We will kind of make our way over here as you can kind of get more of a sense of what they're doing here. Part of the frustration is that is, their minds, is in keeping with kind of a longstanding culture of police violence and maybe a lack of accountability. "The Baltimore Sun" reporting in the last few days that the city has paid out more than $6 million in lawsuit settlements over the past four years, of settlements alleging police brutality.
So, that's what they're kind of complaining about, that this is a perpetuation of that culture. They want more answers, they want more accountability and they certainly want just more of a resolution of this particular case in the Freddie Gray death. And they want to know what's going to happen to these six officers who were involved, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Brian Todd in Baltimore, thanks.
And of course we are going to have much more on that developing story.
But let's turn now to Washington, D.C. A senior administration official told CNN that the intelligence community had had near certainty there were no hostages at the al Qaeda compound, what once the U.S. government had been monitoring for hundreds of hours, the White House says.
But we now know that the January drone strike killed two innocent civilians, including American hostage Warren Weinstein.
Let's bring in CNN chief security national correspondent Jim Sciutto.
Jim, a U.S. official with knowledge of the operation says that the CIA inspector general is going to conduct a review of the strikes. And all of this has to raise questions about the quality of the intelligence.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This was a spectacular intelligence failure, two strikes, one strike that killed two hostages, American and Italian you didn't know were there, plus an American member of al Qaeda you didn't know was there.
And there's a legal process you have to go through. And another strike that does the same thing. Think there's a senior al Qaeda leader there, but you don't know that it was an American who, again, you would have had to go through this legal process.
It raises enormous questions not just about this operation, but about the drone program as a whole, which was already facing critics here in Washington and in many of the countries where they take place.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): It was in this mountainous border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan that a U.S. drone strike killed two western hostages held by al Qaeda, including one American, Warren Weinstein, abducted in Pakistan in 2011.
The al Qaeda compound had been under surveillance for hundreds of hours. What the U.S. did not know was that Weinstein and the Italian, Giovanni Lo Porto, were being held and hidden inside.
In this proof of life video, Weinstein, an aid worker, pleaded for his freedom.
WARREN WEINSTEIN, HOSTAGE: It seems that I have been totally abandoned and forgotten.
SCIUTTO: Today, President Obama apologized for a fatal mistake.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We believed that this was an al Qaeda compound, that no civilians were present, and that capturing these terrorists was not possible.
SCIUTTO: Weinstein's wife in a statement blamed his captors for his death, but also demanded answers from Washington, saying: "We do understand that the U.S. government will be conducting an independent investigation of the circumstances. We look forward to the results of that investigation."
Killed in the same attack was al Qaeda leader Ahmed Farouq. Farouq, also an American, was the deputy head of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, a new branch of the terror group that attempted to hijack Pakistani naval vessels last September.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the framework of America's war on so-called terror. SCIUTTO: Killed in another airstrike in January, American al Qaeda
operative and propagandist Adam Gadahn, originally from California.
OBAMA: Our initial assessment indicates that this operation was fully consistent with the guidelines under which we conduct counterterrorism efforts in the region, which has been our focus for years, because it is the home of al Qaeda's leadership.
SCIUTTO: U.S. officials tell me that it was one final crucial piece of evidence that led them to conclude that Weinstein -- Weinstein, rather, and Lo Porto were killed in the strike. It was only yesterday that a senior White House officials and other senior U.S. officials, Jake, sat down with the Weinstein family and told them the bad news.
You know that was a difficult conversation. It would be under any circumstances. We also know that the family had its own frustrations. And some of that, you saw coming out in that statement.
TAPPER: Yes. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.
Let's talk more about the Weinsteins, Warren Weinstein's family understandably devastated by the revelation this drone inadvertently killed the husband and father of two. Today, in a statement, his widow, Elaine Weinstein, both praised the relentless efforts of public officials such as Senator Ben Cardin and Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congressman John Delaney, to free her husband.
But she also said the U.S. government as a whole could have done more, that -- quote -- "The assistance we received from other elements of the U.S. government was inconsistent and disappointing."
Let's bring in one of the lawmakers thanked in the widow's statement. Congressman John Delaney of Maryland.
Congressman, my condolences. I know you have been working hard since 2011 to get Warren Weinstein freed. His widow referred to officials inside the Obama administration, inside the U.S. government who were inconsistent and disappointing.
Who is she talking about and what more does the family wish had been done?
REP. JOHN DELANEY (D), MARYLAND: Let's start by talking about Elaine for a minute. She's a wonderful person and really loved Warren and has been a rock and an anchor in her family. And I have had the privilege of getting to know her and her kids, Warren's daughters, over the last several years. And it's just a terrible day for her and all of our prayers go out to her and the family, obviously.
And, you know, Elaine's perspective on this is very similar to mine, which is the individuals who worked on the matter specifically -- she had a lot of contact with the FBI, she had a lot of contact with the State Department, really high-quality people, no surprise there, working really hard to try to get Warren returned. But both Elaine and myself were frustrated that more can't be done,
and we see lapses in coordination, et cetera, around finding our hostages. If you think about the enormous capabilities the United States has, both technological and otherwise, we're not really bringing it all to bear in as effective a way as we can to find these Americans that are trapped in these horrible places with these very horrible captors.
TAPPER: Congressman, what kind of assets are you talking about? Should there be more surveillance drones, more dedicated military teams looking for these hostages? What specifically would you like to see?
DELANEY: What I would like to see is a couple things, number one, more surveillance, more monitoring of the chatter and the conversations that are going on.
And I would also like to see us use some of our partners, particularly our partners in the region, who have -- many of which have stepped forward and tried to help us with some hostage situations. I would like to see a more coordinated effort, where not only is the United States incredibly focused on getting our hostages home, but if you want to be a partner in the United States, if you want to work with the United States on anything, you have to give your full support in working with us to get our hostages home.
So, I just found in my experience with this case, which has been very extensive and spent a lot of time both with Elaine and through my own stuff I was working on, you would see really great people in the government, in different silos of the government trying to do things, but you didn't always see the coordination that you want to see.
And, importantly, you didn't always see the different parts of the government bringing kinds of leverage and pressure on other partners and friends of ours in the region.
TAPPER: I assume you're specifically talking about Pakistan. Elaine Weinstein had some very pointed words about Pakistan.
In her statement, she wrote -- quote -- "Warren's safe return should have been a priority for them, but they failed to take action earlier in his captivity when opportunity presented itself, instead treating Warren's captivity as more of an annoyance than a priority."
As I don't need to tell you, this is a country that the United States taxpayers give billions of dollars to each year. What should Pakistan have done and what is the incident or opportunities that she's referring to?
DELANEY: I don't want speak specifically about what Elaine is referring to, out of respect for her and her confidence. I know what she's referring to. But I think you hit the nail on the head. We provide a lot of aid to
Pakistan. And, at a minimum, as it relates to getting our hostages home, we should have full cooperation, full cooperation, as it relates to that.
Now, listen, in fairness, Pakistan has their own issue. The former prime minister's son is a hostage. Right? It's a tough situation over there. And there's a lot of people held hostages. And particularly along the Afghan-Pakistan border, it's really difficult to find people. And I understand all that.
But I really want to see us using all of the pressure points we have to get cooperation. And we're not talking about people making major foreign policy changes here. We're talking about them doing tactical specific stuff around intelligence, giving us access to people, et cetera, that can help us get our Americans home. And that's what's so frustrating to me, and I know that is what is frustrating to Elaine.
TAPPER: Congressman, before I let you go, do you happen to know if the family has spoken with President Obama?
DELANEY: I'm assuming that the family has spoken to the president. I don't know if I know that specifically.
But I spoke to Elaine last night. We had a long conversation. We actually didn't talk about that specific point. But I'm assuming that she has.
I mean, she's been through a really hard time here for a number of years. And to have it end like this, you know, Warren was someone completely dedicated to serving others.
DELANEY: And he spent the last several years of his life probably in some concrete block room on a dirt floor. And this is how it ended. It's a real tragedy.
And I do think, as a nation, we need to do a lot better. And we're really committed to doing that. What we need, as I have said before, is we need the equivalent of a hostage czar, someone who basically has the ability to cut across all the assets we have, including our foreign partners, and bring them all to bear to find these Americans.
TAPPER: All right, Congressman John Delaney.
DELANEY: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: May Warren Weinstein's memory be a blessing, as is said.
TAPPER: Earlier today, while reporting on this horrific story, I suggested that since "The Wall Street Journal" had this morning published a detailed story on this tragedy, that the reporter may have forced the White House's hand to a degree in disclosing this operation, as was done this morning.
What I did not know at the time was that "The Wall Street Journal" story was provided by the Obama administration in a completely authorized leak that was part of the White House's planned rollout of this information.
I regret the error, and I apologize to you, the viewers.
Back in Baltimore, hundreds of protesters continue to gather at a rally demanding justice for Freddie Gray's death. And anger is mounting after the local police union compared protesters to a -- quote -- "lynch mob." The governor has sent in dozens of state troopers to Baltimore to keep the peace. We will go there live next.
[16:18:51] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Returning now to our national lead: Right now, protests are growing and tensions are escalating in Baltimore, Maryland, over unanswered questions over the arrest and death of Freddie Gray. This is the scene outside Baltimore's city hall, where hundreds if not thousands are expected to show up, demanding justice.
Gray's official autopsy has not been released. But police confirmed he died of a spinal cord injury. How or exactly when he got that injury, remains a mystery. It is also a huge source of frustration for people in the city of Baltimore, including local leaders.
Today, Gray's family confirmed that his body has now been turned over to them. They plan to be an independent autopsy conducted before the funeral of this 25-year-old man.
CNN's Joe Johns is live in Baltimore where protests are already underway.
And, Joe, we've learned that these protests are about to see a beefed up security presence.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think that's already happened. We see a lot of police officers there. That rally here in the shadow of the Baltimore War Memorial has just wrapped up, about 200 people or so.
[16:20:01] After they finished, they marched off in a general direction west companied by helicopters over head, a number of police officers.
It's been going on all day in this city. This really here was led by Reverend Jamal Bryant of the Empowerment Temple AME Church which has offered to foot the bill for the funeral of the deceased in this case.
Of course, the big question is what is happening in the investigation and where is it headed?
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This town with no ways (INAUDIBLE), because we've come too far from where we started from.
JOHNS (voice-over): Anger mounting in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray, whose body was released to the family at a funeral home today. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announcing he'll send state troopers to the city to help prevent violence, as protesters and Gray's family complain about growing questions surrounding his death, without enough answers from city officials.
MARY KOCH, ATTORNEY FOR FREDDIE GRAY'S FAMILY: He was fine before the police laid hands on him and he died several days later. That's what you can say at this point with certainty.
JOHNS: Now, the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police sparking new outrage issuing a statement comparing protesters to a lynch mob. That drew immediate criticism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police officers are never the subject of a lynch mob. It's actually usually the other way around. Referring to the citizens of Baltimore City who are peacefully protesting as a lynch mob, doesn't serve to keep the peace. It only heightens the flames or fans the flames of people that are already on edge.
JOHNS: A spokesman tried to soften the remarks in a press conference.
GENE RYAN, PRESIDENT, BALTIMORE FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: They have been very peaceful. I complicated on them.
REPORTER: Why relate them to a lynch mob, if --
RYAN: Because if you're going to call to have somebody imprisoned before they have their day in court, that's wrong.
REPORTER: Do you think the majority of the protesters have called for that?
RYAN: No, no. Not at all.
JOHNS: But the wait for answers from officials isn't helping quiet concerns. Five of the officers involved have given statements to investigators about Gray's arrest. The sixth officer declined to give a statement. That information has not been made public pending further investigation.
The medical examiner hasn't released a report yet either which could help explain how or when Gray was injured.
The union attorney representing the six involved officers, all of whom have been temporarily suspended with pay said the injury may have occurred inside the police transport van.
MICHAEL DAVEY, ATTORNEY, FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: What we don't know and what we're hoping the investigation will tell us is what happened inside the back of the van.
JOHNS: The funeral for Freddie Gray is now scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on Monday at New Shiloh Baptist Church here in Baltimore. There have been so many protests that the mayor has allowed liberal leave for non-essential employees so that they can get home and pick up their kids from school.
TAPPER: All right. Joe Johns in Baltimore, thank you so much.
A witness who filmed one of the cell phone videos of Gray's arrest has now come forward to explain what he saw that day and why he decided to shoot the video in the first place.
Kevin Moore who recorded this disturbing scene of Gray wailing while being held down by police officers told the "Baltimore Sun" that he heard a taser and grabbed his cell phone to capture the arrest on film.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN MOORE, WITNESS: They had him folded up -- they had him folded up like he was a crab or like a piece of origami. You know what I mean? You wonder why we dislike the police, or why we're aggressive to the police, this is why.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: We should know that police have denied that Gray was tasered.
But let's bring in Captain Eric Kowalczyk, he's a spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department.
Captain, let's start with the general picture here. What it looks like. There is this disturbing video of Freddie Gray wailing with police on top of them. There's video of him apparently being dragged to the police van. It looks like he is unable or having trouble walking.
The next thing we know, Freddie Gray's neck has snapped, and then a few days later, he's dead. Eleven days later, the police of Baltimore have provided no explanation, no accountability, nothing.
Do you understand why this looks so bad for the Baltimore police?
CAPTAIN ERIC KOWALCZYK, BALTIMORE POLICE SPOKESMAN: You know, Jake, first of all thank you for the opportunity to be here. What I know is that we have a community that's in pain. We have a family that's in pain. We have officers that want answers to the same questions you're asking.
And we have an obligation to find out exactly what happened here. And this investigation is doing just that. We have a talented team of investigators that we brought together to get into the details of what happened here. And get to the truth. We owe that to the family, we owe that to the city and we owe that to everybody that's watching. That investigation is going to take its course. TAPPER: Why is it taking so long, sir? Why is it taking so long to get to the truth?
KOWALCZYK: Sure. Look, I understand. There is very little that I can say right now that's going to help people that are frustrated. The pace of the investigation is what it is.
We have investigators that are doing their very best to get to the information they need to get.
[16:25:01] And what you've seen over the last two and a half years in this police department under this police commissioner is an organization that's trying to bring itself into alignment with the community. It's trying to be more transparent and more open, and initiating reforms to be able to do just that. Part of those reforms are putting out as much information we can. Over the last week, we have put out more information about this investigation than we typically do in a way to be as transparent and accountable to the people as possible.
TAPPER: Captain -- Captain, you put out information, it's not relevant to the big question, how did he get in -- how did he get injured? He was in police custody and something happened to him, either before or after or both. He got into the van. What happened?
KOWALCZYK: And that's exactly what the investigation is -- that we hope the investigation is going to find out.
TAPPER: But when are we going to see the results of the investigation?
KOWALCZYK: And I know that people want to get those, I want to get those. We, obviously, are doing everything we can to move with a sense of urgency. We have promised we will turn over the results of the investigation where ever we are on May 1s, to the state's attorney's office for their review.
KOWALCZYK: That's what our purpose is, to move with a sense of urgency to make sure that we get the answers that we need to get for the family, for the city, for the people that are watching. And we're going to turn those over to the state attorney's office on May 1st. We're also going to have a public announcement --
TAPPER: Was there a video camera in the van? Was there a video camera in the van?
KOWALCZYK: There was not. We've already -- we've said that before.
And look, I understand. We know that the community is frustrated. We hear there is a peaceful demonstration a few minutes before I came on. There have been protests last night.
And we absolutely hear and understand the frustration. But the most important thing that we can do is get to the truth of what happened. And we owe that to the family. That's what we're focused on is getting to the truth.
TAPPER: What people don't understand is why it's taking so long. It's a pretty simple question, he was in your custody, you have access to the six police officers. Something happened to his neck and then he died. It's now 11 days later.
It doesn't take 11 days to figure out what happened if you gave me the six police officers I could find out within an hour.
KOWALCZYK: You know, when we conduct a criminal investigation like this, we have to be very, very careful that we don't do anything to jeopardize the case.
This is a complicated investigation. The police commissioner said yesterday the medical examiner in their preliminary exam told us we may never know what happened here. We are going to do everything we can to get to the bottom of -- to get to the truth of everything, to find out exactly what happened here. That takes time.
This is a complex investigation. We have investigators that have to go through each individual piece of evidence. There is interviews, and we have to go back and re-interview people.
TAPPER: Let's talk about the interviews.
KOWALCZYK: All of those that I'm telling you, though, don't get to the heart of the issue. People are frustrated, they're concerned. They want answers and it's important that we get out -- that we hear that concern, we feel that concern. And that's why we're moving with a sense of urgency to get to that May 1st deadline and turn over as much as information as we can.
TAPPER: I think the feeling is being conveyed. People want not so much hearing and feeling, but actually just some answers.
But I want to ask you a question about the interviews. We've been told by law enforcement representatives of the six law enforcement officials involved in some way in what happened, five of them have been interviewed. Why hasn't the sixth one been interviewed?
KOWALCZYK: So we put out publicly yesterday that five of the six have been interviewed and that those interviews have been memorialized electronically. In any criminal investigation, people have their constitutional rights. Those don't go away during the course of a criminal investigation, even when it's police officer.
I understand that's concerning to some people. But we have to protect people's constitutional rights, whether they're police officers or they're citizens. Those constitutional rights don't go away.
TAPPER: I want to ask you about the Lieutenant Brian Rice, he's one of the officers the police force has named were involved. News has broken indicating that Lieutenant Rice has been accused of domestic violence twice in the past. In one of those instance, he was accused of threatening someone's life.
Given these accusations, was any consideration given to removing this officer from the streets at any time?
KOWALCZYK: You know, I can't comment on personnel records. What I can tell you is specific to this investigation, that our investigators are going to look at every piece of evidence that's out there. They're going to look at the timeline of events that led up to our interaction with Mr. Gray, they're going to look at what the interaction was and the subsequent events that led to his passing, and that includes everything.
TAPPER: I want to ask you about a statement made by an official of the Fraternal Order of Police yesterday referring to the protesters as a quote, lynch mob. Do you fear a comment like that puts the citizens at Baltimore, including your own officers at greater risk by further inflaming tensions?
KOWALCZYK: You know, clearly I understand the concern over the choice of words. I don't want to speak for the Fraternal Order of Police, that's a separate organization they have their own elected officials and spokespeople that can do that for them.
Our focus is and continues to be on the investigation and on making sure we do everything we can to find out the answers, turn those over to the state attorney's office so that the people of Baltimore know what happened.
TAPPER: We look forward to finding out what happened.
Captain Eric Kowalczyk, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.