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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
EgyptAir Crash Investigation; Suspect Shot Near White House. Aired 16-16:30p ET
Aired May 20, 2016 - 16:00 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.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We do have breaking news for you right now, a shooter apparently aiming a gun at the White House. Law enforcement sources say that an unidentified gunman brandished a weapon at a Secret Service checkpoint on the White House grounds.
Secret Service officers responded instantly, firing on the suspect. We're told that they hit the suspect in the abdomen and stopped him, stopped him right where he should -- stood, rather, the would-be shooter. And then they rushed to clear the North Lawn, Pennsylvania Avenue, Lafayette Park, all of the areas immediately surrounding the White House.
Reporters were shepherded into the facilities. The president is not at the White House right now. And we still have no hard information on how many victims there might be, what condition they could be in right now, if there are any victims, per se.
I want to get right to Joe Johns. He's in the White House Briefing Room. And he can give us all the latest information.
Joe, what do we know right now?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, a short time ago here at the White House complex, the guns came out.
Secret Service began securing the area, pushed people who were outside the building on this beautiful day inside and told individuals who were on the complex to stay inside, a shelter in place order, if you will, at the White House, which is in and of itself a fairly disturbing thing.
What we found out is that apparently one individual who brandished a gun was spotted by Secret Service, uniformed Secret Service, apparently, at 17th and State Place, which is right next to E Street here. And it is right at the intersection near the White House, where there happens to be a visitors center.
That individual, we're told, was shot, apparently shot in the abdomen, according to a tweet from D.C. Emergency Medical Service, which transported him to a hospital. That tweet indicated that that individual was in critical condition. No confirmation of that so far.
So, what we do know is that there has been a shooting very near to the White House, apparently not on the White House grounds proper, not inside a secured area, but has certainly created a lot of concern here, some indication that that individual may have been close enough to cause trouble, may have been close enough to gather, if you will, the attention of the Secret Service.
So, that's what we know, Jake. It sounds like this situation is quickly becoming secured. I have seen some of my colleagues walk out the door here of the White House Briefing Room. That indicates that the Secret Service senses that the situation is secure -- Jake.
TAPPER: And we should note, Joe -- and I know from having been a White House correspondent for four or five years that there are regularly security events that happen at the White House with people throwing things over the fence, with people trying to jump a fence, et cetera.
This is beyond that. This is more than we are used to seeing in this environment of heightened security. And we should note, just for history's sake, it was actually this day in 1995 when Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was formally and officially shut down following the Oklahoma City bombing.
So, this is actually something of a historical day when it comes to White House security. Here we are, 21 years later, and obviously there are still threats.
JOHNS: That's absolutely right.
And there have been occasions before of individuals with weapons of one sort or another outside the White House. I might add that we are told that the vehicle apparently owned or driven by the individual who was shot has now been located by Secret Service and is being checked out.
So, highly unusual situation here at the White House. I can tell you years and years ago, there was a situation where an individual was outside the gate shooting around. That was deemed very serious as well. Highly unusual for the White House and very concerning, of course, for the United States Secret Service, because they have, in the past, taken some hits for allowing individuals in one form or another over the fence, on the grounds, other security lapses, if you will.
So they are on high alert for sure, Jake.
Joe Johns, thanks so much.
And just into CNN, the lockdown on the White House North Lawn has now been lifted.
For more on this developing situation, which continues to develop each minute, let's bring in CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta.
Jim, you have some new information on the suspect who is apparently in custody. What are you hearing from your sources?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake.
Talked to a law enforcement source in just the last several minutes who says, yes, this suspect was shot after the suspect was brandishing a gun, a weapon of some sort at that checkpoint that Joe mentioned.
And, essentially, this is one of those situations -- and I know you have been around these kinds of situations before, Jake, having been at the White House -- the Secret Service encounters people like this from time to time. A suspect will come up to a checkpoint. They will not heed commands to leave that checkpoint.
And then the Secret Service has to engage. And it appears in this situation that the suspect brandished a gun, showed a gun of some sort, and then the Secret Service opened fire and took out the suspect, wounded the suspect, and the suspect was then loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital.
Now, at this point, my understanding is, from talking to a source just a few moments ago that they do believe they have the name of the suspect at this point. This source did not provide that name to me, but the suspect is known to authorities at this point.
But I just want to caution, Jake, that according to this law enforcement source I just talked to a few moments ago, they don't believe, even though this was a serious situation, that this suspect in any way threatened the first family or threatened to infiltrate the White House grounds or was even close to jumping the fence or anything of that nature.
I know we have a lot of scares like that over the last few years over at the White House. But this suspect, according to this source I just talked to a few moments ago, did not get to that point.
And, as you mentioned, as you were talking to Joe, these types of incidents happen at the White House from time to time. And in many cases, Jake, as you know, oftentimes, these suspects are mentally disturbed. They are people who have been in contact with the Secret Service before. It's possible that the Secret Service had picked up on these suspects in the past. I'm not saying that happened in this case, but in some of these cases, the Secret Service has been in contact with these types of folks in the past, because they have made threats.
They have driven up to the White House grounds before. They have been stopped by Secret Service officers outside the gates of the White House, outside the fencing of the White House, and questioned. And they just show up on the radar screen of the Secret Service.
So, they are well-trained and well-equipped to deal with this sort of situation. And, as we know from that fence-jumping situation that happened a couple of years ago in the fall, they have also taken steps to improve security at the White House. They added those temporary spikes along the top of the White House fencing that goes around the White House, especially there on the North Lawn.
And are now working on increasing the height of that fencing around the White House just to make sure that these types of incidents don't happen or at least make them much more difficult for these suspects to pull off.
But it appears, in this case, the Secret Service got the job done, stopped a person who was approaching a checkpoint who was not supposed to be there and was not heeding commands to stop.
TAPPER: All right, Jim Acosta, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
With me now is CNN senior law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes.
If I could, could you -- in the control room, could you bring up the map that is the bottom left of the screen? I just want to bring that up. There you go.
Now, you see -- I just want to explain this, Tom. I know you know this, but just to explain to our viewers, the circle right there, that is on 17th Street, which goes up and down. That's the last street that you can travel on as far west as the White House grounds, which includes the White House, the Executive Office Building, the Ellipse, other parts of the White House grounds.
And my point in bringing this up -- and there's a visitors center there at the intersection of 17th and E. And that's one of the ways you can get into the White House grounds.
My point of bringing this up is, if we remember from earlier this year, when there was a similar incident at the Capitol, now the most vulnerable parts of these areas are these areas where -- are these meeting places or visitor centers. And the law enforcement or Secret Service agents or Capitol Police in the case of the Capitol Hill shooting a few months ago, they have got to be vigilant, because they are really the last line of defense between some of these individuals who have weapons and inside where there are public officials.
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's true. And that's why they have weapons, to be the last line of defense.
These checkpoints, like this particular one, is a business entrance. The tourists are there in the morning. If there's a public tour that day being conducted at the White House, it's in the morning. Usually, by noon, the White House goes back to normal, official business, and people like me when I worked in the government or you as a correspondent covering the White House could go into one of these entrances.
You be badged in and you would go through the checkpoint. But that would be to conduct business on the White House grounds, not as a tourist. So when someone shows up there and starts, using their terminology, brandishing a gun, that's not your normal person coming to do official business at the White House.
FUENTES: And that's going to get their attention and it did get their attention.
And if person disobeys commands, doesn't drop the weapon, doesn't surrender immediately, he's probably going to be shot and neutralized, and that's what happened here.
TAPPER: And when you and I were having this conversation a few months ago, when it was happening at the -- on Capitol Hill, at the Capitol Hill visitors center, one of the questions that you raised was, did Capitol Police know this perpetrator, know this suspect before today?
TAPPER: Was there some reason he may have come in contact with them? That was the case.
It turned out that they had removed him, that would-be shooter that day, from the Capitol -- from Capitol Hill, in fact, from inside the dome at one point, I believe.
What other questions are you asking yourself right now as a former FBI executive official? What are the investigators looking at right now?
FUENTES: Well, because the case involves an assault on a federal officer, the Secret Service uniformed officer, it will be an FBI case.
And what they will be looking at here is, first of all, is he alone? Is it a part of an organization, whether it's a white supremacist group or terrorist group or anything else? Is he known to be mentally disturbed and known to have tried to get on the grounds before?
Then you have these previous series of encounters. Has he previously made threats to the president? How were they sent to the White House? Were they mailed? Were they telephoned? Were they through third persons? Were they on social media?
So, they will be looking at that kind of issue. But the main issue today will be -- and then you have the search of the car. Hopefully, it's not booby-trapped or other weapons or explosive devices in that car.
FUENTES: But the main issue here is, what reason did he have to go there today? And then can they tell what he was up to? What did he really intend?
Was he going to shoot his way through uniformed Secret Service and get into the complex, further into the complex, via the old Executive Office Building or the White House itself, which is just to the east of that?
But when you show that map, that circle at the lower left corner of the picture, that is the edge of the public grounds.
FUENTES: To the left of that is part of Washington. Any tourist can walk..
TAPPER: Yes, Starbucks, office buildings, absolutely.
FUENTES: Exactly. It's wide open.
It's to right of that that is the entrance to the security ground. And usually one of the most dangerous places are the checkpoints. That's where the uniformed officer or if they have magnetometers or other security, that is where they encounter an individual who is leaving the public space, going to the private space. That's the point where that happens.
And a reminder for those of us who are -- who mean nobody -- no one any harm when we enter those places, the reason why the security guards and police and Secret Service and the like are often not necessarily laughing and joking around in the same mood we are is because that's the last line of defense.
Tom Fuentes, thank you so much.
So, how did this situation at the White House go down? We will ask a member of the House Intelligence Committee just how vulnerable the White House and the Capitol really are, and what happened.
Plus, some breaking news, an oil slick spotted near the site of Flight 804, where the wreckage has been found, along with body parts and luggage, as investigators hope to learn more about why the plane twisted and turned and then plunged out of the sky.
Stay with us.
[16:17:02] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
We are following the breaking news: Secret Service officers shooting a suspect near the White House this afternoon after that unidentified male drew a gun, we're told. That man is currently on route to a hospital right now.
How did this happen? How did someone just walk up to a Secret Service checkpoint and pull out a weapon?
Let's bring in CNN justice reporter Evan Perez to give us more information.
Evan, the Secret Service just tweeted, quote, "All Secret Service protectees are safe."
Give us the play by play of what exactly we know right now?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Jake, we know that law enforcement is trying to go through his vehicle. They believe they've identified the vehicle belonging to the suspect a couple blocks away from the scene of the shooting and what they are preparing to do is go through that vehicle to see if there's anything dangerous and to see if they can learn more about what his motivations were for approaching this checkpoint.
He approached this checkpoint on the west side of the White House complex, one that you know very well, just there near the ellipse. And he brandished a weapon, according to witnesses and according to sources that we've talked to who have described the scene.
Now, what the standard procedure would be is that the Secret Service officers who were there, the uniformed officers who are manning that entrance would tell him to drop the weapon or to make sure he put his hands up and he would not have -- if he did not comply, that's when they would open fire and shoot him.
According to sources that we've talked to, the uniformed officers then opened fire and shot the suspect in the stomach, in the abdomen. That is what resolved the situation.
Obviously when something like this happens, the White House goes down in lockdown and they make sure that they secured the vice president who was in the complex. Now that all of that situation has now been resolved, the lockdown has now been lifted, we understand that the suspect has been taken to a hospital. We don't know yet what his condition was.
But according to witnesses and according to the sources that we've talked to, they describe the law enforcement situation there and this is how it went down: he approached this entrance and brandished a weapon, showed a weapon, this gun and that's why these uniformed officers did what they are trained to do, which is to fire and bring them down.
TAPPER: All right. Evan Perez, thank you so much.
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell who serves on the House Intelligence Committee. The congressman has also served on the Homeland Security Committee.
Thanks so much for being here.
What are you hearing about how serious this news is, this incident at the White House?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks, Jake. You know, we're on high alert right now in America. We had a Western plane that left Paris that looks like it was brought down by a bomb just yesterday. We have a number of targets in the United States and you can imagine that the Secret Service woke up this morning on a heightened sense of alert knowing that people still seek to carry out attacks in the United States.
[16:20:05] From what this sounds, it sounds like suicide by cop, but certainly more investigation will need to be done. But law enforcement officers across America deal with this every day. Thankfully the Secret Service, if the situation that we're hearing is true, fired first.
TAPPER: I want to bring in former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge who served in the George W. Bush administration.
Secretary Ridge, good to see you.
This must have been a constant fear when you were secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
TOM RIDGE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I think fear is not quite the way to categorize it but the men and women on the Secret Service are constantly on alert for a situation such as this. I didn't recognize the individual that spoke just briefly but before me, that the bottom line is that Secret Service at a checkpoint did exactly as they're trained to do, and they've been subject to a lot of criticism over the past couple of months, but this is precisely why they are there and they were trained to do precisely this.
And the fact that it was targeted towards a potential assailant, we'll find out the circumstances later on. But it's just commending them for doing the job that they are trained to do and they did it very well today, it seems to me
TAPPER: And, Congressman, if I could bring you back -- today is the -- it was on this day in 1995 -- so it's the 21st anniversary of the road, Pennsylvania Avenue, right in front of the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, being closed to commuter traffic. Obviously keeping places like Capitol Hill, places like the White House safe and security is difficult and even when precautions are taken, there are always those, whether they have political grievances or nefarious intent one way or another or some of them perhaps mental issues trying to make their way to public officials and cause them harm.
SWALWELL: Jake, it's still the people's house and we want the American public to be able to visit. I have constituents at the White House today from the Bay Area. We want people to be able to see in. We don't want to look like the Kremlin where you have 50-foot walls and you don't know what's going on inside.
But you have to balance that against security concerns. We have the White House jumper back in 2014 and the White House is raising the fence by five feet and additional reinforcements that are going on right now. But to echo what Secretary Ridge said, it sounds like the Secret Service did their job and, you know, thankfully they are safe and the public will still be able to visit the White House this weekend, it sounds like. TAPPER: And, Secretary Ridge, that is the balance that individuals
like you when you were at the Department of Homeland Security and your successors and other national security officials try to strike. You want there to be accessibility, transparency, but also, there are security concerns.
RIDGE: Jake, you nailed it. That's exactly right. I mean, you -- they've taken some efforts over the past couple of years to push the perimeter of security out. But at some point in time, there is a perimeter and you do want people to penetrate that law-abiding peaceful citizens to penetrate it, whether you go into the Congress of the United States or White House to visit.
And, again, with the vigilance of the Secret Service, with the added precautions of pushing the perimeter out, it just seems to me that you always operate with a possibility that this might happen but you have to be prepared for a potential assailant. They were prepared and they did their job.
TAPPER: All right. Congressman Eric Swalwell and former Secretary Tom Ridge, thank you so much. Good to see both of you.
SWALWELL: Thanks, Jake.
RIDGE: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: Let's bring in senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns again.
Because, Joe, you just got a statement from the White House about this situation. What does it say?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: This statement has been sent out in e-mail from the White House pool that travels with the president, of course, on background, this White House official has said, no one within or associated with the White House was injured and everyone in the White House is safe and accounted for. The president has been made aware of the situation.
The lockdown here has been lifted. As you can see, we are out on the lawn, though, out on the street. There are a number of Secret Service officers who are there. And it appears that the street in front of the White House is still blocked off for pedestrian traffic.
Now, we want to go to a piece of video that was shot just a little while ago from a woman who described what she saw over there when the shooting occurred and we are told from sources that this was a male suspect who was confronted by the officers, gun in hand. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we were standing right in front of the White House, getting ready to take a picture of all of us, and all of a sudden, we heard a gunshot. Now, we didn't think it was for real until my father, he actually -- he was standing just a few feet away from the fence and my father tells us that he, all of a sudden, sees this guy that was very close to the fence drop down on the floor.
[16:25:06] And that's when he told us, hey, hey, be careful. I think somebody just shot -- got shot. Everybody be careful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: The suspect, we're told, shot in the abdomen, reportedly transported to a nearby hospital and apparently in critical condition, at least according to a tweet from D.C. emergency services. That's the status here, Jake.
Back to you.
TAPPER: All right. Joe Johns, thank you so much.
Coming up next, Flight 804 dropped out of the sky. Now, investigators are trying to map the path of the plane to see just where and how things went wrong. Trying to put it all together, where and how, as recovery teams find bits and pieces of wreckage floating in the sea. We'll bring you all of the latest, coming up next.