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Authorities Scramble after White House Bomb Threat; Tillerson Says North Korea Military Option on the Table; Rock Legend Chuck Berry Dies at 90. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired March 19, 2017 - 02:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome, everyone; breaking news out of Washington. There's been another security scare at the White House, this time involving a bomb threat. For more on what we know, CNN's Ryan Nobles is gearing up. He's going to join us live from Washington in just a second. You are looking at live shots of the White House building in the federal capital, Washington, D.C.


VANIER (voice-over): And just over two hours ago now we -- there you go. This car drove up to a check point outside the perimeter of the White House. The man driving the car said that he had a bomb. He was arrested. He is now being questioned.

You are seeing live pictures of the car. And it was being searched by Secret Service. Ryan Nobles is going to be with us in just a moment to walk us through what happened, what the danger was that was presented for the Secret Service.

And just an important information, the president, Donald Trump, was not at the White House when that happened.

Ryan Nobles is with us now in Washington.

Ryan, we're looking at the shots of the car.

Can you walk us through what happened?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Cyril. This is certainly an ongoing situation here outside the White House in Washington, D.C. It took place just about three hours ago. That's when an individual drove his car up to a security checkpoint on the east side of the White House near the Treasury Department.

He drove his vehicle up to that checkpoint and told the guard there that he had a bomb in the vehicle. That immediately sent the Secret Service into action.

They removed the man from the car, placed him -- placed him under arrest and, for the last three hours, we have watched, as they have gone in and very methodically taken everything out of this vehicle very cautiously.

In fact, they had a robot at one point go up to the vehicle, in its trunk, pulling material out of the vehicle.

Then we saw a bomb squad technician dressed in the full gear come out and also take materials from outside of that vehicle and sift through those materials. At this point, that vehicle is in the same exact spot it was three hours ago.

And from what we can tell here, there is still exhaust smoke coming from the back of the car, which indicates to us that the car has not even been shut down. So it's clear that even they don't believe there's an imminent threat, they're being very cautious with this situation just to make sure that there isn't something that could turn out to be a very unfortunate situation.

At this point, the suspect is in custody. We do not have his identity but he was being questioned. The Secret Service did put out a statement about an hour ago that essentially said that someone drove up to the checkpoint and then indicated to the guard that they had a suspicious situation happening inside the vehicle.

And that's when everything took place. In terms of the scene here in downtown Washington, D.C., basically a large perimeter around the outside of the White House grounds has been completely shut down.

The traffic, people are being diverted away from the building. But there are, at least, three major hotels within a block of this particular scene. In fact, one hotel, the W hotel, a very popular hotel down here with a rooftop bar, that's still bustling at this point. Three was still loud music played from the rooftop bar. So they didn't feel the situation was worthy of evacuating any of these hotels.

So at this point, the situation still very active. Police continue and the Secret Service, I should say, continue to investigate everything having to do with this vehicle.

And just to reset, an individual driving up to security checkpoint at the White House, telling the guard at that checkpoint that he had a bomb inside his car. And we are continuing to keep a close eye on the situation. Back to you.

VANIER: And, Ryan, we are looking at what you are looking at, seeing live pictures of the car. As you say, we can see the exhaust now that you pointed our attention to it, coming out of the car; it looks like the engine is still running, as you say.

Has a determination been made, do we have that confirmation or not yet, whether or not there was indeed an explosive device in the car?

NOBLES: We have not been given definitive word on that one way or the other. And it is clear, just by the way that the Secret Service is being so cautious with this vehicle that they're not prepared to make the call. As I said, about 15 minutes ago, we saw one of those bomb technicians

in that big gear with the helmet, you know, looks like the Michelin man, if you know the American television advertisement, being very cautious with this, this entire situation because they just don't know what to expect.

And they are making sure that they're taking every --


NOBLES: -- precaution to make sure that something terrible doesn't happen here tonight.

But you just have to -- you know, if you expand it out, we obviously see what is happening with the car itself. But if you expand it out to the security perimeter and kind of the way everything is conducted around, outside, away from this car, you don't get the sense that they believe that there is something inside that car.

Otherwise, you would have to imagine that they would have evacuated some of these hotels. They wouldn't let us as close as we are. We are only about a block from where this situation is taking place.

So they feel, it seems to me, at least, from just, you know, where we are at this point, that they feel confident that this isn't a serious situation. But they are taking it serious enough that they are not messing around with the car itself until they have it completely checked over.

VANIER: Yes, all right, Ryan Nobles, thank you very much; you've been tracking this ever since we flagged it. Thank you very much, giving us a very good sense what it is like right now around the White House. You will continue to track this developing story for us. Thanks a lot.

Let's go to North Korea now, which is flexing its military muscles again, claiming they have made a great leap forward in their rocket development. Reports on state media say leader Kim Jong-un oversaw the successful test of a powerful new rocket engine.

That kind of technology could help North Korea launch a satellite or a long-range missile.

Meanwhile, America's top diplomat is wrapping up his trip to Asia by meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping. There you go, Rex Tillerson and Xi Jinping. CNN's Will Ripley is in Beijing.

Will, I want to ask about the timing of this. North Korea continues to test technology that we all know could help its weapons program. In your mind, is it a coincidence that that's happening while the U.S. secretary of state is in Asia?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can never read the mind of the North Koreans and their unpredictable leader, Kim Jong-un, Cyril. But you have to think this is timed to get attention at a time that the U.S. secretary of state, America's top diplomat, is meeting with the Chinese president and China's two top diplomats.

And of course the symbolism its clear. North Korea, by testing this new rocket engine, is saying, as they have been quite some time, that an ICBM launch, an intercontinental ballistic missile launch, is imminent. The type of missile that could eventually deliver a nuclear-tipped warhead to the United States, which, we know is North Korea's end game.

And analysts say it's perhaps going to a reality in terms of their capability sooner than many people think.

VANIER: Will, Rex Tillerson broke with protocol by taking very little press with him on this trip.

What do you make of that?

RIPLEY: Well, if you talk to the diplomatic press corps as I have been, people are very frustrated with the lack of access on this trip. Normally, you know, traditionally, the secretary of state travels in a larger plane with the press pool. There are some discussions on and off the record that may happen in transit.

But Secretary Tillerson said he took a smaller plane to save money, even though members of the press do pay their own way on these types of trips. He said he has no desire to sit down and visit with members of the media when he's in transit because he says he is too busy working.

And so what you have seen is a lot of experienced diplomatic reporters having to fly commercial and essentially chase Secretary Tillerson from stop to stop. It was possible for them to do that in countries like Japan and South Korea, where American journalists are able to enter without -- and operate as journalists without a visa, without a special visa.

But here in China, it is very difficult for journalists to gain access to the country. I am based in Japan. It took me several weeks to obtain a visa to come and work as a journalist because I don't live here.

And so you can see how it is really limiting and restricting for journalists to be able to cover the trip. And there are some serious concerns in the journalism community about that.

VANIER: Will Ripley, covering Rex Tillerson's trip to China, live from Beijing, thank you very much.



VANIER: The father of rock 'n' roll, Chuck Berry, has died at the age of 90. Berry had a career spanning more than half a century with hits that you might remember, such as "Sweet Little 16," "Johnny B. Goode" or "Rock 'n' Roll Music," for instance. His influence in music and in performance style has been both

widespread and enduring. Music legends like Elvis and The Beatles covered his songs. Chuck Berry was one of the first inductees into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

All right. Thank you very much for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" is next. Stay with us.