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Report: 2 Police Officers Shot in Paris Attack; Trump and Italian PM Hold Press Conference. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired April 20, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, but we're seeing obviously, these major security and terrorism themes brought up by the candidates because they are important to French people right now. And it's mainly the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen who is talking about this terrorist threat because she is linking it to mass immigration and the refugee crisis and she's hoping to score political points by putting it in that context, if you will. But it is an important time because the incumbent President of France, Francois Hollande, is not running again. So, no matter who wins, a member of his party or another, it will be a complete new leadership in France and it comes at a time where this populist fever is sweeping Europe with Brexit first and then with the election of other politicians across the continent and now it's France's turn.

This is probably the most important political event in Europe this year. Because whoever wins this election on May 7th, the first round is this Sunday, will determine the future of France and possibly the future of Europe. As we continue to see these images from the Champs- Elysees, these incidents and violent acts could have a big political impact. And by having a big political impact, it could impact the country and also the much wider region.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hala Gorani, thank you for giving us a good perspective on why this event, regardless of what it is right now, there could be an impact on the upcoming election as we continue to follow this breaking news. Shots fired in Paris, according to our CNN affiliate. A major police presence right now around the well- known Champs-Elysees. Continuing coverage of this breaking news story with Jake Tapper and "The Lead" which picks up our coverage from here.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Jake Tapper. We're taking over early to bring you CNN's special live coverage of President Trump's news conference with the Italian prime minister Paola Gentiloni. There is breaking news, as you just heard, a shooting in Paris in the area of the famous Champs-Elysees. A CNN affiliate is reporting that two police officers have been wounded in this event. Authorities are telling people to avoid the area altogether. Lines of emergency vehicles are on the scene. Obviously, Paris has experienced much terrorism in the last few years. Let's go to CNN international correspondent Melissa Bell who joins us now live from Paris. Melissa, what do we know about the shooting at this early stage?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What you're seeing here, Jake, are pictures from the CNN balcony overlooking the Champs- Elysees. Massive police presence and has been entirely closed off by police. It was about 40 minutes or so now that we heard from here what I assumed from fireworks and now realize it may have been something far more serious, within minutes the Champs-Elysees was entirely closed off as police trucks have come in in greater and greater numbers with a huge number of riot police making their way up and down the avenue.

Fairly violently moving pedestrians to get them out of the way until the area could be secured. We've also seen within the last ten minutes or so, Jake, cars bringing doctors as well leading us to believe, as we've been hearing from French reports and have yet to get this confirmed ourselves, there may have been a shooting up there. There may have been someone wounded and French press are suggesting that the target may have been the police themselves. That we have yet to confirm. What we have heard from the police is that they are urging people to stay away from this entire area, Jake.

TAPPER: And it is about 9:35 p.m. in France right now. France obviously, Paris in particular, has experienced quite a bit of terrorist activities in the last couple of years. There was the "Charlie Hebdo" attacks and the incident in Nice where the truck barreled through the crowd and many more small incidents. This was the most recent one for our country that is already on edge, I would imagine, Melissa Bell.

BELL: On edge, Jake. And also, still living under a state of emergency. We've covered together a number of those attacks over the course of the last couple of years and that's led France to place itself under this special state of emergency. Police and military have special powers. We were told we're just a few days away from a Presidential election here in France.

[15:35:00] Authorities have said they would put extra police and soldiers on the ground to ensure France's security. We've become all too used to these kinds of attacks. The larger scale attacks really seem to have been a thing of the past. What we've seen more recently have been smaller scale attacks by sort of lone wolves going out on the rampage on their own. We have no idea who was involved here tonight or what they were hoping to achieve but they seem to have caused more chaos than we've seen over the last few weeks. I say this with just a couple of days, three days away from a general election that has the country on edge and a country that's been living this for too long. For the time being, we know there's been a major incident on this road. We heard ourselves what we assumed were fireworks but may have been an attack aiming at the police and the policemen may have been wounded or even killed.

TAPPER: If you're just tuning in, we are paying attention right now to a number of major stories but right now we're focused on shots fired in Paris on the Champs-Elysees, the local French reports CNN has not confirmed this, but local affiliates have reported that two French police officers have been wounded. The entire Champs-Elysees, a boulevard, this specific stretch we're talking about is a little over a mile, has been shut down. And Melissa Bell -- I'm sorry. In my ear, I'm being told that one of the police officers -- at least one of the individuals involved in the shooting has been killed. One person is dead. The attacker has been taken down. In terms of who is dead, we don't know right now if it's the attacker or one of the policemen or someone else. Now I'm being told -- sorry. This is a developing story. One policeman has been killed. One policeman has been killed and another wounded and an attacker has been taken down. Let me go back to Melissa Bell in Paris, France, for CNN. Melissa, we're now learning that one of the policeman has been killed and that the attacker has been taken down.

BELL: Right. What we didn't know is whether that sound we heard 45 minutes ago, attempted assumed were fireworks and now we realize were gunshots, was that on the part of the man attacking or the police dealing with an attacker in the middle of the Champs-Elysees. Clearly, a serious incident here in the heart of Paris. The scene, as you say, the entire Champs-Elysees, entirely closed down. This is just with a couple of days to go before France's Presidential election and in a country that has been on edge and under a state of emergency for months now. We don't know anything about who was involved in the attack and whether, as I say, those gunshots that we heard earlier was a result of the police trying to get an attacker under control or whether the attack was carried out with gunfire. It's a reminder as well that however you try to police the streets, however vast the police presence that is out there, it is very difficult to keep all parts of the country and even those in the very heart of the capital, the Champs-Elysees safe at all times. Jake?

TAPPER: Of course, one of the major themes in the French Presidential election will be on Sunday. One of the major themes from far-right candidate marine le pen is that there are too many immigrants in France and with those -- with the refugees, with immigration comes terrorist activity. Some of the terrorists have indeed been individuals that have come in through migration programs and others were home-grown. But no doubt this will resonate with a certain number of voters.

BELL: Absolutely. Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate, one of the two candidates currently leading the polls here in France, really has presented herself as the law and order candidate, the protection of the French and protection of terrorism, the fight against Islamist terrorism at the heart of her program. This will, of course, if it turns out to be linked in any way to those issues, prove to be incredibly timed from her point of view and will no doubt put all of these issues at the heart of the campaign that has been dominated by a result of what we've seen in the last few years.

[15:40:00] We don't know what sort of attack this was, what the motivations of the person who obviously tried to cause harm here on the Champs-Elysees, whether several were involved or a single individual. These are all questions that we hope to have answered fairly we've seen in the last few years.

We don't know what sort of attack this was, what the motivations of the person who obviously tried to cause harm here on the Champs- Elysees, whether several were involved or a single individual. These are all questions that we hope to have answered fairly quickly. We're trying to reach out to the police and authorities to get all of those facts confirmed. Even now for the time being, we know there was some kind of attack. We know there was gunfire here tonight and that one or more people may have been taken down by the police after carrying out that attack in the middle of The Champs-Elysees -- it's gone dark now, but at the time we were still in daylight. Champs-Elysees was packed. Hundreds of pedestrians and cars on one of the liveliest streets in the world. A lot of people would have witnessed something fairly shocking.

TAPPER: Thank you so much. I want to go to Hala Gorani in London. What are you learning about the shooting?

GORANI: We're hearing from our affiliate that one of the police officers who was injured in this attack has in fact lost his life. He's been killed. The toll that we have is one police officer killed, one seriously wounded and an attacker, quote, taken down as this massive police operation continues. You're not used to seeing the Champs-Elysees like this. Police vans, one after another, bumper to bumper with their lights flashing there as this big police operation continues to unfold. You know, it's not a massive surprise that an attack has taken place on the Champs-Elysees. Authorities in France said they foiled a, quote, imminent attack on Sunday. Just a few months ago, authorities told us they foiled an attack in the south of France. There was the Louvre museum, a man flown here, an Egyptian national, tried to stab a soldier as part of this anti-terrorism sort of big anti-terrorism plan that they have in France in the louvre. He was taken down as well. So, this threat is very real in France. Attacks are taking place. Sometimes they are foiled. Sometimes attackers get through it and it appears that this evening on the Champs-Elysees, some sort of very serious incident took place that led to the loss of life of at least one police officer, Jake.

TAPPER: Hala Gorani, thank you very much. We're going to take a quick break. If you're just tuning in, there's been an attack of some sort of the Champs-Elysees. One policeman has been killed. One policeman is wounded. Stay with us.

This is "CNN breaking news."


TAPPER: Welcome back. We're back with the breaking news story out of Paris in the area of the famous Champs-Elysees, a world-famous boulevard in Paris. CNN affiliate, BFM TV is reporting an attack. One police officer has been killed by the attacker, one was wounded and now we're learning from the same CNN affiliate, BFM TV, the shooter was shot dead. Champs-Elysees has been closed. There is a massive police presence there. Authorities are telling people to avoid the area, not that they could necessarily get there if they tried. Another news story going on right now is we are waiting, and just moments President Trump will hold a joint news conference with the Italian prime minister at the white house in the east room and we will bring it to you live. I want to bring you in right now CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto to bring us up to speed with more information. Starting with the Charlie Hebdo attack, the attacks in nice, France last summer, this is unfortunately all too familiar in France.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. I think for an American audience, the level of the threat in Paris in particular but in France, across the country, is just an order of magnitude you can say larger to some degree than here. The U.S. certainly under threat, but the number of jihadis in that country is off the charts, and because of that extremely difficult for French difficult for French authorities to track them. Many of the attackers were known to the authorities, they don't have the resources to follow everyone. That's the challenge at hand. U.S. authorities, we know with this attack are in touch with their French counterpart. There's an extremely close counterterror relationship, an intelligence sharing relationship. The FBI has an office and representative inside Paris, as do other intelligence agencies, et cetera. They are constantly sharing. And in the wake of the Paris attacks, they ratcheted up that level of intelligence sharing exactly to help France try to thwart attacks like this one we're seeing here.

TAPPER: All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

Our other big story this hour, moments from now President Trump is expected to hold a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. CNN Jeff Zeleny is in the east room there. Jeff, I don't know how much President Trump would adapt his message, depending on the developing news and whether or not he would talk more about terrorism than, for instance, Syria. What do you think we're expecting to hear from the President?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, that is certainly possible. I am told by a senior white house official the President is aware of this. The white house, of course, is aware of the shooting, unfolding situation happening right now in Paris. The two leaders are meeting at this moment in the oval office. The Italian prime minister has been here at the white house for about an hour or so, just as this news has been developing and breaking from Paris. So, we certainly -- I certainly would expect the President to address this, potentially in his remarks or maybe even in the Q & A that he will be getting.

[15:50:00] Of course, the topic of this, this meeting is coming one moment before the President will take his first trip abroad as President, and one of the stops will be at the G7, the summit meeting of the leaders of the seven industrial nations.

So, of course, terrorism, refugees, all at the center of this, and that's one big difference, of course, between these two leaders, among many, many others, Jake. We will see how the President addresses this, if he does here at the white house. It is yet another world leader that is paying a visit to the President, his first meeting with the prime minister here. Jake, it should be underway here, their press conference, shortly. They have been meeting privately in the oval office for a little while now, Jake.

TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks. Please stay with us. I want to bring in my panel to talk about the developments, and obviously if we get new information from Paris we will bring it to you immediately. Let's start on the subject of terrorism, Mr. Kirby, just because I know this has been a preoccupation of this President, in particular it was one of the main arguments he had when campaigning for President about, is that the government is not doing enough to protect you from terrorism. Obviously, his immigration and travel ban and refugee ban is part of that. In terms of combating terrorism in other ways, we've seen an attack, a U.S. strike on Syria, although it was against Assad forces, an attack in Afghanistan against ISIS. Is there any other substantive way that there's been a change in U.S. counterterrorism policy?

JOHN KIRBY, RETIRED REAR ADMIRAL: I haven't seen any of the substantive, tangible change in terms of the way we're going after combatting the terrorist fight, I mean, except that with respect to Syria if the fight there against is, the white house has indicated that they would be willing to maybe increase the number of American troops on the ground. As you know, Jake, we've only got about 300 or so special operations forces. They're exploring the idea of maybe putting more advisers and assisters on the ground. Other than that, I haven't seen a major muscle movement change in the way they're dealing with this. Obviously if it turns out to be a terrorist attack, who knows what it could propel in terms of differences.

TAPPER: Mary Katherine, I was speaking with a European official in the past week or so and the term that the official used to describe President Trump and his foreign policy was weathervane and they didn't know where he would be pointing on any specific day. Two or three weeks ago his posture when it came to Syria, when it came to Russia seemed quite different than it does today. This seems like a challenge for the people who are trying to implement the President's foreign policy, and then it changes.

MARY KATHERINE HAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think it is. He also seems to hand off speaking about it more recently to McMasters and to Rex Tillerson and have them take the front seat on this, Nikki Haley also, which many look at and go, I trust those people as actors. Many looked to Donald Trump and said, there are many risks here but I believe he sees problems here and one of them was the problem of terrorism. They felt he was a guy that would approach foreign policy and say, I do have this carrot, enjoy your carrot, but I have this stick and I'm willing to use it. I think the tone change is what people were looking for in that vein, but the weathervane becomes part of it. It is unpredictable but worrying sometimes.

TAPPER: Jen Psaki, as somebody that worked at the white house and the Obama administration, what are the difficulties of working with allies when it comes to terrorism? Obviously, you would hope everybody is on the same page, you would hope everybody has the same sense of purpose, but it is much easier said than done.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's true. I think one of the biggest challenges the Trump administration has is that they're not all singing from the same song sheet, and that becomes very difficult when -- and that becomes difficult when you go to international meetings, Donald Trump is heading out on his first trip in a couple of weeks. I think a lot of allies and partners around the world are looking at the comments of Tillerson and looking at the comments of Mattis, and they're slightly different, and then there's Nikki Haley and there's Donald Trump. So, there's a lack of clarity on what the United States' positioning is on military force, on what our diplomatic plan is as it relates to next steps in Syria. So, I think they're creating a lot of confusion, that they're going to

have to grapple with if they're going to continue to be a world leader. One other point I would make is, you know, Donald Trump has been -- part of his message has been delegitimizing international institutions, many that the United States helped to create and form. Bill burns wrote an interesting piece about this this morning, and that also sends a strange message. So, I expect when he travels overseas, Ivanka is going overseas later this week, those will be big questions they are to answer.

TAPPER: If you are joining us, we are keeping tabs on two big stories. One, President Trump is going to have a joint press conference with the prime minister of Italy. We will bring it to you live. Also, there has been some sort of attack in Paris on the Champs-Elysees. The attacker has been killed, one policeman in Paris, France has been killed, another policeman has been wounded. When we get more information from Paris, we will bring that to you as well.

[15:55:00] So, Admiral Kirby, you are a former state department spokesman for a long, long time. I'm sure you have relationships with people in the international community here in D.C. as well as abroad. What I'm hearing when I talk to our European allies is right now they are grateful that President Trump is in a place where he says, I used to think NATO was obsolete, it is no longer obsolete. Obviously, their concern is that President Trump and the white house and the U.S. government would walk away from supporting NATO, would walk away from any support of the European union, and these we know that Putin wants both of those institutions to dissolve so he can have more control and power over different parts of Europe, especially eastern Europe. What I have heard now is gratitude but it is a wary gratitude. They're uneasy and unsure how long President Trump will support NATO and support alliances with countries like Germany and France and Italy.

KIRBY: I think you heard that exact tone in Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni at a think tank where he praised the strike in Syria but quickly followed up with, now we need to work on a diplomatic solution to that conflict through multi-lateral mechanisms. That's exactly right. I think they are applauding some of the decisiveness but they're picking up on the mixed messages Jen talked about and they're a little confused. I think one of the things Paolo Gentiloni is going to want out of this --

TAPPER: Speaking of Paolo Gentiloni, here is the prime minister of Italy and President Donald Trump. Let's listen in.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Prime Minister Gentiloni, welcome. A great honor. Thank you. It is wonderful to have you in our wonderful people's house known as the white house, and so many great Italian friends are with us today. And we renew always the deep ties of history and friendship that link together the American and the Italian peoples. That history traces its roots to the timeless contributions of Italy, to civilization and human progress. So, true. Stretching all the way back to ancient Rome, through the ages your country has been a beacon of artistic and scientific achievement. That continues today. From Venice to Florence, from Verdi to

Pavarotti, a friend of mine -- a great friend of mine -- these bonds of history and culture have only grown stronger as our two nations have become close partners, dear friends and very vital allies. Mr. Prime minister, I'm thrilled that you are here today to discuss how we can make this great relationship even more productive in the years to come. On the economy, Italy is one of America's largest trading partners. A lot of people don't know that. We both seek a trading relationship that is balanced, reciprocal -- I love the word reciprocal because we don't have too many reciprocal trading partnerships, I will tell you that, but we will very soon -- and fair, benefitting both of our countries, and we can work together to achieve that outcome -- and that will happen. Italy is also a key partner in the fight against terrorism.

Italy is now the second largest contributor of troops to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would also like to thank you, prime minister, for your leadership on seeking stabilization in Libya and for your crucial efforts to deny a foothold in the Mediterranean. You fought hard. We are grateful for your roll in the anti-ISIS campaign. All nations must condemn this barbaric enemy and support the effort to achieve its total and complete destruction. Also, as you know, Mr. Prime minister, we have more than 30,000 American service members, families and personnel, who are stationed across your country. As we reaffirm our support for historic institutions, we must also reaffirm the requirement that everyone must pay their full and fair share for the cost of defense. Together we can address many pressing challenges, including two that greatly affect both of our countries, those of large-scale migration and international smuggling.