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Paris Shooting Overshadows French Election; Russia Tried to Use Trump Advisers; Twelve Killed in Venezuela Violence; China Denies "High Alert" Due to North Korea. Aired 12-12:30a ET
Aired April 22, 2017 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): We're learning more about the man who killed a policeman in Paris on Thursday night. Law enforcement had been tipped off that he was looking for a weapon and that he wanted to kill police officers.
Plus a CNN exclusive: The FBI has intelligence suggesting that Russian operatives tried to use Trump advisor Carter Page to infiltrate the Trump campaign last year.
And more violence on the streets of Venezuela; 11 people died near the capital. This after two days of massive pro-and antigovernment protests.
Hi, everyone. Thank you very much for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier live from the CNN NEWSROOM.
VANIER: Millions of French voters head to the polls on Sunday to begin the process of choosing a new president. This is the nation that is still coping with a new terror attack. An assailant who apparently supported ISIS shot a police officer to death in the middle of the Champs-Elysees on Thursday night.
We have now learned that the gunmen had been under investigation by French counterterrorism officials for the past several weeks.
We get the latest from CNN's Melissa Bell in the French capital.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Campaigning has now officially closed here in France. There will be no more opinion polls. The candidates will no longer be able to express themselves to try and sway those last-minute undecided voters and there are historic numbers of undecided voters even at this late hour. And so very difficult to get a sense of how what happened here in Paris on the Champs-Elysees on Thursday night, that attack is going to impact that vote and especially the vote of the far right candidate, Marine Le Pen. Here's a look back at the 24 hours immediately after the attack and how the politicians or at least Marine Le Pen tried to seize on it to make it their own. Have a look. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
BELL (voice-over): It was 9:00 pm on the Champs-Elysees, Paris's most famous street and its policemen targeted. Authorities say Karim Cheurfi had parked alongside police and opened fire with an automatic weapon.
Within minutes one police officer was dead, two more wounded. And the killer, a Frenchman, taken down. The ISIS claim of responsibility would follow in short order. Within 24 hours of the attack, Paris' prosecutor was able to say more about the assailant.
FRANCOIS MOLINS, FRENCH PROSECUTOR (voice-over): A piece of paper which was discovered next to Karim Cheurfi's body probably fell from his pocket. It carried a handwritten message, defending the cause of Islamic State.
Also several other pieces of paper were found between the two seats of the vehicle which carried the addresses of several police forces. Finally, in the boot of the car the officers found a large black bag containing a pump action shotgun, rifles, two large kitchen knives, secateurs and a Quran.
BELL (voice-over): Throughout the morning raids were carried out in a number of locations. Three members of Cheurfi's family were taken into custody. As the investigation gathered pace, the government met to discuss security ahead of Sunday's vote and the likely political fallout.
With less than 48 hours to go until polls opened, France's prime minister expressed his fear that one candidate might try to add fuel to the fire.
BERNARD CAZENEUVE, FRENCH INTERIOR MINISTER (through translator): The candidate of the Front National, like every drama, seeks to profit from and to control the situation to divide. She seeks to benefit from fear for exclusively political ends.
BELL (voice-over): Marine Le Pen has put the fight against Islamist violence at the heart of her campaign. Controversially, she wants all terror suspects thrown out of France and the country's borders closed. Within 12 hours of the attack, she went on the offensive.
MARINE LE PEN, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL FRONT (through translator): I demand that an investigation be opened with the objective of dissolving associated and cultural organizations that promote or finance fundamentalists' ideologies. The hate preaches must be expelled. The Islamist mosques must be closed.
BELL (voice-over): Le Pen repeated her intention of having all terror suspects, some 10,500 people, expelled if elected president. Shortly afterwards, her main rival, the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, took to the airwaves with his reply.
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translator): Do not give in to fear. Do not give in to the vision. Do not give in to intimidation.
BELL (voice-over): With the campaign ending at midnight Paris time, the only measure of the choice the French have made will be the poll itself, a vote that the world will be watching.
BELL: On Sunday morning, polls will open here in France by 8:00 pm local time. We should have a sense of how the initial estimation suggests that this, the most divisive, the most decisive possibly of polls in living memory has gone -- Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.
VANIER: For more on this, Juliette Kayyem joins us now, CNN national security analyst.
VANIER: Juliette, I want to go over the recent timeline regarding the assailant in that Paris attack. There were signs of radicalization starting in December of last year. That's just four months ago. But this person was not under full-time surveillance at any point during the last four months. That's the current understanding as the investigation stands right now.
Do you think French law enforcement or French Secret Service dropped the ball on this?
Was that a mistake?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think in all these cases we want to learn from the potential that this could have actually been avoided. But the problem here and the problem with ISIS-type attacks is that the runway of radicalization is so short.
I mean, we really only talk about four months. For someone to be known, to be followed, to be stopped from what they were doing, that's a huge challenge for law enforcement.
So while he had been on the radar since essentially 2001 for a series of criminal activities, the radicalization was just a heartbeat in that time period.
VANIER: He was actually arrested late February. He was questioned. His home was raided. And still at the time -- and this is just six weeks ago -- investigators, more than that, found no evidence that prompted them to put him under surveillance. And then he went and did what he did on Thursday night, shooting a policeman at point-blank range.
Again, what does that tell us about the nature of this threat?
VANIER: I suppose that's my point. They had him in their hands two months ago.
KAYYEM: That's exactly right.
So my question on that investigation is essentially, were they looking in the right places?
A lot of these communications are going on through encrypted communications. I'd be very curious what kind of social media or communications scrub was going on.
And also, after you do an investigation like that, you go into someone's home, you figure out what they're doing, how come he didn't seem to be surveyed at all afterwards?
Because a lot of times that action by the police can actually trigger even more radicalization or speed up a timeframe.
So those are the questions I have. You know, without us knowing all of the details about the decision-making process, we certainly can't view this as a success by any stretch of the imagination. There was a police officer who was shot point-blank in a terrorist attack just hours before an election.
VANIER: But is the French counterterrorism operation deficient?
Is that what that tells us?
Or does it tell us just that you can't avoid a certain number of attacks?
KAYYEM: I think it's the latter. I've long believed that. I've long been saying that, look, in any open society, whether it's conservative or liberal, in an open society, you're going to have a certain level of threat.
We look at the vulnerabilities that a city like Paris has. You simply cannot get the vulnerability down to zero because then you wouldn't have a Paris or a Los Angeles or a New York City. So you have to accept a certain level of vulnerability.
The goal is to stop the risk like an ISIS attack before it happens but you're not going to be able to succeed in all these instances.
In the case of Paris as is true here in the United States, a huge issue now is the resource issue. You have too many people who are getting pinged. We think they're doing something but we're not sure what.
But to be able to put the kind of resources you have behind all those investigations, would mean that other crimes could not be investigated. So while today you and I are talking about ISIS, society has all sorts of threats, whether it's gun violence or robbery or assaults that also have to be addressed by a public safety apparatus.
VANIER: Right. And the ratio I've heard is it takes 20 to 30 people to have full-time surveillance on somebody. And if you think that there are thousands of people on that list, of people who may potentially warrant surveillance, France just doesn't have those resources.
One last thing: there's been some confusion ever since ISIS claimed the attack, because ISIS called the assailant Abu Yusuf al Belgique (ph), meaning "the Belgian." But the assailant is French.
KAYYEM: Yes. It's very confusing. And so there's a couple of theories out there. We do know that ISIS seems to have been prepared for some attack. They got their claim of responsibility out quickly in multiple languages. It was all over social media. They knew that the attack was coming. It clearly was timed toward the election.
The question that I'd be looking at for French investigators is, did someone else need to do the attack?
Is this the same person under separate aliases?
Or was this just a coincidence that ISIS had planned the attack and some other guy who was ISIS-inspired actually ended up doing something similar?
This will get figured out relatively soon. What we do know, though, is that ISIS at least had some heads up that there was going to be some attempt at an attack just hours before the election.
VANIER: All right, Juliette Kayyem, CNN security analyst, thank you very much.
KAYYEM: Thank you.
VANIER: And CNN will bring you full coverage of the French presidential election. So do join us Sunday evening for a special program. We'll bring you the results as they come in here on CNN.
Let's move on to a CNN exclusive report. We're learning that U.S. intelligence officials have gathered information that suggests that Russia tried to use advisers to Donald Trump to infiltrate his 2016 presidential campaign. CNN's U.S. Justice correspondent Pamela Brown has the details on this.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We've learned the FBI gathered intelligence last summer that suggests Russian operatives tried to use Trump advisors, including Carter Page, to infiltrate the Trump campaign, according to multiple U.S. officials.
Now Carter Page's critical speech of U.S. policy against Russia in July of 2016 at a prominent Moscow university is one factor. it's part of what raised concerns in the bureau that he may have been compromised by Russian intelligence.
But the new information adds to this emerging picture of how the Russians tried to influence the 2016 U.S. election not only through e- mail hacks and propaganda, sometimes referred to as fake news, but also by trying to infiltrate the Trump orbit.
The intelligence that was gathered led to that broader FBI investigation into the coordination of Trump's campaign associates and the Russians as FBI director James Comey has referred to.
But the officials we've spoken with made clear they don't know whether Page was aware the Russians may have been using him because of the way Russian spy services operate.
Page could have unknowingly talked with Russian agents. Now he disputes the idea he has ever collected intelligence for the Russians, saying that at times he actually helped the U.S. intelligence community.
He told CNN, quote, "My assumption throughout the last 26 years I've been going there has always been that any Russian person might share information with the Russian government, as I have similarly done with the CIA, the FBI and other government agencies in the past."
And it is important to note that within the Trump campaign, Carter Page was viewed as someone who had little or no influence. But he was one of several Trump advisors whom U.S. and European intelligence detected in contact with Russian officials. The FBI investigation is still ongoing -- Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.
VANIER: And Carter Page was a Trump campaign adviser on foreign policy. He has said he met with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., at a conference connected to the Republican National Convention in July.
Page has volunteered to talk to the committee about its Russia investigations, saying that he, quote, "never did anything improper."
Now next Saturday marks 100 days since President Trump took office and that has become a benchmark in U.S. politics to measure a president's success. Mr. Trump has called the standard "ridiculous," yet he used it in his campaign to boast about how much he would accomplish by that 100-day mark.
Our Jim Acosta explains.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a critical milestone for any president but nearly 100 days in office, President Trump complains this is no time to judge his performance.
"No matter how much I accomplished during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days -- and it has been a lot, including Supreme Court -- media will kill."
But, in the leadup to the 100-day mark, the president has repeatedly tried to make the case he's putting points on the scoreboard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're now in the process of rebuilding America and there's a new optimism sweeping across our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA (voice-over): But the president has yet to follow through on many of the promises he said he could accomplish in his first 100 days in office, such as health care reform, imposing term limits on members of Congress and tax reform.
During the campaign, the president promised there would be so much winning, the American people would grow tired of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're going to win so much you may even get tired of winning and you'll say please, please, it's too much winning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA (voice-over): In fact, the president laid out his 100-day agenda at an event just weeks before the November election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Coming up, just think about what we can accomplish in the first 100 days of a Trump administration. We are going to have the biggest tax cuts since Ronald Reagan.
On the first day of my term of office, my administration will immediately pursue the following six measures to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington.
Ethics reform will be a crucial part of our 100-day plan as well. We're going to drain the swamp of corruption in Washington, D.C.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA (voice-over): So far, much of what the president has done has come through executive orders, not legislation.
The White House is taking another stab at repealing and replacing ObamaCare, something the White House hopes can actually pass the House before Mr. Trump hits that 100-day milestone next week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The plan gets better and better and better and it's gotten really, really good and a lot of people are liking it a lot. We have a good chance of getting it soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA (voice-over): But standing in the way, the prospect of a government shutdown. Congress has until next week to pass a bill to fund the government.
ACOSTA (voice-over): One potential obstacle: the White House is still insisting on money for one of the president's biggest promises, a wall on the Mexican border.
In the Oval Office, the president didn't sound worried that a shutdown could actually happen as he hits 100 days in office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
TRUMP: I think we're in good shape.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: All right. We're going to take a very short break. When we come back, Molotov cocktails, looting, rioting, protests are not slowing down in Venezuela. But they are growing more dangerous.
And U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is in Australia. He's speaking out about a refugee resettlement deal that President Trump called "dumb." Details on that when we come back.
VANIER: Welcome back.
U.S. vice president Mike Pence and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull are reaffirming strong ties between their countries. Pence is in Sydney on the final leg of his 10-day Asia-Pacific tour. According to reports, Pence said that Washington will honor a refugee deal with Australia under which more than 1,200 asylum-seekers will be resettled in the U.S.
The deal, which was brokered by the Obama administration, had not won much admiration from President Trump. In fact, he had called it "dumb."
Now weeks of protests have led to the deaths of at least 20 people in Venezuela. On the outskirts of Caracas, almost a dozen people were killed overnight. A witness told CNN that the demonstrations turned into looting and rioting. Our Rafael Romo has more on this developing crisis.
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Eleven people died overnight on the outskirts of Caracas in what the Venezuelan attorney general calls acts of violence. Some of the victims were electrocuted when, according to reports, a
power cable fell to the ground as a group of people tried to loot the bakery in the neighborhood known as El Baye (ph). The rest of the fatalities were from gunshot wounds.
The death of a 23-year-old woman in the city of San Cristobal in Tachira State has outraged the opposition. The government says Paula Ramirez was shot by an opposition protester but her family says she was killed by pro-government armed militias.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): She called us. She was in San Cristobal and called us.
She asked her father, "Father, father, what can I do?
"The armed militias are shooting.
"What can I do?"
I told my husband, Joaquin, "Tell the girl to run and hide somewhere."
The call dropped and we didn't hear anything else. Moments later, somebody called us and said she had been killed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMO (voice-over): Protesters illuminated a building in Caracas with a message calling President Nicolas --
ROMO: -- Maduro a murderer and another one, asking the national guard, whose members have been clashing on the streets with protesters, whether they're as hungry as the rest of Venezuelans.
Meanwhile, Caracas mayor Jorge Rodriguez, a government supporter, says that the opposition is to blame for the violence. They have been destroying buildings, Rodriguez said, adding that this new face of violence is nothing less than terrorism -- Rafael Romo, CNN.
VANIER: Chinese officials say the country's military is not on high alert due to North Korea, the defense ministry is denying the bomber jets are preparing for a possible crisis on the Korean Peninsula. Our Dave McKenzie has the latest in Beijing.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a rare statement, the ministry of defense here in China has slammed those reports, saying they are simply, quote, "not true," that there is no sense of high alert from the bombers regarding North Korea. They say that the forces on the border of China and North Korea are,
in fact, in a normal level of combat readiness and training. China has repeatedly tried to diffuse the tension in North Korea and the situation that is ongoing there.
In fact, they've been praised in recent days by President Trump for squeezing the economy of North Korea, particularly on coal imports into China, which is a major source of currency for Pyongyang.
Well, we've looked into that. And in the last few days there have been at least six cargo vessels docking from North Korea in China, those cargo vessels containing coal. It's unclear whether the coal has been offloaded.
And the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs saying that there is no sense that the embargo has been lifted or that they are breaking U.N. sanctions. But certainly a question mark there. They are saying that it could be that they are giving the crew humanitarian assistance.
VANIER: At least eight Afghan soldiers have been killed in a Taliban attack at their army base. Officials say six insurgents disguised in military uniform opened fire at the base in Northern Afghanistan during Friday prayers. The Afghan army says the battle lasted for six hours. NATO is calling the attack "barbaric."
Washington gets ready for a huge demonstration in just a few hours, one of hundreds around the world, defending the role of science. We'll have more on that when we come back.
VANIER: So on Earth Day and that is on Saturday, people around the world will be taking part in the March for Science. That's a couple hours from now. Organizers say scientists and citizens will gather to, quote, "defend the vital role that science plays in our health, safety, economies and governments."
There will be a march in Washington and more than 500 satellite marches in cities around the world.
I really feel there it ties into a lot of the stories that you bring us weekly on this show.
DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And having conservation and recognizing was what we have on this Earth is important that we have a day for it to remember it. VANIER: So we always like to have you here. Thank you very much.
And thank you for watching, I'm Cyril Vanier, he's Derek Van Dam, of course, of the International Weather Center. Stay with us on the CNN NEWSROOM.