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Trump Attorney Denies the President Being Investigated for Firing Comey; Vehicle Collided with Pedestrian in London; Aired 8-9p ET
Aired June 18, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: The United States military leading the coalition in the skies over Syria has shot down a warplane there. This is a first, an American military fighter jet shooting down a Syrian bomber over Syrian territories. This is where it happened near the city of Raqqa, the ISIS stronghold in northern Syria.
We'll have full details and a live report coming up.
And now to the world of politics and the unsettled questions surrounding whether President Trump himself is under investigation. He tweeted Friday that he is. But just 48 hours later, his lawyer said no, the president is not being investigated, period.
Here is what attorney Jay Sekulow told CNN's Jake Tapper.
JAY SEKULOW, MEMBER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LEGAL TEAM: The president is not a subject or target of an investigation. That tweet was in response to a "Washington Post" story that ran with five unnamed sources, without identifying the agencies they represented, saying that the special counsel had broadened out his investigation to include the president.
We've had no indication of that. The president was responding to that particular statement from "The Washington Post," again, with five anonymous sources. Again, without even identifying the agency. So no, the president is not under investigation, has not been.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: So the president said, "I am under investigation," even though he isn't under investigation?
SEKULOW: That response on social media was in response to "The Washington Post" piece. It's that simple. The president is not under investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Just to refresh you, the president tweeted this on Friday, and I quote, "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch hunt."
Let's bring in White House correspondent Athena Jones. Athena, after all this back and forth, where have we landed?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have the president -- being contradicted by his lawyer. His lawyer, though, is asserting as fact something that he's not necessarily in a position to know.
Jay Sekulow and the president's allies, the rest of his legal team, the folks of the Republican National Committee, have repeatedly cited now fired FBI Director James Comey's testimony that he told -- that he told the president three times that he wasn't under investigation, but that, of course, is old information. Comey has not been in charge of the FBI for almost six weeks now. So the president's legal team is saying something that they don't necessarily know to be true because the FBI and the special counsel wouldn't necessarily notify the president and his legal team that he's being investigated -- Ana.
CABRERA: And Athena, the same lawyer said just last week if President Trump is going to address the issue of whether there are any tapes inside the White House? Do we have an answer there?
JONES: We don't have an answer. You're right, this is what he said last week, that this would be addressed this past week. It wasn't. Sekulow was asked about that during one of his interviews today, and he said, "Look, there was a lot going on last week, the president gave that big speech on Cuba, a shift in Cuba policy, there was the shooting at the Republican members' of Congress baseball practice, so the issue of the tapes was not priority number one."
Sekulow said that he expects that it will be addressed in due time. He suspects this next week but, again, we don't really know when we're going to get an answer because the past deadline set by Jay Sekulow was missed. So we just have to keep waiting to see if we find out that answer -- Ana.
CABRERA: All right. Athena Jones, thank you.
Let's get straight to our panel. Joining us now, CNN contributor Norman Eisen, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former U.S. ambassador to Czech Republic. Welcome back.
Also with us professor emeritus at Harvard Law School Alan Dershowitz who just flew in from London and is granting us a little bit of his time, and then also with us the writer behind "The Washington Post's" "The Right Turn" blog, Jennifer Rubin.
Thank you all for being with us. First, I want to pay another part of CNN's interview with President Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow. This is where Jake Tapper asked him whether a president can technically commit obstruction of justice. Here is his answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEKULOW: And in this particular case you had a scenario where the president receiving advice from a variety of his government officials was told by his attorney general and by his deputy attorney general that James Comey should not be leading the FBI.
It's ironic that based on the action that they recommended, that he took in consultation with others, that he's now being investigated by the agencies that told him to take that very action, removing the FBI director.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So, Alan, the president's lawyer initially said multiple times he's not under investigation, disregard the president's tweet, but then we just played this clip in which he says the president ironically is being investigated by the person who suggested he fire the FBI director. He doesn't seem to be driving a consistent message.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Well, I think it depends on what is is and what investigation is. Of course the president is being investigated.
[20:05:02] There's a wide-ranging investigation of every aspect of what happened between Russia and Flynn, and it involves the president. So in one sense the president is being investigated, but he is probably not a target. He is probably not a subject. He probably isn't a focus of the investigation at this point. So Sekulow, who is a very good lawyer, is emphasizing that part of it and the president is looking at it realistically and saying, hey, I'm under investigation.
Now it really makes a big difference if he is being investigated for firing Comey because if he is then Rosenstein has to get out of this case. He is a witness. He is a key witness.
CABRERA: And you would say he should recuse himself.
DERSHOWITZ: Oh, he has to because any defense attorney, the first witness you call if he were ever indicted or he had to go even in front of a grand jury is you call Rosenstein and say, isn't it true that you wrote him a memo in which you said that Comey ought to be fired?
CABRERA: And now there's reporting Rosenstein is considering recusing himself.
CABRERA: So does that tell you something about where the investigation is headed?
DERSHOWITZ: It may. If it is obstruction of justice for firing Comey, then you can't play the same role as a prosecutor at the same time as you're a witness potentially for the defense.
CABRERA: I want to get Norman Eisen in here.
Ambassador, some Democrats are concerned President Trump will try to fire Mueller or Rosenstein. Again, Rosenstein technically would have to be the one to fire Mueller here, but listen to what Republican Senator Marco Rubio said today about all this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Some of your Senate colleagues as you know are concerned that President Trump is preparing to fire Mueller or Mueller and Rosenstein. How would you react if he did?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, first of all that's not going to happen. I don't believe it's going to happen. And here's what I would say. The best thing that could happen for the president and the country is a full and credible investigation.
We want to put all this behind us. Let's find out what happened. Let's put it out there and let's not undermine the credibility of the investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So, Ambassador, if Trump tries to fire Mueller or Rosenstein, what does that mean to you?
NORMAN EISEN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE CZECH REPUBLIC: Well, it will precipitate us, Ana, into a true crisis, a rule of law crisis. The president does not have the direct authority under at least the existing DOJ regs to fire Mueller. He would have to order if he want it done, he or one of his White House subordinates, would have to order Rosenstein to fire Mueller.
Rosenstein has made pretty clear in his congressional testimony this week that he won't do it. So that means fire Rosenstein, find somebody else who will do it. It is the Nixon Saturday massacre scenario if it happens. I think you heard this from Senator Rubio and you are hearing it from a lot of others, you are going to be pouring gasoline on what is already a blazing fire. There's going to be an explosion if that happens.
CABRERA: I see you shaking your head.
DERSHOWITZ: No, I agree but, again, it wouldn't be criminal. So let's make a distinction. It would be terrible, it might be impeachable, but it's still wouldn't be criminal. The president has the authority to fire anybody in the executive branch. He is the head of the executive branch, and we have to make a sharp distinction between what we don't like and what we prosecute as criminal.
CABRERA: Jennifer, one of your latest pieces for "The Washington Post" is titled "What Republicans Should Do to Protect Trump From Himself," and in it you talk about the possibility of the president firing Mueller or Rosenstein. So what's your advice?
JENNIFER RUBIN, RIGHT TURN BLOG, WASHINGTON POST: Well, my advice is that he stay off social media. I know that Norm incidentally and I disagree with Alan on the point of criminality. I think there's case law out there that says that the president can commit a crime, whether he can be indicted in office is a separate question. But getting back to your question, I think he should stay off social
media. I think he should only engage attorneys who know exactly what's going on. I see no benefit to him of putting someone like Jay out on the news stations to get interrupted and roughed around by several news anchors.
I think the Republicans in both the House and Senate should be very clear with the president, that if he does attempt to fire Mueller, if he does attempt to fire Rosenstein, that that will precipitate some serious consideration of impeachment.
So I think at this point the Republicans have a lot more to lose by Trump running around, throwing fire on the -- throwing fuel on the fire, as Norm said, than they would if he would just get back to whatever he wants to do in terms of policy. There's plenty of things he can talk about. Leave this to the lawyers. Leave this to the investigators.
DERSHOWITZ: Let me correct them, though. I do believe the president can be indicted and prosecuted for obstruction of justice if he bribes a witness the way Nixon had hush money paid to witnesses.
CABRERA: So you think he could actually be indicted --
DERSHOWITZ: Well --
CABRERA: -- if he did something like that?
DERSHOWITZ: That's a hard constitutional question, whether he could -- he could be indicted, whether he would stand trial.
[20:10:06] Remember, Nixon was indicted. He was named as an unindicted co-conspirator, but, remember, he destroyed evidence, he told his people to lie to the FBI. He committed independent crimes that constitute obstruction of justice. My point's a rather different one. That you can't be convicted of obstruction of justice and you shouldn't be convicted. Yes, there's one obscure Seventh Circuit case out there.
I know about that case. I argued it, but it was wrongly decided and it sets a terrible, terrible precedent that you can be after somebody for doing an illegal act. By the way, the lawyer in that case filed frivolous appeals. He did a lot of unethical things and also committed criminal actions, but the idea that you can actually indict a president for doing nothing more than exercising his constitutional power to fire or to direct the FBI to stop investigating, that would change the whole constitutional structure of our country and it would not be the right thing to do.
EISEN: Alan, that is nonsense. Respectfully, Alan is a very old friend and was my --
DERSHOWITZ: It can't be respectfully if it's nonsense.
EISEN: And was my professor. But, Alan, there's a reason you lost the Cueto case in the Seventh Circuit. It's well established. It's not only that case.
DERSHOWITZ: It is not well-established. It's the only case.
EISEN: But across the country, in the De Baca case, the sheriff in Orange County, across the country in other cases. If you abuse your legal authority with corrupt intent and there is a serious pattern of corrupt intent here, when you do that of course no man is above the law. Of course the president can commit --
DERSHOWITZ: You want to --
EISEN: Please let me finish, Professor.
DERSHOWITZ: OK, sure.
EISEN: You never let me finish in class either, Alan.
EISEN: And, of course, no man is above the law, and it matters greatly here because we have a pattern, Ana. It's not an isolated act of exercising the president's legal authority. He demanded loyalty. He said he hoped Comey could see his way clear to dismissing the case. There's another eighth circuit case in which that hope language constituted obstruction. And then he followed through by firing Comey. That's a pattern of obstruction. Is it done with corrupt intent? I'm sure Bob Mueller is looking at that.
DERSHOWITZ: Do you want to read --
CABRERA: So, guys, we keep hearing obstruction of justice.
CABRERA: But there's also this issue of abuse of power and there's a distinction there, isn't there, Alan?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, do you want to live in a country --
DERSHOWITZ: Do you really want to live in a country where a president can be indicted by analyzing his intentions and looking into his mind and figuring out whether his intent was corrupt? You know the Democrats --
RUBIN: We do that all the time, Alan.
DERSHOWITZ: Wait a minute.
RUBIN: In criminal law. That's a major.
DERSHOWITZ: And it's always wrong. And it's always wrong.
RUBIN: What? Intent is always --
DERSHOWITZ: And the Republicans are trying to do the same thing with the -- try to do the same thing now. They're trying to find corrupt intent on the part of Attorney General Lynch. They're trying to find corrupt intent on the part of Hillary Clinton, on the part of Bill Clinton for going to the plane.
We do not want to live in a country where a president can be indicted for this vague language of corrupt intent when everything he did was constitutionally authorized.
RUBIN: Then we need to change the law.
DERSHOWITZ: Yes, I used to cut off -- I used to cut off Norm but I gave him an A-plus. So yes, we need to acknowledge that.
RUBIN: There we go. Listen.
CABRERA: Go for it, Jennifer.
RUBIN: Right. Listen, if we want to change the anti-obstruction statutes we can go ahead and do so, but there's really no difference between the president ordering that Comey be fired and the president ordering that his FBI director be silenced by the CIA, which is what Richard Nixon did. So we do have --
DERSHOWITZ: No, he told him to lie. No, no, no. Nixon told his people to lie to the FBI.
RUBIN: Wait a second.
DERSHOWITZ: That's an independent crime. That's different.
CABRERA: Guys, we got to leave it there.
RUBIN: Listen, there's --
CABRERA: Yes, I'm so sorry. Jennifer Rubin, thank you. Also Ambassador Eisen and Alan Dershowitz, thank you all.
DERSHOWITZ: Thank you.
CABRERA: Coming up, we now know the names of the seven Navy sailors killed after a collision in the waters off Japan.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
[20:18:28] CABRERA: Breaking news into CNN. Reports right now out of London that a vehicle has collided with pedestrians and there are several casualties. The Metropolitan Police tweeting just moments ago, "We are dealing with an incident in Seven Sisters Road. Further details to follow." Again we are told there are a number of casualties, that could mean
injuries or deaths. We don't know for sure. We know at least one person had been arrested according to police. Police and ambulances are on the scene right now.
Now here's a sense of where this is happening. Seven Sisters Road is near Finsbury Park. This is north of central London and officers say they were called to the scene very shortly after midnight local time. It is now just after 1:00 a.m. there.
I want to bring in Juliette Kayyem who's joining us now on the phone. And actually, you know, I'm just being told we need to go to Phil Black in London. Juliette, stand by with us.
Phil, what can you tell us? What are you learning?
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): What we know so far is really very limited. It comes from a statement that we received from the police, where they talk about dealing with an incident. They say it is a vehicle that's been involved with colliding with pedestrians, and they are dealing with casualties at the scene. A person has been arrested and at the moment their investigation is continuing.
It is as limited as that. That's all the police have made public at this stage. But, of course, any sort of incident involving -- that involves that sort of description is, of course, of great concern in this city given recent events here.
CABRERA: Phil, do you know what this area would be like on a typical Sunday night? Can you describe this zone?
[20:20:06] BLACK: Well, Seven Sisters Road is a major -- it's a significant road in London. It depends upon where this incident has taken place on the road itself. But this is not central London, as I believe you pointed out. This is north of the center of the city itself.
It is possible that there could be people on the streets, and as I said, it depends upon where along this road this incident has actually taken place. But it is not a -- the sort of place that would necessarily be particularly populated at that time on a Sunday night.
CABRERA: Obviously right now tensions are really high in London. We don't know what this incident is exactly just yet. Police only confirming that there are multiple casualties and a vehicle hit pedestrians. But certainly people are on edge, right?
BLACK: Yes, indeed. And this is a city that is certainly very much on edge. It is -- it has already experienced two significant terror incidents this year, one of them quite recently in central London. On top of that, this is a city dealing with the grief and the shock of the tower fire that took place here last week and the dozens of fatalities that were caused in that incident. Of course, not a terror incident but it is something that has certainly added to, no doubt, the sense of shock and the emotional strain I think it is fair to say that people in this city have been experiencing.
Now this particular incident we simply don't know at this stage how serious it is, where it falls into the spectrum of concern, if you like, of the sort of events that people in this city have been so worried about recently. But it is something that the police have notified the public about and say they are dealing with it. And as I say, it is simply the nature of that description, vehicle into pedestrian, that's what was experienced at London Bridge and Central London so recently, as well experienced at Westminster Bridge near the House of Parliament back in March.
Both of those incidents involved and caused the deaths of a number of people. So there is perhaps concern of a pattern developing here. Vehicle into pedestrian attacks something that has been encouraged by terror groups abroad. These attacks have taken place in other European countries and cities, and because we've seen a number of them here so recently, of course, obviously concern.
We have to stress at this stage the police have not said that that's what this is. They simply scribbled it as an incident. They have said that there are casualties, they have said that there is someone in custody and they are still working to get to the bottom of precisely what happened here.
CABRERA: And we are going to continue to monitor their Twitter feed. They do tweet quite a bit when we've seen these incidents unfold, sadly as you mentioned, multiple times now in the past few months.
I want to bring in Juliette Kayyem who's joining us via Skype.
And again, Juliette, all we know right now is this incident happening a little after midnight local time there in London, and in the northern part of the city, at least north of central London, that there was a vehicle that hit pedestrians, multiple casualties, and at least one person under arrest. We do not know whether this could be terror-related or an isolated incident, but a lot of people's minds go there because of the history, the recent history in London.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: And you would actually want at least the British police's minds to go there in terms of an investigation. That's why you have seen such a quick reaction on Twitter and them trying to at least calm the public because everyone's mind is going in that direction.
So what do we do now? Because we don't actually know what it is. The good news or at least how I look at this is that it's late on a Sunday in London. We're not in downtown London. For a terrorist to have great impact one would assume that they would pick a more popular night and a more dense area.
The arrest does not mean anything one way or the other. It could be someone who was drunk. Remember, we saw this just very recently in Times Square. Everyone was very nervous and about half an hour later realized it was someone with a drug and alcohol addiction. So we wait it out, but nonetheless what I think is important to do is to notify, as we're doing as well as what I think the Metro Police are doing, that this is a time of heightened alert. People should be aware and listen to the police and their first responders about what to do until we actually know what it is.
Before ISIS, there were unfortunately people who got into car accidents with pedestrians, and so we just -- we wait at this stage. I know it's one of the hardest things, being an analyst on CNN to do, but there seems to be nothing that we can say more now than everyone is on high alert for all the reasons that the reporter said, and they ought to be given the kind of attacks that terrorists like right now.
[20:25:11] CABRERA: And we are reading some tweets now from London. "Ambulance saying we have sent a number of resources to an incident on Seven Sisters Road. More information will follow when we have it." And so we're getting trickles of information, but to your point we don't know what this is.
KAYYEM: Right. And there's no -- there's no prize for being first in this. You know, I know there's a lot of people who want it to be a certain thing, and we obviously don't want it to be anything. I mean, in other words these are tragedies regardless of a motivation and people are obviously hurt or suffering right now, but one of the reasons why -- you know, I just tweeted out, everyone, follow Metro Police, is because as you know a lot of the firsthand or statements and a lot of the eyewitness statements can be off.
People think they see something or they heard someone say that they saw something and that we just wait until at least the Metro Police give us a sense of what it is they're dealing with. And if it tends to be more sort of, let's say, a less nefarious motivation, nonetheless still a horror but a less nefarious motivation, then all of us can sort of stand down. If this is a third attack in -- I guess it would be about six weeks now, then London has a major issue to deal with. It's not like it didn't know it already, but the vehicle are just clearly going to be utilized until we can figure out a better way to minimize their impact. But for now I'm very comfortable as an analyst saying we just need to wait it out, is the responsible thing to do.
CABRERA: And let me bring in Kimberly Dozier, our global affairs analyst. And Juliette, just stand by as we work to get more information on what exactly is happening here.
But, Kimberly Dozier, obviously you and I were here just two weeks ago talking about the incident on London Bridge and we were in this very similar situation where we were waiting for more information. What we do know right now according to London's Metropolitan Police, there was an incident at Seven Sisters Road. Reports -- quoting, "Reports of a vehicle in collision with pedestrian."
They say officers are on scene and other emergency services are there. There are a number of casualties being worked on at the scene and there's been one person arrested. Inquiries continue. More information will be released when confirmed, they write.
Kimberly Dozier, this is also a time where Ramadan continues, and we know some terror groups have called on attacks during this time. So there is this heightened sense that people are on edge and there are some nefarious things that some have intended to do.
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST (via phone): This is true, but to add to what Juliette was saying, the Seven Sisters Road, known locally as the A503 is a very busy multi-lane thoroughfare that goes through a pedestrian -- through a residential neighborhood. But along the main thoroughfare you've got small rows of shops.
There is a possibility that this was something like a drunk driving accident that just went terribly wrong. So we do have to put the note of caution out there. Busy road, complicated intersections where different roads come together in that particular part of town. But if it does turn out to be some sort of an intentional attack, the scary thing for me is that this is not a landmark, this is not a place that a tourist would go.
This is the kind of place that an ordinary Londoner lives, commutes from, and a place that you would think people would probably let their guard down. Now Sunday night at midnight, I can't think where you might have a big crowd. Pubs close pretty early on a Sunday night. So there's a lot of questions out there for me. I looked at the security services' Web site for MI5, that's domestic security sort of an equivalent to our FBI and DHS put together, and MI5 still has its alert level at the second highest alert, which is severe, not at critical.
So that means -- that says to me that police didn't know of any particular event or plot that they were on the watch for, they were just still on the watch for another thing that they hadn't expected like the London attack. Of course, you know the London police and the overall security services have taken a lot of grief for not having kept watch on at least one of the suspects in that attack because he had been on a watch list before, he had been a vocal jihadi follower, an ISIS follower.
[20:30:06] But let's reel it back. In this case all we know at this point is a number of pedestrians have been hit in a location that's not where you would expect a terrorist group to hit. So a lot of questions, and I will be watching what British media says because they very carefully in cooperation with the authorities tend not to use the word "terrorism" until security officials start using that word publicly.
CABRERA: And again, there is no indication at this time that this is any kind of terrorist attack, but that's the fear of course. We're hoping to get more details as we wait it out and continue to watch the Twitter feed, continue to work sources from our London bureau to find out more information about exactly what police are dealing with.
What we do know that happened according to London's Metropolitan Police is that there was some kind of a collision involving a vehicle and pedestrians near Finsbury Park on Seven Sisters Road. And as we just heard from Kimberly Dozier and our Phil Black earlier, this is not a typical big tourist attraction, although it is a busy road in a high traffic area. We don't know exactly who was involved, however police have confirmed they have made at least one arrest.
I want to go back to Phil Black who's joining us from the London area.
And Phil, what more are you learning?
BLACK: At this stage we are still waiting for further police confirmation about just what this could possibly be because as we've been discussing in a sense that initial description is something that will be concerning to the city given the recent events here that we've been talking about, the recent terror attacks that are involved people using vehicles to strike, to run down and kill people deliberately in central London, initially outside Westminster, the House of Parliament, more recently near London Bridge, Borough Market and that region.
That simple description we heard from the police that this involved a vehicle colliding with pedestrians, as I said, because of the very high level of alert and concern the people in the city are experiencing, it is a concerning description, but at this stage we simply don't know whether this was, in fact, a deliberate act or something more benign, a sort of traffic accident that does occasionally happen in a big city on busy roads.
So we are just waiting for further confirmation from police, as I say. The facts they have confirmed at this stage are just very real limited, that this was some sort of incident, as they're saying, involving a vehicle and pedestrians. They're dealing with multiple casualties, they have one person arrest.
At the moment the police have no -- and other authorities have yet to confirm or give any sort of indication just what they believe actually happened here, what the motive may have been, whether this was in fact an accident or otherwise.
CABRERA: I mean, the fact that they have somebody in custody, hopefully that means that we'll get more answers more quickly as opposed to, you know, having no -- having this void of information, although we know authorities will be very careful to put the information out until they're able to confirm that information. They don't want to get anything wrong. They've got to get this right as they're disseminating the information.
Again, we've seen these tweets. This is from the London ambulance right now. We have sent a number of resources to an incident in Seven Sisters Road. More information will follow when we have it. That tweet now from about 23 minutes ago or so or beyond that. We know this incident we're learning from the Metropolitan Police happened a little after midnight local time. It is now a little after 1:30 there in London.
Police are on the scene and they say emergency crews are also there working on casualties at the scene, and one person is under arrest. Inquiries continue. They write, "More information will be released as it is confirmed."
Juliette Kayyem is still with us. Again, we are looking at the map there, Juliette. This is not a typical tourist area. It is not London Bridge, it is not Westminster Bridge. Based on the location of this, do you have a better sense of what we're dealing with?
KAYYEM: Oh, no. I am so wary of conjecturing because a network like ours being wrong has significance. So here is what I will say. That the Metro Police are being quite responsible in getting information out. The road is now closed. London Ambulance Services are now being deployed there. From the looks of it and the sounds of it, this is not an insignificant event. This is not a fender bender. This is not some drunk guy, you know, sort of maybe going up on a border. It sounds like there's a lot of emergency personnel going there, so that makes me think that this is, you know, not -- not your typical kind of accident.
[20:35:08] Where I am wary of sort of conjecturing at this stage is because of the desire of terrorist organizations to have a very big media impact -- look, we don't even have cameras there yet, I don't believe, and that a Sunday night on sort of a highway -- or not a highway but sort of a larger thoroughfare does not constitute the kind of attacks that we've gotten used to.
Now it is not to say that they're not going to now try the suburban or the less urban attack, but we have gotten used to the hotels, the bridges, everything like that. So this makes me cautious about saying I know what it is. London Bridge, you know, to be honest, London Bridge I knew exactly what it was the second it happened. That is exactly what you would anticipate. And if you are following along in terms of social media and stuff, the Metro Police are -- they have learned, let me just tell you, they are so good at putting out information that's almost always accurate, including just what they're doing.
So the road is closed now. So that means that it will be hard for media and others to get close by. But I anticipate, given that they know we are all thinking what we're thinking, just given what has happened in London recently, that they will have a statement, it is 8:30 here now. They're going to have a statement by 9:00 p.m. There's no doubt in my mind because they know that people are very nervous there and their responsibility is to make sure that London -- that people in London who are basically asleep right now do not wake up to a lot of rumor and conjecture.
CABRERA: And I have another tweet that we are just getting. Let's put it up. It says, "Seven Sisters Road is now closed northbound at Hornsey Road and southbound at Roxie due to an emergency services incident. Seek alternative route."
So they are closing down the roads. It seems to be that the situation is expanding to some degree. We know one person is in custody. We know that there are multiple casualties. We know ambulances, several emergency responding crews have gone to the scene to work on those casualties. Still waiting to hear on how many people may be injured, whether anybody has been killed in this incident.
The only information we have been able to confirm based on what the police have disseminated in information right now is that they were called just after midnight local time to an incident on Seven Sisters Road, to reports of a vehicle in collision with pedestrians. This is north London near Finsbury Park, a residential area but also a very busy road we are learning. The London Ambulance Service has sent a number of resources to this incident right now.
Police say officers are on scene with other emergency services and, again, they are continuing to try to determine exactly what went on here. We are hoping to get more details as police and other authorities are able to notify us.
Do we still have Phil Black with us, guys?
Phil Black, you're on the phone with us. It seems to be a pattern now that it's typical for London police to be careful about putting out information. It's not like we're getting information as they're learning it.
BLACK: No, indeed. And that's standard process with the police here, and they take a fairly conservative line in what they release and what they make public while at the same time understanding that there is a real demand for information, a real interest, a real concern, particularly when it comes to incidents that fit a description that are a little unusual, that could be potentially more concerning for whatever reason, that could fit a terror profile, all these sorts of things.
But the police here are generally very cautious. They don't want to cause unnecessary alarm, but they do, of course, want to let people know when major events have occurred. By all accounts this would seem to be a significant event, even if it is just an accident, we're talking about a significant road accident that has resulted in a number of casualties, that has resulted in a significant response from emergency services including ambulances to an area on a busy road.
Even if it is on a Sunday night in London, which obviously is not a key time for anyone that's either out driving or out walking the streets, this is still a significant event on a busy London road, and the emergency services have responded accordingly. They're all telling us, the ambulance service, the police, that they will let us know more once they possibly can. I think what we can infer a little from what statements they have released so far is it doesn't seem this is an ongoing incident necessarily.
[20:40:02] Police say that a vehicle has moved into a crowd. There is no indication yet that there is some sort of rolling operation here just from the basic information that they have supplied us so far, which as we've stated a few times is that there has been an incident involving a vehicle running into pedestrians. There are a number of casualties, they have a person in custody.
That's the limit of the information that they have supplied, but nothing in that to indicate that perhaps some sort of problem is ongoing that they are trying to get on top of.
CABRERA: We're looking at this Google Earth right now, this Google Earth view, and now we are just getting our first images from the scene. And you can see just how many people have gathered around there. There's the police vehicle in the front, but there is a large, large crowd on the scene.
Guys, I'm trying to make out what the words are in some of the image behind there. It is tough to know exactly where this is.
Juliette, if you are near your screen when you look at this image, what are your thoughts?
KAYYEM: I'm afraid I can't see. I'm at home today, so I can't see what you're looking at, but I did want to just reiterate what Phil was saying, that Metropolitan Police and the British prime minister, everyone there wants to close off as soon as possible the suspicion that this is -- this could be something purposeful, even terrorism. So the more that this goes on without a statement, the more people like me do get a little bit nervous that this is -- that this could be something purposeful because, you know, basically, you know, because the responsibility of public safety is to inform and also calm the public, they will want to do that as soon as possible.
So I've been through this enough times that I know that if we don't hear anything within the next 20 minutes I would begin to think that this is something that they don't quite know what it is. You know, a drunk driver is pretty easy to tell pretty quickly. So the next 20 minutes are going to be very significant. I know when I was in public safety we really tried to have a narrative within an hour if we knew what it was and could be accurate about it, and the failure to have a narrative does tend to say something.
So that's what I'm looking at right now, given also what Phil is reporting just, you know, there's a lot of different pieces that are moving around right now. But whatever this is, it's clearly a significant event. This is a major road closure. Cars do not hit pedestrians thankfully, lots of pedestrians very often, and London is on edge. It's not just the terror attacks, of course. It was the tower burning which has had a tremendous destabilizing and political impact in London and England over the last week.
CABRERA: OK. Juliette, stand by.
Kimberly Dozier, I know you have had a chance to look at this image. What strikes me is just how many people are on scene.
DOZIER: Yes, and I can also see what looks like a couple of the men in the crowd are wearing Muslim head dress. Now Finsbury Park is a very vibrant, mixed community with a big Muslim community that has in the past suffered from some discrimination. There was an arson attack on a mosque in that area and there are some unconfirmed reports that this happened as people were leaving a mosque, but this is the type of stuff that's floating around Twitter and we have not confirmed it.
I am just looking at the circumstantial evidence that some of the people in the crowd look like the community that I've heard lives in Finsbury Park. So we're looking at the possibility of rather than tourists being the target the local residents there. If this was some sort of an intentional attack, then the person attacking must know that that community is a mixed, ethnically diverse community with a strong Muslim presence. So I'm sure that might be adding to the police's layers of facts that
they've got to go through before sharing anything with the public. But what has happened many times in different parts of the world like Iraq, like Afghanistan during Ramadan, people who are perceived as working with the government, working with the West, become targets. So I'm making a huge leap here, but let's just have some caution about who might be the target if this was an attack. That is what jumps out at me from that particular photograph.
CABRERA: And the first tweet from Metropolitan Police came about 50 minutes ago when they said, "We are dealing with an incident in Seven Sisters Road. Further details to follow." So we know they were responding within the last hour.
[20:45:02] They are now telling us this happened just after midnight local time, an incident on Seven Sisters Road, and they were responding to reports of a vehicle in collision with pedestrians.
Peter Bergen is now joining us on the phone.
Peter Bergen, what's your take on what you are seeing in this image of the people and the police vehicle there on the scene?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST (via phone): Well, as Kim Dozier was saying, I mean this part of London is, you know, an area where -- has a heavy Muslim population. The Finsbury Park mosque which is not far from where this incident happened is a rather notorious mosque where quite a number of Islamist militants used to gather.
We don't know what this incident is. You know, it is strange, as Juliette Kayyem was saying earlier, you know, if you were trying to get massive media attention on a Sunday night in -- you know, in this area past midnight, it is kind of a strange selection of target if, indeed, this is terrorism. On the other hand, you know, places like Westminster Bridge or London Bridge, after these events and other kind of iconic targets in London are closely guarded.
We just had for instance I believe in the last 48 hours a man with a knife was arrested outside the Houses of Parliament in London, precisely because there's a concern that somebody with a weapon might do something in an iconic location. So this is certainly not an iconic location. This is sort of a -- I would say a working middle class area of London, very, you know, average kind of area, north London. Nothing particular that would sort of leap out at you about this as a place where you would conduct some kind of operation.
But as Juliette was saying, you know, with every passing minute, you know, and if indeed somebody was a drunk driver this is information that we would presumably know pretty quickly. We are in the month of Ramadan. We still don't know the question exactly of the motivation here, if indeed it is a terrorist attack, but we just had within, you know, the last 12 hours an attack in Mali by jihadist militants on a hotel.
You know, every day, Ana, in the past Ramadan season unfortunately we've seen, you know, minor or major attacks in countries around the world. And while, you know, it's not clear what is happening in London tonight, this is a time of particular concern to law enforcement authorities. ISIS has repeatedly called for attacks in Ramadan not only in 2017 but in years previous and unfortunately militants around the world have responded to that, including, by the way, in the United States where an attack during the Ramadan season was conducted by Omar Mateen in Orlando, Florida, that I'm sure a lot of viewers unfortunately will remember.
BERGEN: In which 49 people were killed. So, you know, that's the kind of context that we're looking at right now.
CABRERA: Stand by with me, Peter. I want to bring in Cynthia Vanzella. She is one of the people who took these picture that we're looking at on our screen right now, the one in particular that seems to be close.
Cynthia, talk to me about what you have witnessed.
CYNTHIA VANZELLA, WITNESSED LONDON INCIDENT: Hi, hello, Ana. I was in bed really and I just heard a lot of people shouting. So I went by the window to see what was going on, and I saw loads, loads of people gathering in this corner right in front of my window, across the road from my apartment. And they're very nervous, shouting very loud, trying desperately to make some signs to a police car that was a little bit further down, just passing the road. There was a little bit of traffic at the time, and in a matter of like seconds the police car arrived and many other police cars arrived just after that.
I didn't see exactly what happened. I just saw from this moment when everybody was already screaming and shouting and very, very nervous.
CABRERA: Do you know where all these people came from? Were people just hanging out in the street? Was there an event going on?
VANZELLA: No, what happens in here is that this community in north London is a very mixed community. It has people from many, many different countries, different cultures, and we all live perfectly fine. I never saw anything nowhere close to this happen at all. We have a church in one road, an evangelic church in another corner and a mosque across the road as well and everybody just lives fine. We never had any problem at all in here. But what happens is that usually someone is Muslim, when they finish their prayers in the mosque, they just gather in this little corner to talk for a bit, and I'm guessing -- I'm not sure, but I'm guessing now because it is Ramadan there was maybe more of them for a little -- into a little bit later maybe because it's so hot in London today as well.
[20:50:12] So I'm guessing that maybe they were the victims because they were desperate. I saw so many of them crying, screaming, trying to get police and ambulance around. So I'm guessing that if someone were run over, people in the corner, maybe they were there.
CABRERA: So the people that you saw crying and trying to get police attention, they appeared to be Muslim because they were wearing Muslim garb or how could you tell?
VANZELLA: Yes. Yes. They were all wearing the white Muslim -- I don't know the name of that, but yes.
CABRERA: OK. So --
VANZELLA: That was just like, just kind of people in there but mostly them. And because I'm so used to seeing them there every day, I just assume that maybe there's some Muslims between the victims I saw on the floor.
CABRERA: We are hearing from police based on what they've put out, the information that we have that there are multiple casualties or a number of casualties is actually are the words that they used. From your vantage point could you see how many people may have been injured?
VANZELLA: I saw a lot of people injured. They were helping on the pavement and they were trying to help them to get away of the scene. I saw at least two on the floor. Then I couldn't -- the police then covering part of my view from the window. I saw at least two of them on the floor. One of them I think maybe was really bad hurt because I saw a police officer doing cardiac massage trying to resuscitate them.
So I'm guessing that at least one of them was really, really bad hurt. I'm not sure about the other. But they were working, they were working on them on the floor for quite some time. And so now they just left in an ambulance to a hospital.
CABRERA: So there's an ambulance that has now come and gone? Are there still people laying on the ground?
VANZELLA: The road is still closed. There's many, many police officers around and police cars around. Most of the people have dispersed now. I can see the police are going to some houses around. I can see them trying to talk to witnesses. There's one small ambulance car. I think all these ambulances already left with all the victims. So it's more quiet now but there's a lot of police around. And the helicopter is still around as well.
CABRERA: Were you able to see the person they arrested?
VANZELLA: I didn't. What I saw, someone saw on the Internet after. I saw when the first police car arrived, these people were pushing someone towards the police. They got made but I didn't see any fight at all. They're just there with their nerves and pushing these people, this person towards police. And they put them inside the police car and I couldn't see their face from my window. But then it was weird because after that I saw someone posted a video, many people filming and I could see the face. It looked like a man that was being arrested. The person said that their guy had run over people in that corner.
CABRERA: Who was it who said their guy had run over people on the corner?
VANZELLA: With a car, I guess, I don't know what kind of car.
CABRERA: OK. So you didn't see the vehicle that was involved in this?
VANZELLA: No, because there was a lot of people in front of it. And there's always some cars parked on the corner, so maybe one of those cars. I don't know which one. I have -- I can see half of the road like here. Just hop it so you can further out. But they took this man, the people pushing toward the police, it's like, take him, take him and they put him in a police car and took him away. But I didn't see them arrest anyone else after.
CABRERA: OK. So you did see they put somebody in a police car. It was a male. Did you see what he was wearing or anything else that would provide some kind of a description for that person?
VANZELLA: Not really. I could see just below the head because that was in the very first moment when there's a lot of people and the first police car arrived so everybody was very nervous. There was a lot of people together.
[20:55:02] I would say easily 200 people, probably more in the tiny little part of the small access road. There's a lot of people. Probably more. And I saw on the video after they considered chase a little bit more but I'm not sure I can really describe him.
CABRERA: When you said there's about 200 people, that is a lot of people. Were those folks already outside do you believe or that --
CABRERA: Just eventually came to the scene?
VANZELLA: Yes, they definitely run to the scene because there's a little access road in the corner with Seven Sisters Road, which is a very, very busy road in north London. And it's just one block away from the entrance of the tube stations, the main station. So it is normal. And that's why it took me awhile to go to the window as well because I'm used to (INAUDIBLE) outside, but then I realized it is too much, and then I went to have a look.
CABRERA: What's happening right now?
VANZELLA: Right now, the situation is calm. I can't see any victims on the floor anymore. The ambulance took them all to hospital. Even injured people, I think they're all gone now. There's still a lot of police cars like 15 police cars actually probably more that I cannot see yet. The road is still closed. But the situation is much more calm.
CABRERA: OK. Cynthia Vanzella, thank you so much for spending some time with us and for sharing with us what you have seen tonight and giving us a sense of what's happening in that area.
We have some more video I want to show our viewers right now. This is new video that we just got from the scene. It appears there are a lot of officials standing by, blocking off an area, a lot of flashes lights, you can see. It looks like the road is mostly clear and you can see in that video kind of panning around giving us a look at a little bit more of that zone.
Juliette Kayyem, I know you're still with us. If you were listening to Cynthia Vanzella, who was describing what she witnessed, what does what she told us tell you?
KAYYEM: Well, two things. One is -- and remember once again eyewitness reports we're always cautious about, but she was just there. That this clearly took place near a mosque and that a lot of the victims were coming out of the mosque. We are confirming that yet, but I do, you know, just in terms of her eyewitness account, one of the first that we have heard from that makes this significant and still terrorism, obviously, if it's a targeted attack.
I think the other thing is I'm looking at the clock at 8:53 p.m. our time. And the first tweet went out over an hour ago about the incident. This is when I start to -- based on my experience this is when I start to get nervous. First hour, I wait for facts to come in. I always wait for facts to come in, but the absence of a statement by the Metropolitan Police or the mayor, we haven't heard from him yet, the absence of a statement standing everyone down essentially saying there's been a tragedy, but it's not the tragedy you're thinking about, that is significant at this stage.
An b hour is a long time to figure out whether it's a drunk driver. They do have someone in custody. If they worry that it's something more, they are going to wait. So time -- the length of time is now suggesting that they don't have a story yet of what this is. We would prefer it being something tragic, but accidental, of course, a drunk driver or something like that.
KAYYEM: And so as I look at the clock, this is where based on my experience I now begin to worry in addition to the eyewitness reports that London once again may be suffering something quite intentional.
CABRERA: Now what we're learning about this area according to Cynthia is that this is a mixed community, as she said. Multiple religions, a lot of people, it's a busy area. A couple of churches in different corners, a mosque also nearby. She did mention that there were people who were dressed in their Muslim attire outside when she started hearing these people shouting and trying to get the police attention.
So she was called to heroine doe to look out of what was happening very quickly after this incident took place. She tells us she saw people pushing an individual toward police as those police officers arrived on scene and that that person, a man she believes, was put in the police car. The fact that they were able to push that person toward police, does that give you any clues, Juliette?
KAYYEM: Yes, I mean, I think one of the benefits of hearing something like that is this is not an ongoing incident. Right? So that if there were multiple people or multiple events, we would certainly know that by now. It doesn't mean that this isn't scary and emanated from an animus or a political belief.