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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Trump-Russia Investigation Intensifies; Airport Stabbing; Interview with Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired June 21, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We begin with breaking news in the national lead today, what appears to be an attempted terrorist attack at an airport here in the United States. Authorities say a man approached a police officer at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan, and stabbed him in the neck and in the back.
The FBI is investigating reports that the attacker made some statements in Arabic right before the stabbing, including, according to one witness, "Allahu akbar."
The officer, Lieutenant Jeff Neville, is alive, the attacker now in custody. We are minutes away from learning more in an FBI briefing.
First, let's go right now to CNN's Rene Marsh.
And, Rene, the airport is now shut down. The president has been briefed. What else do we know about this attack?
RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we're learning a bit more about the attacker at this hour.
The FBI is carefully reviewing the attacker's background, including where he traveled most recently. A law enforcement official tells CNN that he appears to have ties to Canada, and a U.S. official tells me that the stabber made multiple trips between Canada and the United States.
But what we still don't know is whether this stabber or this attacker was previously known to authorities.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any city cars start towards Bishop Airport. We have got an officer down there, reports of a stabbing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty, you said an officer down?
MARSH: A Michigan airport evacuated and shut down this afternoon after a police officer was attacked. He was stabbed in the back and neck. The FBI is saying it is too soon to determine whether the violence was an act of terror.
TIM WILEY, FBI SPOKESMAN: I want you to know this is an FBI-led scene at the moment and we're working together with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to ensure the safety of all.
MARSH: Michigan State Police say Lieutenant Jeff Neville was patrolling a public area in the main terminal at Flint, Michigan's Bishop International Airport when the suspect stabbed him from behind.
A law enforcement official tells CNN the attack appears to be targeted against uniformed officers. No one else was injured. Officials say at least one witness described the suspect shouting in Arabic "Allahu akbar" before the stabbing.
The incident today is just the latest in a barrage of international violent attacks. This week alone, a bomb was detonated in a Brussels train station. A vehicle mowed down pedestrians outside a mosque in London and another vehicle rammed into a police van same in Paris.
The suspect in today's incident has been taken into custody and is currently being questioned.
MARSH: Well, the president's homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, was the person to brief President Trump on this attack. If, Jake, this is confirmed as terrorism, this will be the first terror attack on U.S. soil since President Trump took office.
TAPPER: All right, Rene Marsh, thank you so much.
Joining me now to discuss all of this is CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem and CNN's crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz.
Shimon, let me start with you.
What are police saying about this target, the police officer? Was it random or does he appear to have been targeted for this?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: According to law enforcement officials, it appears he was targeted.
The suspect came into the airport, attacked the police officer from behind, stabbing him in the neck and the back. Really, this officer had no way of defending himself, and every indication -- I mean, the police from early on believed that this was a targeted attack.
TAPPER: And, Juliette, they apparently have this possible terrorist alive.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right, which is great news from an investigation purpose. They have his name, they will know who his colleagues are, who he
lives with, who his siblings are, and that's where the investigation goes forward. So this will be relatively quick from the perspective of other terrorist attacks we have seen and also about this foreign travel that Rene was talking about.
One thing to remember in Michigan, going to Canada is like me in Massachusetts going to New York. It is relatively common. What we don't know is who he may have been meeting with in Canada, if at all. We will find that out probably with the press conference now.
TAPPER: And, Shimon, how is the FBI determining whether this is, indeed, an act of terrorism? Their categorizations are obviously controversial sometimes.
PROKUPECZ: Yes, that's right, Jake.
There is a whole slew of things that they're doing. I think one of the big things that they're going to look at is whether or not he's in any of their databases. Early on, it did not appear so. But sometimes that takes time to go through.
The other thing is his computers, his phone for any social media to see if he was radicalized in any way. Even though, you know, we have these words that he uttered or he said right before the stabbing, that still, in and of itself, is not enough for law enforcement to deem this a terrorism attack.
They are going to look for other things. And in talking to law enforcement, that's what's going on right now. They're looking at his contacts. They're going to try to get into his home or wherever it is that he may have been staying.
And they're also talking to Canadian officials to see what they know about him.
TAPPER: And, Juliette, what would law enforcement be doing right now to track down, try to figure out whether he acted alone, whether he had any training, whether he's part of a cell?
KAYYEM: So, exactly what Shimon said. You are going to do both a physical investigation, where he lives, what may be in the house, and then also the cyber, the digital investigation, who he may have been in contact with.
Those are happening now. It's the FBI who is leading this press conference that we're anticipating in the next hour, so that does tell you something, that they are starting this as a federal investigation, and then from there determine whether there was any foreign travel.
Canada would be not something I think that would sort of automatically raise your eyebrows, but obviously if he had been to the Middle East or had gone missing for periods on end, that would be something that the FBI would be looking into. But, look, one guy, maybe we know him, who he was, maybe we don't. He
closes down a not-significant airport for a day. This is the nature of the asymmetric threat we're facing that even in an instance where thankfully the police officer did not die, you see these disruptions are happening now on a daily basis.
TAPPER: And, Juliette, just to stay with you for a second, we've also seen obviously over the last few years terrorists attempting instead of large, grand, catastrophic events like 9/11, smaller incidents, one that don't necessarily inflict maximum death and destruction, obviously horrific for the individuals affected.
Could this possibly even though have a larger effect on people living their daily lives in the cumulative nature of these smaller attacks?
That is what we have never been able to monitor here in the United States. Israelis are used to this, for example, but a smaller-scale terrorism in which you just sort of have that surprise element from day to day, we have never had. We're used to the big events, 9/11, Orlando, ones in which view them as large and in some ways can therefore understand them.
These are -- if you go to an airport or shopping mall, we're not, in the United States, anticipating it. Airports, I have to say, are viewed as semi-hard targets. We do know that this police officer was on the soft side of TSA security, but, nonetheless, people do tend to feel somewhat safer at airports.
And it shows the sort of vulnerabilities of major systems and including transportation systems to, as I said, potentially one guy with a knife. And that's the nature of the threat we face now.
TAPPER: All right, Juliette and Shimon, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
President Obama's homeland security chief saying he offered the Democrats help with Russian hacking in 2016 and the Democrats said, no thanks, we're good. But will the current president ever take any action to try to stop Russia if he will not even acknowledge the problem? Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Turning to our politics lead, Russian meddling in the U.S. election was front and center on Capitol Hill today, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifying there is no doubt the Kremlin, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, orchestrated a cyber-campaign to try to influence the White House race and sow seeds of doubt in American democracy. Johnson telling lawmakers he repeatedly sounded the alarm with state
election officials and the Democratic National Committee, but the DNC never accepted his department's offer for help.
This all comes after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer earlier this week admitted that he's not sure President Trump even believes that Russia interfered with the election, even though the U.S. intelligence community asserts that they did.
Here's CNN's Michelle Kosinski.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Special investigator Robert Mueller on Capitol Hill today meeting with senators on the Judiciary Committee who are now willing on their own and separate from Mueller's investigation to tackle potential obstruction of justice by the president.
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Everything is on the table.
KOSINSKI: And in both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees today, Russian cyber-meddling front and center.
JEH JOHNSON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: In 2016, the Russian government at the direction of Vladimir Putin himself orchestrated cyber-attacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election. That is a fact, plain and simple.
BILL PRIESTAP, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: A well-planned, well- coordinated, multifaceted attack on our election process and democracy.
KOSINSKI: Homeland Security officials telling lawmakers the Russians were aggressive and relentless, trying to target not only entities like the Democratic National Committee, but election-related networks in 21 states.
In Illinois alone, the attackers were hitting five times per second 24 hours a day. Just yesterday, though, White House spokesman Sean Spicer says he doesn't even if the president even believes this meddling happened.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: The one individual in America that still seems to not accept this basic fact is the president of the United States.
KOSINSKI: U.S. intelligence agencies concluding, though, that the Russians were never able to change votes, only gather data and release it to sow distrust and uncertainty.
But there were plenty of questions, too, for former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on why the Obama administration didn't alert the American public sooner once they detected Russian activity last summer.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Why did we wait from July until October to make that statement?
JOHNSON: We were concerned that, by making the statement, we might, in and of itself, be challenging the integrity of the election process.
KOSINSKI: There are also more questions now surrounding fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, "The New York Times" reporting that, even though senior U.S. intelligence officials believed by January that Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail, he was still present every day for weeks in the president's top-secret intelligence briefings.
[16:15:12] Today, a top House Democrat, Elijah Cummings, writing to the president's chief of staff, raises serious concerns about why the White House didn't suspend the security clearances for not only Flynn then, but for Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner now, since he also failed to disclose multiple contacts with Russians. Neither the White House nor Flynn's attorneys have commented.
Michelle Kosinski, CNN, Washington.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And our thanks to Michelle Kosinski for that piece.
Coming up next, we'll talk to a member of the House Intelligence Committee about her take on the DNC's refusal to accept help on Russian hacking.
Stay with us.
[16:20:01] TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead.
Top homeland security officials testifying today that election systems in at least 21 U.S. states were targeted by Russian hackers last year, and that there's no indication Moscow will stop trying to interfere with U.S. elections in the future.
Joining me now to discuss this is Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier. She serves on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congresswoman, good to see you as always.
Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified before your committee today and he said that the DNC rejected federal assistance offered by the DHS and the FBI. Are you surprised by that?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I'm actually disputing it somewhat because I spoke to Debbie Wasserman Schultz after the hearing, and she basically said that no one ever came to her. There was a lower level staffer who was contacted and that was the extent of it. I think what we've learned from the testimony today is that we acted
very late in the game. The first real meeting that Jeh Johnson had was in August and -- to all of the states, and he didn't say anything more than there may be hackers out there, you should be aware of. We knew it was Russia, or we were very certain that it was likely Russia, and even when he offered all the tools that the Department of Homeland Security had available, only 33 states took advantage of them. So, 17 states were out there bare-naked in terms of being potentially impacted by the Russian hacks. There's a lot we have to do.
TAPPER: I just wanted to ask you, you say you want to -- you want to dispute it, but Debbie Wasserman Schultz who was then chair of the DNC -- according to what you just said -- said that DHS and the FBI did reach out to the DNC, they just didn't reach out to her personally. That doesn't mean they didn't reach out to the DNC, though.
SPEIER: Well, they reached out to inform them, but in terms of the gravity of the issue, it was really never one that was elevated. I mean, you go to the CEO of a company and they probably deal with the head of IT. This was a -- you know, a lower level person.
TAPPER: Well, it sounds like incompetence at the DNC, but let's move on.
Top intelligence officials have been testifying for months that Russia there's no doubt Russia is going to continue this type of election interference. They're obviously doing it in Europe right now. What is the U.S. doing to make sure that this does not happen again?
SPEIER: So, good question, and I think we don't have a good answer, because it was an act of war. It was, in fact, a cyber war attack. And, you know, we would not just sit back under normal circumstances, because everything is so decentralized, there are some benefits to that, but because they're so decentralized, there is one state that doesn't even have a paper trail.
So, we have different systems being operated in different counties throughout the country. And I think at the very least, we've got to come up to some standardization of what is, in fact, the most hack- proof systems that exist and then provide the kinds of tools that will be helpful to local jurisdictions, because they will come back at us and they'll come back with a vengeance. They've already done enough early work to be able to get into voter records.
SPEIER: So, if they can get into voter records, what's to say they can't get into voting tallies?
TAPPER: So, just a minute ago, you were critical of the Obama administration for being late to ask when it came to Russian hacking. I want to get your reaction to the exchange between the ranking Democrat on the committee, Adam Schiff, and Secretary Johnson, about why it took so long for the Obama administration to comment on the Russian interference last year.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Why did we wait from July until October to make that statement?
JEH JOHNSON, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: There was an ongoing election and many would criticize us for, perhaps, taking sides in the election. So, that had to be carefully considered.
One of the candidates, as you'll recall, was predicting the election was going to be rigged in some way. And so, we were concerned that by making the statement, we might, in and of itself, be challenging the integrity of the election process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: You think it's fair to say that if Democrats and the Obama administration had known -- had thought that Donald Trump could win as opposed to how dismissive they were about his chances last year, that they might have actually taken a different action?
SPEIER: You know, I can't answer that question, but I can say that by virtue of Donald Trump saying the election is rigged, the election is rigged, that it had a chilling effect on the Department of Homeland Security and the administration in general from acting as swiftly as it should have.
[16:25:00] Whether it would change the election, I don't know. But I -- you know, I have a lot of questions for the -- early on, it was said, some state were, in fact, infiltrated. As it turns out now, we're looking at 39 states.
I don't think we know the full nature of the hack and the infiltration that took place, much like with the Office of Personnel Management. The Chinese were in there for over a year, taking all of the data from all of the federal employees for a year before we got wind of it.
TAPPER: All right. Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California, thank you so much. Good to see you as always, Congresswoman.
Democrats are now 0-4 on special elections this year. For former members, now current members of the Trump administration, after leaving Georgia with a $23 million participation trophy, the Democrats know how to win in the age of Trump.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
The politics lead now, the president is taking a victory lap today with a campaign event of sorts in Iowa after a big Republican win last night in Georgia's congressional race.