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New Details on Charlottesville Attack Suspect; J.D. Vance Comments on Charlottesville, Donald Trump; North Korean Leader Backs off On Guam Threat; Iran: New U.S. Sanctions, Iran Will Quit Nuclear Deal; Man Arrested in Oklahoma Bomb Plot. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired August 15, 2017 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. This just coming in to CNN. Getting new details about the suspect in the Charlottesville, Virginia, attack. James Fields Jr Has a history of run-ins with police. Records obtained by CNN show his own mother called 911 nine times between 2010 and 2013.

Let's go to Brian Todd following all the late-breaking developments.

Brian, what can you tell us?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very disturbing records from these 911 dispatcher calls, Wolf. You mentioned, they show that the mother of the suspect here in Charlottesville, James Fields, the man suspected of ramming his car into the protestors -- her name is Samantha Bloom. According to reports, Wolf, mentioned a moment ago, she called police nine times between 2010 and 2013. On at least three occasions, police were called when Bloom's son acted violently towards her. We point out, in these dispatcher records, the son's name is redacted. However, neighbors told CNN Samantha Bloom lived alone with her son, James Fields. We also point out, during all the incidents, Samantha Bloom was in a wheelchair and remains in a wheelchair today.

The incidents in questions, in one of them, in the fall of 2010, Samantha Bloom called police to report her 13-year-old son smacked her in the head with her phone and put his hands over her mouth after she told him to stop playing video games. In that incident, according to reports, she told police said she locked herself in a bathroom and very afraid for her own safety.

About a year later, in October of 2011, according to these 911 dispatcher records, Samantha Bloom reported that her son had assaulted her in the past, had been threatening to her, and she did not feel in control of the situation.

About a month after that, there was a third 911 call. This time from a separate female caller, who reported to police that Samantha Bloom's son, who was 14-year-olds at the time, was threatening her and spitting in her face.

Wolf, several incidents. At least three we recalled here from dispatcher records, from Florence, Kentucky, where Samantha Bloom lived with her son, James Fields, before they moved to Ohio. In these incidents, he acted very violently towards her. He is, of course, the chief suspect in that car-strike incident here

in Charlottesville on Saturday where a 32-year-old protestor, Heather Heyer, was struck and killed.

We've been trying to reach out to the man who the court appointed, James Fields' attorney. His name is Charles Weber. We've knocked on his door, at his office and home, called several times. He has not responded. We're not sure if he even knows he's been appointed as James Fields' attorney, Wolf, but we've been trying to reach out to him as well, and not heard back from that attorney.

We are told by city officials that they are looking for the public's help in making more arrests in connection with the violence on saturday. They are looking for witnesses to come forward with video and pictures. They are looking to make more arrests from the assaults and maybe possibly regarding that car strike that James Fields allegedly committed. They do have video they're looking at. And they need more help from the public.

As of now, they have not made additional arrests other than the arrests of three people for charges of misdemeanor assault and battery, disorderly conduct, and carrying a concealed weapon, and James Fields. So a total of four arrests up to now. None since then. Police want to make more arrests. They're looking for the public's help.

BLITZER: What a history for a 20-year-old. Also enlisted in the U.S. Army but removed right after boot camp, for some reason as well.

Brian Todd --

TODD: Absolutely.

BLITZER: -- excellent reporting agency, as he always does. Thank you.

I want to bring in someone with a unique perspective on the underlying issues in Charlottesville, Virginia. CNN Contributor J.D. Vance is joining us. He who grew up in a Rust Belt town in Ohio, a state that easily went to Donald Trump in the 2016 election. He's the author of "Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis." And in the book dives into how many missed the mark on the white working- class that fueled Donald Trump's campaign.

J.D., excellent book. Thanks so much for joining us.

Give us your reaction when you saw what was going on in Charlottesville.

J.D. VANCE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, you see people marching around doing the Nazi salute. I come from a family with a large number of military veterans, and from back in the day, people who actually went and fought the Nazis. It's really disturbing to see this display of white nationalism. And became doubly terrifying and terrible because it led to somebody losing their life. Like a lot of people, I watched the TV, was horrified. And it forced me to think, what's going on in our country and happening that this stuff is becoming seemingly more common.

BLITZER: You've done a lot of research in this area. It's the Nazi slogans that you hear, the anti-Semitism, racism, comments about women. What's motivating it? These are young people, by and large.

[13:35:09] VANCE: That's right. There are a lot of young people. I think we have to -- in ways, keep in mind what's not motivating it. Because it's very tempting and I think comforting to look at this as primarily fueled by economic anxiety. But if you look at the leaders of this particular movement, Richard Spencer, leader of the Alt-Right movement, he grew up in a wealthy family. The guy who organized the rally actually went to the University of Virginia, one of the nation's great universities. This is not economically disenfranchised people turning to hate. Unfortunately, it's people who live in our midst, who, for whatever reason, find this stuff online, are attracted to it, and eventually become radicalized by it. That truth is more troubling than saying that it's all a bunch of poor people turning to white nationalism, it is the truth, and it's a truth we have to confront.

BLITZER: You've said that the American public takes some sort of comfort, if you will, that these are just a bunch of knuckle-dragging, slack-jawed yokels. They are not.

VANCE: They're not. That's right. When I watch this stuff and I see the way people talk about white nationalism, often they assume it's the very same people that I'm writing about in the book. But it's economically, I said, economically disenfranchised folks, folks not doing well in the modern economy, so-called hillbillies who turned to white nationalism. What you often see is the leaders of this movement are pretty well educated and doing well economically. We can't point at economic problems and say that's what's driving this. Very often, it's something that's much, much deeper culturally and something that consequently isn't necessarily as easy to get rid of.

BLITZER: What actually -- get your reaction to the way President Trump has handled this since saturday. The initial statement didn't specifically name the KKK, anti-Semites, didn't mention the white supremacists, none of that by name. He did yesterday. What do you think are the way he's handled this?

VANCE: I think the president really missed an opportunity to name this phenomenon and gives people a sense where it comes from and show the moral leadership people want from a president. The thing that's important for folks from my political side, the conservative side of the aisle, have to keep in mind that a lot of the people who feel physically threatened by white supremacists, not people angry by it, the people who see it get upset by it, that's all of us. The people who feel physically threatened by it are, by and large, not those who voted for Donald Trump. When they look to that movement, I think the president needs to show leadership saying you may not have voted for me but I'm coming out to deplore and criticize that particular movement as strongly as I would if it was on the other side of the political spectrum. Many a lot felt the president could have spoken to that. Unfortunately, by not naming it what it was, white supremacism, he missed an opportunity. BLITZER: And he still has a chance to go out, not only continue to

name these white supremacists, but also say something he didn't say yesterday, I don't want their support?

VANCE: Yes, absolutely. If I was President Trump in this situation, I'd spike the football. This is one of the things that really unites the entire country. Racism is bad. Nazism is bad. We fought a war to defeat Nazism. And the president should not just be -- there's a sense in which he's ambivalent or too cautious about coming out and criticizing this stuff.


BLITZER: Why is that? Why do you think?

VANCE: I think it comes from the fact that he's just a fighter. He criticizes the people who criticize him and he basically leaves people alone who don't criticize him. These people are so obnoxious, they're so file, that even though they're not criticizing him, it's not just about him using the right words. He needs to come out with the right tone and condemn this stuff. And I hope he will, because it's a great opportunity to unite the country at a very divided time.

BLITZER: Amazing book. Still out there in hard cover. Been on the best-seller list for weeks. More than a year, I suspect.

VANCE: Sure.

BLITZER: Thanks for writing it and thanks for joining us.

VANCE: Thanks, Wolf.

[13:39:11] BLITZER: J.D. Vance is the author of "Hillbilly Elegy." If you haven't read his book, I recommend it.

Coming up, North Korea's dictator backing down from threats to lob missiles towards Guam. That's a U.S. territory. 162,000 U.S. citizens live there. State-run North Korean media says Kim Jong-Un will take a wait-and-see attitude instead. When we come back, I'll speak live with the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee about North Korea, as well as potential new moves by Iran. Republican Congressman, the chairman, Mac Thornberry, here in the studio. Lots to discuss.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: After days of fiery rhetoric between the United States and North Korea, the words seem to have cooled down a bit. Kim Jong-Un is holding off on a plan to fire missiles near the U.S. territory of Guam, opting instead to watch what he's calling "the foolish Yankees." He wants to see what they'll do before he makes his next move, whatever that move may be.

Defense Secretary James Mattis says the U.S. is ready. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Here in the Pentagon, we are part of the sentinel for our nation and we stand ready to defend the U.S.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.


BLITZER: Let's discuss this with my next guest. I'm joined by Republican Congressman Mac Thornberry, of Texas, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Mr. Chairman, thanks for joining us.


BLITZER: How serious is this crisis with North Korea right now?

THORNBERRY: It's very serious. You take away the rhetoric and focus just on the capabilities, we know they have nuclear weapons. Press reports indicate several dozen. We know on July 4th and about a week ago, they launched missiles that could reach the United States. Whether they escalate or de-escalate the threat, we have to continue with our ability to defend ourselves.

BLITZER: They clearly have the capability with their intermediate- range missiles to hit the U.S. territory of Guam, right?


BLITZER: They've threatened to launch four missiles which could hit Guam by August if they don't like what the U.S. is saying. What does the U.S. do if they launch the missiles, didn't hit the island but the waters nearby?

THORNBERRY: That's a tactical decision. We do, as the secretary mentioned, have missile-defense capability against some short-range and intermediate-range missiles, and some against the longer range directed towards our homeland. But we have shortchanged for years and we don't have enough interceptors to appropriately defend against North Korea and the other threats we face. The most important thing we can do is show North Korea and everybody else in the world we're serious about standing up and defending ourselves and get our defense budgets through, get to repair and -- and improve our defenses.

BLITZER: I know that the reports are they may have -- you point out several dozen -- they may have at many as 60 nuclear bombs right now and, potentially, the capability of miniaturizing those bombs and putting them on warheads right now. Do they have that capability to make those miniaturized nuclear warheads already?

[13:45:16] THORNBERRY: I think most of the countries in the world assume that they do. And certainly, we must assume that they do when we see missiles that can already reach the U.S. mainland as well as a variety of other U.S. targets, as you mentioned, Guam, Hawaii and Alaska.

BLITZER: Here's what worries me, as someone who studied the Korean issue a long time. In the next weeks, exercises between the U.S. and South Korea militaries. The North Koreans react angrily to this. They don't like it. The Chinese don't like it. But the U.S. will go ahead with these.

THORNBERRY: We can and we should. We cannot allow North Korea intimidate us from working with our allies. That's one of the most important things we can do, stay close to our allies, South Korea and Japan.

The other key point to me, it is essential to put more military capability, including exercises, right there in the region to send a message, not only to North Korea but to China saying, OK, if you don't like this on your front porch, you need to take greater measures to get this guy under control, and then we don't have to have sanctions.

BLITZER: And another sensitive issue unfolding. The Iranian President Rouhani saying if the U.S. goes ahead and imposes new sanctions against Iran, within hours, Iran will rip up that nuclear agreement and resume its development of a nuclear bomb. You opposed that agreement to begin with. But how serious potentially is this? Because the president did sign into law the new sanctions bill that involves Iran, North Korea and Russia, and there will be new sanctions imposed against them.

THORNBERRY: There will be, and those sanctions are not related to the nuclear program. We are keeping our end of the --


BLITZER: He says any sanctions, new sanctions imposed, they see that as a violation of the agreement and they will then rip it up.

THORNBERRY: Yes. And part of the concern some of us had with the nuclear agreement, that Iran got a lot of the benefits up front, a planeload of cash, and then whenever it suits their purpose, they can make whatever allegation they want to and back out of the agreement.

But just to tie in, again, to the North Koreans, something that a lot of people missed was, a few days ago, Iran launched what they said was a satellite into space. That's exactly what the North Koreans did, or said they were doing, to advance their missile program. So we need to keep our eye on the advances of the Iranian missile program coming from the other direction, not just focus solely on North Korea.

BLITZER: Is this Rouhani rhetoric or do you take him seriously?

THORNBERRY: I'm sure he's saying it for effect, but I also suspect, when Iran thinks it's in their best interests to walk away from a deal, they will choose to do so. We're already seeing more aggressive activities against our ships, carriers in the Persian Gulf. They're testing us. And everybody else around the world is watching to see how we respond.

BLITZER: Quickly, the president, finally, yesterday specifically named these hate groups, white supremacists, the KKK. He should have done that earlier, right?

THORNBERRY: Of course.

BLITZER: He should have done it --

THORNBERRY: I think everybody agrees that he should have done it earlier. It was a missed opportunity not to be clear right from the get-go.

BLITZER: Mac Thornberry, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Mr. Chairman, thanks for coming in.

THORNBERRY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, undercover agents in Oklahoma stop a bomb plot before anybody gets hurt. Why authorities say the suspect was, quote, "out for blood." We have new details coming in. Stay with us.


[13:53:17] BLITZER: Certainly a chilling plot with similarities to the Oklahoma City bombing back in 1995. The Department of Justice here in Washington has announced that an Oklahoma man is now custody for allegedly trying to detonate what he thought was a vehicle bomb in downtown Oklahoma City.

Our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is following this story for us.

So, Shimon, how was the plot uncovered? What do we know?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: So, Wolf, this is a 23-year-old man from Oklahoma. Basically, a person came forward and said, back in December, that he was having conversations with Jerry Varnell, 23-years-old, and in the conversations, Varnell indicated that he wanted to conduct an Oklahoma City-style attack in Washington, D.C.., against the Federal Reserve. And then the FBI started to do their work, monitoring him. They eventually sent in an undercover agent, who court records call -- they call him "the professor." He was the bomb maker, kind of, someone who was helping Varnell, giving him ideas, perhaps, teaching him how to make this bomb. He wanted to make a 1,000-pound bomb. Eventually, he decided that he wanted to do the plot, conduct it, conduct the attack in Oklahoma.

And this essentially became a sting operation for the FBI. They sent in an undercover. The undercover would talk to him repeatedly. Would make sure he still wanted to follow through on the attack. There are, in the court records, multiple conversations with this man about whether or not he wants to go forward. And really, the motive here appears to be that he's anti-government, a part of this Three Percenter group which has a base in Oklahoma and really is just for personal rights, people's rights, gun rights, property rights. And he really wanted to retaliate, though. He said in the court records, he said he wanted to retaliate against the U.S. government.

[13:55:20] BLITZER: He hated the federal government. That's why he allegedly got involved in this plot?

PROKUPECZ: That's correct.

BLITZER: But fortunately, the FBI uncovered it. They sent in an undercover agent, worked with him, and then they arrested him.

PROKUPECZ: That's exactly it.

BLITZER: So fortunately, there was no Oklahoma City -- another bombing. I was there in 1995, and that was an awful, awful domestic terrorism incident.

Shimon, thank you for that reporting. Shimon Prokupecz with us.

That's it for me. I'll be back 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITAUTION ROOM." Thanks very much for watching.

For our international viewers, "AMANPOUR" is coming up next.

For our viewers in North America, "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right after a quick break.


[14:00:13] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for --