Return to Transcripts main page


Terror Suspect Talking with Investigators; Suspect Planned Attack; Trump Didn't Dismiss Putin Meeting Idea; Congressman on Attack. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 1, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:32:47] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our special live coverage of a terror attack here in New York City. The deadliest terror attack since this great city experienced 9/11 16 years ago.

Behind me, the symbol of hope and so much in our city, the Freedom Tower that was lit up beautifully last night in red, white and blue. This morning, New Yorkers are resilient, making their way to work, taking their children to school.

And we are focusing on the victims. Thirteen people remain in the hospital this morning after this horrific attack less than 24 hours ago. Eight people killed. Among them, five Argentinian nationals.

What do we know at this point? We know that the attacker, the suspected attacker, is a 29-year-Uzbek national. We know right now investigators are searching his home in New Jersey. We know that he rented this truck, plowed into a school bus filled with special needs children, went on to barreled almost a mile down the bike path along the west side highway injuring and killing those innocent victims. And we know, according to the governor of New York, this person was radicalized domestically.

What else can we learn? Let's bring in Susan Hennessey. She is a former attorney with the National Security Agency, also our national security and legal analyst.

So, Susan, thank you for being with us.

He is talking. Right now authorities have what they often do not have after a terror attack, and that is the attacker talking to them, cooperating somewhat. What are the most important questions to ask him right now?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Right. Well, the first thing that law enforcement is going to be trying to establish is, is this part of a larger plot? Is there anything else that they need to be concerned about on sort of an immediate basis? And once they sort of satisfied themselves that that's not the issue, they're going to look into investigating what happened here.

So we know that this individual has sort of pledged allegiance to ISIS. But what does that mean? Does this mean that this is a person who's been online and sort of he personally feels inspired by the group, or is this someone who actually has established connections to a foreign terrorist organization? So those are the questions that they're going to be looking into really right away.

HARLOW: Right. I mean we know from his social media accounts that he was sympathizing with ISIS. We know there was this note in or near his car that had some connection to ISIS. But here's the thing. He came out of the car with these two fake guns and was running around with them yelling "allahu akbar." This would indicate that he wanted to be a martyr, Susan, that he wanted to go down suicide by cop, what have you. So if that is what he wanted, and h didn't die, how do they convince him to talk now?

[09:35:20] HENNESSEY: Well, so the suspect likely would have been mirandized at this point, so he has those sort of full scope of constitutional rights, so he doesn't need to talk if he doesn't want to. Sort of -- he preserves that right.

HARLOW: Right.

HENNESSEY: You know, certainly there's lots of sort of suspicious indicators at this point. It's hard to know the full range of motive until we sort of -- we have more information about his background, his current mental state. So lots and lots of sort of suspicious right now. But law enforcement's going to want to get beyond that to a place in which they actually have sort of the full picture of the evidence about what really happened here and why.

HARLOW: The fact that the truck was rented just hours before this attack happened, that he was known to law enforcement but not for anything, you know, severe, of course, until yesterday. All of this indicates that they didn't have many leads on him. Are you surprised by that?

HENNESSEY: Right. So these -- sort of this new form of car attacks has been a real challenge for law enforcement. You know, they -- this is a very, very low barrier to entry. And so whenever you have both sort of individuals who self-radicalized, who don't radicalize in ways that they're going to actually be reaching out, talking to sort of known terrorists, and might be scooped up or identified sort of in that process, but instead, you know, really the only sort of barrier between them and hurting lots and lots of people is the ability to rent a car, that poses really a tremendous challenge, you know, in preventive enforcing here -- preventative policing here because that's really the name of the game, how do we prevent these kinds of things from happening in the future.

HARLOW: Yes. Susan Hennessey, thank you very much.

And, John, as I throw it back to you, I mean you heard the NYPD police commissioner yesterday, James O'Neill, saying, look, we went out after the last truck attack in the west, and we talked to, you know, 150 of these truck rental companies all around this area to warn them of this. So they've been on top of this. But, still, everything not preventable. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: No. I was talking to an officer last night.

They say when there was that Times Square incident where a drunk driver, a driver under the influence, killed one person, they said they knew that there was almost nothing that they could do.

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: Poppy Harlow, thanks so much.

Other news now.

President Trump calls George Papadopoulos a low-level volunteer, but CNN has learned when he suggested that the candidate, Donald Trump, meet with Vladimir Putin, Trump didn't say no. New developments on the Russian investigation, next.


[09:41:58] HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow with our special live coverage of this terrorist attack in New York City.

We do have some more breaking news. Important to get to. Let's go straight to our Shimon Prokupecz, who's working his sources.

Shimon, it appears, from your reporting, some planning went into this attack. What can you tell us?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Ys, it appears, at least preliminary, to some of the investigators, we're told by sources, that there's indications that this attack had been planned. They have been able -- this -- officials and investigators have been able to build out a preliminary timeline of the events leading up to the attack. And they believe that sometime around 2:00 p.m. yesterday, maybe earlier, there will be some adjustments to this, that he went and rented this pickup truck and then drove over to George Washington Bridge.

He appeared to know where he was able to access the bike path. There are sections of the bike path along the west side highway that are blocked by barricades. He somehow, perhaps they believe with some planning, knew a section of the bike path that he can -- he can get onto where there were no barriers. So that perhaps could be what is partially leading authorities to believe there was some planning.

And as was reported earlier, they have found ISIS-related material on some social media. So all of this is starting to paint a picture for officials as they gather more information and build out this timeline. And we should hear more around 11:00, hopefully.

HARLOW: All right. Ys, that joint presser between the NYPD and the FBI in just over an hour.

Shimon, thank you.

And, John, back to you. What we're also learned from Shimon's reporting, that this 29-year-old lived not far from here, Patterson, New Jersey, just over the bridge and the river, and was a father of three kids, John.

BERMAN: We see helicopter pictures of that house very recently.

All right, Poppy, new details this morning in the Russia investigation, specifically the background of George Papadopoulos, the man who pleaded guilty to lying about meetings that get right to the heart of possible Russian collusion. Joining me now, CNN political analyst Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Matt Viser.

Julie, first to you.

The president and his team clearly trying to diminish the importance of Papadopoulos, yet our Manu Raju and Jim Acosta report this morning on this meeting where both men attended last year, Papadopoulos proposes a campaign meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump doesn't respond.

Now, he may not respond because he didn't want to say no or didn't want to embarrass the kid, but it's the type of thing you think that now President Trump might remember.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, right. And the two things that the White House has been saying about George Papadopoulos this week is that, one, he was a low-level volunteer, but, two, all of his overtures to campaign officials, to people in the higher up campaign infrastructure were rebuffed. That when he made these offers of overtures to -- or reaching out to Vladimir Putin, when he heard that there was somebody connected with Russia who had incriminating e-mails of Hillary Clinton, that he was told, no, no, we're not interested in that.

And what we're now learning is that he actually wasn't rebuffed. Part of his plea agreement did note that he was encouraged actually at one point to pursue a meeting with Putin. And we do know, from what then candidate Trump was saying at the time, and what he continued to say late in the campaign and after he was elected, that he was interested in fostering warmer ties with Vladimir Putin. He was very interested in seeing if they could have an improved relationship. So the idea that George Papadopoulos would have brought this up during the campaign and that candidate Trump wouldn't have reject that offhand doesn't' seem so farfetched.

[09:45:32] BERMAN: You know, he is a curious figure, George Papadopoulos. Clearly low-level. On the other hand, he wrote e-mails that were read by very senior people, Matt, including Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, who was decidedly not low-level. And we learn, Matt, had three -- has three current passports, travelled to all kinds of countries with fake e-mail addresses and names, you know, phones under a false name. This is not the type of behavior that you normally see from people, Matt. It's very curious. It shows sort of the complicated web that this man wove over the years.

MATT VISER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and three passports is unusual. Sometimes people have two for various reasons, especially if they're traveling to the Middle East and they want different stamps for different countries, but three passports are unusual. And some of his past travels are also unusual in establishing fake names. And it illustrates, you know, from Mueller and, you know, the worry of a flight threat, you know, which is -- which is why Manafort is restricted to his house right now awaiting his next trial date tomorrow. So, I mean, I do think that there are a lot of curious actions by Manafort, especially with the passports.

BERMAN: No, that's exactly why we learned it. There are court documents where the special prosecutor is arguing this guy is a flight risk because of his passports and his bizarre travel.

Hope Hicks -- sorry, Julie, Hope Hicks scheduled now to face questions by the special prosecutor's office. Hope Hicks has been around from the very beginning, before the beginning of politician Donald Trump. What's her significance?

DAVIS: Well, I man, Hope is very significant. And, in fact, I would have been surprised if somewhere in this process the special prosecutor did not want to meet with Hope Hicks because the fact is that not only has she, as you said, been with Donald Trump for a long time, predating the campaign, and has been privy to a lot of conversations that would have led up to his deciding to run for president. But because the campaign, and now, of course, the White House staff was so tightly contained, they really didn't have a lot of people, they were doing it on a shoestring, Hope was present for a lot of conversations and meetings. She would have seen a lot of e-mail traffic that would be relevant now to what the special counsel is looking at.

And, of course, she was also there at the White House in the very beginning during the process by which the president decided to fire Jim Comey. And so she has relevant information about what those conversations sounded like, what the e-mail traffic looked like there. And so she can be a very, very significant source of information for the special prosecutor right now.

BERMAN: Right. She's got a couple weeks to get with her lawyers to know how she should respond to the questions she will no doubt face.

Matt Viser, we were supposed to find the details of the tax cut plan today, but it has been delayed until tomorrow. What does that tell you about the status of these negotiations and the difficulty with the plan?

VISER: I mean it's the high hurdles that this plan faces right off the bat. I mean there's a lot of controversy over different types of tax deductions, what's in there, what's not, the rates at the top end of the spectrum for taxpayers. So it does face, you know, hurdles right off the bat. And you're already seeing a delay, which is -- you know, maybe just a bad sign in the short term, which could get fixed in the long term, but it is a -- it is a sign of how conflicted this tax reform bill is going to be. And sort of the pressures, especially as we're talking a lot about the Russia investigation and, you know, topics that members of Congress do not want to talk about. They want to get the focus on tax reform and right off the bat they're having trouble doing that.

BERMAN: Matt Viser, Julie Hirschfeld David, thanks so much for being with us, guys. Really, really appreciate it.

Less than 24 hours after this terror attack in New York City which killed eight people, the president is getting political, going after the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democrats on immigration policy. Much more ahead.


[09:52:29] HARLOW: Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow, down here in beautiful lower Manhattan, in the shadow of the Freedom Tower, reminding us of all that this country and this city stands for today, less than 24 hours after the deadliest terror attack in New York City since 9/11.

Let's talk about that and what happens moving forward in terms of preventing all of this.

With me now is Congressman Tom Suozzi of New York.

And, sir, thank you for being with me.

We were just speaking in the commercial break about our memories on 9/11, 16 years ago. As a New Yorker, watching what has unfolded, what is your initial reaction?

REP. TOM SUOZZI (D), NEW YORK: You know, I'm so sad for the families that are suffering today. You know, we're all moving on with our lives and trying to move forward, but these families are suffering. So our hearts and prayers go out to them.

HARLOW: Of course they do. Eight people murdered, 13 people in the hospital, some in critical condition this morning.

Your message, part of what you tweeted out in the wake of this is, New York City is full of strength and resolve. Be prepared, not scared.

And New York City certainly was prepared. I mean this attack happened in the shadow of the Joint Terrorism Task Force headquarters, the NYPD headquarters. This is one of the most monitored parts of Manhattan. It still happened.

What are your thoughts this morning on, of course, the hero first responders, the NYPD, and also anything you think may need to change going forward to protect civilians?

SUOZZI: I think we need to continue to do what we're doing. We have to be so grateful to all of our law enforcement officials that have stopped so many terrorist attacks over the years, have prevented things from happening, and for responding as well as they did yesterday.

Be prepared, not scared. That message is something, you know, we've been using for the past 16 years. We have to continue to be diligent. We have to work and share information among all the experts. We have to continue to work with our allies. We have to do all of the things that are necessary to be prepared.

But we can't be scared. We can't let the public live in fear. I mean I was so moved this morning, looking at reports about children going to school right down the block from where this happened, about families going on with their days to go to work, some people going to church this morning. People just moving on with their lives. That's how we win.

When the world looks at us and sees that this is such a great country and people continue to live their great lives, we win. So that's one of the most important things we need to do. Be prepared, not scared.

HARLOW: I saw a mother walking her young first or second grade daughter to school this morning when we got down here and just thought of exactly that, going about their day. But how do you -- you know, how do you explain this to your young children? That is the impossible question for so many parents this morning.

[09:55:14] Let me ask you, the president said he has ordered Homeland Security to step up this extreme vetting. We don't really know what that means, what that will actually, you know, become. Do you agree with the president?

SUOZZI: You know, this is serious business. This is -- this is life and death. And we've let our politics become kind of small and petty and cynical in our country. And to address these very serious problems require people with differing viewpoints to go through deliberative processes, listening to experts, taking information, and trying to find some common ground.

We, as Americans, all of us, not just the elected officials, all Americans really need to lift up this political process of government and treat this as serious as it is. This is -- you know, whether it's health care or whether it's terrorism, whatever the issue may be, this is life and death business for people. And we need to lift up this conversation and treat it the serious way that it needs to be treated. And that requires experts working together.

HARLOW: So let me ask you this. Let me ask you this, congressman, on that point. The president this morning in one of his messages to the American people on Twitter points out what is the -- what is called the diversity visa lottery. This has been a law in place since 1995. Fifty thousand people from countries where there are not a lot of immigrants to the United States come into this country this way. He points to Chuck Schumer, who was a big supporter of that. of course I should note, it became law under a Republican presidency.

But my question to you is, do you believe that there are questions that should be answered this morning about this program, about the diversity visa lottery? Do you have questions about it this morning, if, in fact, that is the way that this 29-year-old Uzbek national got into this country, as some reports indicate?

SUOZZI: You know, this is not an issue that's resolved in a tweet or even in my interview with you right now. This is part of comprehensive immigration reform. We had eight senators, years ago, sit down, hammer out a comprehensive immigration reform package to look at this issue, as well as so many others related to immigration reform, the same stuff we're dealing with DACA and dreamers and all the border security. This was all hammered out by people with differing viewpoints who went through a deliberative process. And then, they wouldn't vote on it in the House.

So, again, this is a serious issue that requires deliberate thinking, smart people, listening to experts, working together, to try and find common ground to solve these very complex problems.

So, we're not going to solve it today. We're not going to solve it with a tweet. We need to go through what they call regular order in the United States House of Representatives, in the United States Senate and listen to experts and find common ground to solve these very challenging problems we face. That's what the American people want. They're sick and tired of the finger pointing. They want us to get things done.

HARLOW: Congressman, the American people will be watching as that process unfolds for you and your colleagues there in Congress. We appreciate your time this morning. Thank you very much.

And, of course, we are waiting --

SUOZZI: Poppy, thank you so much for being down in Manhattan today.

HARLOW: Of course.

We are waiting for an 11:00 a.m. presser Eastern Time, that's in just over an hour, to begin here, right near where I'm standing. NYPD, FBI will give us some more color into what has happened, answer some more questions. We'll bring that to you live. Stay with us. We'll be right back.