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Terrorism In New York; Suspect Arrested; Trump On Terrorist Attack; Suspect Followed Playbook; Terror Suspect Radicalized Domestically; Trump Calls for Program End. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired November 1, 2017 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
We're following the breaking news. The suspect in the deadly terror attack in New York City had been planning it for a number of weeks. That's just one of the revelations from New York City police. What really caught our attention, the ISIS influence on the suspect.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MILLER, DEPUTY POLICE COMMISSIONER, NYPD: He appears to have followed almost exactly to a T the instructions that ISIS has put out in its social media channels before with instructions to their followers on how to carry out such an attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It was less than 24 hours ago that the suspect plowed his truck into bicyclists and pedestrians just blocks away from the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. Police immediately rushed to the scene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Central, be advised, we have multiple people on the ground from Chambers all the way up to Halston. All the way from Halston to Chambers. There's multiple people on the ground, Central. We need buses from Halston all the way down Chambers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Activate a level one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got -- we've got multiple casualties. This a mass casualty situation here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Eight people were killed. 11 people were injured. Some of them critically.
Our Correspondent Jean Casarez is on the scene for us in New York right now. Jean, tell us what else we learned about the suspect. Did the FBI have information about him?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. What we've learned today is, really, the criminal investigation, the crime scene processing is in high gear.
While the suspect remains at the hospital and he has been arrested, it was confirmed today that the note that was found outside the truck that he rented at Home Depot yesterday in New Jersey said, in essence, ISIS, the state of ISIS will endure forever.
We also learned that there were knives found inside and outside that vehicle and the two weapons that he was brandishing when he came out of that truck, moments before he was shot by an NYPD officer, it was a paintball gun and a BB gun. They were not real but everything else was.
And the crime scene that is being processed now is about a block and a half away. It is the primary scene. It is still cordoned off. They are processing that truck, executing a search warrant. Along with search warrants executed at his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his wife and three children, and his personal vehicle at Home Depot.
We also learned, in this press conference, that federal prosecutors, specializing in terrorism, had been meeting with the NYPD special surveillance team as well as the FBI in executing and getting judges to sign off on these search warrants to determine, Wolf, if federal terrorism charges are warranted in this case.
BLITZER: You know, we also learned, Jean, that that note that you referred to, John Miller, the counterterrorism chief for the NYPD disclosing that note, the Islamic state will endure forever. He says that's the gist of the note.
It was also written in Arabic. We know that after he jumped out of that truck, he was heard screaming, Allahu Akbar, in Arabic as well. They say, as you point out, he followed almost exactly to the T what ISIS has instructed its supporters, its followers to do.
And what's also significant, apparently, he had been planning this for weeks, Jean, and that he did have connections to people, according to authorities, who were subject of other terrorism investigations.
What else do we know about that?
CASAREZ: That's right. And that's why that we know that they are attempting now to interview and find friends, family members, associates, and point of contact that they believe that he has been involved with.
They also are doing a social media search. They have found social media sites connected to him that they are by or connected to ISIS- inspired Web sites. They are looking at all of that.
They want to construct the time line, they say. They're working their way back to develop that time line of what he did, when he did it and how he did it.
And we have been able to associate him living in three states, Ohio, and that was in 2013. We know he was married in Ohio. We also know that he -- his license was from Florida and, most recently, New Jersey.
He put as his occupation in Ohio as a truck driver. But we were able to confirm with Uber in New Jersey that he currently was a driver for them. Now suspended. They say he passed the background check and there were never any complaints.
[13:05:01] But that is what we know a little bit about maybe his public persona.
BLITZER: Jean Casarez, thanks very much.
Sayfullo Saipov, 29 years old, came to the United States seven years ago from Uzbekistan.
And in the wake of the attack in New York, President Trump is now demanding immediate action from Congress to overhaul the immigration system of the United States.
Moments ago, we heard the president lay out some of those demands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am, today, starting the process of terminating the diversity lottery program. I am going to ask Congress to immediately initiate work to get rid of this program.
Diversity lottery. Diversity lottery. Sounds nice. It's not nice. It's not good. It's not good. It hasn't been good. And we've been against it.
So, we want to immediately work with Congress on the diversity lottery program on terminating it, getting rid of it. We want a merit-based program.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's go to our Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. Jim, the president offered his condolences to the victims' families. He called the attack suspect an animal. Let's talk about the president's overall message today. What else is he demanding from Congress?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it didn't take long for President Trump to inject politics into the aftermath of this terror attack in New York City. As you heard there just a few moments ago, he wants to use this terrorist attack to rapidly redraw this country's immigration system.
You heard him say there that he wanted to get rid of this diversity lottery program that's been around for a couple of decades. It's a program that grants visas to people in parts of the -- parts of the world that, essentially, don't, really, exist in this country. Essentially, to provide more diversity here in the United States. He said he wants to get rid of that program. He wants to get rid of what he called chain migration which allows immigrants coming into the country to bring in their relatives. And he said he wants to change the immigration system over to a merit- based immigration system. That is very similar to what his top policy adviser, Steven Miller, was proposing here at the White House a couple of months ago which caused a lot of controversy.
It is not clear at all whether Republicans, even Republicans up on Capitol Hill, have the appetite for that kind of immigration overhaul, at this point, Wolf. As you know, this -- the fate of the dreamers is still up in the air, at this moment.
But during the president's comments, he lashed out at what he believes to be one of the contributing factors of what happened in New York City and that is political correctness. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to get much tougher. We have to get much smarter. And we have to get much less politically correct. We're so politically correct that we're afraid to do anything.
And that's not only in our country. That's other countries, too, that are having similar problems. And we have to get tough. We have to get smart. We have to do what's right to protect our citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And perhaps even more alarming, Wolf, in addition to those comments the president made there, he also referred to the U.S. justice system as a joke and a laughing stock. And said that he believes that this terror suspect should be sent down to Guantanamo.
When he was asked whether or not he believes the relatives of this suspect could pose a terror threat, he said they certainly could. He obviously did not offer any kind of evidence to that effect.
But, Wolf, it's very important to point out, I think, in the aftermath of the Las Vegas attack where a lot of people were talking about restricting firearms, the president said he wanted to wait for a debate on that legislative issue.
But, yet, in just the hours after this terror attack in New York City, he's talking about a rapid overhaul of the nation's immigration system and he's calling the U.S. justice system a laughing stock -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. And that was almost exactly -- I think today is a month since the Las Vegas attack. About 500 people were shot. Almost 100 were killed. And the president said wait before the U.S. should do anything about changing the laws.
BLITZER: But now, he's immediately responding. And, among other things, he's saying that he wants a merit-based system for people to come to the United States, meaning they should have some education. They should speak English, among other things.
He doesn't want what's called chain migration. And he suggested that this individual, the suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, he came to the United States seven years ago and some 23 other, what, relatives of his were allowed to come along. Is that what the president is saying? And that's what he's so angry about?
ACOSTA: That's what he's angry about. Officials with the administration have not laid that out before us. And that is why you have the Democratic leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, really, lashing out at the president.
First, the president went after Chuck Schumer and, essentially, blamed Chuck Schumer for this diversity lottery system. Wolf, that's been in place for more than 20 years. Republicans and Democrats brought it about.
[13:10:10] And, Wolf, in 2008, when this -- I guess, when the gang of eight tried to bring back immigration reform, they tried to get rid of this diversity lottery program.
And so, there have been Republican and Democratic efforts to initiate that program and bipartisan efforts to eliminate that program.
And in response to the president's attack against him, Chuck Schumer just told reporters, in the last hour or so, that the president should stop tweeting and start leading -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. I just want to be precise. I think nearly 60 people, 58 people, were actually killed in Las Vegas. Nearly 500 people were shot all together.
He did say, in response to a question -- and Lindsey Graham is bringing up this notion that this suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, should maybe be tried as an enemy combatant.
The president said he was open to sending the suspect to Guantanamo Bay, to the U.S. naval facility there, the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Tell our viewers what he said.
ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf. And Senator John McCain just tweeted this as well. That they believe this terror suspect, in New York City, should be transferred to Guantanamo, should be treated as an enemy combatant.
The president sounded open to that, during that quick session with reporters before his cabinet meeting here at the White House
Wolf, the president can seek to reform the nation's immigration system. He can call the U.S. justice system a joke.
But there is a system that is in place for dealing with terror suspects, like the one in New York City. They can be declared enemy combatants. They can be transferred to Guantanamo.
That terror detention center was not closed by President Obama, despite the fact that that was one of his key promises, during his two terms in office.
And so, the system that is in place right now, for going after terrorists across the world, is that, yes, they can be treated as enemy combatants. And they can be transferred to Guantanamo.
And it sounds like the president is open to that possibility. He told reporters that exact thing just a few moments ago -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, he certainly did. He said he's open to that. He would consider it.
And he really went after the Democrats, at one point, saying the Democrats, they don't want to do what's right for our country, because they oppose his proposals to change the immigration system here in the United States.
Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.
The suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, used a truck to orchestrate this deadly terror attack. The deadliest terror attack on New York City since 911. It seems to be part of a rising trend. Look at the numbers of attacks since 2014, where vehicles were used as a weapon of choice.
Let's discuss this with our CNN Terrorism Analyst Paul Cruickshank. He's joining from us London. Our National Security and Legal Analyst, the former attorney for the National Security Agency, Susan Hennessy. And Mary Ellen O'Toole, a former senior FBI profiler, former FBI special agent as well.
Paul, this tactic that we've seen, using a vehicle, a car or a truck, to go out there and kill people, ISIS has been promoting it. Other terror groups have been promoting it as well.
We've seen it not only in Europe, now here in the United States. We've seen it in the Middle East. There were several such attacks in Israel, for example.
Why has this tactic spread so quickly?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Because it's been incredibly deadly and incredibly effective. And ISIS have recognized this, and so they've heavily promoted it. They're continuously promoting this as a tactic.
And, in fact, about a year ago in November, ahead of the Macy's Day parade on Thanksgiving, ISIS put out a three-page how-to in one of its magazines. And the instructions in that magazine mirror almost exactly what we saw took place on the streets of New York yesterday.
And John Miller, at the NYPD, referenced that, saying that they followed ISIS instructions to a T, right down to the exact wording in his note that ISIS would endure forever. That was something ISIS, itself, suggested that people should write.
ISIS also saying that whoever carried out these attacks should write a lot of notes in handwriting and then throw them out of the vehicle after they've launched the attack.
So, a great similarity between what happened and this particular manual. You will have to assume that this individual read those specific pages, and then went into action, Wolf.
And this, unfortunately, is a manner which is fairly easy to access, just a few clicks and you can get it. And that's one of the big problems with this fight against terrorism right now is there's so much terrorism content, how-to material online.
[13:15:03] BLITZER: Yes. And, as you point out, the John Miller, Counterterrorism Chief in the NYPD, New York Police Department, says he appears to have followed almost exactly to a T the instructions that ISIS has put out on its social media channels on how to carry out an attack.
Susan, I want you to listen to what the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, said about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: He is a depraved coward is what he is. And he was associated with ISIS. And he was radicalized domestically. And is a depraved coward. And they try to create terror. It's not the first time. It's a global phenomenon now. It's all through Europe, et cetera.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So he says he was homegrown radicalization. He was radicalized domestically, meaning here in the United States. He's been in the United States for seven years. How do you identify a threat like that?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Right, so this is one of really the most vexing law enforcement challenges. We've seen a dozen or so of these vehicular terror attacks over the past five or six years. One of the challenges is, there's really two points at which you can -- at which law enforcement can potentially thwart or identify this kind of plot.
One is if an individual happens to be in communication with the target of another investigation, either within the United States or abroad. There's some early reporting that indicates that that might have actually been the case here. He might have been on federal authority's radar screen. And -- or you can try and identify them at the point at the point at which they attempt to obtain instrumentality of committing that crime, right? So you can't go and buy large amounts of fertilizers, buying large amounts of weapons might trigger some heightened scrutiny.
The problem with these vehicular attacks is the barrier to entry is so low. In some of these cases, the cars are rented, so there's been some focus on whether or not you could potentially create some sort of warning system at that point. But oftentimes these cars are personally owned or are stolen. So that makes it really, really difficult for law enforcement to identify these kinds of plots ahead of time and prevent them.
BLITZER: You know, Mary Ellen, the suspect was shot by a NYPD, by a New York police officer in the abdomen. He was taken to Belleview Hospital in New York. He's recuperating. We're told he is cooperating somewhat with law enforcement. What kinds of questions are the investigators asking him at this very early, delicate stage?
MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER SENIOR FBI PROFILER: Well, I think their first approach, before they started to ask him questions, would be to make sure that he understood the amount and the depth of the evidence that they have against him. They don't want to waste any time. They don't want to start with question, answer, question, answer. They want him to understand the level of seriousness that this case is and the consequences for him and possibly even for members of his family. So they will -- they will attempt to overwhelm him with that and then they will begin to ask him questions relative to his contacts because, frankly, they have the evidence that they can use against him concerning the murders and the attempted murders. So they'll be more interested in, who are your contacts, who did you talk to, who knew about this, who's planning something else?
BLITZER: All right, everybody standby. We're going to get back to you. But we're also getting some more breaking news.
We're just getting word that a black taxi cab has mounted the pavement in the Covent Garden area of London. Police are on the scene. We're gathering the facts. We'll go there. Stand by. We'll be right back.
[13:22:45] BLITZER: We're just getting word that a black taxi cab has mounted the pavement in the Covent Garden area of London. We're told that police are now on the scene. We're gathering the details. We'll get more information and we'll share it with you as soon as we know precisely what's going on. Standby for that.
In the meantime, President Trump is now demanding a major overhaul of the nation's immigration policy in the wake of the New York City terror attacks. Specifically, he wants to eliminate a program he's blaming solely on Democrats. Quote, the terrorist came into our country through what is called the Diversity Visa Lottery Program. A Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.
To be accurate, the visa program came out of the Senate as part of a much larger immigration bill back in 1990. It passed by a very wide margin in the House and the Senate. Chuck Schumer was in the House at the time. He did help craft parts of the bill. It was signed into law in 1990 by then President George H.W. Bush.
But this important note. Back in 2013, as part of the Senate's so- called Gang of Eight reform measure, Senator Schumer then sponsored a bill to eliminate the program. A fact pointed out by Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, who tweeted this. Quote, actually, the Gang of Eight, including Senator Schumer, did away with the Diversity Visa Program as part of broader reforms. I know, I was there. And he added this. Quote, in fact, had the Senate Gang of Eight bill passed the House, it would have ended the visa lottery program and increased merit based visas." It did not pass the House at the time. That bill did pass the Senate. Once again, never came up for a vote in the House of Representatives.
And just a little while ago, Senator Schumer responded to the personal attacks by the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The president ought to stop tweeting and start leading. The American people long for leadership, not decisiveness, not finger pointing, not name calling. This is a tragedy. It's less than a day after it occurred and he can't refrain from his nasty divisive habits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, joining us now, our CNN political analyst David Gregory, and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
An end to the visa lottery system. The president wants just merit based. He's going on and on and h's specifically blaming the Democrats. They don't want to do, Gloria, what's right for our country. That's what he just said.
[13:25:12] GLORIA BORGER, CNN ANCHOR: First of all, we need to sort of set the scene here because in the days after the Las Vegas attack, if you will recall --
BLITZER: Exactly one month ago today.
BORGER: Right. The White House said it was too soon. Can't talk about any legislative response. You can't talk about politics. You can't get politics into this. And here we are, the president now, one day after this attack, blaming, you know, blaming the Democrats.
And, to get to your point, Wolf, I'm backing into this, I know, but to get to your point, this was a law that was signed into law by a Republican president, passed on a bipartisan vote, was going to be repealed by the Gang of Eight, and the Republican dominated House of Representatives did not pass that. So to turn this into a political issue right now is kind of silly. I mean they should make changes. That should be a debate that they ought to be having, whether you need this program anymore. But, come on, this isn't politics.
BLITZER: It didn't take long for the president to get very, very political in the aftermath of this, the worst terror attack, the deadliest terror attack in New York City since 9/11.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, this is stupid. I mean this back and forth is stupid. We've just had a tragedy. We had another terrorist attack. What we need is leadership from both parties and from Washington while the families who are involved in this try to get on with their lives and deal with the matter of mourning.
There are serious questions which the result -- with a result of something like this. You have someone who's alive. You have a perpetrator who's alive. What's the best way to find out more about why he operated, how he operated, who his links are? If there's -- you know, if he should be an enemy combatant or if existing procedures are good enough. That's what we ought to be looking at.
This administration has been all over the map on how they kind of cinch down letting people into the country. It's not always relevant what they're arguing in terms of actually combatting terror. That's what ought to be really important is how we're very stringent about letting -- keeping the wrong people out of the country and how you ascertain that.
We have to remember, lots of people come in this country. And unlike even European countries, they assimilate here. They are not a source of terrorism. We have a wonderful immigration system. We have tight controls.
These kinds of events are going to happen. I think the president would do well right now to focus Washington's attention on the best way to try to enhance our capability, to learn about these thoughts (ph), to monitor these individuals who come up on the radar and see, at what point, a, they become radicalized and are actually working on a plot.
BORGER: Right. And that's the new point here, as you and I were discussing before we went on the show is that he was radicalized here. And that's different for us. And we ought to try and figure out that process.
And, by the way, this is somebody who was vetted before he came into this country.
BORGER: It isn't as if this program just lets people in because we encourage diversity. You're still vetted before you come in. So I think there are lots of issues here that they can deal with because he's alive.
BLITZER: He's 29 years old now. He's been here for seven years. So he was 22 years old when he came to the United States.
BLITZER: And clearly he was at least at a minimum inspired by ISIS. He had this note that it was released. John Miller, the counterterrorism chief of the NYPD said that the gist of the note, the Islamic State will endure forever. And Miller also says he appears to have followed almost exactly to a "t" the instructions that ISIS has put out on its social media channel.
GREGORY: And let's pay attention to the evolution of the terror threat in America alone since 9/11. You are not required to go to training school. You do not need the kind of coordination that al Qaeda had. Now you have an ideology that's been around now for a long time. You have a caliphate that has crumbled. But you still have a loose association of ideas around the globe. And it doesn't take much to pull them off, as we've seen here.
GREGORY: So, again, it comes back to, what kind of leadership do we need right now? I mean these events are going to happen. If all you need is a car, they are going to happen and people are going to be terrorized. The effective thing is to think about, how do we best -- it's like the Boston bombing. How do you -- when, you know, there are individuals who come up on the radar, how does law enforcement and our intelligence communities, how do they best track them to see at what point they either coordinate or tell someone else that we can get in front of these plots. We're not going to be able to do it, though, in a lot of these cases.
BORGER: Well, and this is where the whole travel ban comes in.
BORGER: And the -- you know, the question about alienating people in these communities who can help us.
GREGORY: Right. Right. And it's just -- those things are not relevant. And I think the thing that -- we need some historical perspective here. Whether it's 9/11, whether it was Abdul Muttalib, who tried to bring down the airliner over Detroit --
[13:29:52] GREGORY: Any president in America post-9/11 is going to have a very low threshold for risk. And that is what President Trump is expressing as well. He's expressing the fear and the anger of the American people. The fear and the anger that Americans have looking at what's happened, particularly in Europe with regard to an evolving terror threat and trying best to protect the country.