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Probe Could Derail Trump Nominee For Agriculture Post; House Intel Questioning Ex-Trump Campaign Adviser; New Video of New York City Terror Attack; Trump Tweets Suspect at NYC Attack Should Get Death Penalty. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired November 2, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:14] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone, I'm John Berman. The breaking news, new video just in on the New York City terror investigation. Dramatic video. Frankly shocking video of the moments after that rental truck careen into a New York City special needs school bus. I want you to watch this and you can feel the fear in the moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cop is OK? Can you tell --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't have (INAUDIBLE) --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just stuck in here. Get stuck behind there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god. Are you OK? Oh, my god. Oh, my god. Oh, my god.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, I need -- can you call 911? I got -- oh, my god. Oh, my god. OK, I need an ambulance right here. Right here. The guy T boned. Come on. Right there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: You can see the officers running up there, responding to what they think is a traffic accident, it turned out to be a terror attack. And in those moments you can imagine the terrorist, the killer is running around very nearby. Dramatic moments to say the least.
There are new developments in this investigation and in the prosecution.
Let's get to CNN's Alex Marquardt for that -- Alex.
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, well, that moment that you just showed right there was -- it could have been an awful lot worse. We now know from the investigation that the attacker had planned to continue and go much farther and he was going to take a westward's turn from here. That crash with the bus happened right there across the street. He was planning on then going west and heading towards the Brooklyn Bridge to what authorities say kill as many people as possible.
Now let me just back up for a second and talk to you about the planning. We now know because the attacker has waived his Miranda rights and is speaking with investigation -- investigators, there are a lot more details. This plan had been in the works for about a year, but it was only about two months ago that he decided to use a truck to inflict as much damage as possible. He had likely seen a number of those vehicle attacks that had taken place across Europe and Barcelona and Berlin and in London.
And so we know that on October 22nd he rented a truck from Home Depot almost -- this is very similar to the one that he had used on Tuesday's attack to practice his turns. And then on Tuesday afternoon at around 2:00 p.m., he rented that truck from Home Depot for just about 75 minutes, but authorities say that he had no intention of returning that truck. He ran across the Gorge Washington Bridge, came barreling down the west side.
Of course now we have seen those horrific scenes on video plowing into passersby and into pedestrians and to people riding those bikes, leaving eight people dead. When he was finally taken down by Officer Ryan Nash, more weapons were discovered in that vehicle, including a bag of knives so it's likely that he planned to at some point get out and possibly go on a stabbing spree. Also the likes of which we have seen in Europe.
The authorities also found two cell phones, one of which had some 90 videos on it and 4,000 photos related to ISIS. We're told in the criminal complaint that there were graphic scenes of ISIS fighters killing prisoners including beheadings as well as instructions for building homemade explosive devices.
Now as investigators continue to talk to the attacker, what is becoming very clear is his allegiance to ISIS. There was a note that was found near the site of the crash pledging his allegiance to ISIS. We know that he asked for an ISIS flag to be hung in his hospital room, and also that he had considered hanging ISIS flags in his truck to carry out the attack but that would have raised more awareness. It would have drawn more attention to him and possibly prevented him from reeking more havoc. What is interesting, John, is so far there has been no claim of responsibility by ISIS.
BERMAN: We'll talk much more about that.
Alex Marquardt, thank you very, very much.
Again that new video into CNN just seconds ago. We will talk about that more in a moment.
While you were sleeping the president wished golfer Gary Player a happy birthday, and then might have dealt a serious blow to the terror prosecution of that man who killed eight people in New York. At 10:45 p.m., he wrote, "Happy birthday to Gary Player, a truly great champion and person. Then at 11:43, with perhaps the same forethought but greater impact, he wrote, "NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed eight people, badly injured 12. Should get death penalty."
"Should get death penalty." Now prosecutors tell us that statement from the commander-in-chief could taint a jury pool. We'll have much more on that in a moment. But first happening now on Capitol Hill, two major events.
House Republicans meeting behind closed doors. You can see that closed door while it was on the other side of your screen literally, as details of the tax plan that could impact every American from generations come out. They're in that meeting. Our reporters are pushing for leaks. We will report those leaks as they come to us.
Plus, a key witness in the Russia probe arriving any moment to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. Carter Page said he probably talked Russia in e-mails with George Papadopoulos, that's the campaign adviser who just pleaded guilty to lying about a meeting he had with Russian connections.
First though let's go to the White House and deal with the response to the New York City terror attack. Joe Johns is there.
Joe, the president has been making even more statements this morning.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's true, John. And I think first you have to say the president reacting with what you might call understandable anger and outrage that many Americans feel, especially people in New York, and people out in the heartland, the president's base would applaud the president for expressing in visceral terms his reaction to the attack in New York City.
Nonetheless the president is the president of the United States, and his words hold great weight. And when he talks about sending the suspect to Gitmo or he talks about the death penalty, it could create a situation where a defense attorney, for example, takes advantage of it.
Let's look at the president's tweets this morning. One says, "Would love to send the New York City terrorist to Guantanamo, but statistically that process takes much longer than going through the federal system. There's also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed. Should move fast. Death penalty."
So clearly we are getting the president's feelings on what ought to be done in this case, sort of doubling down on what he said overnight. Back to you -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Joe Johns for us at the White House.
Again, we're expecting much more from the White House this morning as we learn about the tax plan, not to mention this investigation.
Joining me now, CNN law enforcement analyst, former Secret Service agent, Jonathan Wackrow, CNN national security analyst and former DHS assistant secretary Juliette Kayyem, and CNN contributor and law professor Steve Vladick. Steve, first to you. Should get the death penalty. When a president
says something like that before a prosecution, what are the complications?
STEVE VLADICK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, good morning, John. I think the real concern when the president says something like that is exactly what Joe said, that you might have a concern with tainting the jury pool. You know, this is a case where we want to make sure that all of our ducks are in a row, that the I's are dotted, the T's crossed, but the president to come out and say that I think it's going to be a field day for a defense lawyer who's going to try to use this to argue that his client can't get a fair trial, certainly can't get a proper jury at least when it comes to the sentence.
Given that this is the same president who just yesterday said the criminal justice system was weak and a laughingstock, and this is a real problem.
BERMAN: I want to talk about the video we saw just moments ago, if we could put that up again. It was the moment the school bus was struck by the careening rental struck. We'll put that up for you so you can see this.
Jonathan Wackrow, you sat here and watched it with me as we saw it just minutes ago for the very first time. And you say it paints the actions of Ryan Nash, the hero police officer who shot the suspect. It paints him in a whole different light?
JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Absolutely. So what we're looking at here is just the visual of how dynamic the situation was. We see NYPD officers immediately responding to this incident and they are in a reactive mode. They are looking to address a motor vehicle accident. They're not looking to, you know, thinking that this is a terrorists act. All of a sudden the dynamics change instantaneously.
An individual, the driver of the truck presents a weapon, Ryan Nash and other NYPD officers have to quickly rely on their training, tactics and experience to realize this is no longer an accident scene. There's a criminal act going on here. And they now -- presented with this and have to put down that threat. So just think in the seconds of that accident how dynamic this is.
BERMAN: Remarkable. Remarkable to see that.
Juliette Kayyem, in the president's statements this morning he seemed to back off something he said rather flippantly yesterday when he suggested that this terror suspect be tried or prosecuted as an enemy combatant, maybe transferred to Guantanamo Bay. Again he said it in passing yesterday. Today he seemed to realize the complications that that would entail.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I mean the president has to realize he doesn't say anything in passing, especially not on Twitter. [09:10:02] So his statement yesterday about Guantanamo Bay was not
only sort of legally suspect, but also from a counterterrorism perspective sort of shocking. I mean, if -- we're a great democracy with compelling courts and a justice system that is the envy of the world and if you're just going to sort of say well, it can't work at every terrorist attack, think about that from the perspective of terrorist organization.
We're sort of willing to give up what makes us American without even a fight. And so he brings it back today. But actually that tweet didn't last very long because the New York -- U.S. attorney's office had filed the complaint.
KAYYEM: And the indictments just about an hour later. They sort of closed it off almost immediately. So this was one -- another one of those things where there's the sort of professionals who know how to do this, counterterrorism and law enforcement, and then a president who is not taking advice or saying things flippantly that actually have consequences for those prosecutions.
BERMAN: Look, it looks like someone got to him overnight because he did write again this morning. "There's also something appropriate about keeping in the home of the horrible he committed. Should move fast."
Steve, Lindsey Graham, senator from South Carolina, he has argued for this. It's not just the president asking for this. Lindsey Graham has talked about this for some time. And his reasoning is, is you want to look at them as enemy combatants because of the intelligence they might provide.
Lindsey Graham wrote, "Now that he's lawyered up that will likely be the end of intelligence gathering except through plea bargaining."
Now you wrote an op-ed for the "Washington Post" this morning and you don't agree with Lindsey Graham at all.
VLADICK: So I think, John, first of all, I should say we know from your reporting that Saipov has waived his Miranda Rights, that he is cooperating. And so even if Lindsey Graham had a point in the abstract, it just doesn't apply here.
VLADICK: But Lindsey Graham is also wrong about the law. I mean, the government has plenty of flexibility to interrogate terrorism suspect with or without the advisement of their Miranda rights, The only question is whether they can then use what those suspects say against them in court.
And John, we have a public safety exception that allows the government to use statements obtained from a suspect without his Miranda rights in exactly a case like this, where the concern is not about establishing the suspect's culpability, but whether he's a lone wolf or if there are other attacks. So, you know, I really wish Senator Graham would read up on his criminal procedure before he starts talking about that.
BERMAN: I'm sure Lindsey Graham will have a response to you. I'd love that you're both on at the same time to hear that discussing.
Jonathan, meanwhile, the investigation churns on. 90 videos, 3800 images of ISIS propaganda. They have that in their hands right now. They'll go through that. They'll also look at that phone for other contacts right now. And I imagine that has to be the major focus, looking at everyone this individual has spoken with and seeing if there are still threats out there.
WACKROW: Absolutely. This is -- you know, NYPD, right now the Joint Terrorism Task Force has taken the lead in conjunction with NYPD. They're putting out a large dragnet. They're looking at every contact that this person had, you know, via social media, you know, everything that was found on his phone, what's in his, you know, browser history on his computers. What is out there in the public domain that we can quickly, you know, ascertain about this individual and start building the profile.
But I want to just come back real quick to the Guantanamo statement. Guantanamo has been a lightning rod for, you know, ISIS sympathizers for a long time. So there's another construct in this that's beyond the legal issue. You know, by the president actually stating that, you know, it's further feeding into the ISIS propaganda. And this is what I think the intelligence community is going to really worry about, about lowering that -- you know, the tone of that.
WACKROW: So it doesn't lead to, you know, follow-on attacks. What we don't want that is that to spur on.
BERMAN: Juliette, and I want to ask you about something "The New York Times" pointed out this morning but has been observed by others, which is that ISIS doesn't claim responsibility typically for an attacker where the attacker is then captured and in custody and under arrest. There are different theories about why that might be. I'm wondering if you have any notion?
KAYYEM: Yes. So, and that is typical, that's why it's not surprising that ISIS wouldn't take credit for this. For one, we don't know the suspect's sort of ties to ISIS at this stage. They may have been passive but they may have actually been more active that there was someone in Europe, potentially, or someone in the Middle East that he was having direct contact with.
We also do not know if there are co-conspirators in the United States. There were some news reporting that they are looking for a second person. I find it hard to believe that no one helped him or no one knew about this, and so ISIS in many ways is playing -- is sort of anticipating the investigation because he's alive, and they don't know what he's going to say. They do not know whether he will adhere to his allegiance. And I
actually think that the statements that are coming out about what he's saying in the hospital, about the flag are him triggering, right, and letting ISIS know I'm still with you. Now whether that holds, we do not know. But there is a-- there's a dialogue going on right now between law enforcement, ISIS and the suspect.
[09:15:30] BERMAN: Juliette Kayyem, Jonathan Wackrow, and Steve Bladick (ph), thanks so much for being with us. Really interesting discussion. Appreciate it.
Is another shoe about to drop in the Russia investigation? New reporting that the probe could derail a Trump nominee for a top government position.
Plus, the president preparing to depart on a 12-day trip to Asia, concerns at the White House ranging from the president's Twitter habit to fish with the head still on. We have new reporting coming up.
BERMAN: All right. Just into CNN, the Russia investigation could be about to derail the career of one of the president's nominees. We are talking about Sam Clovis, who was a senior campaign official. He came up in the guilty plea of George Papadopoulos released just days ago and we now know that Clovis has been talking to the special counsel.
This is a development just into CNN. Joe Johns has more for us. Joe, what are you learning?
[09:20:00] JOHNS: Well, John, Sam Clovis as you said is a former campaign official for Trump. Now he is a nominee to be the top scientists at USDA, the Department of Agriculture.
A White House source familiar with the situation tells several of my colleagues at CNN that he is in danger, his nomination is in danger, that either he may have to withdraw and if he doesn't withdraw, he may be forced out.
The problem for Clovis is his connection to George Papadopoulos. This is the former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, who has pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI in the Russia investigation.
Apparently, Mr. Clovis is one of the individuals referred to in court documents as exchanging e-mails with Papadopoulos, and this, obviously about sending Trump staff overseas to talk with Russians, a lawyer, a very important to see a lawyer for Clovis has said Mr. Clovis was adamant about telling Papadopoulos that, no, there should be no Trump staff foreign travel to Russia. Back to you.
BERMAN: All right. Joe Johns, again, that development just in. One angle of the Russia investigation.
Also happening now testimony from two intriguing players in this investigation. The House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors, as we speak, with Carter Page. His connections to Russia go back years and the committee will also hear from one of the Russians in that pivotal meeting that Donald Trump Jr. held after being promised Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton.
CNN's Jessica Schneider joins us now with the very latest. Jessica, all of a sudden a lot going on as we speak.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, John, a flurry of activity, both at the White House and Capitol Hill. Carter Page behind closed doors. He's a renewed interest this morning because he's now admitted that he exchanged e-mails with George Papadopoulos, and Carter Page says the topic of Russia may have come up in those e-mails, but that, quote, "nothing major was discussed."
Of course, Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI about his extensive communications with the Russians while working for the Trump campaign. But really, even before Papadopoulos' plea, Carter Page was of interest.
He told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he did have brief interactions with low-level Russian officials back in 2013. He also revealed that he travelled to Russia at the height of the campaign in July 2016.
Now this is of note after the Papadopoulos plea because that trip to Russia by Carter Page was right around the same time that Papadopoulos was sending campaign e-mails saying that Russian officials wanted to meet with the campaign.
Now Carter Page has insisted he did not meet with any Russian officials during that summer of 2016 trip. He will talk about that today behind closed doors this morning. We know a transcript will be released.
The House Intelligence Committee also talking to Ike Kaveladze today, the eighth man in the room for that June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower where Don Jr. was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.
So, John, a lot happening today on Capitol Hill. Those two notable names and in addition, we are going to be seeing Paul Manafort and Rick Gates back in court, their second appearance. This will be a bail hearing. Of course, both men pleaded not guilty, but in the meantime, they have been under house arrest -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Jessica Schneider, the Carter Page interview with the intelligence committee, fascinating. He has been talking to be press which shows either, A, he's got nothing to hide, B, he's getting bad legal advice or C, all of the above. Jessica, thanks so much. Appreciate you being with us.
Joining me now Betsy Woodruff, politics reporter for "The Daily Beast" and CNN contributor, Salena Zito. Salena, I want to start with you on Sam Clovis. Sam is someone I talked to a lot during the campaign. He was a fairly early supporter of President Trump, a key Iowa supporter of Donald Trump. And Sam Clovis, his nomination to serve in the Agriculture Department could be in trouble. What is his significance inside the Trump orbit connecting the administration back to the campaign?
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, he was considered a trusted advisor. He's up for nomination to be the chief scientists at the Department of Agriculture, and you know, for all accounts, any one that has ever talked to him is pretty much a standup guy.
Now this is the problem with Papadopoulos in that someone like him, someone who is not a direct employee of the campaign but is a volunteer, and so they are trying to make connections, and, you know, move up the ladder.
[09:25:06] You know, these e-mails are traded and, you know, we don't know if Clovis immediately dismissed it, or -- we don't know the context so we don't know where he stands. You might see, though, that the Trump administration in an effort to just completely distance themselves from anyone connected is to say, you know, you got to go.
BERMAN: It will be interesting to watch that and it could all develop over the next few minutes so we are watching it closely. Betsy, I want to ask you. Maggie Haberman got a phone call, and it was the president of the United States calling Maggie Haberman out of the blue to say I'm not worried at all.
"I'm not under investigation, as you know." He talked about the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, he said, "Even if you look at that, there's not even mention of Trump in there. It has nothing to do with us."
So, aside from the fact that we don't really know that he is not under investigation per se, the fact of the phone call fascinates me. What do you think he gets out of it?
BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICS REPORTER, "THE DAILY BEAST: One thing that the White House has been pushing for months now is that they've been pushing this message that they are cooperating fully with the Mueller probe and they expect the Mueller probe to clear their good name of any of the allegations regarding potential cooperation with Russian government officials.
That they want the probe to get wrapped up as quickly as possible. So, they are onboard and trying to be helpful. You heard Sarah Sanders shortly after those indictments came down saying from the White House press briefing podium that part of the reason Mueller was actually able to get a plea deal out of Papadopoulos was because of the White House's help.
Now that's all, of course, a really interesting way for them to sort of frame this situation, very different from the way the White House talked about the Mueller probe when Mark Kasowitz was the president's attorney.
But my guess is that it's not reflective of a good understanding of the nature of the probe and the threat that it poses to folks within the White House. Look, one of the most important things about the indictments that got handed down yesterday is that they show that Mueller -- or on Monday, is that they show Mueller is taking a very broad view of his mandate.
One of the crimes that Papadopoulos plead guilty to happened after Trump was inaugurated, lying to the FBI. Additionally, a lot of the tax crimes that come up, related to Manafort and Rick Gates happened years before Trump was running for president.
That sends a very clear signal that Mueller is casting a wide net and not just looking at stuff Trump related or stuff that is Russia related or election related. If you are a Trump associate with dicey financial dealings or a troubled tax history, Mueller can be a problem for you.
BERMAN: They are telling me I am out of time. So, I can't ask about this, but I just point one thing out. James Comey, the fired FBI director, we know the title of his upcoming book. Remember, James Comey claims he held a meeting with President Trump that demanded loyalty, the title of his upcoming book from James Comey will be "A Higher Loyalty." Do you agree this is a certain level of trolling?
ZITO: I would say so.
WOODRUFF: Yes, absolutely.
BERMAN: Let the record show I am affirmed. Salena Zito, Betsy Woodruff, thanks so much for being with us. It's great to have you with us.
House Republicans meeting right now about the new tax reform bill. We're waiting for details. They are pretty important. CNN's Christine Romans here following all of that for us.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: What's in it? That has been the big mystery for many weeks now. The speculation is about to be over. You have House Republicans meeting right now learning what their leaders decided and what the bill is called, and we will know what is in the tax bill.
What I do know for sure it's going to be hard to make the math work and a hard-quick sell to get this done, something Republicans want to do.
And later today, we will learn who the new fed chief will be. The president will unveil that pick ending months of speculation. Jay Powell, the man on your screen, widely expected to get the nod. Janet Yellen would be the first fed chief since the Carter administration to only serve one term.
We know the stock futures are flat right now. We'll have the opening bell in just a few moments when we come back.