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NYPD: Explosion at Port Authority was "Terror-Related"; NYPD: 27-year-old Suspect Strapped Bomb to his Body; Candidates make Final Push in AL Senate Race. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired December 11, 2017 - 10:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome back, everyone. I'm John Berman.


Top of the hour, we do have big breaking news, big breaking news this Monday morning, terror in the heart of New York City. At least four people right now have been injured after this explosion right below Times Square. This is in Port Authority, the main transportation hub there. What we have just learned, a 27-year-old man is in custody, someone by the name of Akayed Ullah is the one that police believe carried this out.

BERMAN: All right. He was wearing some kind of improvised explosive device, a pipe bomb attached with Velcro and zip ties. He was injured. He is the most seriously injured person in this incident right now with burns to his abdomen and hands. Three other people were injured but their injuries are pretty minor ringing in the ears and headaches. And we also know that this incident was captured on video, something that is being poured over right now by law enforcement. The president has been briefed. New York officials, they briefed the press moments ago. This was New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK: This was an attempted terrorist attack. Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goal. Thank God our first responders were there so quickly to address the situation to make sure people were safe. Thank God the only injuries that we know at this point were minor.


BERMAN: All right. Let's go to the scene right now. CNN's Jason Carroll is live there. Jason, you are at this press conference that took place just moments ago, filling in some of the details in the morning's attack.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of the most important details that came out of this is that the suspect Akayed Ullah, the 27-year- old, is alive and that he is talking to investigators. Unclear at this point what he's saying, but investigators here have confirmed that he is talking. So they'll be able to yield hopefully a lot of information from him about some of the why in terms of how this happened.

Again, according to police this happened beneath ground at 42nd and 8th Avenue. That's just where we're standing at the Port Authority. Remember in the beginning when this happened this morning, there were some reports that this happened at Times Square and that's because for people who are unfamiliar with New York, the underground transportation hub connects where I'm standing to Times Square. Apparently the suspect was at 42nd and 8th walking to 42nd and 7th which in all likelihood means he was trying to possibly head to the area beneath Times Square. So we'll be getting more information about that.

Again, the suspect, 27 years old. He was wearing what they call a low- tech device. It was some sort of pipe bomb that was attached to him. You heard the investigators say there by Velcro and by zip ties. There was several reports early on that the device had gone off unintentionally. Investigators were asked about that during the press conference. They are still trying to get more confirmation in terms of that.

What was really frightening was to hear from some of these eyewitnesses who experienced this when it happened. One woman, she was an MTA worker, John, I think I mentioned this this morning. She was in her booth when the explosion went off. She told one of our producers that she heard the explosion and immediately started running.

Some other folks who were on a bus were told immediately to get off and to run for safety. Millions upon millions of people come through this transportation hub every single day. And you could hear from investigators who say, this is the situation that could have been far, far worse. Three injuries, minor injuries from people, but this is the situation, obviously, that could have been much, much worse. John, Poppy?

HARLOW: Jason Carroll on the scene. Thank you so much.

[10:05:00] With us now, Matthew Horace, former ATF executive and Bernard Kerik, former NYPD police commissioner. So former commissioner Karat to you, hearing what we heard, the current police commissioner James O'Neill, not directly answering the question when one of the reporters asked, you know, did he make statements sympathetic with ISIS. He said he did make statements. We're not going to talk about that right now. That's significant and then also, this device very sort of elementary device and attached to his body with Velcro, with zip ties. What are you taking from these pieces at this point?

BERNARD KERIK, FORMER NYC POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, look, it's time will tell on his, you know, whether he was radicalized here or abroad or whatever the case may be. The important thing is that it was a low- tech device. It was sort of a minor device, didn't detonate in a substantial manner as your colleague mentioned.

You know, millions of people go through that hub on a daily basis at any point in time between 42nd Street and 8th Avenue and Grand Central Terminal. You could have a half a million people, especially at that time in the morning, rush hour you could have a half a million people inside the mass transit system just in that three-block area. And a detonation -- substantial detonation would have killed a bunch of people and created mass havoc. So, you know, it's, you know, it's unfortunate, but it's good that it happened the way it did.

BERMAN: Matthew Horace, to you on this device, again, you worked for the ATF, so this is your bailiwick. What we know about it, a pipe bomb, a fixed to the man's body with Velcro and zip ties, everyone referring to it as a low-tech device and obviously he did not know how to control it because we are not even clear if he meant to set it off where he did. But as the former commissioner was just saying here, even a low-tech device, crude as it was could have caused extreme damage in such a densely packed area.

MATTHEW HORACE, FORMER ATF EXECUTIVE: Well, John, what you said is very true and it's really not whether it's the low-tech or not. It's all depends on its capacity, what type of explosive is used in the device, the size of the pipe bomb and if there are other factors like shrapnel or detonators and until we determine that, they will really not going to know what happened here.

BERMAM: Yes, we don't know if he put nails or if he put marbles in it, the types of things we have unfortunately seen before designed to hurt or maim as many people as possible, those details still not forthcoming at this point.

HARLOW: And commissioner, you did have the governor, Governor Cuomo, talking about the Internet, and talking about how anyone can go on the Internet and learn how to build a device like this, et cetera. So to your point, we don't know if he was radicalized abroad or on the Internet. I wonder if you think it's telling, you know, what the governor chose to discuss.

KERIK: Well, listen at this point there's information that they may have already and they don't want to get out.

HARLOW: Right.

KERIK: But you know do a full background brief on where this guy came from, who his relatives are, who his associates are, if somebody was funding him, there's a lot that goes into an investigation like this but time will tell over the next several weeks.

BERMAN: You know, Matt Horace, to you again, we're not sure if this device was set off intentionally in the location where it went off. So he possibly meant to do it on the subway itself or maybe in a line, somewhere where it was more densely packed and it's not that I want you to reveal the blueprints for how to build something like this because Lord knows, people don't need to see that, although they can find it for themselves on the Internet right now. But how complicated is it to put together one of these things and get it to work the way you wanted to and how is it that it can go off accidentally?

HORACE: Well, to answer your question it's two fold. It's not very complicated to make a device and I've seen the devices made from galvanized steel pipe or PVC pipe in different sizes and different shapes. What I'm more concerned about as a former investigator is, bombers rarely make one bomb. So whether he made multiple devices and has that at his residence or someone else's residence, I'm sure investigators are trying to determine now if there were other people involved where those other devices are because there is invariably another device out there somewhere.

HARLOW: All right. We just got this video in that shows the moment of all of this in Port Authority near Times Square.

Let's go to our Brynn Gingras. Brynn, can you walk us through what we're seeing in the video?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, this is going to give you a good idea, Poppy, of what we were talking about throughout the morning which is that narrow area, that narrow passage way where this detonation took off. You can see this is coming from a surveillance camera. It's somewhere within the Port Authority and right there, is when you see the explosion and you can see that there are still even people walking toward the right, running to the right but then you see that person that's lying there on the ground.

Now, I can only assume that that there is the suspect or it's possible it's one of the people that was injured throughout this. We know earlier from the news conference that those injured had ringing of the ears and some headaches.

[10:10:04] So I can imagine that that was there. The suspect who we're told through authorities had that detonation device on him. But that is the exact moment inside the Port Authority that narrow passage way where this went off.

BERMAN: And again, as we're looking at this video and I'm not sure whether the former commissioner or Matt Horace is still with us right now.

But Matt, if you are with us, former ATF official right now, as you see the picture of what certainly appears to be the suspect on the ground there, leveled out, after this device went off. But still, not to be too gruesome here, his body still fully intact, it's unclear to me whether this device went off with the impact that he intended it to. Matt, are you still with us?

HORACE: I am. And I think the answer to that question is no. If he intended it to injure multiple people, dozens, if not hundreds and we see the condition of his body, clearly the device did not go off as he intended.

HARLOW: Commissioner, to you, just explain to people who aren't familiar with the New York City Subway system, first of all, it's essentially like a sidewalk, but it's covered on all sides and it connects two Avenues or different parts of the subway. But explain to people just the lack of -- there's nothing you go through when you walk into the subway. I mean, there are no metal detectors or nothing like that. KERIK: No. There's really no metal detectors. I mean, if they operated a system like what you have in an airport or anywhere else you would get nobody into the system.

HARLOW: Right.

KERIK: You know there are millions of people that go through the system. But Poppy, I want to touch on one thing that Matt said earlier and that is, there may be other devices out there. You know, I've heard some political pundits say, there is no specific threat right now in the city or in New York. You know, there is a credible threat to this country. It may not be specific to New York City right now but there is definitely a credible threat by ISIS, al Qaeda and these other radical Islamic groups. This guy being one of them probably and you know, just to that point, people have to be extremely careful, cautious, vigilant, pay attention to where you are, pay attention to the people around you, especially if this time of the year when somebody like this would try to make an example out of New York City.

BERMAN: All right. Matthew Horace, former commissioner Bernard Kerik thank you so much for being with us and help us understand what has been going on.

Again, this terror related attack in New York City four people injured including the suspect, but, obviously, could have been much, much worse.

HARLOW: All right. We'll keep you posted on this as it is very much still developing.

Also to Alabama, two robocalls from two presidents supporting two different candidates in the Senate race less than 24 hours until the polls open, who will voters listen to?

BERMAN: Plus, a day in court for former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his deputy. Could they have their bail revoked?


[10:17:18] BERMAN: All right. It is Election Eve in Alabama. And there are new voices right in the middle of this race.


BERMAN: Including President Trump's by phone.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hi, this is President Donald Trump and I need Alabama to go vote for Roy Moore.

If Alabama elects liberal Democrat Doug Jones, all of our progress will be stopped cold.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: Well, Democrat Jones is a presidential robocall of his own from former President Obama. But what may prove to be his biggest boost yet came yesterday from the dean of Alabama Republicans, of course, after he was a Democrat, Senator Shelby. Listen to this.


SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: I didn't vote for Roy Moore. I wouldn't vote for Roy Moore. I think the Republican Party can do better.


HARLOW: All right. The Jones' camp may roll out the Obama robocall.

Our Kaitlan Collins in Midland City where Moore plans a final campaign event this evening, the two gentlemen have taken very different tactics over the weekend in terms of how much they are out there trying to rally voters?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, that's certainly right. Roy Moore had all but disappeared from the campaign trail. We have not seen him in nearly a week. Now despite that, John and Poppy, we did hear from Roy Moore yesterday and one of the few interviews that he's done since these sexual assault allegations were first made against him in November. Now in an interview with a local outlet, Roy Moore denied that he has ever molested anyone and repeated his claim that he does not know the women who have accused him of sexual assault.


ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I do not know them. I had no encounter with them. I never molested anyone. And for them to say that, I don't know why they're saying it, but it's not true.


COLLINS: Now in the last few days we've seen a really aggressive effort on behalf of Democrats to rally support for Roy Moore's Democratic opponent in this race, Doug Jones, including several lawmakers who were in the state over the weekend, campaigning on his behalf like Senator Cory Booker. And now we have this phone call from President Barack Obama which is kind of an effort to counter President Trump's endorsement of Roy Moore in this race. As you know, he was just 20 miles from the state line on Friday where he told an arena filled with Alabama residents to get out and vote for Roy Moore on Tuesday and then he's also recorded a call.

Now in Obama's call we're told that he says, this one is serious, you can't sit it out. He says that Doug Jones is a fighter for justice and progress. And that he will be our champion for justice. Now we're told that call is intended to reach the African-American demographic specifically, a key vote that will help Doug Jones when voters do go to the poll tomorrow. [10:20:04] If that can turn out, and John and Poppy I can't stress just how crucial it would be if that -- those voters do go out and vote for Doug Jones tomorrow because this is a state that has not sent a Democrat to the Senate in 20 years. So it certainly would be surprising if that's what happens tomorrow.

HARLOW: Kaitlan, thank you so much.

Joining us from Alabama, also with us from Alabama, Alex Burns, CNN political analyst and national political reporter for "The New York Times." You have a fascinating piece about this in the "Times" this morning and you report on this robocall that President Obama recorded for Doug Jones, but what stands out in your reporting is there's been a wavering within the Jones' team about whether or not to actually deploy this? Do you know if it's being deployed and also why the hesitation?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well our understanding, Poppy, is that they're going to make that call today and that they're probably more inclined to do it than not at this point. The sense among Democrats was that if -- about a week ago or two weeks ago it had become a heavily nationalized race where Doug Jones was seen as interchangeable with Barack Obama or with other Democratic senators who might want to be involved in the race, you mentioned Cory Booker was here just yesterday. That would not be helpful to Doug Jones. But at this point the cake is probably mostly baked in terms of how voters see Jones in the big picture and it's all really a turnout game as Kaitlan was just saying, if you can get those Black voters out in a really strong numbers for Doug Jones that gives him probably his best shot to win the race and its schedule in the final days of the race reflects that.

BERMAN: They may want to make the decision pretty soon about whether to use the phone call from President Obama because time is running out, Alex. Now, when Alex isn't with us on TV he actually has a day job which is writing for "The New York Times."

HARLOW: Pretty good at it.

BERMAN: And he's pretty damn good at it. Fantastic article about what the Doug Jones' team is doing, Democrats are trying to do in Alabama. In this phone call from President Obama, shows the fine line they're trying to walk. Explain to us what they are doing and why it is so delicate?

BURNS: That's right. What the sensitivity here is all about trying to give Doug Jones all the support that the national party and national liberal groups can give him, without offending voters in a state that is fundamentally extremely conservative. So what we have in our story today is a number of details about the sort of below the radar campaign that groups have been running for Doug Jones. There are Democratic groups who are doing paid canvassing for him. There are Democratic groups that specialize in text messaging and voter contact that would not be as easy to detect as a television commercial.

Jones' campaign itself has been running some pretty hard-hitting ads targeting Roy Moore on Black radio stations. Linking him to what is described as racist alt right groups, hitting him for what it describes as a birther conspiracy theorist views. These are themes that Jones has not put wide in this campaign. You don't hear him talking about it at every campaign stop, you don't see it in all of his television ads, that more conservative voters see, but there has been, make no mistake, an extremely focused and sophisticated effort to mobilize the Democratic base.

BERMAN: All right. Alex Burns, thank you so much, terrific report in the "Times." Thanks to Kaitlan Collins as well. That's the latest on the ground from Alabama.

Here in New York City, a terror related attack, a bomb at New York City Port Authority. Four people injured. We're going to have much more on this straight ahead.


[10:27:59] BERMAN: All right. The breaking news this morning, a terror related attack here in New York City, a bomb that went off in a subway passage way near the Port Authority. Four people injured including the attacker, that man, a 27-year-old is now in custody. He was wearing some kind of crude device, a pipe bomb strapped to his body.

Let's go to Jason Carroll outside Port Authority for the very latest, Jason, on this investigation.

CARROLL: And John, they described it as a low-tech device, that pipe bomb that was affixed to his body with Velcro and zip ties. The suspect, 27 years old, he's been identified as Akayed Ullah, what's important here is investigators say he is talking. They would not reveal what he is saying, but they did say that he is, in fact, talking, although he is in serious, serious injury. There were three other injuries when that improvised device went off. They are minor injuries. Those three people we are told were able to get to hospital on their own speed.

We are at 42nd and 8th Avenue. The explosion happened beneath ground from where we are. Apparently it was all captured on videotape from those security cameras that are located below and throughout the city. Apparently the suspect was heading -- walking in an underground walkway toward 42nd and 7th Avenue. Had he reached his ultimate destination, if that in fact is what it was that would have put him underground Times Square which is why I think initially when initial reports came down, you heard that this explosion had happened at Times Square.

When police gave their press conference, they gave praise to first responders who were here very quickly on the scene, secured the scene, very, very quickly. We also heard from eyewitnesses, one an MTA worker who was in her booth when the explosion went off, others who were on a bus, investigators saying they're hoping to have this area opened by rush hour. John, Poppy?

HARLOW: All right. Jason Carroll, appreciate the reporting all morning you've been there for moments after this happened, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, of course a key member of the Judiciary Committee. Senator, we appreciate you being with us over the phone.