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NYPD: Suspect Detonates Bomb Strapped to His Body; Trump, Obama Record Competing Robocalls; White House Briefing After Terror Attack Near Times Square. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired December 11, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:19] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN, thanks for being with me.

We are waiting on that White House briefing to get rolling. It should begin any moment now. In the meantime, though, we are getting some new details on the breaking story today. This attempted terror attack this morning in the heart of New York City.

This man wearing a homemade pipe bomb detonated his explosive in a walkway at the Port Authority bus terminal near Times Square. It all happened during rush hour and one of the busiest parts in all of Manhattan and now new video showing the moment of the blast. You can see it's obviously quite smoky, the burst of smoke, commuters are going about the morning in this major transit hub in the city. Three people were injured. The suspect is alive.

Governor Andrew Cuomo quick to label it as terror while also downplaying the threat.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: It was a minor -- it was an effectively low-tech device. There were several injuries, we hope minor, and it was handled extraordinarily well. There was a disruption in train service and bus service while a sweep was being done. That's all being restored now.


BALDWIN: Two law enforcement sources tell CNN that the suspect, a 27- year-old man of Bangladeshi descent was living in Brooklyn. He has said to have made the device at his work lace although it is still unclear what he does for work after leaving his former job as a taxi driver.

Let's go straight to Jason Carroll who's been on this since early there near Times Square.

Jason, we know, as we mentioned, the suspect is alive, he's talking. Any news as far as a potential motive?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And that is important to investigators because whenever you have a situation like this, Brooke, as you know, you want to get the suspect talking as soon as you can. The suspect identified again as 27-year-old Akayed Ullah of Bangladeshi descent had been living here in the United States. Again, he is speaking to investigators, apparently, telling them partially a motive for the reason why he did what he did and it was because of Israeli actions in Gaza, the unrest there after the president recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Apparently, that's part of the reason why he did what he did. Obviously, of the investigation is still very, very early. Investigators will clearly have more questions for him.

Again, he lived in Brooklyn and was wearing what investigators describe as a low-tech device strapped to his body. That device they described as a pipe bomb. He apparently used a Velcro and zip ties to attach the device to his body.

And there may be some confusion to some people watching this. They may be wondering why they are calling it an attempted terrorist attack. Investigators say probably the reason for that is that they believe that the device at this point may have prematurely or partially detonated. So, obviously, this is a situation that could have been much, much worse.

Just to describe the location of where it happened, I'm at 42nd and Eighth Avenue, an intersection I know, Brooke, you're well familiar with, right across from Port Authority. The device was detonated below ground in a walkway between where I am and Times Square. Obviously, things could have been much worse and investigators are very quick to praise first responders -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Quickly, Jason. What about those who were hurt?

CARROLL: Three people were hurt with minor injuries. They were able to get themselves to hospital on their own speed, basically ringing in the ears from hearing that type of explosion and they're going to be OK -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK, good deal. Jason Carroll, thank you so much.

As we mentioned, White House press briefing about to begin, so let's turn to the state election tomorrow, where the stakes are so high in Alabama. It has prompted two presidents to take action now. I'm talking of course, about the U.S. Senate race in Alabama, President Trump has fully embraced the Republican there Roy Moore who as you well know now is accused of pursuing teenage girls when he was in his 30s.

Roy Moore is facing allegations that he sexually abused a then-14- year-old girl and sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl. Here is President Trump's robocall to voters there.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hi. This is President Donald Trump, and I need Alabama to vote for Roy Moore, but if Alabama elects liberal Democrat Doug Jones, all of our progress will be stopped cold.

[14:05:01] We need Roy to help us with the Republican Senate. We will win and we will make America great again.


BALDWIN: Meantime, Moore's opponent, the Democrat in this Alabama race, Doug Jones, is also getting some major help. Former President Barack Obama has recorded robocall in support of Jones, but today it wasn't clear if Doug Jones actually knew that.


DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I know that there have been a lot of robocalls that have been recorded. I don't know what's been used, that is not just something I'm doing, the only one I know that's been record side the one my wife did. All of you guys are hearing and injecting things into this race. This race is about Alabama. It is about Alabama. It is about Alabama.


BALDWIN: Let's start there. David Chalian is with us, CNN political director. Jamie Gangel is here, our CNN special correspondent. And Chris Cillizza is with us, CNN politics reporter and editor at large.

David Chalian, what was -- let's begin there. With that sound bite from Doug Jones --


BALDWIN: It's almost like he's like whispering, I'm a Democrat, I don't want to know who Barack Obama is. What's that about?

CHALIAN: Yes. This has been Doug Jones' concern throughout this whole race that all of the national Democrats saw an opportunity here and yet it was like, wait, hang on, guys we want the money and we want to know we can be on the air more than our opponent and I'm not sure I want to be associated with the Democratic Party down here in Alabama. It's a ruby red state, as you know and you can understand why that is a political calculation.

It makes it very tricky on a day like this, though, you know, when we're reporting Barack Obama the former president of the United States has recorded a call for your campaign and the candidate acts as if he knows nothing about that? That seems a bit far-fetched there.

BALDWIN: Jamie Gangel, what do you make of it? Do you think president Obama's presence will help or hurt the Democrat?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, what is he saying? He wants the money with one hand, but the rest of you not so close.


GANGEL: This is Alabama, and everybody's in. Joe Biden put out a statement. Cory Booker has been out there. It is clear that this is a very mixed --


GANGEL: For a Democratic candidate out there. He just needs to run in Alabama and that says just about everything we need to know about why we don't know what's going to happen?

BALDWIN: Chris Cillizza, he is the senior sitting Republican senator. This is not a guy who often pops on TV and does these Sunday shows. He comes on with Jake Tapper, you know, yesterday morning and this is the news he made. Listen.


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.


BALDWIN: I mean, what does that tell you?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, I think it's important. What your context, Brooke, is important. This is not Bob Corker, or Jeff Flake or John McCain, people who sort of revel a little bit and sticking it in the eye of Donald Trump. That's not Richard Shelby, which makes it interesting particularly because it's possible in 48 hours Roy Moore and Dick Shelby will be home state colleagues on the Senate. Remember, this is a special election. So, if Roy Moore wins, he could be sworn in Wednesday.

What does it suggest? I mean, it suggests that there is a significant chunk of Republican voters, Lindsey Graham was on our air earlier today saying something very similar. This is not the Republican Party.

There is a significant chunk of Republicans both in Washington and in Alabama, primarily around the Mobile area, who are still very skeptical of Roy Moore and he needs some of them to come home. If he does win, though, those Republicans including Shelby, including Mitch McConnell, including John Cornyn, including lots of Alabama Republicans, it's going to mean a very tough place because he'll have won despite all of those allegations out there and then what do you do? And that's a huge problem for the Republican Party.

BALDWIN: Did you want to say something?

GANGEL: This is a nightmare for the Republican Party either way. They only -- they're working with two votes here. If this seat goes to the Democrat, they're in big trouble on all of the votes because, look, we've seen Susan Collins, Murkowski, Flake, Sasse, they need every vote they can have.

On the other hand, if he comes in with all of these allegations and charges against him, the first thing is going to be an ethics committee investigation, and, you know, he may have to be seated according to the Constitution, but how long will he last? And do the Republicans want? That's either way.

BALDWIN: I mean, in a way, is it -- David Chalian, can you look at it as a Democrat that even if the Republicans -- let's say Roy Moore wins tomorrow, could it, big picture, could that be a win for Democrats? Could they use it in 2018?

CHALIAN: Certainly. They will use it in 2018.

[14:10:01] They have telegraphed it as such. It's not as desired a win for them as an actual win, and as Jamie was saying sort of alter the math, the immediate math in the Senate on some of these very close votes and the 2018 map. Remember if, indeed, Doug Jones wins, Brooke --


CHALIAN: -- that makes it that much closer that Democrats are able to put the Senate in play next year in a way that it may not be at the moment. So, not only the immediate impact on Trump's agenda, but it also changes the landscape a bit for whether or not the Senate is really in play for Democrats to try to win control next year.

BALDWIN: All right. Let me ask all three of you to stick around. We've got more for you. Waiting for the White House briefing.

Quick break. You're watching CNN. Back in a flash.


[14:15:03] BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We are waiting for that White House briefing.

And as we do so, let me tell you about these three women who are accusing President Trump very publicly of sexual misconduct. They are now calling on Congress to investigate. At least 13 women have claimed Mr. Trump forcibly kissed them or in some cases sexually assaulted them when he was a private citizen. And many of these accusers broke their silence during the 2016 presidential campaign, they are re-emerging with this message today.


JESSICA LEEDS, ACCUSES DONALD TRUMP OF GROPING HER ON AN AIRPLANE: I am hoping that that this will come forward, and produce enough pressure on Congress to address it more than just for their own members, but to address it to the president.

RACHEL CROOKS, ACCUSES DONALD TRUMP OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT IN 2005: I want to believe that as Americans, we can put aside our political inclinations and admit that some things do transcend politics, that we will hold Mr. Trump to the same standard as Harvey Weinstein and the other men who were held accountable for their reprehensible behavior. Therefore, I ask that Congress put aside their party affiliations and investigate Mr. Trump's history of sexual misconduct.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: David, Jamie and Chris are back with me.

And then, just -- Jamie, watching on this part with you, you know, listen, obviously, there are allegations that are the same as when we first heard them during the campaign, but is this Trump's me, too, moment now?

GANGEL: So, that's the question. There is no question the climate is different.

BALDWIN: It is different.

GANGEL: And what he did during the campaign was deny, deny, deny, and he really came away -- he won. He's president of the United States.

I think it is fascinating that these women are coming back again in this climate. We've seen, what is it, about 40 men who have lost their jobs or stepped aside or been suspended. So, I think it's a very -- it's going to be fascinating to watch. Does this climate change the dynamic for him?

BALDWIN: I want to get to Nikki Haley in in a second here and Chris, to you, on the two Democratic senator, it's Booker and Merkley calling on Trump to resign because of these allegations. Do you think -- is this the new question for members of Congress and maybe Democrats specifically? Are you, too, calling on the president to resign as we hear from these women again?

CILLIZZA: Yes, two things. One, breaking news, the president isn't going to resign because Cory Booker called on him to.

But to your point, Brooke, I do think this may become something of a litmus test moving forward as it relates to 2020 candidates because it is impossible, literally impossible to be too anti-Donald Trump for the Democratic base. You cannot do it. You could try and you can't. So, the Elizabeth Warren, the Bernie Sanders, Cory booker, or Kirsten Gillibrand, there's lots and lots of folks --

BALDWIN: Speaking of Gillibrand, Chris, hang on a second, as you were just talking to me, my E.P. just got on my ear, Kristen Gillibrand has just come forward with an interview with CNN. Add her to the list now on your litmus test point and saying she, too, believes he should resign.

CILLIZZA: Right. So, I mean, I do think that's something you're going to see more and more of. I would caution, folks, that is -- does not mean, you could have all 48 Democratic senators saying that Donald Trump needs to resign. It's not going to matter at all to Donald Trump. And in fact, it will probably help him because he'll be able to paint this as purely -- well, this is nothing more than a partisan witch hunt as opposed to should these allegations be heard which is what Nikki Haley said on CNN yesterday.

So, I do think you're going to see some more attention paid to this because to Jamie's point, I don't think you can overestimate the amount that has changed between the 2016 campaign where between October 15th when that "Access Hollywood" tape came out and November 8, there was this whirlwind, whirlwind, he said not true and then we had the election. I think it's both the different climate and a different timeline now for Donald Trump, there isn't an obvious sort of end point where it's like, well, the people decided.

So I think you're going to hear more about it. I think any traditional politician would clarify what he said, and maybe add to it. He is obviously, not a traditional politician and may choose to continue to just say all these things are lies, coordinated by Democrats to get him. I don't know if that's sufficient. For any other politician, it would not be.

BALDWIN: But -- you're right, the lines in the White House so far -- David Chalian, this is for you. The line from the White House has been, essentially, these women are liars. You know, Sarah Sanders has said, you know, obviously Trump is saying this never happened and he's denying all of these allegations and this has been dealt with, right? He's been elected and it's been dealt with, let's move forward.

That is why Nikki Haley is extraordinarily significant because she's breaking from the White House line and she comes on TV yesterday and she says this.


: How do you think people should assess the accusers of the president?

He's been elected and it's been dealt with and let's move forward. That's why nicki haley is extraordinarily significant because she's breaking from the White House line and she comes on TV yesterday and she says this.


[14:20:01] JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST, FACE THE NATION: How do you think people should assess the accusers of the president?

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, I mean, you know, the same thing is women who accuse anyone should be heard. They should be heard and they should be dealt with, and I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.

DICKERSON: And does the election mean that's a settled issue?

HALEY: You know, that's for the people to decide. I know that he was elected, but you know, women should always feel comfortable coming forward and we should all be willing to listen to them.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There were no life-threatening injuries. Undercover Port Authority Police Department Officer Jack Collins apprehended the terrorist along with several other officers.

These brave first responders and the others who rushed to the scene are heroes. On behalf of the president and a grateful nation, we would like to thank them and commend them for their bravery. This attack underscores the need for Congress to work with the president on immigration reforms that enhance our national security and public safety. We must protect our borders and we must ensure that individuals entering our country are not coming to do harm to our people and we must move to a merit-based immigration system.

Additionally, this attack comes as our coalition continues to make great gain against ISIS. Still, there is more work to be done on the ground in the shrinking ISIS-controlled areas and the president's plan to annihilate ISIS is moving forward. But we must also destroy the evil ideology that is behind ISIS and attacks like today's. This ideology has no borders, but it must be eradicated.

The president has successfully rallied the world behind this cause and we will not stop until it's accomplished. And with that, I'll take your questions.


REPORTER: Thank you, Sarah. I wanted to ask you about the women who came forward today against the president. They first were on a television show and then they were at a press conference and they said that he should resign and also that there should be a congressional investigation. And I know that you said that this has been litigated in the last election, but I wanted to get your specific reaction to this idea that there should be a congressional investigation into this.

SANDERS: Look, the president has addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these allegations, and this took place long before he was elected to be president and the people of this country had a decisive election, supported President Trump, and we feel that these allegations have been answered through that process.


REPORTER: Sarah, thank you. One follow-up, breaking news we just learned about. The Pentagon apparently will now allow transgender people to enlist in the military beginning January 1st. Your reaction to that and any follow-up action you're going to take?

SANDERS: Yes. As of right now, they're simply complying with a court order and preparing to implement a previous policy to remain in compliance. The Department of Justice is currently reviewing the legal options to ensure that the president's directive can be implemented. And for anything further, in any specifics on both of those matters, I would refer you to the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice.

Sorry. I'm going to keep moving today.

(CROSSTALK) REPORTER: Just very quickly, sorry.


SANDERS: She's going to pick it up for you.

REPORTER: Nikki Haley, as I'm sure you know, said, when asked, did the election mean that's a settled issue, which you've been arguing from the podium here. She said, I know he was elected, but women should always feel comfortable coming forward. We should all be willing to listen to them, specifically referring to the accusers of the president. Does the president agree with her?

SANDERS: Look, as the president said himself he thinks it's a good thing that women are coming forward, but he also feels strongly that a mere allegation shouldn't determine the course. And in this case, the president has denied any of these allegations as have eyewitnesses and several reports have shown those eyewitnesses also back up the president's claim in this process. And again, the American people knew this and voted for the president and we feel like we're ready to move forward in that process.


REPORTER: They're coming forward now?

SANDERS: The president said that it's a good thing for women to feel comfortable in coming forward, generally speaking.


REPORTER: I just to go off with that, Sarah. The president told Howard Stern in 2005 that he walked into a teen beauty pageant dressing room where teen contestants had no clothes on because he could get away with things like that. Is that not an admission of sexual harassment?

SANDERS: Look, the president spoke about this directly and I don't have anything further to add on the process.


We're going to do one question today, guys, and move around.

REPORTER: To the ISIS attacks in New York city -- or ISIS-inspired attacks in New York City, and just recently -- is the president concerned that there is a growing threat against people inspired by ISIS who've been radicalized online?

[14:25:00] SANDERS: I think the president is certainly concerned that Congress, particularly Democrats, have failed to take action in some places where we feel we could have prevented this. Specifically, the president's policy has called for an end to chain migration and if that had been in place, that would have prevented this individual from coming to the United States. So, the president is aggressively continue going to push forth responsible immigration reform and any chain migration would certainly be a part of that process.


REPORTER: Thanks, Sarah.

The president reacted quite angrily over the weekend to "The Washington Post" reporter's tweet about crowd size that was quickly deleted. I'm wondering if you can explain the discrepancy between the president's reaction to incidents like this which he calls fake news and talks quite a bit about and his silence on actual disinformation campaigns like Russia, Iran during the 2016 election to deliberately spread false information. So both his silence on that, and does he recognize the difference between these two?

SANDERS: Difference, look, the president is simply calling out a very direct and false accusation lodged against him. There was nothing more than an individual trying to put their bias into their reporting and something that, frankly, has gotten a little bit out of control. We've seen it time and time again over the last couple of weeks, a number of outlets have had to retract and change and re-write and make editor's notes to a number of different stories, some of them with major impacts including moving markets.

This is a big problem and we think it should be something taken seriously.


REPORTER: -- the information campaign by a foreign government. Does he see a distinction there?

SANDERS: I haven't spoken with him about that, but we would take misinformation like that very seriously, but it's not something we're comparing the two on.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And I would just say, Sarah, that journalists make honest mistakes and that doesn't make them fake news.

SANDERS: When journalists make honest mistakes they should own up to them. Sometimes, and a lot of times you don't.


SANDERS: I'm sorry. I'm not finished. There's a very big difference between making honest mistakes and purposefully misleading the American people, something that happens regularly. You can't say -- I'm not done.

You cannot say --

REPORTER: It was completely fake, Sarah and he admitted it.

SANDERS: You can't say that it's an honest mistake when you are purposely putting out information that you know to be false, or when you're taking information that hasn't been validated, that hasn't been offered any credibility and that has been continually denied by a number of people, including people with direct knowledge of an incident. This is something that --


SANDERS: I'm speaking about the number of reports that have taken place over the last couple of weeks. I'm simply stating that there should be a certain level of responsibility in that process.

ACOSTA: This was not --

SANDERS: I called on Jim.

ACOSTA: This is not the line of questioning that I was going down, but can you cite a specific story that you say is intentionally false, that was intentionally put out there to mislead the American people?

SANDERS: Sure. The ABC report by Brian Ross. I think that was pretty misleading to the American people, and I think that it's very telling that that individual had to be suspended because of that reporting. I think that shows that the network took it seriously and recognized that it was a problem.


REPORTER: I was going to ask a question.

SANDERS: You used it on something else.


ACOSTA: If I may.

SANDERS: Not today. We'll keep moving, guys.


SANDERS: I'm moving to a different, Jim. I'm sorry.

ACOSTA: I know. I needed a chance to ask the question that I wanted to ask which is --



SANDERS: I'm going to say once and for all that I'm moving on to Jim Stenson (ph) and I'm not taking another question from you at this point.


ACOSTA: I would like to ask the question that I had about these accusations of misconduct against the president and you said he's denied them, whether or not they are false.

SANDERS: I'm not going to respond to that question. Go ahead, Jim.

REPORTER: Some investors are saying the tax reform package favors mutual funds over individual investors. Other critics who want tax reform and the bill will cause tax know increases for by a few middle class tax filers, by a few. I mean, maybe tens of thousands, but maybe more. Would the president sign a tax bill even if there are inadvertent tax increases and some of the criticisms are correct?

SANDERS: As I've said many times before, our focus and our priorities are making sure that we provide middle-class tax relief and simplify the code and bringing businesses back here to the U.S. We're going to continue pushing for that and continue working with Congress to make sure we get the best tax package possible.


REPORTER: Thanks a lot, Sarah. Tomorrow, there is a special Senate election in Alabama. Back on September 23rd, the president went down to Huntsville, Alabama, and campaigned alongside of Luther Strange, and since that time, he never went down. Over the course of the campaign, the campaign alongside the Republican nominee, Roy Moore.

Was the president embarrassed in terms of campaigning alongside Roy Moore? Is that the reason why we didn't see him down in Alabama?

SANDERS: Look, the president has spoken directly about this race and who he supports and who he doesn't.