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Authorities Report Possible Pipe Bomb Explosion in New York Subway; Port Authority Searching for Possible Explosive Devices in New York City; Alabama Senate Race Nearing Election Day; Candidates Make Final Push In Alabama Senate Race; CNN: One Person In Custody After Times Square Explosion. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 11, 2017 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: -- looking to similar packaging to that which they found this reported pipe bomb.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We're hearing two separate things. So the NYPD believes and it confirms that there was an explosion, whereas the governor's office does not know and confirms that there is a device but is not confirming the explosion. So, obviously, these are very early minutes. Clearly, something is happening that is happening down there. And this affects -- I can't begin to tell you the ripple effect that this has throughout all of New York in terms of this being the major hub on a Monday morning.

CUOMO: Just to be clear, what we're hearing right now is a range of reports, something happened. Some type of explosion happened. There may have been injured. There may even have been a fatality. The reports are out there. We do not have them confirmed. The Port Authority is a very tough place to secure. It is a tough place to investigate. What is it? It is primarily a bus terminal, but it is an intersection of all kinds of local and regional buses --

CAMEROTA: Subways --

CUOMO: -- and trains and path trains that go aboveground, as well. So it's a really big and intricate place. And if they have to search all the different vulnerabilities for explosive devices, it's going to take a while. But again, this is not nothing. They at least found a device that is forcing them to have to do a massive sweep of this area around the Port Authority in Manhattan, there in the midtown west side of Manhattan. And there are reports that there was a human cost here. So we're going to have to stay on it and get you confirmed information.

CAMEROTA: And this is an interesting target, right, Chris, because it's a soft target in that it's very hard to secure, as you say. However --

CUOMO: You don't have TSA going in and out of a place like this.

CAMEROTA: Great point. However, obviously, in recent years in times there has been a big beefed up security presence. When I go through any of these, either Grand Central or Port Authority, you see armed guards and people patrolling. They are obviously always on the lookout for anything suspicious. But they can't do everything. They can't cover every square inch.

CUOMO: They can't do much, and you don't have enough egress out of that place. It is certainly a target of opportunity. That's why the see something, say something campaign is so important in cities like New York City. But again, there are reports that what you're seeing on your screen is a reflection of urgency in New York City. They are looking for more explosive devices. There are reports that one, maybe more explosive devices were found at the Port Authority in New York City. There are reports that there was a human cost here. We are not sure what that means. We're waiting for confirmation.

We're also waiting to get somebody on the phone. Do we have anybody yet to discuss this?

CAMEROTA: OK, so if you're just tuning this, there is breaking news unfolding. This is in midtown, Manhattan. This is at the Port Authority. This is the major bus terminal, as well as subways and a couple of path trains that come in. This is how commuters -- one of the places that commuters come in from the outer states and boroughs in on a Monday morning to work. So it couldn't be a busier time at 8:00 a.m. on a Monday morning in Port Authority. So something has happened there. There was an explosive device found and we're trying to determine if, in fact, it went off.

CUOMO: One, maybe more, may have been a human cost. We have Dave Foote. He works with CNN. He was actually there on foot, witnessed some of the scene. Dave, can you hear me?

DAVE FOOTE, CNN OPERATIONS SUPERVISOR, WITNESS, (via telephone): I got you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Are you good?

FOOTE: I'm good. We were in the Port Authority, one of the last buses in before they started evacuating. As I was coming down the stairs to the Port Authority, they started making the announcement. Sorry, it's a little loud here, a lot of ambulances.

CUOMO: What did you see? What did you hear?

FOOTE: It was mostly a very organized evacuation of the Port Authority. All the activity seems to be underground. There was no visible signs of anything happening in the Port Authority, no smoke or anything like that. So it was an orderly evacuation of the Port Authority. But right now the entire area is just -- I mean, there's dozens of ambulances in the area. I'm sure that's probably normal for some sort of, you know, type of call like this. But they're really evacuating the area. And it goes all the way back towards the Times Square area. So traffic is obviously backed up. It's hard to get around.

CUOMO: They have a straight protocol, as you know, about what they bring to the scene. It is not supposed to be as heavy as it is if nothing happened. That's why we're hearing -- I don't know what you were able to pick up on because you've been doing your morning commute, but there is strong suggestion and reporting that they found something, maybe more than one device. There's a question as to whether or not it detonated before they got to it or was part of diffusing it. And there are reports that there may have been a human toll here. We don't know what that means in terms of injuries or even worse. We're waiting on that. Did you see any sign? Did you smell anything? Did anybody say anything to you there?

FOOTE: I didn't smell anything, but, yes, people did hear an explosion underground.

[08:05:00] When I was walking towards Times Square, they had to kind of maneuver us around a little bit, we definitely heard people talking about it. And what's interesting now, Chris, is when you look up towards 48th Street, 49th Street, there's more activity up there, which taking that subway line, which I would have been getting on to go to the office right now, on the A-train, that's kind of where the northern part of that station would land.

CUOMO: Right. All right, so, Dave --

FOOTE: -- kind of long, so the bottom, the end is toward the Port Authority and the northern part would be towards, you know, the 47th Street, 48th Street area. So --

CUOMO: Got you.

FOOTE: -- that whole corridor is shut down.

CUOMO: Dave, keep yourself safe. Get to work. This is obviously more than now a normal snap protocol for an alert. We have another producer on the phone, so let's get to that.

CAMEROTA: Yes, Shimon Prokupecz is on the phone right now with what he's hearing from his sources. Shimon, what have you learned?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER (via telephone): Good morning. So basically what we're being told is one person is in custody. Police believe that this was some kind of a pipe bomb, we're told, and at least, initially, that's what it appears to be. And that it looks like it went off unintentionally, or prematurely, is how they're also describing it, that this wasn't the intended target. That this wasn't supposed to go off at the location it did, and that it went off.

The person who was carrying it, the person who is in custody is injured, unclear is anyone else is injured. And we don't know who the person is yet. Police have not identified the person that they have taken into custody. But it appears right now that there is only one injury and it doesn't seem like there are a whole lot of other injuries or any other serious injuries.

CAMEROTA: So Shimon, it's your reporting that there was, in fact, an explosion. That's what people are telling you, there was, in fact, an explosion, but it doesn't sound as though it was huge enough, at least what they're sharing with you, to cause injuries. And what makes them think it wasn't the intended target? PROKUPECZ: That's a good question. I don't know, Alisyn, but

whatever -- based on whatever information they have right now, they don't believe that this was the location where this bomb, this pipe bomb was supposed to go off, and that the person was in transit. And that it appears, at least, right now, that it went off unintentionally.

CUOMO: Any type of injuries? Anything worse?

PROKUPECZ: No, it only appears that there's one person right now, maybe there's one other injury, perhaps maybe people who were running from the scene were injured, but I have not heard of any serious or any deaths, at least, at this point.

CAMEROTA: Shimon, have they shared with you where exactly this detonated?

PROKUPECZ: No. It sounds -- so I've heard two different locations, either on one of the platforms or somewhere near one of the subway entrances, as you've been reporting, by the bus terminal. But I don't have an exact location.

CUOMO: All right, now, in terms of this response, Shimon, I've been telling people this is not a normal, you know, hey, we have an alert of something, we need to investigate. There is a massive response effort going on right now around the Port Authority. There's several blocks that are closed off. And obviously, we know they're controlling movement underground, as well. What are you hearing about in terms of the severity of the threat level and how seriously they're taking it?

PROKUPECZ: The security, as you know, around the city is already pretty much tight. It's the holiday season. This is our high season here in New York, which the holiday. So -- and there's a ton of security around Times Square already. But the response here is large, because as anything right now, they would treat this early on as possibly a terror attack just because that's how the NYPD deals with these situations.

So you're seeing a lot of heavily armed police officers, their tactical group, their counterterrorism guys just running there. And they're all on the scene now, and as well as the fire department and the bomb squad. And I know that the bomb squad was responding, because I think that the device was still active on the person. So they were responding to try to figure out what it is.

But the response is no doubt massive, as you would expect, especially in this area around Times Square, which is so busy, so, so busy, especially with the holidays. And, you know, this is early. This is rush hour. People are just getting to offices around the area. So no doubt the response is massive.

CUOMO: Shimon, appreciate it, buddy. Keep us in the loop on what you're hearing. Again, just to remind everybody why you're seeing pictures of the flashing red and blue on your screen, in New York City, at the Port Authority, which is a massive terminal for buses and train fare on the west side of Manhattan, there are reports that there was an explosive device. We're not told it was a massive device. There are not reports of massive injuries or anything worse yet. We do know that there is a man in custody, according to Shimon Prokupecz, that's what the NYPD is telling us. The response is much larger than normal.

[08:10:00] They have cordoned off several blocks and they are searching actively underground. It is a massive area. So that's what we know. Brynn Gingras is with us.

CAMEROTA: Brynn Gingras, she's on set with us right here. Hard to underscore just how busy and chaotic this scene could be on a Monday morning as commuters flow in. What are your sources telling you about what happened?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Adding to what Shimon was saying, the initial calls I was making, I was being told this doesn't sound like terrorism. So to immediately have an idea, of course this is something they have to investigate to they can make that determination, but to get that initial sort of comment off the record, that's kind of consistent --

CAMEROTA: But if it's a pipe bomb, how can it not be terrorism?

GINGRAS: Again, it's initial, just instinct that was given to me by authorities. It's not something that I can necessarily report. It was just consistent with what Shimon was saying, that they're like, this wasn't --

CUOMO: But this is a frustration for Brynn and us when we report this. We see terrorism as somebody who is trying to hurt other people. That is not how authorities define terrorism. They have to investigate to see if whatever happened is linked to a political agenda. That is what is called terrorism. Doesn't mean it isn't bad. Doesn't mean somebody is not trying to hurt someone in the name of others. They have to make the connection before they call that it that.

GINGRAS: Exactly. And so when you hear Shimon talking about the fact that it didn't injure a lot of people or didn't create this huge explosion, that's why they probably had that first instinct. So I was just underscoring that, that what I'm hearing from sources on the record is that someone detonated some sort of device on himself, and it appears through my sources that that is the one person who is also in custody.

So certainly, it didn't detonate large enough to injure even himself that he's in custody.

CUOMO: And they have the perp. So they're talking to him about why he did it, what he's about. So they're able to make some assessments, as well.

GINGRAS: Exactly. But like you said, this is an extremely busy area, certainly this time of day when people are getting buses and trains. We're not quite sure exactly where it happened, at least through my sources, but you could see the response. This is the middle of Manhattan at the rush hour.

CAMEROTA: So Brynn, we'll let you work your sources. Please stand by and come back to us with any more details that you get.

Meanwhile, all eyes on Alabama's high-stakes Senate race today as voters head to the polls tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, President Trump is making a big push for the GOP's embattled nominee Roy Moore. The president recording a phone call and rallying over the weekend for the man accused of child molestation. CNN's Kaylee Hartung is live in Montgomery, Alabama, with more. So set the scene for us, Kaylee.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, with one day until the polls open here in Alabama, President Trump is ramping up his efforts to get Roy Moore elected in this special election. This is a state that hasn't sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in more than 20 years. But with the explosive allegations against Moore, the Democratic Party is hopeful they that they have an opportunity to pick up a seat here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

HARTUNG: President Trump making a final push to bolster Alabama's Republican nominee and accused child molester Roy Moore, recording a robo-call for the controversial Senate candidate after touting his support for Moore at a rally in Florida.

TRUMP: This country, the future of this country, cannot afford to lose a seat in the very, very close United States Senate. We can't afford it, folks.

HARTUNG: For the second time in one week, the president's former chief strategist Steve Bannon also campaigning for Moore, who's become the face of Bannon's anti-establishment movement.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: If they can destroy Roy Moore, they can destroy you.

HARTUNG: Moore's candidacy continuing to divide the GOP, with the state's most prominent Republican, Senator Richard Shelby, denouncing his party's nominee on CNN.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY, (R) ALABAMA: So many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip, when it got to the 14-year-old story, that was enough for me. I said, I can't vote for Roy Moore. The state of Alabama deserves better.

HARTUNG: Moore's opponent, Democrat Doug Jones, immediately turning Senator Shelby's remarks into an online ad and robo-calls that were placed statewide in the final hours of the election. Moore himself seeming to avoid the spotlight. The former judge has not held a public campaign event since early last week, remaining largely out of sight this weekend other than a taped interview with a local TV program.

ROY MOORE, (R) ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I do not know them. I had no encounter with them. I never molested anyone.

HARTUNG: Jones, on the other hand, barnstorming the state alongside a number of prominent Democrats who are pouring money and resources into the race.

DOUG JONES, (D) ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I want to make sure that when my granddaughters grow up, they don't have to endure the kind of things those girls in Etowah County did and then sit silent for 30 or 40 years. I want to make sure that we send a message of who we are and what we are.

HARTUNG: Jones enlisting the help of former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker in an attempt to shore up the black vote, a critical demographic for Jones.

Meanwhile, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley saying Sunday that any woman that speaks up about inappropriate sexual behavior should be heard, including President Trump's accusers.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARTUNG: Those remarks from one of the highest-ranking women in the Trump administration. That's a notable break from the president's long-standing assertion that those allegations are false and part of a smear campaign.

Tonight, in the final hours of this race, dueling campaign rallies, Doug Jones will be with a special guest in Birmingham. Meanwhile, Roy Moore back with his friends, Steve Bannon, south in Midland City -- Chris, Alisyn.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It's interesting, you know, Doug Jones had been the one that had been keeping a little quiet. He didn't take our invitations to come on the show, didn't want to nationalize the race, but in the last couple of days, it's Roy Moore who went quiet.

And Doug Jones is making a push certainly to try to drive turnout, very big deal. Democratic numbers don't match the Republican ones there and in a special election, turnout is everything.

All right, let's bring in CNN political analyst, Jonathan Martin. He's been covering the race closely. Please feel free to disagree with anything that I just said. What are you seeing in terms of the state of play down there?

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks, Chris, for having me. I appreciate it. I think what has not been fully appreciated here is just how much money and manpower Democrats are pouring into this race.

And you mentioned, aptly, Chris, a minute ago, that Doug Jones did not want to nationalize the race and I can't echo that enough. Democrats here are so sensitive about the perception that it's sort of out-of- state forces were orchestrating this race.

But the fact is, as we report today, Alex Burns and I have a story in the paper, the fact is that out-of-state groups have, in fact, poured a lot of money in. They've tried the to do so discreetly, but there's a multi-million-dollar GOTV "get out the vote" effort here.

And if Jones does pull off an upset, I think it will be in large part because he had a lot of money coming in the end and his folks told us they basically tore off their budget. The money was flooding in both to his campaign and via third party groups to help get out the vote.

Is that enough in a red state like this, in a special election, where the Republican has got deeply committed supporters? It's not easy to figure out, but I will say this, though. If the closing message here is Richard Shelby telling folks that he's not supporting Roy Moore and Roy Moore is not good for Alabama, that's a huge gift to Doug Jones.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Jonathan, is it true that Roy Moore himself was AWOL this weekend? Other than that interview he sat down, whatever day that was, that people didn't see him out campaigning and in fact, the suggestion was that he had gone to the Army/Navy game, out of state.

MARTIN: Yes, his folks won't confirm that, which is sort of telling, but they also won't deny it either. The two of you have covered lots of campaigns. Guys, I can't recall the closing days of a major statewide election where one of the two major party nominees simply vanishes.

He has not been on the campaign trail. He was not at his home church yesterday for services, and he has scheduled one final pre-election rally tonight, hours before the polls open, in a very rural part of the state. A kind of event that does not sort of scream as somebody who wants media coverage.

And it's pretty clear why he's not having events. He does not want to face impromptu questions about these charges of sexual misconduct. He has very much been out of the public eye, a stark contrast to Jones who's having a lot of events and is very active, especially in the black community here in the final days of the campaign.

CUOMO: Well, Doug Jones doesn't want to nationalize the race, because that plays into this theme of Trump's influence with Moore, which is that this is a culture war going on. And this is about changing the values that matter so much to Alabama voters.

What is your sense on the ground down there, as to what the plus/minus is on the morality issue for Roy Moore? He's getting dinged on these accusations, and rightly so. But on the flip side, he's seen as such a big Christian warrior down there. So, on morality, does that net him to neutral or is he still in positive territory on that?

MARTIN: Chris, it's really the urban/rural divide here. The fact is Alabama is much like the rest of the country if you talk to people in the cities here, Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile, you know, they have little regard for Roy Moore and very much believe his accusers. You go more into rural areas and you find more support for Moore. So that doesn't really change. I will say that the Jones folks privately have said that Trump full I embracing Moore here in the last few days has been helpful to Moore.

Because it sort of gives some people here who like Trump cover to support a candidate in Roy Moore who perhaps they're kind of uneasy about it. But at the same time, by fully engaging in this race, Trump also sends a message to African-Americans here, hey, there's a campaign on Tuesday.

[08:20:10] It's kind of an odd date, the special election, the 12th of December. But Trump coming in sort of works both ways as far as motivation.

CAMEROTA: Jonathan, I know you're in Alabama, but if you can put on your national hat for a moment, we want to ask you about U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and her comments this weekend where she said that Donald Trump's accusers, the more than a dozen who have come forward with claims of sexual misconduct, assault, et cetera, deserve to be heard.

Chris has been pointing out all morning, that's different than deserve to be believed. But it's also different and off-script from what we've heard from the White House, which has tried to undermine them.

MARTIN: Yes, I thought it was striking, and I think if she can say that and basically suffer no internal consequences, it will demonstrate that she has got a really strong place, in this administration.

And that she has sort of some freedom to speak her mind, that perhaps others in the administration do not have. I'll be curious to see what happens here in the next few days and what, if anything, President Trump says about it.

Because it is a far cry from what Sarah Sanders has been saying from the podium of the White House, which is, when the voters supported Donald Trump for the presidency last year, that ended the issue, period.

And this is something very, very different. And the fact that it's coinciding with the emergence of some of Donald Trump's accusers coming out today and speaking publicly about their stories could sort of fuel this story more here in the days to come.

And guys, we know very well, this is a president who responds to media coverage and follows media coverage very closely. So, I think it will speak to whether or not she has got a strong place in this administration if President Trump lets this go.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, you're referring to this -- there's this sort of press conference happening where some of his accusers have gotten together, a show of strength in numbers. They're going to come out and we feel as though -- we've heard them say this, they feel as though they've been forgotten. Everything that happened with Donald Trump was before Harvey Weinstein, this is a different moment. This is a "me too" moment that they are having and they want to be counted in that so we'll see what happens when they come forward.

CUOMO: Look, it also depends what the forum is and what the standards are that are in play. And we really haven't come to any good conclusions about what we should do each time out with these. J Martin, thanks very much for being down there. Give us a heads up if you see any meaningful change, OK?

MARTIN: Thanks, guys. Roll, tide.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much.

So, we are staying on top of this breaking news that just broke a few moments ago. One person is in custody after an explosion at Port Authority in New York. That is a major commuter travel hub that comes into the city. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says the president has been briefed on this situation. So, we have all of the latest breaking details as this unfolds for you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:26:30]

CUOMO: All right. We are following breaking news. You're looking right now at Midtown Manhattan on the west side. This is the Port Authority Area of Manhattan. It is a huge transportation hub. You've bot buses, local, and regional, subways, above-rail. Lots of traffic every morning.

And as your screen says, there is a person that is reportedly in custody because they had either a vest or some type of pipe bomb. There are reports that it detonated. We're not sure whether or not the person detonated it or the response forces did it in trying to diffuse it. There are reports all over the place about casualties. We are staying away from them because we cannot confirm them.

CAMEROTA: A law enforcement source tells us that it does appear to be some type of pipe bomb that exploded. It appears to have gone unintentionally, with meaning it didn't hit its intended target, perhaps an even more highly trafficked area.

There is a person in custody, we're told. The last report we had was that he was injured and at the moment, we don't want to report on any other injuries. President Trump has been briefed, according to the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that she has just recently briefed him.

So, let's bring in Tom Fuentes now. He's our senior law enforcement analyst. Tom, what do you see?

TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Good morning, Alisyn? Well, I think right now it appears from the fact that the bomb did not detonate in one of the more crowded areas of the terminal that it probably wasn't intended to explode at that location, at that time and that whoever was carrying it through that hallway or passageway was trying to get to an area where it would inflict more damage.

The question now is whether the authorities are going to be able to identify that person. Does he have identification on him? Are there any other people involved in this? They have to do a thorough search of the terminal to determine that there are no other secondary devices that were already placed in a position to detonate later.

So, they still have a lot of work to do in this. If it's one person and that person is in custody, it doesn't mean that they don't have more work to do throughout the terminal to make sure it's clear.

CUOMO: Now, why the Port Authority? Soft target. Tons of people, tons of ingress and egress. Hard to police, hard to secure, and it's not like an airport, right, Tom?

FUENTES: Correct. You just answered your own question. That's exactly why they want to do these attacks. And even if it's just a deranged person who's not affiliated with a terrorist group, we don't know that yet.

But in any event, it's going to get the more damage that's done, the more casualties inflicted, the more attention that person or movement will get. That's usually the intent in most of these situations. We'll find out, I think, by the end of the day.

CAMEROTA: And what is pipe bomb, the weapon here, tell you?

FUENTES: Well, that's a very amateurish device. It's not military- grade explosive. Practically anybody can learn how to put a pipe bomb together with common goods available at a, you know, a home repair- type story and all kinds of recipes on the internet to go about doing that.

So, this could be anybody doing this all by himself. Normally, you would expect a more military-grade explosive, if it was a major terrorist organization with a number of co-conspirators. But in this case, with one person all by his or herself could do this fairly easily.

CUOMO: I mean, look, the sad reality is, we're not telling people who want to be in the business of doing bad things anything they don't already know. If you look at Boston, what happened in London --