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Trump Says Armed Teacher Would've Shot Hell Out of Gunman; Secret Service Says Vehicle Strikes Security Barrier Near White House; Driver Intentionally Rammed Barricade and Taken into Custody. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired February 23, 2018 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's good. That's not bad, that's good. And the teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: This, as teachers and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are returning back to work and walking through the very same halls where so many were killed last week. Holly Van Tassel Shuster, is an 11th grade English teacher at Douglas. She is also an alumnus. So, Holly, thank you so much for being with me. I and I am so sorry. Words cannot fully express and to think of you and all these teachers walking back in those same doors today. Can you tell me what that was like for you?
HOLLY VAN TASSEL SHUSTER, 11TH GRADE ENGLISH TEACHER AT DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: Honestly, it was a little bit overwhelming to go back today. We were able to meet as a staff and I went in with some good friends. We all kind of came in together. We needed that support of one another. And then we had a breakfast.
After we had the ability to wander around the building if we wanted to, everything, except, of course, except for the 1200 building, I was able to go into my classroom. I was on the opposite side, I was in the 200, completely opposite side of the building. And for me just walking down that hallway, I was overwhelmed. I broke down. I started crying.
I did not know how to truly handle it. And to see my room with all the backpacks left in there on one side, I had left my laptops out when I was in there on the day that it occurred. All of this -- it took my breath away.
BALDWIN: Holly, you'll have to forgive me. Stand by for me. We're getting some breaking news, actually, from the White House. Ryan Nobles is our correspondent on this. Ryan Nobles, what's happening?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, Secret Service is responding to an incident that took place just outside the White House grounds. And this is from their official Twitter feed a few minutes ago. They are saying that a vehicle, a passenger car actually drove into a security barrier near the White House. This is on 17th Street and E near the White House. That led to a bit of a scurrying around by officials here.
They didn't officially lock down the White House complex but there's a pretty significant group of Australian journalists here today for the visit of the prime minister. They're in a holding pattern right now, they were expected to leave here about half an hour ago and they've been told they can't leave as of right now. Now we're getting various reports as to exactly what happened between the interaction between the driver of this car and Secret Service officials.
We don't want to go into those details quite yet. Because we're trying to exactly hash out what happened. But we do know there's a pretty significant police presence there right now. According to the Secret Service they also followed up with a second tweet where they said the vehicle did not breach the security barrier of the White House complex. But obviously anything along these lines leads to increased security on these grounds and it's something the Secret service takes very carefully and very seriously. So just to update again, Brooke, individual driving a passenger vehicle struck a barrier near the White House, 17th and E. Did not get into the grounds. But the White House now on a bit of a higher security posture as a result. Brooke?
BALDWIN: Where is the driver now, Ryan?
NOBLES: We don't know that as of yet. Secret Service has yet to tell us. This all just happened here in the last 15 minutes or so. And as I alluded to before, there are some reports as to some sort of a confrontation between Secret Service officials and the driver of this car. We don't have that confirmed yet. So, don't want to get into those details but, yes, we're still trying to hash these details all out. It just happened here in the last 15 minutes or so.
BALDWIN: So ongoing. We won't get ahead of ourselves. Ryan, if you can, get me some more information and we'll pass it along. Ryan Nobles at the White House. Josh Campbell is with me, former FBI. Josh, when you hear about this driver ramming through maybe not on grounds but just on the periphery of the White House, tell me what Secret Service did instantly.
JOSH CAMPBELL, FORMER FBI AGENT: Well, any time you hear the White House, that obviously is going to cause everyone to take concern. I think we have to understand in this situation that the White House is a compound that has layers and layers and layers of security, and the men and women of the Secret Service, both the uniformed and not in uniform agents that are there, they are among the most professional in the world. If you look at that intersection where it took place -- obviously there are a lot of questions we don't yet have answered. E Street heading into the compound is a one-way street that actually takes you toward the White House.
I think there's some details that we still need to figure out, was it someone who was traveling down that street and missed the turn and popped up on the curb and hit it? Or was that their ultimate target? We don't know yet. I didn't notice Secret service since Ryan's report there has posted another tweet saying that the female driver has been apprehended. We should get details on what has unfolded. One thing to keep in mind with this case, obviously with the White House, you have many, many layers.
[15:35:00] And you can guarantee, I am not going to get into the trade craft, but the Secret Service doesn't just look at the White House, right? They are looking outward in order to scan for any threat that may be the horizon.
BALDWIN: OK, and if that is the case, and the Secret Service tweets -- talking to my control guys, we should pop that tweet up there, if that is the case, that the female driver has been apprehended. But help people, Josh, who you know maybe took a picture on a family vacation years ago. Don't know the White House. Here you go.
Actually, let me read this for you now. Thank you. Secret Service tweet update, the female driver, Josh, here you go. The female driver of the vehicle was immediately apprehended by Secret Service uniform division officers. There you have it. Josh, for people who aren't as familiar with the White House, I mean your point is absolutely correct, right? It's this massive compound. Layers upon layers of security. When we we're talking about 17th and E Street. How close would that be?
CAMPBELL: If the question is how close it is to the president, to the executive mansion, it's quite a bit away. There is another building, the Eisenhower old executive office building that's between where this location is and the actual White House. So, I wouldn't imagine looking at, and there's the graphic on the scene, that this wasn't someone that would be able to actually get to the executive mansion. There is a lot of distance there to cover.
But even if you look at the old executive office building, even that is fortified with layer and layer of security. It's not easy to get to. You will recall there were a lot of incidents recently of fence jumpers and the Secret Service constantly widening the layer, the perimeter of security. It's difficult for anyone to get on those grounds right now. But that doesn't mean, that again, the men and women of the Secret Service don't take every threat seriously and scan the horizon looking for every potential threat.
BALDWIN: Josh Campbell, do me a favor and stand by. We are getting some new information. Ryan Nobles, want to pop back over to you at the White House. What have you learned?
NOBLES: Yes, Brooke, I just want to talk to you a little bit about the security precautions that were taking place here at the White House. Normally, even any sort of minor security issue leads to a lockdown here on the White House property. At this point, they are allowing at least journalists to come and go from the White House freely. The White House, at no point, was completely locked down. As we said before they were holding those Australian journalists in place. We're waiting for a briefing with some of the people involved in that
press conference to take place. That looks like it's still going to happen now. There are different levels of White House security that can take place in the wake of threats like this. I wouldn't rank this on the higher scale. Quite a bit of a free movement as a result of it. I think that can put a little context into it as to the threat level, as to exactly what took place here. They obviously take everything seriously, but I've been here before when things -- you don't really know exactly what the scenario is, and they don't let you go anywhere. So that's not the situation we're dealing with at this current moment.
BALDWIN: OK, no, context is everything. Ryan, thank you. Jonathan Wackrow is on the phone with me, he's a former Secret Service agent. Jonathan, I can remember in the last couple of years sitting here in this seat and then something like this had happened, where someone tried driving right through over the curb, jumping a curb around those barricades. That was actually I was told that was 2013. Been doing this a few years. So, Jonathan, assess the threat level for me, to Ryan's point, and what Secret Service are up to right now.
JONATHAN WACKROW, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Listen, these situations are dynamic and they're unpredictable. So, the Secret Service has very strict, you know, protocols to elevate the security at the White House. Until they can ascertain what exactly the threat is. It was said earlier the White House one of the most fortified locations in the United States. Secret Service runs off of concentric rings of protection. Where this incident happened, it was at one of those outer rings.
That's why we push out our perimeter from the White House a distance that does not allow for threats like this to basically penetrate the grounds. Even if it did get through for some reason, in through this gate, there are multiple other layers of defense before you would ever get to the West Wing, the executive mansion, et cetera. In this instance, all the protocols seem to be -- you know, have been followed by the Secret Service.
The suspect was apprehended quickly by the uniform division officers at the scene. Quickly assessing, again, they want to make sure that this was not a diversionary tactic. So, 360 degrees of coverage at the White House is maintained 24 hours a day. They want to make sure there is no secondary attack coming in from the opposite side, if this was a multi-pronged attack, are they properly defended? So again, the tactical teams deploy. There's a protocol in place.
But it seems like this incident was addressed very quickly by the Secret Service uniform division officers.
BALDWIN: Jonathan, stay with me. If you are just joining us, I want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
[15:40:00] We are following this breaking news, these are live pictures just outside of the White House here. On this Friday afternoon this female driver, according to Secret Service, is now in custody after the car she was driving -- she basically rammed it into a barricade at a security checkpoint near the White House. If you know Washington, they were saying 17th and E Streets just outside, part of the layers of security.
We're told the driver was immediately apprehended and the car did not actually breach that particular security checkpoint. Police and fire units are there. They are checking that car. We've got a couple of voices here walking us through this. Jonathan Wackrow Is with me, former secret service. And so, we know that just within the last half hour we were listening to this joint news conference between the president of the United States and prime minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull. When we know, Jonathan, the president is in the White House, how does that change protocol when something happens for the Secret Service?
WACKROW: Again, this is something that Secret Service agents and officers train for constantly. Attacks on the White House grounds happen, unfortunately, are far too commonplace. But what we want to do is make sure that -- so we're viewing this as a car rammed the gate. Suspect apprehended. Were there any explosives in that car? Is there any other -- what was the intent? Was this an accident where someone happened to drive into the gate or was this intentional?
So, intent is going to be key here. Again, when you look at the defenses of the White House, all the high-speed avenues of approach into the building, into the complex are mitigated. So, this is something that, you know, we have looked at time and time again. We look at this threat. It's been known to be out there. That's why they have very specific barricades and protocols in place to stop this.
Now, was the president in any danger? The answer is no. Why? Because there are multilayered defenses at the White House. Again, think about the concentric circles of protection, the closest circle being in and around the president. Condition at the White House, the security condition would have elevated to a certain level. And there are certain protocols that agents would have followed but at no point in time would the president have been relocated to a safe area or evacuated from the White House or anything like that for this type of situation.
BALDWIN: OK, OK. Jonathan, stay with me again. We are looking at different pictures. This is all around the periphery of the White House. You see all this
law enforcement keeping those streets clear as they assess the situation, go through this car. Josh Campbell, you're still with me, former FBI, just describe the immediate area for me around the White House.
CAMPBELL: So, I think we look at pictures right now up 17th street, I think one thing to keep in mind is you're seeing that those protocols in place where have you armed officers that have responded. They train for these every single day of the year. You're seeing those protocols in place. It is worth noting as you look down at the pictures down 17th and Constitution, traffic is moving. At least at this point it does not appear that there's a threat anywhere beyond the location you see right there on your screen.
Also keeping in mind that we don't know what the motivation here was. But you also potentially have a traffic accident, right, that officers have to work here. Just because you see the streets closed there doesn't necessarily mean that there's a threat. You see them turning around traffic there on your screen.
CAMPBELL: But it is something that they're going to work to determine what happened. And then also keep in mind that not only is the White House and that compound one of the most fortified locations in the country but also one of the most filmed locations in the country. So, with each instance you look back to determine what happened, how can you get better? And I think this will be one of those instances.
BALDWIN: Listening to Jonathan a second ago, he made the point that we may not really know yet. They are certainly trying to figure out if this was a driver who accidently -- you can see how close traffic is to some of these areas by the White House -- if someone accidentally it occurred in appeared to be trying to break through a barricade with this was intentional. How easy -- go ahead.
CAMPBELL: Yes, no, I would just say that if you look at the layout there, the geography of that White House compound you do have the major arteries that surround it. But off to the side streets you will have one way going in either direction. If there was any opportunity for someone to get moving at a high enough velocity that they could, even if not physically possible, if they wanted to try to strike a barrier, it would be off one of those perpendicular streets. So that's one thing to keep in mind.
We keep hearing E Street there which takes you directly one way to the White House. Haven't seen pictures of the vehicle yet. That would be very telling. Obviously, law enforcement is keeping everyone at a distance. But I think once we those pictures, we may have a better idea of what we were working with.
[15:45:00] Is this someone who was not paying attention and had to swerve at the last moment or maybe they were they were actually attempting to breach that location? I think we will still have to wait and see.
BALDWIN: Agreed. I think the vehicle is key. So, Jonathan, let me ask you about the vehicle, presumably this vehicle is still somewhere near the White House grounds, where it would have tried to, you know, either coming around the curve or hit the barricade. Would it be Secret Service right now going through that car?
WACKROW: Yes. Well, actually, what they'll do they'll set up Secret Service working with their law enforcement counterparts there in the metro area. They'll set up a command post. Again, you don't know if there are secondary attacks that could be occurring. Command and control of any type of emergency situation is critical. The lead right now because it is on the White House grounds. It was an attempted breach of the perimeter and Secret Service is taking the primary responsibility of ensuring and clearing that threat.
So, the primary threat is the car hitting the barricade. Now when I was talking about multiple layers of defense, one of the positives is that one of the canine checkpoints is right there for explosives. So quickly, dogs could have cleared that car to ensure that it wasn't loaded down with any type of explosives as well. So again, defenses at the White House, the multi-layered approach that the Secret Service takes has definitely worked in this instance.
So, they are just going to let this run the course to try to figure out who is this individual was, what was the intent? Is this part of a larger conspiracy to attack the White House or is this an isolated incident? Again, very dynamic, unpredictable. However, the Secret Service definitely has it in their playbook and they have gone over this time and time again.
BALDWIN: Sure. I mean listen, the Secret Service, they're always ready to roll. As you point out, they are constantly training. They are ready. You mentioned a second ago, there was a minute where we were covering those fence jumpers. Right, at the White House. I mean just remind people who are watching, the incident, probably some of which we don't even know about, the Secret Service neutralizes and just how they deal with just myriad incidents at the White House.
WACKROW: The Secret Service, you know, it comes down to, you know, training. They train for every type of threat that they can identify. Any vulnerabilities of the area are constantly tested by the Secret Service and mitigated. Again, as tactics by different hostile actors change, the Secret Service responds in kind with better, stronger defenses. Look, we have to look at there's always a threat of explosives. That's why Pennsylvania Avenue is shut down. That's why the ellipse i's shut down to vehicular traffic.
We constantly are looking at the ever-changing global threat environment and responding in kind with different mitigation, both overt and covert. What you're not seeing are the undercover agents, all of the passive security systems that are in place two again try to be an early warning and an additional layer of concentric security level to the White House.
BALDWIN: OK. I just also want to add one other tidbit from the Secret Service that we're getting. No law enforcement was injured in this incident. Dan Merica, you are on the phone with me. What more can you tell us about what happened?
DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Hey, Brooke, it's a little unclear right now. I'm standing out on 17th Street Northwest right outside the old executive office building, a large building right next to the White House. This street is entirely shut down as well as part of Pennsylvania Avenue, which is obviously the street that leads into the White House complex.
You're right. You reported earlier that what the Secret Service has said, was a female driver of the vehicle was immediately apprehended by Secret Service uniform division officers. The vehicle did not breach the security barrier of the White House complex and they just recently tweeted no shots were fired during the incident. We're probably about two blocks away from the barrier which is on the southwest side of the White House. And so, we're about two blocks away.
From our vantage point you can't see where the barricade is. You can see the entire street which is 17th Street, a pretty large thoroughfare in Washington, D.C., totally traffic-less which is a rare occurrence especially at this time on a Friday afternoon. It had been entirely blocked off and there are officers on both sides of the street making sure that no other cars get on to the street at any point during what appears right now to be an ongoing investigation or situation here outside the White House.
[15:50:00] BALDWIN: OK. And, again, just underscoring what you just said. No shots were fired. I know this is still early goings. But there is a lot of misinformation about whether shots or not. So, no shots fired. I hear that from you loud
and clear and that this female driver was apprehended. Josh Campbell, what's happening with this woman who was behind the wheel?
CAMPBELL: It's a good question. The first focus is going to be to determine what's the motivation here? Again, was this an accident, is this someone who was planning this? Just determining why this person did what she did. And then that's going to determine the next course of action. Obviously, there are a number of consequences to this type of activity if it was something that was planned, then she would most likely be facing prosecution, if it's an accident that's something the law enforcement officers will work with prosecutors to determine. If that's something even want to pursue.
I think it is worth noting, as you look here, this kind of whole of approach, as we look down 17th street on the right of your screen, it is worth pointing out that law enforcement officers plan in D.C. plan for this and they do so jointly. We've seen a number of agencies that are there with the Secret Service. I saw the metropolitan police department, the park service, everyone working together, and we are seeing those protocols play out.
Because on the left side of your screen, we're seeing, and we saw just a minute ago of the vehicle driving down 15th Street where you have a number of emergency vehicles that are clear on the other side of the compound but still responding. Because law enforcement officers are trained. Any time there is an incident, they're going to roll and work under that unified command under the Secret Service to determine what happened.
Last thing I just want to point out as well, because I think it is worth stepping back to look at, not only do we see a physical response by law enforcement, but I also want to commend the communications team at the Secret Service. Think about it. This instance happened, we started getting word and they started putting out information immediately, these updates. I think you know as we see in social media, law enforcement agencies are trying to meet the public with a communicate. I think you have to be commended. This is not something we are going to sit here and talk about for hours on end, well, what happened, were there shots.
They are getting out in front of it and providing that information. That's the new normal, hopefully we'll see from law enforcement.
BALDWIN: Josh, thank you. Stick with me. Ryan Nobles is our correspondent there at the White House getting a little bit more information. Ryan, what do you have?
NOBLES: Yes, Brooke, we've got an update now about the driver of this car. This comes from a number of members of our White House team who have been reaching out to law enforcement sources. They're reporting the woman who is now in custody intentionally drove the car into the barricade. This is a new piece of information. We didn't know definitively whether or not --
BALDWIN: So, it was intentional.
NOBLES: That this was intentional. Yes. Our sources are telling us, it was intentional. This wasn't an accident. The other bit of information our sources are telling us that this woman and the fact that she drove into this barricade had nothing to do with the president. This was a separate issue and was not directed at anybody at the White House as well. However, this woman is known to Secret Service and they do believe there may have been a mental health problem that was involved today.
As Dan just reported a few minutes ago, and it was echoed on the Secret Service's Twitter page a few minutes ago, there were no shots fired which was one of the early reports that we never actually talked about on television that we can officially tamp down. No shots fired. So once again, this was intentional. This was someone known by Secret Service, she was not directing her ire at anybody at the White House including the president. But someone that the Secret Service was aware of and they believe this was a mental health issue at play here.
BALDWIN: OK. Those are significant pieces of information as this is moving forward, Ryan. Thank you. Jonathan Wackrow, can you just translate for us when you're hearing this individual was known to the Secret Service. What might mean?
WACKROW: It could mean a lot of things. But in the context here, what you see a lot at the White House is you know, people with behavioral issues approaching the White House for again, listen. You have to take a step back. The White House is constantly a central target.
BALDWIN: It's a target.
WACKROW: So, people are constantly drawn. It's a magnet. It's a magnet to bring people in. Tourist who are doing good things and then people who want to potentially cause harm. As we see here, it is a magnet. What it means by when I say known to the Secret Service, this person could have exhibited behavioral patterns in the past that warranted, you know, uniformed division officers or agents of the Secret Service to talk to this female and engage her to ascertain what her intent was being at the White House. A lot of times we have what is known as gate callers. People who are mentally disturbed who come up that are looking for Jimmy Carter.
BALDWIN: Oh, wow.
WACKROW: People don't understand sometimes who the president actually is. The sitting president. They just know the symbol of the White House as a seat of power and they're drawn to that. So, there's multiple different things that could be happening here.
[15:55:00] But when they say that known to the Secret Service means either Secret Service agents or officers have spoken the this individual before or they potentially have made a threat in the past. So immediately when they take custody of the individual, not only are they running the name through law enforcement data bases but they're also running them through Secret Service data bases to ascertain, hey, is this a known individual? If they are known, why were they known? Did they make threats in the past? Did they exhibit threatening behavior? Did they approach the White House? Did they try to breach the White House grounds before? Again, that's going to play out over the next couple hours, again, figure out what the intent specifically was.
BALDWIN: Sure. And as I've been listening to you, Josh, I think you've been following along, watching along, we saw a picture. I think it was our affiliate there in D.C., WJLA, what looked some sort of white SUV with smashed out back windshield was a member of law enforcement sort of peering in. Did you catch that? Josh?
WACKROW: Hey, Brooke, this is John.
BALDWIN: John, John, no, I didn't know if Josh was following along, I guess we lost Josh. Jonathan, I don't know if you're in front of the TV, but it looked like potentially, the car, or a car, that could be in question. Go ahead.
WACKROW: Yes. So, what we are looking at here, it looks like a white mini van. Potentially or potentially call it an SUV.
BALDWIN: Yes. Missing the back window.
WACKROW: Missing the back window, again, think about how dynamic these are. They went from condition normal to all of a sudden, a vehicle rams the gate. At an unknown speed at this point. So, the windows could have been smashed from impact but most likely it could have been in the instant response by law enforcement to take custody of the suspect. They may have to, they couldn't get window open in the back to quickly search the car for secondary devices or explosives. Again, we have to ascertain in a split second what is the threat of that vehicle and that individual. So, the smashed-up glass could have been intentional by the responding officers or as a condition of the initial impact.
BALDWIN: Got it, got it. So again, we have learned that this woman in this car intentionally drove into this barricade. At one of these security layers outside the White House that apparently, she did this and her aim, her ire was not directed at the president. She is known to Secret Service. Believed to have mental health issues. That's what we're getting from law enforcement. Again, this is really going and that is potentially the car that she was driving. Josh Campbell? Thoughts?
CAMPBELL: I just want to add onto what Jonathan was saying earlier as far as this person being known to law enforcement. What we're seeing on our screen, any time you have some type of a dynamic tactical situation, you're seeing the pointy end of the spear. Law enforcement surging to the location. But it is also important to keep in mind and this is for anyone out there who may be thinking this is something
they want to do, keep in mind these respected agencies also have intelligence divisions, they gather information, they share information.
So, for example, someone that's known to the Secret Service, that person may be known with the Capitol Police and the FBI in the metropolitan police department in order to keep tabs. If you think about Washington, D.C., the seat of power. There are a number of potential targets in that area and closely confined in the one city. So, these agencies over time, we've learned to share information and that type of information would likely be provided to multiple agencies in order to keep tabs on those who might pose a threat.
BALDWIN: Jonathan, back over to you. Since we know the president is in the White House. How is this information relayed to him? Does anything change as far as his location? His whereabouts? Or not at all since this is several layers of security away?
WACKROW: What happens is the, to walk everybody through it, in the immediate, when the car rams the gate, again, the threat level at the White House elevates. The working shift for the president will again, they'll start closing in and getting closer to the president. In the event they have to move him, in what we call an emergency action. Do we have to move him to a safe location? Is there a relocation from the White House, again, what is the totality of the circumstances? Information is flowing through the joint operational command center at the White House. It is disseminating continuous information as to the incident. But once it is figured out that the threat has stopped at 17th Street, I think it was 17th and E, again, that's multiple layers away.
[16:00:00] There was no penetration to the perimeter. The tension will lessen with the working shift around the president and the focus will be on resolving that incident out on one of the outer perimeters.
BALDWIN: Jonathan Wackrow, former Secret Service, you're the best, thank you so much, Josh Campbell, same to you sir, thank you so much. Again, right hand side of your screen looking at presumably the vehicle in which this woman tried to drive into this barricade, the left side you see the Marine there at the White House, perhaps President Trump waving goodbye to the Australian Prime Minister who has just visited the White House. They held that joint news conference and made some news, just last hour, were going to let Jake take it over. I'm Brooke Baldwin, thanks for being with me. Special coverage continues now with Jake Tapper.