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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Mail Bomb Suspect Arrested in Florida, Charged with 5 Federal Crimes; Responding To Bomb Suspect's Arrest, President Trump Turns Into Attacking The Media At Tonight's Rally; Some Conservatives Claimed The Mailed Packages Were Part Of Liberal Plot To Pump Sympathy For Dems; FBI: Fingerprint DNA Led To Suspect's Arrest; President Trump Goes On The Attack After Calling For Unity. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 26, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:04] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
Tonight, thanks to the hard work of dedicated professionals around the country. There is a lot to -- and there is a lot to be thankful for. An alleged serial bomber is in custody in south Florida and thanks to yet others, more IEDs, as the FBI called them, were intercepted before they could hurt anyone.
Now, we're learning more about the suspect, a man named Cesar Sayoc. We're showing pictures of him because authorities have asked us to, in the hope that's others who may have encountered him will come forward. We are also learning as well about the political agenda that he plastered all over the van he was actually living in, pro-Trump messages, pictures of the president, a sticker reading "CNN sucks", photos with targets at prominent Democrats, people the president has verbally attacked, some of whom were packaged with bombs as well.
Now, in just a few minutes, we'll be speaking exclusively with someone who has known the suspect for years, his former attorney who's now representing the suspect's family. We'll also bring you the very latest on the investigation itself and where it goes from here.
Now, hanging over all of it is the question of the president's language and what role if any it played in giving license to attempts like this. Again today, the president refused to even acknowledge the possibility, let alone accept any potential responsibility.
And tonight, at a campaign rally, in Charlotte, North Carolina, after briefly calling for national unity, he quickly turned to yet another of his own grievances with the press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUM, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have seen an effort by the media in recent hours to use the sinister actions of one individual to score political points against me and the Republican Party. Ninety-four percent of the press I get is negative. Even when I do something wonderful, it's negative.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that's just a small portion of what was a lengthy rant. More on that shortly.
But, first, CNN's Evan Perez with the latest on the investigation.
So, what have you learned about how the suspect was actually identified?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, there's a lot of police work that went into this. But some of the key things that happened, happened in the last 24 hours or so as the FBI lab was able to retrieve a fingerprint from one of the packages, one of the bombs, one of those sent to Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
And then they also were able to retrieve DNA from a couple of devices. Again, one of those sent to Maxine Waters and one sent to President Obama. Those are key pieces as they were able to match an extensive rap sheet of this suspect. The state of Florida, he's been arrested about eight times dating back 20 years. So, there was a lot for the police to work with.
Just in the last 24 hours, we saw that they started focusing on south Florida, and particularly, because they were able to identify, Anderson, that a lot of these packages, most of these packages appeared to have come from one specific area. In particular, that Opa-locka facility where a lot of them were processed before they were shipped.
So, a lot of police work and just the fact this guy made a few mistakes and he had such an extensive rap sheet were key here.
COOPER: What exactly is he being charged with?
PEREZ: Well, he's got five charges, five federal charges in the southern district of New York. He is facing instate transportation of an explosive, illegal mailing of explosives, threats against former presidents and other persons, threatening interstate communications, assaulting current and former federal officers, all of which he could face 48 years in prison.
COOPER: Is the FBI concerned that there could be packages still out there?
PEREZ: They still are. I think you heard that from Christopher Wray, the FBI director today, Anderson, and certainly, even as we were reporting on his arrest, we kept hearing about new packages showing up just today. One that was being mailed to Tom Steyer, the Democratic donor in San Francisco, in the San Francisco area. And another one to Senator Kamala Harris in Sacramento.
So they were finding new devices even as they were rolling to try arrest him today in that van that you now see. So the concern out there is that there might be others. You know, as we reported earlier, he briefly spoke to the FBI before he lawyered up. So the great concern is that there might be others.
COOPER: So there are no terrorism charges? Is that correct? PEREZ: Not at this point. One of the things here is that there is no domestic terrorism statute per se. A lot of our terrorism statutes are geared towards international terrorists. In this case, you know, this guy seemed to have a cause but it was a political cause that seemed ad hoc here. So, we expect, though, certainly, that once he gets to network, and this investigation is still ongoing, that if they are able to, they'll add additional charges.
COOPER: All right. Evan Perez, I appreciate that.
I want to go next to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin has been learning more about the suspect. And again, I should point out. We normally don't name people who are charged with things like this. But the FBI is specifically asking for more information about this person if anybody out there knows.
So, Drew, what have you learned so far about this person's history?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: This arrest record, Anderson, goes back to 1991 and multiple states are involved in arresting and dealing with this guy, mostly for petty crimes throughout his life in Florida, as Even mentioned, eight different times he was arrested -- grand theft, battery, fraud, drug possession, multiple probation violations.
A couple things stand out. 2002, the power company is threatening to turn off his power. He threatens them with a bomb, charged with threatening to discharge a destructive device. Apparently made sort of threat that he was going to blow up the power company much bigger than 9/11.
In 2004, another crisis in his life. He was arrested for steroid possession. We now know there was an intervention trying to be taken place by his family that involved drugs at that time. And in 2012, a bankruptcy. That appears the time when he started distancing himself from his family and becoming somewhat estranged.
So, all of these kind of adding up. We don't know when he began espousing all of these political views, Anderson. He registered to vote for the first time in Florida. In 2016, he registered as a Republican -- Anderson.
COOPER: You spoke with a former boss of his today. What did you learn?
GRIFFIN: Yes. Just an incredible interview. He was for a year through most of 2017, a pizza delivery guy at a pizza joint right here behind me. He delivered pizzas in that van that everybody saw with all those stickers on it, with all that Ku Klux Klan business on it and everything.
And that's why you listen to this interview, he actually was forced to work at night.
(BEGINB VIDEO CLIP) GRIFFIN: He had to work on night shift.
DEBRA GUREGHIAN, MANAGER OF RESTAURANT WHERE SAYOC WAS A DELIVERY DRIVE: Because of the van.
GRIFFIN: You didn't want customers to see that van?
GUREGHIAN: No. It was messy. Busy, it was Ku Klux Klan. We had hang nooses on there, we had animals --
GRIFFIN: Did you ever say, hey, what's with the van?
GUREGHIAN: Yes. He was very proud of some of the pictures he got. Very proud of the pictures he got.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: Anderson, he had very strong political views. Never threatened anybody at this pizza place and apparently was a very, very good employee. He left near January of 2018 saying he was going to become an either long haul trucker or a hazmat trucker. They never saw him again.
COOPER: I just -- I just want to just confirm. He was working as a pizza delivery man, he was employed driving around a van that had nooses and KKK references outside the van and delivering pizza to people's homes?
GRIFFIN: Yes. I didn't get it either. But, apparently, he was a very good employee. I'm standing in front of the pizza place. They made him park the van around the back. He could only deliver at night.
But the manager -- and you're going to hear her again -- talked about this guy. It is like Jekyll and Hyde. What came out of his mouth was pure venom. But at the same time he was a good pizza delivery guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUREGHIAN: He had a lot crazy political --
GRIFFIN: Like what?
GUREGHIAN: Anti-gay, anti-black, anti-Hispanic, anti-Jewish. You know, he told me more than once I like you as a manager but I hate you for being a lesbian. And if I had complete autonomy, you and all these other people would be eradicated. Plain and simple. I was deformed and god made me with a deformity.
GRIFFIN: Was he threatening at all to you?
GUREGHIAN: No. He really wasn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: And yet he lowest good terms after they called him a great employee. This guy's social media as we've been reporting is just awful. Even tweeting and posting things right up until almost his arrest, Anderson.
COOPER: So this place felt comfortable allowing a guy who hates gay people, hates black people, hates Hispanic people and others to go to people's homes at night and deliver pizza. That's pretty extraordinary.
GRIFFIN: Yes, it was interesting. The general manager as she describes herself is proudly lesbian and respects all people's views. And apparently, as long as he showed up for work, did his business, no customers ever complained about him, they say, he was allowed to continue work.
[20:10:02] And she actually just told me, she wished she had more employees like him, because that kind of hard work ethic is hard to find. Based on everything we know, Anderson, it is kind of hard to swallow.
COOPER: Drew, appreciate it. Thanks very much.
Just ahead, we're going to dig deeper into what you just touched on. How the suspect expressed his beliefs online, joining me now is -- only on 360 -- is the attorney Ron Lowy, who has represented Mr. Sayoc in the past. He's now acting on behalf of his family.
Mr. Lowy, I appreciate your time tonight. Can you just walk us through how you came to know Mr. Sayoc and what he was like when you knew him?
RON LOWY, SUSPECT'S FORMER ATTORNEY: Approximately 2000, 2001, his family asked me to assist him in some problems he was confronting legally. And for the next five or six years, I represented him on four occasions.
COOPER: So what was he like? And I mean, I don't know if you can talk about the issues he was facing. Obviously, he has -- there's a number of things he was alleged to have done in his past. I mean, what kind of a guy was he? Just -- did he have, in your opinion, emotional problems? Was it family concern, that he had some mental issues?
LOWY: Well, when I first met him, the first thing I noticed was his vehicle. At the time he had another vehicle and it was plastered full of Indian materials, regalia, paintings, all on the exterior. And I, of course, saw that as strange. Most people don't drive around with plastered vehicles.
And I also recall a pulled down scrap book and he immediately wanted to show me newspaper clippings, photographs of him with this exotic dancer or wrestler or him body building. And I recognized very quickly that he suffered from certainly an identification issue as to who he was. He needed people to be impressed with him. He had issues of insecurity.
I then began to realize that he had what I considered a lesser I.Q., substantial emotional problems. He was like a 14-year-old in an adult's body, and the kind of arrests that he had were reflective of that, from steroid possession, which he used in order to help build up and try to be attractive to women, to falsifying a driver's license where he took his own driver's license and changed only one symbol on it, the year of his birth. In order the indicate ten years later, so he would look you know yes to women that he met.
And these are very immature acts. And I still recall when I got the phone call, when he was arrested for threatening Florida Power and Light Company. And that occurred when he was working with a Laundromat. He actually owned it, a small Laundromat.
And the electricity was turned off. He got so angry, he got on the phone, begged them on put on it, they wouldn't, started screaming and then he blurted out. If I load up your office, I'm sure you would turn it on real quick. I can make it like worse than 9/11.
And, you know, they hung up on him and of course they called police who came is that investigated. Found no indications of bomb making but they charged him with a threat. And when it went to court, the judge and the prosecutor saw it for what it was. He was someone who was sick.
At that time, he clearly no indications of carrying out such activities. It's now 16 years later. His sickness has obviously worsened over the years and they put him on probation and gave him a break.
COOPER: Do you know -- I mean, has he sought any counseling? Did his family get him to seek any kind of counseling or any kind of medication for mental health issues? And I'm wondering, just as -- you know, you do know him and you're representing the family. How did they see this latest incident? I mean, if in fact he is the person who sent these potentially explosive devices, how do you see this?
LOWY: Well, first, to speak to the counseling, his mother, Madeleine, and his sisters, have been urging him to get medical help for decades. He is always refused. He has become indignant, angry, someone who doesn't want to look at his problems.
And in Florida, sadly, the laws don't allow compulsory medical treatment unless you're a clear danger to yourself and others.
[20:15:00] Now we have the evidence. Now we can get him Baker Acted. Now, it's a little too late. If the laws in Florida were more like the laws in other states, the family might have been successful in getting treatment.
The only opportunity was with the steroid case. The judge, to his credit, in Broward County, was willing to treat the steroid possession as a narcotic possession and give him drug court treatment. And while that's not true therapy, we were hoping that a 12-step program, some attention, might get him on the right direction. But sadly, it didn't seem to help.
And, currently, the family is distraught. I was with the mother this afternoon at the hospital. She was getting surgery this morning and woke up to find out her son is arrested.
Her emotions are varied. She's angry at him for doing this. She is a true lover of democracy, of America, she serves on local boards. She's been an active Democrat all her life.
I actually met her in the Democratic circles over 20 years ago, and she's shocked that her son has done what he's done. She feels sorry for the victims who have suffered the fear that he's imposed on them. And she's sad for his trial because it's still her boy.
COOPER: We've seen the pictures of the van with the pro-Trump signage plastered all over it, anti-CNN signage, et cetera. When you knew him, did he seem politically active? Did the subject of politics come up? We understand he didn't get registered until 2016, Drew Griffin said.
LOWY: Just the opposite. He had no interest in politics then. His mother confirmed to me, he had never voted this afternoon. He never had an interest in any type of political issues.
His interest was more of bodybuilding, nighttime -- nightclub events. It was a lifestyle of a teenager, someone who didn't have their priorities in order.
COOPER: So, do you know why he became, I don't know if politically active is the right word, but engaged with the presidency, going to rallies, driving around in that van, plastering his van, do you have any sense of why that happen?
LOWY: Well, I have my opinion. I mean, obviously, I don't know with certainty but it is my opinion that he was attracted to the Trump formula of reaching out, Trump reaching out to these types of outsiders, people who don't fit in, people who are angry at America, telling them they have a place at the table, telling that it's OK to get angry. I believe that was a motivating factor.
Do I blame the president solely? No. This is a sick individual. I actually blame all of us. We have to start arranging for treatment for people when we start to see problems. We don't have to wait for it to become violent.
We're not socializing these people when we recognize signs lying living in vans or doing stupid actions like threatening a power company. We need a socialization plan to work on these people are outside. It doesn't require psychiatrists and expensive doctors. It requires community involvement.
COOPER: It's interesting, though. I mean, early on, you said he started to embrace that he was Native American, even though I believe there's no evidence. I mean, the family says there's no evidence that he was of Native American descent. But now, something now about this last election that became the focus of whatever his resentment or anger or whatever his emotional problems were. That's what you believe.
LOWY: Well, he was clearly not Native American. His father was Filipino and abandoned him as a child and his mother is Italian. And he adopted this claim to being a Seminole because he was trying to create an identity.
If you ask me, my layman's opinion, is that manifested from his lack of a father and his desire for an identity. This was someone lost.
COOPER: And do you think now --
LOWY: He found a father in Trump.
COOPER: You believe this was a quest for identity and this was the latest iteration of that. Going to a rally, attacking CNN, you know, attacking those who have criticized Trump.
LOWY: That's correct. I agree with that.
[20:20:01] COOPER: So what happens now? I know you're representing his family. I mean, his mom, his sister, what did they want to see happen to him?
LOWY: Well, obviously, they want what is very best for him, and they've always hired me in the past to represent him. But we spoke this afternoon and we discussed the seriousness of the charges. The fact that the attorney general of the United States, the president, are speaking, saying they're out for blood. And they're going to bring the weight of United States down on him.
And I told him, they're simple middle class people who have worked to create good reputation, a good name for themselves, that they'll go broke, and they'll never match those funds. The best thing for Cesar at this point, I told them, is to use the office of the federal public defender. It's a very talented office. They have as great resources or close to it as the government. And they can do a much better job representing him, especially if this case is brought in New York.
If they desire any support or assistance from his family in anyway, evidence, et cetera, to mitigate or to try to offset these serious penalties, we're there to help.
I can tell you that he has -- look, I interacted with Cesar. If I would say apples, he would say cardboard. He didn't react like a normal individual. He wasn't working on all cylinders.
And this is a sad result of someone very sick. Didn't get the help, became a loner and then found a cause that adopted and accepted these times of people. The one thing --
COOPER: Ron Lowy, I appreciate you being with us. Thank you very much -- yes, go ahead. Sorry.
LOWY: The one thing I do want to share is he never seems sophisticated enough to do something like he's accused of. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that there were either others who helped prod or encouraged him to do this, or that the bombs in fact were so crudely made, they never could have worked, because he didn't seem to have the intellectual capacity to plan a conspiracy like this in my opinion.
COOPER: Mr. Lowy, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
More now on how the suspect expressed his views online and what if anything that says to investigators. Details now from CNN's Athena Jones.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In addition to repeatedly slamming CNN, Sayoc was a frequent online critic of the very people federal prosecutors say he targeted with 13 pipe bombs sent through the U.S. postal system in the last few days.
The 56-year-old registered Republican has been active across social media, where he has posted multiple images of himself attending Trump rallies or wearing a "Make American Great Again" hat, even wishing Trump a happy birthday back in June.
He has also tweeted pro Republican messages like: It's time to take our country back. Vote Republican, and "The Swamp to be Drained," a post that includes pictures of prominent Democrats and the logos of all major television news networks except FOX News.
Sayoc's online persona and activities echoing conspiracy theories and themes popular on right-wing web sites, posting on Facebook this photo of Hillary Clinton in May 2016 with a caption, "I presided over $6 billion lost at the State Department, sold uranium to the Russians through my faux charity, illegally deleted public records and murdered an ambassador."
And on Twitter, this string of posts about President Obama, including this message about his, quote, real father, and posting just weeks before the presidential election: Clinton is worst on terrorism. Her and Obama have made America weak and open to world terrorist attacks.
A Facebook spokesman telling CNN the company previously removed multiple posts from Sayoc's account for violations of its community standards, at times following complaints by other users. The company would not say how many posts were removed but said the violations were not severe enough to prompt them to shut down Sayoc's account until after he was named a suspect.
Sayoc maintained at least two Twitter accounts, just this week tweeting about President Obama and two billionaire Democratic activists, Tom Steyer and George Soros, after authorities found the pipe bomb he allegedly sent to one of Soros's homes, the first such device to be detected.
He tweeted about former Vice President Joe Biden in late September, two days later posting this message about New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker.
Sayoc, who has had multiple run-ins with the law and a string of arrests dating back to the early '90s, tweeted about another target, California Representative Maxine Waters, back in April.
Sayoc has also posted a series of threats to CNN, its anchors, correspondents and contributors, tweeting: Go screw, CNN. You're next. You over enemy of America, CNN, you're next.
[20:25:02] So, the corrupt con job media like make threats, April and Don Lemon next.
Among the many ramblings of a prolific social media user who was clearly pro-Trump saying on the president's birthday, thank you for all you do against everyone and not be stopped ever, straight ahead. Get it done. Awesome. Build wall.
Athena Jones, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Well, he also tweeted about one of our next guests, veteran FBI and CIA senior official, Phil Mudd. He joins us next. Along with former FBI supervisory special agent Josh Campbell.
Phil, I'm just wondering, were you surprised this guy had threatened you on Twitter?
PHIL MUDD, FORMER FBI SENIOR INTELLIGENCE ADVISER: Yes, I was around CNN this afternoon, just a couple of hours ago, and someone said you realize your name is out there. And I was sort of like, what are you talking about? Within a couple minutes somebody shows may tweet from I think it was August 24th, where this individual looked the me like, he threatened my life, he said, hug your family, which suggests to me he's coming after me. He said you're next.
It took me a couple minutes. I've seen a lot in my life, Anderson, to step back and say, you know, if he had decided to get in that van and travel to my house, things could have turned out differently. I'm not worried. I don't feel threatened today. I'll go out on the streets of New York City.
But it was a moment where you realize the immediacy of the environment we live in. And it's not just theoretical. I'm sure you see it in your email as well. It is real.
By the way, in passing, I got another e-mail today via my website that I had to pass to the local police department because it also contained a threat. That's not uncommon in the environment today.
COOPER: Yes, I've had the FBI in my office.
August 24th was I believe when he tweeted that that, only four days earlier, the president had tweeted about you as well. Do you have any doubt that there's a cause and effect there?
MUDD: There's got to be. I mean, if you look at all the people who've been named and shamed by the president, as everybody said, I don't blame the president for someone who has got -- I'm guessing, some sort of mental disorder. But I do look at animals like this and there's a way to think about them. I can describe you. I saw a lot of people like the when I watched extremists.
I look at individuals like this and they're looking for a word I would call validation. This person has got a violent background. He is looking for someone regardless of the ideology, political or religious, to tell him it's okay to go out and act.
I'm not saying the president told him to go out and act. I'm saying in that mindset, somebody is going to say, especially when the president has got 55 million Twitter followers, somebody among them is going to say, well, the president must be telling me right or wrong to go out and do something. There's only 96 hours between when the president came after me and tried to shame me and when this person put my name out in his own Twitter feed.
I mean, I'm not Tom Cruise. I'm not recognizable. There is only one way I can figure out that this guy decided to come after me.
COOPER: Josh, how much will this guy's -- you know, I don't even know if you call them political beliefs or, you know, his focus on politics be part of the investigation?
JOSH CAMPBELL, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Well, it's a key part of the investigation, because when these incidents happen, we always talk about motive. It's something that we want to get to. What drives people to act, not only so we can investigate and answer the case at hand, but you also want to figure out, OK, are there warning signs here that we can pick up on in other cases, other people out there that fit the same mold that we want to be on the look out for.
So that's all a key part. Now, we talk about the commonalities. Since the devices started being discovered with George Soros and then a number of elected officials. And again, you know, there were some trying to ignore what was staring us directly in the face with the commonalities of the targets, these Democrats, people who have been, you know, receiving end of ire from the president, and saying, well, perhaps, this is some kind of false flag operation. And, you know, all kinds of other nonsense.
Here today, you had the United States attorney general standing there and saying, no, this person appears to be a partisan, and again, you look at the van, just everything seems to be linking up in that same direction. The reason why it matters is not only because we want to investigate this. But it goes back to that issue, how do we stop it from happening again? And I would say, I've been a lot more harsh than others who have been a little bit more diplomatic as far as where the blame rests.
I'm one of those who thinks that if you're an elected official, someone who is in a powerful position and you know that there are people throughout in this nation who are predisposed to act on violence, it is incumbent upon you to do something that should be very simple and basic, and that is not to spew hate and invective. That should be simple.
You must know -- I mean, the president isn't just to blame here, but there is some blame that rest with those who continue to incite people, because it only takes one incident, it only takes one deranged individual to take those incendiary words and meet them with incendiary devices which we saw in this case.
COOPER: Josh, based on what you're hearing, to you believe he acted alone? We just heard from his former attorney who said he didn't think he had the mental capacity necessarily to do this alone.
CAMPBELL: We don't know the answer to that question, but that will be part of the investigation. We've been speaking with our law enforcement sources throughout the day, I mean, ever since this began and that has been the key aspect
There are actually two things, first of all, investigators want to know that there were no additional devices that are out there. They'll continue to work with the United States Postal Service in order to try to detect whether there are any additional devices, but also, to the question he's raised, they want to know if other people were associated with this person.
We understand again from those familiar with the investigation that he is now lawyered up the subject, he is no longer providing information and cooperating. We don't know if they glean during that initial interview, whether he did have additional people that were involved with him.
But its not -- they're not going to take his word forth, they're going to be orbiting him, his entire life talking to his associates, his family, his friends, former colleagues. Like, you know, you spoke within attorneys. And also going through this initial footprint (ph) to see other -- other people out there who maybe part of this. Again, they're not saying that there is but it's something they need to rule out before they send out the all clear.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Phil Mudd, Josh Campbell, thank you very much.
Coming up, more on what the President had to say tonight after he called for national unity. And the larger question of course about presidential statements and responsibility.
COOPER: Oh, it's been the item hanging over the breaking news all day namely, the President's reaction to it as well as his view of what if any responsibility his language or impact his language may have had around any aspect of this week of terror. With me now, from the rally the President just spoke at CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny.
So Jeff, the President renewed his call for unity tonight. But yet again, that call as far as I understand only lasted a few sentences. What happened? JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it did. I mean the President was here saying the same thing that he's been saying at every other rally that we've been covering for a long time. The tone was a little softer than it has been, say, then the Houston rally on Monday night where I was always at. But it was very similar to the rally on Wisconsin on Wednesday. And the difference is that the President did not specifically mention any of his critics by name with the quick exception of Hillary Clinton one time and Maxine Waters.
Beyond that he largely stuck to, you know, his normal script here. But Anderson what we heard tonight was the President finding a new opponent. He's gone out to the media of course repeatedly. That is his main opponent. But he blamed the media entirely for what he said was trying to score political points for the serial bomber. Take a listen to what he said as he tried shifting the blame, not accepting any responsibility himself.
[20:35:05] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Nor that we blame the Democrat Party every time radical leftists sees and destroy public property and unleash violence and mayhem. Yet the media has tried to attack the incredible Americans who support our movement to give power back to the people. That's what our movement is.
ZELENY: So talking about that movement, he said it was the greatest movement in the history of the country. By that he means the Trump campaign. Never mind the civil rights movement and other movements. But he was really trying to shift the focus off the serial bomber, only mentioning it the very beginning and trying to turn it into a larger fight that he believes the media is having against him in trying to stop his movement. He brought all of this into the context of -- for the midterm elections that his supporters need to stand up.
So, Anderson what was striking was that he did not use this serial bomber that we've been talking about all day long indeed a week long as a national security moment as some other president's might have done, you know, in terms of keeping people safe. He said it was simply the left and simply the media trying to score points. It was more grievance tonight here than anything else Anderson, but I will say after covering so many of these rallies, the vitriol from his side at least was lower than it has been on some rallies, Anderson.
COOPER: The President was asked earlier today if he shared any of the blame here. What did he have to say about that?
ZELENY: He said no. And a word no, I do not share the blame. He was asked that as he was leaving the White House as he was flying here, he said no. I'm not to blame, I don't share any to blame. And it's not internalizing any of this. Not follows our reporting that we're hearing, talking to people who were talking to the President, they believe and he believe that he's been unfairly linked to all of this. So not sharing any responsibility. Anderson, we have seen the President, you know, call for unity. But not one time tonight or throughout the day say what he is going to do to change the conversation. Not one time. Anderson.
ZELENY: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.
Joining us now is "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman, joining us now as well as investigative journalists and author Carl Bernstein.
Maggie, I mean, I don't think anyone believes the President is going to use this as an opportunity to pause or look inward, reassess rhetoric that he has used at time and time again.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Why would anybody believe that? That has never been what he does over the last four years now -- almost four years that he has been in the political arena and in the White House. If anything he has gotten more political. He has doubled down more than what we used to see. He feels more egged on by what he says. I was very struck by that clip that you played before where he was saying at the rally, you know, just as we don't blame leftists, so it's his word, for mob violence that takes place, that's exactly what he and his supporters do.
And yet, the argument is that the same questions about his rhetoric should not be made. I continue to be struck by the degree to which this President does not see that the role of a President is not the same as a media network or an average citizen or a television commentator. It is a very different role. There's a reason there have been 44 of them over time. And this is not going to be the moment where he changes who he is but it is worth noting, this is what he is doing.
COOPER: Yes, I mean Carl, just hours before the arrest of the suspect, the President was bemoaning on Twitter what he claimed it was a -- it was a political downside of the bomb coverage. And hours after the arrest he was saying basically the same thing, that it had cost Republicans momentum for the midterms. He certainly not attempting to hide at least what appears to be his main focus here.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There has been a failure of moral leadership in the past week that may be unique to the modern presidency. The President of the United States is supposed to be the moral leader of the country. And at a moment when we are being terrorized in this country by someone threatening to assassinate leaders and ex-presidents, and we have a terror alert because of bombs going through the mails, this President at 10:39 a.m. this morning, just before the bomber was caught, tweets out about his own self- interests.
Republicans are doing so well in early voting and at the polls and now this quote "bomb stuff" happens and the momentum greatly slows. News, not talking politics, very unfortunate. Republicans, go out and vote. That is his moral response. This may be a low point in presidential leadership in terms of what we hope to see a president telling our children. Telling our citizens, this is a moment to unite. Democrats, Republicans, and let's reject violence and let's come together and say that we must find who is responsible here.
We've heard nothing in the last week, while this terror was going on except self-interests. And instead of the national interest, we have heard these kinds of tweets out of this President and making the conduct of the press the issue. Instead the real issue, as we have seen, is the conduct of the President of the United States. Not the conduct to the press.
[20:40:23] COOPER: Maggie, I mean the President says that he's toned down his rhetoric, he didn't rule out toning back up, but I mean has there really been any substantive change in his rhetoric aside from congratulating himself during a speech with how nice he's being?
HABERMAN: Well, no. Other than that. I mean the -- in fact I would you give a counter data point which was that when he was hosting a black leadership summit at the White House earlier today, and someone in that crowd yet said lock her up, he exit on and yes lock her up. That was the first for the White House, I think that I'm aware of.
So no. I don't think that he's toned down his rhetoric and if he's talking about, you know, a game of inches on the rhetoric, I don't really know what the difference is. What I -- I also think is worth pointing out is that we're going to have this conversation and I guarantee you, what is going to happen after this conversation is we will get e-mails or tweets or what have you accusing us of "being contemptuous of the President".
We are reporting on what he is doing and saying. This is just what is reality in front of you. This is not opinion. That has been something that he has really struggled to deal with when it gets reported on. There is no president who likes their media coverage, I can't really think of any in modern memory or in certainly in modern history. If he didn't realize that that is part of what the job entails which is you get aggressive coverage as a President and despite what the White House says, it hasn't really been inaccurate, then he probably shouldn't have run because this is what the job is.
COOPER: What -- Carl, when the President says that any Bernie Sanders supporter attacking the Congressional baseball game last year, I mean that is true and Congressman Scalise was gravely wounded. Made a remarkable recovery, thank God. It's also true that Bernie Sanders didn't routinely list off and vilify specific people that he didn't like that the people who were, you know, sent these pipe bombs, I mean they were all interpreters being critics, or had said things which were critical of the President and the President had called them out.
BERNSTEIN: It's not just that he called this people out. It's that his message has been one of hate, one of division, and one of threats. Let's listen to the threat he made about body slamming and praising a congressman for body slamming a reporter. Let's listen to the threat he made not long ago in which he said, I'd like to punch him in the face, maybe he shouldn't be rough up. Part of the problem is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore. That's the President of the United States talking. Truman didn't talk like that. Roosevelt didn't talk like that. Eisenhower, Bush 1, Bush 2, Clinton, no president of the United States has ever talked like that.
And there is a tone that this President has set and one of the great shames is that the Republicans in Washington, on Capitol Hill have not been able to say Mr. President, we maybe agree with you on the issues, but you must stop the tone of attack that has been the hallmark of your presidency. We cannot accept it. The country cannot accept it. It's dangerous and now we have really seen the danger of it. No, this --
BERNSTEIN: -- mad bomber whatever we call him, he acted on his own but in an atmosphere that has been defined by this president of the United States and that kind of language.
COOPER: Carl Bernstein, Maggie Haberman, appreciate you being with us. Thank you very much.
Coming up next, the counter story that unfolded this week. That this was all a liberal plot (ph) false flags so-called designed to drive up votes for Democrats just before the mid-terms.
[20:47:02] COOPER: Well before today's arrest, there was a lot of speculation even out right declarations on the part of some with no evidence that what we've been watching this week was so-called false flag operation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do as you've seen in the past, reporting on these events, incidents where it is a false flag, if you will.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You talked in your notes earlier about the potential that it could be a false flag.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot rule out that it is a false flag operation as well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rush Limbaugh suggested today these attacks were actually false flags by the left.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The left feels they're losing on many levels, and I feel they're planting these devices just for state of role (ph) of victim.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, we have the worst right wing bomb maker in history or we have a false flag operation where it's a left wing type of operation to create hysteria.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because two weeks before a major election, who is going to be look like the bad guy here? The Republicans.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fascinating.
COOPER: Fascinating, said the Fox News anchor there. Joining me now is "USA Today" columnist Kirsten Powers. Also joining us is former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo.
Kirsten, I mean is there any reason to believe the evidence laid out today is actually going to convince those people this was not a false flag operation?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I feel like anybody who could even go down that road in the first place is probably not the most persuasive person. But these are the kinds of things that I would have associated with an Alex Jones type of person. To watch Martha McCallum at Fox News say that's fascinating, like it's an interesting concept, or have Ed Henry, you know, these are people who at least when I worked there, were very respectable. And I just, I can't even imagine in the past entertaining these kind of things. It's like it's an alternative universe, you know, Fox has always been conservative leaning. But this is just completely bunkers. I can't believe actually what I just saw.
COOPER: Its interesting Michael, because -- I mean obviously look, we didn't know who this person was. What their motivation was. But now that, you know, photographs of this person's van have been, you know, seen widely, you know, I've seen even online people saying, well look, the van looked like a new van and the pictures looked like they were newly put up there. They weren't washed out by the sun. Do you think this will put to rest the idea that this some sort of false flag?
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FMR TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Well, I got to tell you, when this first happened, I kind of thought, well this looks like its fake. Because who could believe some of these labels that were on those packages. I didn't think -- you know, I thought this looked like some kind of a plant. But I could tell you this, you know, that van is parked around where I live in South Florida when I'm down there for my work. It's pretty famous in the neighborhoods down there. Those stickers have been on that van for months as far as I know.
And it's real. I mean at the same time, you know -- you know, we look at what happened with James Hodgkinson when he burned (ph) a volunteer shutdown Representative Scalise and others.
[20:50:10] You know, we kind of hug that out, I mean we remember Representative or Speaker Ryan and Nancy Pelosi bringing everybody together and talk about how we have to, you know, they -- they made covet one of us and they covet all of us and we kind of sing kumbaya. I think it's important to do the same thing now. Because, I don't think we should be politicizing what is clearly mental illness. And, you know, some of this false wag stuff I can understand, but I think it's pretty much put to rest now.
COOPER: Kirsten, you know, that comparison has been made and certainly something we've heard from folks in the administration. Is that a fair comparison, the Sanders supporter who ended up shooting a Representative Scalise? POWERS: No, because Bernie Sanders wasn't over and over routinely naming specific people organizations that he had problems with. Donald Trump tweets about at -- you know, talks about whether, you know, it's an interviews or whether it's a rallies, obsessively about how much he hates CNN, about how the media is the enemy of the people, about Democrats are evil. These just -- first of all are not the kinds of things that Bernie Sanders was saying and he wasn't saying specifically about his so-called political enemies. The people that were targeted, these are just -- it's just a who's who of people that Donald Trump hates.
And so I think that this is very different, because -- and if you think about, you know, s Michael was just describing what happened with Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan, I mean you just played the clip earlier of Donald Trump or, you know, attacking the press again. Right? I mean, he still today is going after the media when the media is being targeted with bombs.
COOPER: Michael? What about that?
CAPUTO: Well, I can tell you, I mean we know that the President does tag people individually. And we -- and all those people that he goes after are people that have gone after him. He is a political warrior. And, you know, I said we hug this out after Hodgkinson shut down Scalise. I don't think we're going to hug out our differences as we run up to a very important midterm election. But at the same time, you know, this week I hosted a Steve Bannon in a reception here in little town of east Aurora, New York, and we had to cancel the reception part because we got threats to burn the place down, in a historic inn right here in this tiny little village.
And we also had a fire hall at the Jamison Road fire hall volunteer fire hall, where the rally took place with Steve. They got, you know, just absolutely one after another telephone calls threatening them and telling them to shut that thing down. It happens all the time, this summer my wife got a piece of a sniper rifle in the mail. You know, and when James Hodgkinson was arrested, I noted that my picture was on his Facebook.
This thing goes both ways and President Trump, you know, I know it offends some delicate sensibilities and he is out there punching back at people that punch him, but this isn't, you know, this isn't bean bag politics. And I think we have to be really careful not to politicize what is clearly a mental illness on (INAUDIBLE) as well as Hodgkinson. The man who was found guilty this week sending of white powder to Trump's sons, the Laramie, Wyoming, Democrat who is being sought right now by fellow authorities at this military in Wyoming setting a fire to the Republican headquarters there, this thing goes both ways.
COOPER: Kirsten, is it all sort of this?
POWERS: Look, all I can tell you is -- there's no question that we're in a particularly bad climate right now. But, I mean, I can just tell you from having done this for a while, I have never had people post a picture of my house and tell people to come to my house, which has happened to me. Alt-right, people who support Donald Trump. I get things in the mail, I get threatening things in the mail. I get, you know, all sorts of crazy things happening to me that I just never had happen to me. I was a left of center person on Fox News, I got a lot of attacks, I never dealt with this kind of stuff. So this isn't even about conservatives. This is about people who support Donald Trump, the people who are doing are people who support Donald Trump.
And it's something that is very different. And the same thing -- look I'm sure there's always been people who didn't like CNN. That's normal for a people not to like a media organization. But this obsessive hatred that is been (INAUDIBLE) by this President. Now and even Michael, even if it was on both sides, that wouldn't excuse what the President is doing. It wouldn't excuse --
POWERS: -- the President continuing to attack CNN after his response.
COOPER: I got get a break in.
CAPUTO: And it doesn't include Maxine Waters and the rest, yes.
COOPER: Michael, thank you so much.
COOPER: Sorry, he was saying about Maxine Waters in the comments that she had made in and others as well.
I want to check in with Chris, see what he's working on for "CUOMO PRIME TIME" at the top of the hour. Chris?
[20:55:04] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It's all this. It's all this. It's all that's going on here. Everybody is pointing at the other side. I'm looking at your beleaguered face in the middle as it goes on. And nobody is dealing with the main question, which is well then, how does it stop? How does it get better? If everybody wants to spend time saying that it's a problem, but nobody wants to own it, nothing will ever change. And we're seeing that right from the top. There is only one president, Anderson, you say it all the time and you're right every time. And leadership is supposed to start at the top.
Well we're going to look at what he said at his rally tonight and what he did and say and what is really a window into what this President wants. We're going to take that on, we're going to talk to part of team Trump and see what their perspective is and what's going on. We're going to talk to Jim Clapper about what he thinks from an intelligence perspective needs to happen here when it comes to propaganda. And that's what the parties are putting out. How does he think we should deal with it? We're going to get after it on a Friday night my friend.
COOPER: All right, Chris, I'll see you just a couple minutes. Appreciate that. In a moment Chris and more, more news, we'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: The President tonight said and I'm quoting, Americans must unify and we must show the world that we are united together in peace and love and harmony. Think of those words as you watch what happened after he said that.
TRUMP: But if Nancy Pelosi and crying Chuck Schumer -- Nancy Pelosi. Can you imagine? Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi? I don't think so.
[21:00:06] COOPER: President of the United States after calling for peace and love and harmony.
The news continues. I want to hand over to Chris, "CUOMO PRIME TIME" starts right now. Chris?