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Two Weeks Since Boston Marathon Bombing; Feud Over Racial Profiling; NBA's Jason Collins Comes Out; Suspect in Ricin Case Appears in Court; At Least 400 Confirmed Dead in Bangladesh Building Collapse; Foxx Is Obama's Latest Cabinet Pick

Aired April 29, 2013 - 12:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The terror in Boston has resulted in a feud over racial profiling. The suspects are Muslim, and a New York congressman wants law enforcement to put a greater focus on that community, but some say not so fast.

CNN's Carol Costello has the story.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As Bostonians continue to mourn and ask why, the political fight over how to prevent another attack rages on.

If you ask Republican Congressman Peter King, he'll tell you forget about being politically correct.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Most Muslims is outstanding people, but the threat is coming from the Muslim community. Just yesterday, Tom Friedman, who is certainly no conservative, said we must ask a question only Muslims can answer. What is going on in your community that a critical number of your youth believes that every American military action in the Middle East justifies a terror response? It's coming from the community.

COSTELLO: King says it's imperative to ramp up surveillance of Muslim communities.

NASSER WEDADDY, DIRECTOR, AMERICAN ISLAMIC CONGRESS: Cleary everything that has been done in the past decade has failed.

COSTELLO: Nasser Wedaddy is the director of the American Islamic Congress in Boston.

Nine days after 9/11 attacks he was detained by police, put in a cell for five hours and then interrogated, a victim of what Peter King is suggesting. Racial profiling, he says.

WEDADDY: Understand that not all Muslims look a certain way, that not all Muslims are religious and that most Muslims belong to different sects and different faith traditions. COSTELLO: Others, like Congressman Keith Ellison, who's Muslim, says King's laser focus on the Muslim community may divert attention away from other threats like the man accused of sending President Obama a letter laced with ricin, a terrorist act police say did not involve Islamic extremism.

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: We don't have enough law enforcement resources to go after just one community.

Remember, we went after a community in World War II, and the Japanese internment is a national stain on our country and we are still apologizing for it.

COSTELLO: Politics aside, back in Boston most just want to know why, and sadly that answer is slow in coming.


BLITZER: And Carol Costello's joining us now live from Boston. Carol, since the September 11the attacks, whenever someone says terror, the finger's often quickly pointed at Muslims. So what are people in Boston where you are right now saying about all of this?

COSTELLO: Well, local Muslims are telling me that the backlash has begun. It's not as bad as it was after 9/11. That's for sure. But they can hear the taunts coming, and they say the comments coming from Congressman Peter King only make the backlash worse. They wish he would just tamp down on his comments so that they would be -- well, so they wouldn't suffer the backlash, obviously.

But also the Muslim community is more likely to cooperate with authorities if police embrace that community and not treat everyone in that community as a suspect.

BLITZER: It's been exactly two weeks today since the blast occurred, Carol. What does it look like now? I believe you're on Boylston Street where that marathon ended.

COSTELLO: That's right. I'm right at the finish line where that first bomb went off. And as you can see it looks pretty normal. Take a look around, people are walking up and down the sidewalk. You can't really tell a bomb here went off.

Of course, people are taking pictures, too, so that's sort of unusual at The Marathon Place, this sporting goods store. But if you take a look at the ground, like all of this concrete has been repaired. All of the brickwork has been repaired. And that happened on Saturday.We have a picture of construction workers, union workers, who came out and provided their services for free.

The mayor of Boston wanted the street to look perfectly normal by this weekend so that people would come down and live life as they normally do. There are still some signs that bomb went off, though, as you can see. Take a look at Marathon Place. This is a store. You can see the windows are still boarded up and there's some damage to the building next door. And -- but as you can see, Marathon Sports is open for business as is the candy store next door. And, hopefully, they'll make up all of that money that they lost because they were closed for more than a few days, as you might expect, because of these bombings.

But I must say, Wolf, the streets are packed. Life looks normal, but everybody's quite aware of what happened here.

BLITZER: Yeah, they certainly are. But I like that feeling of Boston strong and, the people in Boston, they are strong as a result of what has happened. Thanks so much for that. Carol's on the scene for us in Boston.

We're going to hear more from Congressman Peter King, by the way. He's going to join me in "The Situation Room" later today, 5:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll go in-depth with him.

Jason Collins has become the first openly gay athlete in pro sports. Collins is with the Washington Wizards. He tells "Sports Illustrated" and I'm quoting now, "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay."

It's a very revealing a candid interview in which he discusses coming out first to his aunt. He says her acceptance made him comfortable in his own skin.

He didn't tell his twin brother, Jarron, until last summer. He says his twin was astounded. So much for twin telepathy. By the way, he's joking about that.

But the family is certainly behind him. And apparently so is the NBA, the commissioner, David Stern, issuing a statement saying, quote, "As Adam Silver and I said to Jason" -- Adam is the deputy commissioner -- "we have known the Collins family since Jason and Jarron joined the NBA back in 2001 and they have been exemplary members of the NBA family.

"Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue."

By the way, the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, also issued a statement.

And Chelsea Clinton who went to Stanford University issued a statement in support of Jason Collins decision to go public with his being a homosexual.

"Very proud of my friend Jason Collins for having the strength and courage to be the first openly gay player in the NBA," Chelsea Clinton wrote on Twitter and her father, the former president, echoed that sentiment.

"I have known Jason Collins since he was Chelsea's classmate and friend at Stanford. Jason's announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT community." So those statements coming in. We'll have much more on this story later in "THE SITUATION ROOM" as well.

Meanwhile, a martial arts instructor is in court today accused of sending letters tainted with the deadly poison ricin to President Obama and other officials.


BLITZER: Let's go to Oxford, Mississippi, right now where a couple hours ago the man accused of sending ricin-tainted letters to President Obama and other government officials made a brief court appearance, his name, James Everett Dutschke, a former martial arts instructor.

Alina Machado is standing by. She's covering the case for us in Oxford. Alina, tell us what happened in the court today.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Dutschke walked into the courtroom wearing his orange jumpsuit. His hands were cuffed at the waist. His feet were shackled.

His demeanor seemed to be very calm, very confident. He answered all the judges questions clearly, this despite the fact he's facing a very serious federal charge of knowingly developing, producing, stockpiling and possessing a biological agent for use as a weapon. That agent, according to federal authorities, was ricin.

Now this morning's court appearance was very brief. It lasted about eight minutes. The affidavit in this case has been sealed, and that's where we hope to learn a little bit more about what led authorities to move in on Dutschke and make this arrest on Saturday. But we are told that this affidavit could potentially be unsealed very, very soon. Wolf?

BLITZER: Dutschke has a court-appointed attorney now, Alina. Tell us a little bit more about this.

MACHADO: Well, that attorney, his name is George Lucas. We learned that he has met with Dutschke a couple of times. Those meetings were very brief. When we talked to him right after the hearing, he said that he hadn't really had a chance to look at the complaint that had been filed. That complaint had been in his hands for about 15 minutes. So one can assume that he's going to be going through that complaint with his client before the next hearing. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Alina, thanks very much. Alina Machado on the scene for us in Oxford, Mississippi.

This is the scene today in Bangladesh. Look at this. Rescuers started using heavy machinery to remove wreckage on the site of a collapsed building. That indicates the hunt for survivors is ending. Almost 400 people are confirmed dead. It's not certain how many are still missing, but some estimates suggest more than 600 people remain buried in the rubble. Distraught family members have refused to leave since the building crumbled on Wednesday. It housed factories that made clothes for people here in the United States and in Europe. Authorities have arrested the man who owns the building.

Back here in the United States, we're seeing major flooding in the Midwest. Fargo, North Dakota, is getting hit pretty hard right now. Warm temperatures are speeding up the pace of the snow melt, and that has rivers surging. The Red River is expected to crest Wednesday at 37 feet. That's just three feet below the all-time record level.

We're getting new details on a man who's been accused of brainwashing the Boston marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev and turning him into a strict Islamism. The man has been referred to only so far as Misha by members of the Tsarnaev family. A writer for "The New York Review of Books" actually tracked down this individual to a modest apartment in Rhode Island. Take a listen as he describes their conversation.


CHRISTIAN CARYL, "THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS": When I asked him about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, it was quite -- he made it very clear that he had indeed known him. He did not specify any details about the nature of their relationship. But he was very, very, very intent on explaining that he had nothing to do with any kind of radicalization. What he told me was, I was not his teacher. If I had been his teacher, I would have made sure that he knew that doing something like this was wrong.

So he was very, very emphatic about that, very upset and went to great lengths to convince me that he really had nothing to do with this. And he made the point -- he claimed to me that the FBI had told him that his case was, in fact, about to be closed because the FBI had investigated his computer, his cell phone, all of his equipment and documents and concluded that he wasn't really involved, certainly not involved in the organization of the attacks. Now, is that true? I don't know, but we still have to find out.


BLITZER: The writer, by the way, Christian Caryl says Misha's full name is Mikhail Allakverdov. He shares his Rhode Island apartment with his elderly parents.

President Obama has been criticized for a lack of diversity in his cabinet. So will his pick for transportation secretary stop the critics?



CONAN O'BRIEN, COMEDIAN: Mr. President, you're going to leave office as a very young man and yet the presidency has taken its toll. I don't want to alarm you, sir, but you're starting to look like a judge on "Law & Order." Just say you're on thin ice, counselor, you could have that part right away. Seriously, Mr. President, your hair is so white, it could be a member of your cabinet.


BLITZER: Tough line. Now, that was Conan O'Brien at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner Saturday night, taking a little jab at President Obama over the supposed lack of diversity in his cabinet. Today, the president names the first African-American cabinet pick of his second term. He's chosen the Charlotte, North Carolina, Mayor Anthony Foxx as his nominee to become the nation's next transportation secretary, succeeding Ray LaHood.

Angela Rye is a principal at the Impact Strategies Group, former executive director and general counsel for the Congressional Black Caucus.

Angela, thanks very much for coming in. So what's your take on this suggestion that the president has not been diverse enough in his selections for his second term cabinet?

ANGELA RYE, FMR. EXEC. DIR., CONG. BLACK CAUCUS: Well, Wolf, I think as the president has mentioned in several other interviews, this is just the beginning. Anthony Foxx is certainly a great start in the right direction with his background serving as a mayor of a major metropolitan area, even serving as one of the primary reasons why the Democratic National Convention went so well. I think it's certainly a step in the right direction.

BLITZER: And so you expect more of this to take place? When you say a step in the right direction, what are you anticipating?

RYE: I anticipate that the president will continue to appoint diverse officials. We saw this in his first cabinet with secretary -- I'm sorry, Attorney General Holder, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and others. He'd made Susan Rice and Ron Kirk cabinet level position, both the trade representative and the U.N. ambassador. I certainly expect that he will continue to do that as he addresses criticism that doesn't justify to his cabinet, but also throughout corporate America. In fact, we see that oftentimes in the media when folks are merging in others.

I know, for example, that CNN has also faced criticism. So when you deal with criticism, it's really all about the response. And the president is just beginning to respond.

BLITZER: The Charlotte mayor, I got to know him a little bit when I was in Charlotte at the Democratic Convention. By all accounts, he did an excellent job. What do you think, is he going to have any controversy on his confirmation? Because, as you know, so many of the president's nominees, they've had pretty rough going up -- during those confirmation hearings.

RYE: I think it's safe to say, Wolf, that the president period has had pretty rough going. You know, whether it's this latest gun control measure or what we expect to see with comprehensive immigration reform. The nominees have certainly been catching it from Hagel to, you know, now Mayor Foxx. I don't think that he'll have the same type of criticism that Hagel faced. We know that Kerry was certainly easy to kind of get through the confirmation process. But the good thing about Mayor Foxx is that he doesn't have a long history in the federal government having accomplishments there. His accomplishments exist on the municipality level. And they're great as it relates to transportation. So I think he'll be on the easier side, whereas a nominee like Labor Nominee Perez may have a more difficult challenge because of his role in the civil rights division at the Department of Justice.

WOLF: Angela Rye, thanks very much for coming in. The president, by the way, is going to make the formal announcement in the 2:00 p.m. Eastern hour around 2:10 p.m. That's what the White House says.

As comedian-in-chief, the president was a big hit at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this weekend. He even took aim at himself, along with a host of media organizations. And even his predecessor, President Bush, didn't escape.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I went to the opening of the Bush Presidential Library in Dallas. It was a wonderful event. And that inspired me to get started on my own legacy, which will actually begin by building another edifice right next to the Bush Library. Can we show that please?


BLITZER: The dinner not only gives reporters a chance to socialize with the people who run Washington, but also gives them a chance to socialize with some of the major Hollywood stars who show up every year. In our next hour, our Suzanne Malveaux will share some of what she saw at the dinner. Stay tuned for that.

The next presidential election is still more than three years away, but Hillary Clinton already topping the list in one poll. She hasn't even said if she is going to run. The big question though is this, will this stop other Democrats from jumping into the race if she announces she's running?