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Man Arrested in Mail Bombs Identified; Trump Speaks After Arrest in Mail Bombs Case. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired October 26, 2018 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:30:00] TOM FUENTES, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I mean that is essentially the equivalent of a social media posting publicly done without the internet just sticking a window sticker on your window. So they'll go into all of his possible leanings and whether that led to the motivation to want to do this. And his target selection, why he picked out the people he did to send these packages to.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And I don't know if Evan is still with us or not. We mentioned in the past before we knew the suspect's name that we believe he had a criminal history. This is just unfolding so I don't need to put you on the spot. Do we have any indication of what that past history is now that we know the name?
We don't have Evan Perez, I'm sorry. So just take me through that process now that -- now we know the name of the suspect, the FBI of course has know for sometime and say they investigated him in terms of criminal history relevant obviously in any event, but what are you looking for to piece this together?
FUENTES: Well, if he's been arrested before then he would have been fingerprinted. So if they had gotten one fingerprint off of any of these packages that would have come back and matched to him, that's a major clue. DNA also. We don't know if he was a suspect in cases where his DNA was taken and also on file.
So, that's two major forensic leads. The fingerprints and the possible DNA.
KING: And our great time -- Crime and Justice Team has more reporting. Let's bring in Shimon Prokupecz who has some additional details. Shimon?
Yes. So given now that we're showing these images on the suspect's van, specifically, obviously the president and the vice president, and then that "CNN sucks". You know, when I was talking to law enforcement sources about this, they all along had thought that the packages that were meant for CNN that were delivered here. One that was delivered here was because he was targeting CNN.
KING: Shimon, standby.
We're going to listen now and go to the White House, listen to the president of the United States. This is a black leadership event that is why the cheering is there despite the gravity of this day. We're told the president will address this incident and the arrest at the top of these remarks.
Again, he is speaking to a black leadership summit previously scheduled at the White House. It may seem a little off tone if you will with the gravity of the day but that's not the fault of the people in the room. Let's listen to the president of the United States.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They call this, as you know, this is young black leadership and it's the summit and to have you here is truly my privilege. And we're going to have a lot of fun, we're going to talk, we're going to meet. But before I do, I'd like to begin -- and you are leaders. That's real leaders.
I'd like to begin today's remarks by providing an update on the packages and devices that have been mailed to high profile figures throughout our country and a media organization. I am pleased to inform you that law enforcement has apprehended the suspect and taken him into custody.
It's an incredible job by law enforcement. We've carried out a far reaching federal, state, and local investigation to find the person or persons responsible for these events. These terrorizing acts are despicable and have no place in our country. No place.
I have instructed authorities to spare no resource or expense in finding those responsible in bringing them to swift and certain justice. And we will prosecute them, him, her, whoever it maybe to the fullest extent of the law. We must never allow political violence to take root in America. Cannot let it happen. And I'm committed to doing everything in my power as president to stop it, and to stop it now. Stop it now.
I have just concluded a briefing with the Department of Justice following the apprehension of the suspect. I want to applaud the FBI, Secret Service, the Department Of Justice, the U.S. attorney's office for the southern district of New York, the NYPD, and all law enforcement throughout the entire country. Credible partners. These people have worked so hard and to have done it so quickly. It's looking like a -- you're looking -- it's a needle in a haystack. How do you this so quickly? They have done an incredible, incredible job and I want to congratulate them.
But the bottom line is that Americans must unify. And we must show the world that we are united together in peace and love and harmony as fellow American citizens. There is no country like our country and every day we are showing the world just how truly great we are.
[12:35:05] So, you are really very special people. I wanted to say that before our little talk. And I appreciate the time you've given me and boy, one day, one of you is going to be standing -- it could be three or four of you, actually. But you're going to be standing right here.
You're going to be standing right here. I have no doubt. I have no doubt.
Who in this room wants to be president someday? So it's an ambitious group. It's an ambitious group. That's great. Anyway.
Thank you all very much. I really appreciate it. For the media, thank you very much. I thought I'd do that. And we feel very strongly again.
Congratulations to all law enforcement. We have the best in the world and they just showed it. Thank you very much.
KING: The president of the United States speaking at the White House. Speaking to a group of young black leaders brought into the White House for a summit today. Their enthusiasm for the president because they're invited into the White House for this political event. The president though taking time at the top of that event to deliver an update on the arrest now of the suspect in the mailing of packaged bombs, at least alleged bombs, more than a dozen of them now around the country.
The president applauding -- the president had not said anything about the investigation for a couple of days applauding the FBI, the NYPD, other federal, state, and local agencies for what he called, quote, an incredible job in finding the needle in the haystack. That as the president put it.
You're watching on the right of your screen there a van associated with the suspect, now arriving at an FBI facility in Florida to be investigated and looked at there as a potential crime scene and obviously for evidence. The president in his remarks also saying we must never allow political violence to take root in America. And the president is saying he would do everything in his power to stop it, and everything in his power to unify the country.
Tom Fuentes is still with me, former assistant director of the FBI. Obviously, from Jeff Sessions, the attorney general later and parts of the leaders of the investigative team, we will get the key details from the president more if you will. I don't mean this in a critical way but a pat on the back.
FUENTES: Well, certainly. You know, the effort that went into this from all of the law enforcement agencies and even many more than he named, the joint terrorism task forces that have -- for instance in New York may have 40 different agencies on that. The GGTFs (ph) in Florida was 102 (INAUDIBLE) 102 I believe nationwide. They would all be coordinating together every lead in this. The explosives experts are a very close-knit group also and they have their own private network -- secure networks where they can send photographs and information about bomb components, the way they're made and put together and that.
So, you have a great deal of coordination among hundreds of agencies all over the country that go into something like this, and then you see the results of it with this kind of an arrest.
KING: I believe Kaitlan Collins is still with us from the White House. Kaitlan, I'm struck by the change in the president's tone. Before this event, when he's in private with his phone, he's showing tweets. He called this, quote, this bomb stuff. This bomb stuff with bombs in parentheses.
In the east room I believe it was just as they're speaking to this group, he called these terrorizing acts and said they were despicable.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. No reference to that tweet earlier where he said that the coverage of what has happened this week in this unfolding incident has slowed momentum, in his opinion for Republicans ahead of the midterms because politics weren't being covered on television and in newspapers. This was being covered.
But he did seem to suggest there, he said he had just briefed by the Justice Department and, John, we know we saw the attorney general Jeff Sessions arrive here at the White House earlier. He did interesting seemly -- seem to suggest that there could be multiple people responsible here. He said person or persons, and then he later said he wanted to bring whoever it is responsible for this to swift justice.
Him, her, they, them. He made a reference to a few multiple people. So maybe that's something he (INAUDIBLE) during that intelligence briefing there that we know he was briefed by John Kelly and by Justice Department officials before coming out and making these remarks.
But, certainly a very different tone, John as the president read from the teleprompter because we saw aides adding in these new remarks at the top of this because they weren't of course prepared for this. When they initially had planned on this event, we saw them adding in those new remarks. They had no reference to the tweet from the president earlier where he said that it slowed down that momentum and instead it was more of a reflection of what we've seen from the president on the day that these events first happened, and later in his other remarks where he called for unity. He said the political violence has no place in this country and he praised law enforcement for their swift action here saying -- as you noted, a needle in a haystack, just noting how difficult it is to find whoever it is that did this. And praising law enforcement and the federal agencies for doing so really quickly.
But no reference to that sweet earlier where he said this bomb stuff in quotes was slowing down momentum ahead of the polls.
[12:40:02] And also no reference to anything he has said -- of course we know from behind the scenes that President Trump has told aides, he's told his friends, he doesn't want in any way to be linked to this. And of course, that is going to raise some questions of course now that we're seeing the stickers on this person's van, all of those questions. What the president will have to say about that as he continues to be updated on all the information here, John.
KING: Kaitlan Collins, live at the White House just after the president speaks. You're watching on the right of your scene here, that is the van now being lowered from the tow truck into an FBI processing facility, their field office in Miramar, Florida. It will be investigated now for evidence. The suspect -- the person associated with that van, we don't (INAUDIBLE) the owner of that van, we don't know that. But associated with that van is Cesar Sayoc, you see the name on the bottom of your screen, is 56 years old of Aventura, Florida in custody.
That is the most significant news today. A suspect in custody, believed to be responsible for the mailing of at least a dozen suspected bomb packages to prominent Democrats and other critics of the president including to -- addressed to this news organization, CNN in New York. But part of that conversation now, we're 12 days away -- 11 days away from the midterm election will be the president of the United States.
CNN's Dana Bash and MJ Lee join the conversation. And you can get whiplash, excuse me trying to follow the president at this time of a national crisis, a national urgency with the media is to blame for this because the media stokes anger. No comment for the first several days about the heroic work done by the FBI, other federal agencies and the NYPD. The heroic work of the postal workers who are in these facilities worried about their own safety, let alone everything else.
But then the president walks into the room within an -- two hours of saying this quote unquote bomb stuff in a tweet to be as we would expect the president, to thank the law enforcement agencies, to say this must not happen in our country, these terrorizing acts are despicable. Again, you can get whiplash trying to follow him at a moment of national crisis.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There's teleprompter Trump and there's Twitter Trump. And that was teleprompter Trump. Something that was written very carefully, very well by his aides and, you know, presumably him too, doing what he should do as you said as president. Talking about these despicable acts, that violence is never OK.
The problem is what he didn't say, either in that teleprompter speech or on Twitter. Which is, you know what, we all need to lower the rhetoric because I as president, have a big impact on people and what I say, just as the media have an impact, just as everybody else has an impact. But particularly the man with the loudest megaphone and the most Twitter followers in politics. And so that was a big omission. We have not seen him fill in that blank, and if anything, as you mentioned, he's gone the other way on Twitter which is to continue to stoke animosity towards the media.
And -- this tweet that he sent today, I don't even understand it. Saying -- I mean, I guess I understand he wants to focus on politics. I mean, great, we're political reporters. We love to focus on politics but we have this major investigation which is incredibly real that we have to focus on.
KING: All right. This is the last thing any of us would like to be discussing today, apparent bombs or at least attempted bombs mailed to two former presidents and to other prominent American citizens that are danger. But to your point, the president tweeting at 3 a.m., at 3 a.m., the president tweeting an attack on this news network and then earlier today, I want to read this one because this channels what you see in some of this right wing websites.
A conspiracy theory that somehow just like the Democrats are responsible for the caravan which the president himself have said, the migrants coming forward that the Democrats are responsible for these packages. You see it if you read right wing conspiracy -- I don't want to call it media, conspiracy theory sites.
The president saying, Republicans are doing so well in early voting and at the polls and now this, quote bomb stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows. The news not talking politics. Very unfortunate. What is going on? Republicans go out and vote.
The president of United States is linking this, a major federal crime, again, involving two former presidents, a former first lady and presidential candidate and others -- we have a photo I'm told -- we're going to pause, bring it into the conversation, let me shift back. This is a photo from a previous arrest of the suspect now in custody. This is Cesar Sayoc, this is from a previous arrest. He is now in custody, he is the suspect and we are waiting to hear more on the details and the allegations of this current offense. The mailing of at least a dozen of these packages, suspected pipe bombs.
Shimon Prokupecz joins us now with more information. Shimon?
PROKUPECZ: Yes. So, as we've been saying, he is a 56 years old, he's from the -- was living in the Florida area, has ties to -- connections to New York. And really, you know, that's all we really, really know about him. Obviously, we have teams digging through his history, his criminal history, his social media. There's a lot of stuff out there about him. It's not difficult to figure out what he was about, how he was thinking. His political leanings once you start digging into him.
[12:45:04] So what we're putting all of that together. And you can -- you know, the -- assured that authorities have already done all of that, we'll probably see that -- some of that information and perhaps the criminal complaint and the court records that eventually will get released and even maybe at the press conference. And really, this seems like a person who maybe -- may have not been known to authorities in the sense of that he will be up to something like this or he could be behind something like this.
But I'm sure, once they started learning -- once they learned his name and learned his identity, they probably knew that they were on to someone who is likely behind this. And so they worked it and really -- you know, from everything that we can tell, it was really the last 24 hours or so that really changed the game here for authorities. Once they were able to learn with the sorting facilities where some of these packages went through, they were really able to zero in on a neighborhood we were told in South Florida and they've been tracking him.
And so now he's in custody, a huge relief. The NYPD commissioner is on his way to Washington, D.C. to join the press conference. Obviously the NYPD playing a big role in this investigation having to deal with at least three now packages. And so we'll see. You know, we're all waiting to really learn more about him, more about his history. And even, you know, his family and sort of what was going on in his mind. And I was just talking to, John, just quickly to a law enforcement source, they're now in meetings, discussing this case and discussing the situation. And it's clear they say that this guy has had a lot of problems, the source wouldn't get into it but they've learned a lot about him and they're using it now in the investigation.
KING: Shimon Prokupecz with the breaking news. Appreciate that. Apologies to the viewers, we're going to back and forth between updates in the investigation and politics. But it's what happens in a breaking news situation.
I want to bring in Tom Fuentes, former associate director of the FBI back into the conversation.
So, obviously, the NYC police commissioner -- NYPD police commissioner is coming down to be with the attorney general at this announcement. You see here, this is a mug shot from a prior arrest. They put this together.
That would lead me to believe and tell me if I'm wrong that they think this is a lone actor and they have everybody involved if they're going to bring and have this big event. They wouldn't do that would they if they were worried there's more out there?
FUENTES: I think you're right. I think it probably does indicate in their mind that he may have been acting completely alone and may have already said so, and may have already bragged about it. But the fact that they were -- the scheduling of the press conference was made earlier so the NYPD commissioner could get to Washington and others could participate. I think they already had a pretty good idea even from his phone traffic and social media traffic that he may have been alone in the whole process.
KING: Alone in the whole process. That's 2:30, we're now coming up on 1:00, 12:47 here in the East. 2:30, a Justice Department briefing lead by the attorney general, Shimon just told us the NYPD commissioner coming as well. FBI officials will be there. We will get details on the investigation.
The calendar would force the political conversation anyway because we are now 11 days away from a midterm election, because all of the targets of this suspect now, of these pipe bombs were Democrats or prominent critics of the president. We have a picture of the van, I'm going to ask you to put it back up. Clearly, the suspect's van has pictures of the president, has pictures of the vice president, has a derogatory -- you can see it right there so I'll say it. "CNN sucks" on the bottom left hand of the screen.
That is the suspect's van. That does not make the president responsible for this, but he has bristled at the suggestion that people are holding him responsible for this. This suspect is alleged to have done this and the suspect will explain his motives to the police. What people have asked of the president I think is a more calming, unifying presence, and he has done that at times quite well. In other times he launches into attacks on this network, on the media at large and says, "bomb stuff."
MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: And Dana, you were talking about the difference between Twitter Trump and teleprompter Trump. Twitter, again, is one way in which we often get the most unfiltered insight into what Trump is thinking. And it is clear from the tweet that he sent out this morning using the quotation marks, using the word "stuff," that he -- for whatever reason doesn't believe that this is a serious as everyone else believes. That there is something about this that is either not real or not on the level.
And that is particularly unfortunate and not helpful at a time when we know there are conspiracy theory that are unsubstantiated going around about the motive, who the person could be, what their intentions might be. And regardless of sort of what we know and don't know right now about the various bombs that have been discovered. Whether they were designed to go off, we don't know why they haven't gone off yet. Why none of them were actually detonated.
This is a serious situation. I was in the New York bureau when the alarms went off. Even as we were evacuating, we obviously initially didn't know what the reason was, but we all knew as we were going down the staircase that this was a serious situation and would remain so.
[12:50:09] I think if everyone around this table is able to acknowledge that this is a very serious issue and serious conduct, the president certainly should be able to acknowledge that as well.
KING: And to that point, Tom, let's connect the two conversations. As the investigation goes on right now, political motivation is clearly a part of that conversation investigators will be asking why. Why are you alleged to have done this?
What does it matter from a crime standpoint whether these were actual bombs set to go off and maybe they didn't work or the suspect knew they that they weren't. They were meant to -- is it -- the question I guess, are you trying to assassinate or hurt? Are you trying to intimidate and terrorize? Does that make a distinction from a prosecution stand point?
FUENTES: Well, from a prosecution, if he had actually killed somebody, he'd be facing the death penalty as it is. He could be facing life depending on what the prosecutors decide in terms of the federal charges to be brought against him. So, it's still extremely serious no matter which way you look at that.
But I had mentioned earlier about not forming an opinion too early. I didn't say, never form the opinion that that was as they're interviewing him. And as they're going through his social media discussions with friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, you know, if they form that opinion that he was absolutely extreme right and hated the left, then, yes. Then you'll have the motive.
But I'm just saying don't go to that immediately before you have all the facts.
BASH: Can I just say because we're putting this picture up, the image of what was on that van for an extension -- extended period of time. That image, "CNN sucks", of course the president didn't direct this. He is not technically responsible for this. But he is responsible for not just allowing the chant "CNN sucks" at his rallies but stoking it. Making clear that he likes it.
And, all you need is one -- forgive me, crack pot. And we've been saying this for two years. And it looks like one may have emerged, and that is the danger. And that is the reason why leadership is the way it is.
And you can have an enemy, you can have a political discussion, you could have political discourse, but when you cross the line, it is extremely dangerous. And that has what has been a giant omission in everything we have heard from anybody at the White House.
LEE: And especially because we know that people take their queues from the president as they should. He is the leader of the country, he is the president of the United States, and we've seen some stunning moments like when he mocked Christine Blasey Ford and her testimony. The people behind him, we could see that they were sort of in on the joke, laughing along when he has made jokes about body slamming a reporter. People sort of see that the president is taking that kind of a tone and then they react to match that.
BASH: And can I just add, right after the president made that speech, in the very same room to the very same audience, he mentioned fake polls, and the people in that room inside the White House chanted "CNN sucks". Put that in the context of what the president said and where we are right now. And that wasn't stopped. That tells you everything you need to know.
KING: And to a Trump supporter who might be watching I would say this, we are human at CNN, we make mistakes from time to time, we correct them when we do. The president might want try to do that himself.
I want to bring Shimon back into the conversation to talk about some of the FBI's concern when we get to the question. Obviously, the FBI, Shimon is trying to solve a crime, but the politics are part of this. At least that's to the question of motivation. How does that factor in?
PROKUPECZ: Yes. I mean, it's a huge factor and that's why I want to kind to interject here a little bit. Look, this is something that the FBI has been monitoring, whether or not the kind of activity that you're seeing from the rhetoric, from sort of the political atmosphere and whether or not it could incite violence, whether or not it could incite some kind of criminal activity.
You know, they do watch for this, they do monitor this. And these are the kinds of situations quite honestly that they are concerned about. They are concerned that someone for political reasons or because of all the rhetoric and the discourse that's going on is going to take some kind of action.
And then -- so, for them, this is something that they certainly expected in this kind of environment and it's something that they keep an eye on. But certainly this is -- you know, thankfully no one here was hurt. It has disrupted many lives, it has costs a lot of money to -- not only, you know, to law enforcements but to people's businesses, right?
Our building evacuated, a whole foods evacuated, the mall evacuated. This has disrupted the lives of many people and also the fear that it has created. And this is something certainly while many people have not been physically hurt, the FBI has been concerned about this, John.
You know, I just wanted to note that and so that -- you know, because this has to factor in to the way people see things, and the way people think about this that there are many people in law enforcement that concerned about this.
[12:55:00] KING: Shimon Prokupecz, excellent insights and reporting there. Appreciate that.
And let's go back to the moment Dana just mentioned a minute ago. This is at the White House. The president began his remarks to a previously scheduled event, a black leadership summit. Young African- Americans brought into the White House for the -- to meet with the president and other officials.
The president began with an update on the investigation in which he, to his credit, applauded the incredible job done by law enforcement agencies in which he said calls these terrorizing acts and said they were despicable. As the conversation went on, it became a little bit more political in the room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: -- attacking us because we are speaking the truth, for changing people's minds, and proving everyday that our policies work. And that we are really doing what's right and what's good. And I get attacked also. You get attacked. I get attacked all the time.
In fact, I'm just thinking, come to think of it, who gets attacked more than me? Ben? Does anybody get attacked.
I am -- I get, I get attacked. I get attacked. I think -- maybe more than anybody. I don't know. I can do the greatest thing for our country and on the networks and on different -- it will show bad. They will take it back -- yes, fake news.
But they will -- no matter what, if it's -- I won't use examples and today is just sort of a very special day because we caught somebody that hopefully -- that will all pan out to be 100 percent, but it probably will. But today is a special day for that reason.
But, you know, we all get attacked and we're smart and we understand --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That's the president of the United States moments ago moments ago at the White House to the point you heard some fake news chants in the background of that as the president was commenting there.
Again, he has every right to make his case. We do cover when there's record low unemployment. We do cover when Republicans passed a big initiative like a signature tax cut.
We also cover when the president says he lost the popular vote because millions of undocumented immigrants voted illegally which didn't happen. And we do cover when the president repeatedly veers from the facts and the truth. We do both.
BASH: Absolutely. I mean, I remember the -- I mean, look, it's not probably even worth it, but the banners on CNN where the president had the greatest week, you know, of any president in so long a few weeks ago because of that. And that's called reporting the news. And that's called giving the facts. And that is what we do.
And unfortunately in today's era, we also have to correct things that public officials, starting with the president, say that just are not factual. And that's what we've had to do.
LEE: And just fascinating that the president said in his remarks that he is committed to doing everything in his power to stop the political violence. That starts with his tweets, that starts with his public remarks and he is currently clearly not doing that.
And there's also just a level of sort of self-involvement here when he talks about the fact that I get attacked all the time. And in a tweet when he said he doesn't -- he clearly doesn't want Republicans suffering politically from these bombs that have been sent out. So, his focus right now is really on himself at a moment when a lot of people are looking to him for reassurance and for leadership.
KING: And there's no way to answer the question, what -- how does this impact the political climate we are in a very closely contested midterm election 11 days from now. But that was clearly on the president's mind today.
Again, at 3 a.m. tweet attacking CNN. You can decide at home what you think the president should be up at 3:00 in the morning attacking news organizations but then --
BASH: I think generally, 3 a.m., tweets are just a bad idea.
KING: Bad idea for anybody. But then the most -- the fascinating for me again, what the president just said at the White House was spot on. Applaud the FBI, applaud the law enforcement agencies, try to reassure the country that this should not happen in under any presidency in this country. Terrorizing acts the president said. Despicable, the president said.
But moments before that, an hour so before that, the president tweeted, Republicans are doing so well in early voting and now this, quote, bomb stuff casting doubts. He accuses us of fake news. That is casting doubt at a moment of national anxiety. Whether you're a Democrat or Republican, whether you're a police officer or postal worker, whether you happen to work at a New York City office building where CNN is located or an office building in -- somewhere across America where a congressional office might be located. You are anxious at this moment and the president is saying, "bomb stuff."
BASH: And that's the key is that people who work for him on a federal level, people who work for Republicans and Democrats on a state level, they are trying to get to the bottom of this. CNN was evacuated because law enforcement said that was the prudent thing to do. And for him to say that isn't just a political statement, it is effectively a disparagement of what they are doing which is clearly why he came out and praised for the first time in a very important way what law enforcement has done, particularly today with apprehending the suspect.
KING: Excellent point you made. The difference between Twitter Trump and teleprompter Trump. The most significant news today though, the arrest of a suspect. More details on that a little bit later today from the Justice Department.
Thank you for being with us this last hour of breaking news on the INSIDE POLITICS. Please stay with us though. Our breaking news coverage continues right now with Wolf Blitzer.