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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Many Aftershocks Rattle Alaska After Major 7.0 Earthquake; Sources: U.K. Believes Putin Approved Brazen Attack On Former Spy; Zinke Tweets Jab At Democrat Calling On Him To Resign; James Patterson On New Thriller, Clinton, Trump And The Passion. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 30, 2018 - 16:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:32:12] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Breaking news in our national lead. New images coming in after that 7.0 earthquake near Anchorage, Alaska.

Here's what it looked like as it happened inside a courthouse in Anchorage. People ducking for cover as the ceilings started to come crashing down. And more frightening scenes, some roads buckled. Someone is in that car there on the edge of caving in with the rest of the road.

The force of the earthquake knocked Alaska TV stations off the air. It damaged two local hospitals, cracking walls and floors inside.

I want to bring in CNN's Nick Watt.

Nick, officials still don't know the extent of the damage or how many people may have been hurt or god forbid even killed.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. We heard from the Anchorage police department a little while ago that they say major infrastructure damage. But teams are still out assessing that damage. They say that buildings and homes have been damaged.

We know now also a road near Palmer, about 40 miles northeast of Anchorage, that has been closed. We have heard of rock slides closing on the roads. A road near the airport in Anchorage is partially collapsed. There's also -- downtown, a sinkhole has opened up in the middle of a road down there.

As you mentioned, two hospitals partially damaged. They say they got some water leaks and cracks. But those two emergency rooms are still open. No reports yet that we're hearing of injuries or fatalities.

Now, some good news, the school district that is nearest to the epicenter, they report all of their kids are okay. And also there was a tsunami warning in effect earlier. And that has now been lifted. Of course, the tsunami can be the most dangerous part of the situation like this.

Back in 1964, there was a huge earthquake up in Alaska, around 139 people killed. A lot of them were killed by the tsunami. But that danger has now passed. But, listen, the aftershocks are going to continue to be an issue.

We've already had one up at 5.8. We've had more than 30 reported aftershocks so far. And those will continue through today, through weeks, months and according to one expert we spoke to, perhaps even years. And they can, of course, cause more damage -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Watt, thank you so much.

Joining me on the phone right now is the mayor of Anchorage, Alaska, Ethan Berkowitz.

Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for joining us. You felt this quake. Tell us about the moment it happened.

MAYOR ETHAN BERKOWITZ, ANCHORAGE, ALASKA (via telephone): It was very sharp and very loud when it came. And very clear that this was something bigger than what we normally experience. And we live in earthquake country. So folks here are used to small tremblers, but this was a big one.

TAPPER: Where are you right now, and obviously most importantly, are you aware of any victims, either injuries or fatalities?

BERKOWITZ: I'm at the emergency operation center. It's a beehive of activity. A bunch of very trained professionals doing what's necessary to keep the city moving and moving ahead.

To our knowledge, there are no fatalities.

[16:35:01] We have had at most minor reports of injuries. There's been some damage assessment. The roads in and out of Anchorage are damaged and not operable at this time.

And I think it's important for people to understand. Anchorage is the biggest city in the United States. We're the size of Delaware. And so, o the fact that the roads in and out are closed is significant.

TAPPER: How is the city holding up? You're obviously very concerned infrastructure wise about these roads and whether or not supplies are going to be able to get in and out. What most concerns you?

BERKOWITZ: Well, the port and the airport are open. So we're not all that concerned. I think we're a tough, resilient group of people here and know how to rely on one another. And this is a community that's dealt with earthquakes and disasters before and we have the right kind of attitude for dealing with this.

TAPPER: Is this something that residents in your city were prepared for? You said that this is earthquake country. But were you ready for something like this? Had buildings been prepared for this? Is there emergency response plans that you're all just following in anticipation of such a day?

BERKOWITZ: It's not just the emergency response plans that we've deployed. It's the fact that we have building codes and building professionals here that know how to build for these kinds of conditions.

I would like to emphasize, too, we're somewhat fortunate that it occurred when the weather was somewhat benign. It's in the high 20s, low 30s right now. And it occurred during the daylight, which the farther north you go, it's dark for large portions of the day. So, we've got better ability to assess what's going on and to allow people to make it around safely.

TAPPER: So my understanding is that there are thousands of people who have lost power. Some might be in their cars right now listening to satellite radio or might be at a friend's house or restaurant or whatever. What is your message to those people who have lost power?

BERKOWITZ: Most of the people who have lost power are not in Anchorage. The biggest power losses are to the north of municipality and (INAUDIBLE) valley. But my advice to people is to stay in place, stay calm, and find a friend, find a business to go into and just sit this out for a little bit. Everything is going to be okay.

TAPPER: And tell us just as somebody who has lived in Alaska, how did this quake feel compared to others you might have experienced?

BERKOWITZ: This one was much more dramatic than many of the ones I've felt in the past. It was sharper, it was louder and it was something that you knew was bigger.

TAPPER: All right. Mayor Ethan Berkowitz of Anchorage, Alaska, stay in touch, let us know how we can help and thank you so much for your time.

BERKOWITZ: Thank you.

TAPPER: This quake caused panic at Ted Stevens Anchorage International. The airport quickly diverted inbound flights and evacuated staff from the control tower.

Let me bring in aviation correspondent Rene Marsh.

And, Rene, what are the damage reports coming in from the airport?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: So, Jake, I know that the FAA and airlines at this point, they are still doing those damage assessments. But we do know that the airport is now down to operating from one runway. So, all flights are going out of one runway.

But I want you to listen to the moment when this earthquake struck and just listen to how air traffic controllers scrambled to make sure that pilots were safe and that they did not land at the airport. Take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CONTROLLER: FedEx, go around! FedEx, go around!

AIRCRAFT: Is that for FedEx?

AIRCRAFT: Tower, FedEx 49.

CONTROLLER: FedEx 49, heavy, go around.

AIRCRAFT: Going around, FedEx 49.

CONTROLLER: There was a earthquake here.

CONTROLLER: Aircraft, we're evacuating the TRACON for an earthquake and everybody standby.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MARSH: So that was at the height of all of this. And now, you're looking at images inside of the airport as passengers were experiencing this earthquake at the height of this. We know that all operations at Ted Stevens Airport, the international airport there in Anchorage, came to a complete halt. That air traffic control tower we heard those controllers, they were evacuated.

We know flights that were in the air and bound for this airport, they were diverted. But at this hour, I just spoke with the FAA. We know that that tower, the air traffic control tower where you heard those controllers on tape, that is operating once again.

However, operations are very limited at the airport at this hour. Again, the FAA telling us that they are down to one runway that is operating here. They still have to do their inspections of the tower so they get a full sense of the damage there, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Rene, there's a major pipeline in that region. What do we know about that?

MARSH: Yes, this is a major pipeline. We understand that it was shut down as a precaution.

This is the Trans Alaska pipeline system. It's about 800 miles long and it's among the world's longest pipeline operating there in Alaska. We do know that it's owned by four oil producers.

Again, they said no injuries, no damage that they know of at this point. But shut down as a precaution, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Rene Marsh, thank you so much.

[16:40:00] No spy gets on a plane with enough poison to kill thousands of people without telling his or her boss. That's the assessment from British intelligence agents about the deadly nerve agent poisoning in the U.K. And you'll never guess who they say gave the order.

Stay with us.

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TAPPER: Putin approved the murder. A stunning but not entirely surprising assessment by British authorities today in our world lead. According to two officials, the U.K. has determined Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on a poison attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his doctor while living in England.

The attack ultimately sickening both of the Skripals and killing an unrelated woman.

CNN's Alex Marquardt joins me now.

[16:45:06] And Alex we've seen this before from Putin's Russia reaching beyond their borders to kill their perceived enemies. What are British authorities saying now?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, Putin has made it plenty clear what he thinks about people who he believes betray Russia. Traitors always end badly he once said. Now, officials in the U.K. are telling our colleagues Jim Sciutto and Kim Dozier that an attack like this could only have happened with Putin's approval and it could have been a lot worse.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: The number of people who could have been killed is in the thousands, British officials say. A deadly chemical attack so brazen, they believe it could only have been ordered from the very top, by President Vladimir Putin himself. The nerve agent attack in Salisbury, England targeted former Russian spy Sergei Skripal. He immediately fell ill along with his daughter. They've since recovered but weeks later a couple found the discarded poison bottle, opened it and a woman died.

CNN has learned that British officials believe the poison known as Novichok carried in disguise and this small perfume bottle was brought into the U.K. by Russian agents via a commercial flight or a diplomatic pouch.

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA AGENT: Nothing happens in Russia when it comes to security without Putin sign off. There are no rogue operations in Russia.

MARQUARDT: Putin has repeatedly denied Russia was behind the attack but has not hid his feelings about Skripal.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA: He's just a spy, a traitor of the motherland. He is simply a scumbag. That's all.

MARQUARDT: The British government has said the attack was carried out by these men seen here in surveillance video. Authorities accused the men of being agents with Russia's military intelligence unit known as the GRU and originally suggested the order came from higher-up.

THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER, U.K.: The GRU is a highly disciplined organization with a well-established chain of command. It was almost certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian stage.

MARQUARDT: Despite overwhelming evidence, alleged Russian agents claimed they were simply tourists. In custody, they gave an interview to Russian television. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Our friends had been

suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There's the famous Salisbury Cathedral, famous not only in Europe but in the whole world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: And Jake, beyond Putin's role in all this, officials are stunned by the recklessness of carrying around that much poison. They don't believe that Russians wanted to kill as many people as they could have, but, Jake, it was incredibly risky.

TAPPER: All right, Alex Marquardt, thank you so much. In politics today, a nasty back-and-forth between the President's Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Democratic congressman who will almost certainly chair the House Committee that oversees Zinke's Department, the Committee on Natural Resources. This started with Congressman Raul Grijalva in a USA Today op-ed calling upon Zinke to resign given the mountain of scandals surrounding him including one just referred to the Justice Department according to sources.

Then Zinke fired back in a tweet mocking Grijalva who once acknowledged having a drinking problem and noting his settlement that his office paid to a female employee in 2015 calling on Grijalva to resign. Let's bring in CNN's Lauren Fox. And Lauren, Zinke's response was very Trumpian, mock a critics alcohol dependency issue.

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That's right, Jake. And this may not have been a coincidence. You know, Ryan Zinke has been in the hot seat. There's been a lot of questions about whether or not he would continue in that post at the Interior Department. So you know, moving forward it's very clear that Zinke is trying to impress President Trump. He wants to show he's going to be able to handle the spotlight come January when Democrats take the House.

Now, I want to read that tweet from Ryan Zinke because you know, the language here is really important. Zinke said in the tweet when -- in response to Grijalva calling for him to resign. "This is coming from a man who used nearly $50,000 in tax dollars as hush money to cover up his drunken and hostile behavior. He should resign and pay back the taxpayer for the hush money and tens of thousands of dollars he forced my department to spend investigating unfounded allegations."

Now, in that op-ed, Grijalva is asking for the resignation of Zinke in part because of these investigations at the Interior Department's I.G.'s office. Now, those investigations span from questions about conversations that Zinke had with Halliburton chairman David Lesar about a development project back in Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Montana. There are also questions about whether the Interior Department improperly injected itself to block a casino deal in Connecticut.

But it didn't stop there, Jake. Grijalva issued a statement responding to Zinke's tweet in which he said "the American people know who I am here to serve and they know and whose interests I'm acting. They don't know the same about Secretary Zinke.

Now, look, Jake, this is only going to escalate in January when Democrats take control of the House because this isn't the only investigation they're going to be looking into. There's going to be a broad spectrum of cabinet secretaries who have to come before these committees and answer tough questions so just expect more of this and a lot more cabinet secretaries trying to emulate Trump when they stand up for themselves and President Trump and his administration.

[16:50:18] TAPPER: Lauren Fox, thanks so much for that great reporting. I appreciate it. 500 million names, addresses, credit card numbers, passports, Marriott hotel is the victim of a massive security breach going back years. They might have your information. So why didn't one of the world's largest hotel chains report it immediately? Stay with us.

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[16:55:00] TAPPER: The "MONEY LEAD" now. 500 million names, credit card numbers, passport numbers, and other personal data could all be compromised. The International Hotel giant Marriott announced this morning it's a guest reservation system was hacked in an attack going all the way back to 2014.

The hackers got into the reservation database of star -- Starwood Resorts which Marriott owns. It includes hotel chains such as the St. Regis, Sheraton, Westin and others. Marriott says it found out about the hack in September but they're only warning the public now. Three states are investigating. Marriott says you'll get an e-mail if you've been impacted and a free membership to a fraud detection service.

Now for our popular "CULTURE LEAD." As we head into the weekend and one of the most popular fiction writers in history, 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of Along Came A Spider by James Patterson, the thriller that introduced the worlds of the fictitious detective Alex Cross. This month marks the publication of the newest Alex Cross book number 26 in the series which is the number one best- selling detective series in history.

Patterson this week visited the lead to talk about Alex Cross and his last book which he co-authored with President Clinton and how writing fiction in this bizarre era can be quite challenging.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: So this is the 28th Alex Cross book --

JAMES PATTERSON, AUTHOR, TARGET ALEX CROSS: Who's counting?

TAPPER: -- and the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the character. There have been three films featuring him. Why do you think he's so compelling even 25 years after you introduced him.

I think it's two pieces. One is the pages keep turning. I mean, it's a very fast-moving, and secondly, I think people are really into Alex and his family. How do you balance work, in his case very stressful work, and all of our works to be pretty stressful these days, with family?

TAPPER: And he's been portrayed in films by Morgan Freeman, by Tyler Perry --

PATTERSON: Yes.

TAPPER: When you conceived of him --

PATTERSON: We're doing another one -- we're hoping -- we're hoping to do another one. Now, I don't know who will play Alex.

TAPPER: Was there anyone you thought of when you -- when you --

PATTERSON: I think the first thought was probably Denzel. And Denzel was interested but he said I don't -- I don't franchises.

TAPPER: Maybe him for this next one? Who knows?

PATTERSON: I have no idea.

TAPPER: So the book before this was even more unusual which is you wrote -- you co-authored a book with former President Clinton.

TAPPER: Yes, yes, that was --

TAPPER: And as the President is missing, there are some messages in the book about a president -- the dangers of surrounding yourself with sycophants. Was that aimed at anybody in particular?

PATTERSON: No. And we were -- we really were very careful not to. And you know, I spent the last 16 months or so with the President. He almost never talks about Trump. No, I don't talk about Trump. And one of the things that's interesting nowadays is given what's going on in the city and around the world, it's very hard to write fiction.

TAPPER: Because truth --

PATTERSON: How do you top what's going on every day?

TAPPER: How do you do it?

PATTERSON: Well, in the case of Target Alex Cross, I think we did a pretty good job over the last 20 years or so between Saturday Night Live and some of the T.V. shows. We start ridiculing the President which in some ways is healthy and in other ways people start forgetting how important the job is, how difficult the job is.

TAPPER: So you hold the Guinness' World record for the most number one New York Times bestsellers. You've sold more than 300 --

PATTERSON: And I'm building on that record.

TAPPER: You sold more than 380 million copies of your books worldwide. And you write all sorts of genres now, thrillers, kid's books.

PATTERSON: Yes.

TAPPER: What made you decide to --

PATTERSON: Well, kids book is the passion. Bringing up our son, he wasn't a big reader at first. And one summer Sue and I -- he's was about seven, we just said you're going to read every day.

TAPPER: It's so important to get kids reading.

PATTERSON: Yes.

TAPPER: What's the key? How do you do it?

PATTERSON: And you know, we have rules in the house. Don't track mud on the rug, show up for dinner. There has to be a rule where you know, you've got to read, where you're going to become a good reader because it's all built on that.

TAPPER: What do you tell people who say, God, I would love to write a novel.

PATTERSON: Either you have the passion or you don't. If you have it, you can't help yourself so you're going to do it. If you don't have it, you'll never finish the book.

TAPPER: Well, you clearly have the passion, 380 million copies worldwide.

PATTERSON: I do. I don't work for a living, I play for a living.

TAPPER: All right, James Patterson, thanks so much for being here.

PATTERSON: Thank you. It's good to meet you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Be sure to tune in to CNN this Sunday morning for "STATE OF THE UNION." My guests will be Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and Democratic Senator Mark Warner. It all starts at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Have a great weekend.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, dangerous earthquake.