Return to Transcripts main page

ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Obama: Possibility There Was A Bomb on Downed Plane; Egypt: U.S., UK Haven't Shared Intel on Possible Bomb; Specific Chatter on Plane Crash Led to Bomb Suspicions. Aired 7-8:00p ET

Aired November 5, 2015 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:10] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news. President Obama breaking his silence talking about a bomb taking down Flight 9268.

Plus, our special report inside a bomb lab. What kind of bomb could ISIS have used?

And Ben Carson says he led a violent past, attacking people with bats, hammers and knives. So, CNN tracked down his childhood friends. Is it true? Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, President Obama weighing in for the first time on how terrorists may have taken down Metrojet Flight 9268. The plane blowing up in midair killing all 224 people on board.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: I think there is a possibility that there was a bomb on board and we're taking that very seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: This, as a U.S. official tells CNN there had been chatter about bomb capabilities prior to the crash and after the crash, an official telling CNN, ISIS terrorists were bragging about the crash and having specific conversations about the bomb's origin. Leading intelligence experts to believe a bomb took down Flight 9268. The Intel also suggests that an airport insider planted a bomb on the plane. That insider or insiders could still be working at the Sharm El-Sheikh airport. Leading the UK government to hold all flights in and out of the luxury resort. Thousands of tourists are stranded there tonight. Tomorrow, special charters will arrive at Sharm El- Sheik to begin bringing them home. The passengers will only be allowed what they can carry onboard. There will be no luggage in the plane's cargo hold.

Pamela Brown is OUTFRONT tonight. And Pamela, these are chilling messages that you are learning about that have been intercepted.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. They are chilling. And the intelligence is inconclusive right now, I want to point that out, but it's enough to cause widespread concern among U.S. officials, including President Obama, as we just heard, that a bomb was planted on that plane and ISIS could be behind it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, U.S. intelligence officials say specific chatter from the ISIS affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula following the crash is leading American officials to suspect a bomb may be responsible for bringing down the plane.

REP. PETER KING (R), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Obviously there's a consensus building around the world that there was explosives and if there was, ISIS would certainly be a prime candidate.

BROWN: Intelligent sources tell CNN terrorists boasted messages about planting a bomb on the plane but officials caution the chatter alone is not definitive evidence.

DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: The chatter is not fool-proof and could be used in ways to throw off someone who you know is listening on your communications.

BROWN: ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula has shown bomb-making capabilities before but if the terrorists are responsible for smuggling a bomb aboard this flight, it would mark a significant step in their capabilities to launch further attacks.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: At this point, we don't have enough information to make our own determination about what exactly occurred but we do have enough information at this point to not rule out the possibility of terrorist involved.

BROWN: There is no indication so far that passengers or crew aboard the flight had any connection to terror groups so investigators are looking at a possible inside job. A not so sophisticated bomb planted by an employee at Egypt's Sharm El-Sheikh Airport.

ANTHONY MAY, FORMER ATF EXPLOSIVE AIRPORT: Other than some physically being on the plane initiating device, we're really kind of limited to either a timing situation or a barometric pressure switch bringing down an aircraft.

BROWN: Tonight, Egypt and Russia are still pushing back saying it's too soon to know if terrorism was at play.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And U.S. officials say no final assessment will be made about the cause until forensics evidence and results from those black boxes are made available -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Pamela, thank you very much.

And we're also getting some disturbing new intelligence tonight about the group that claims responsibility for the bombing.

Our terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank is OUTFRONT. Paul, what more are you learning about that tonight?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, the intelligence pointing to the idea of an insider involved at Sharm El-Sheikh airports. And this group ISIS -- looking to see who is potentially responsible for this attack and actually has a track record of recruiting insiders inside the Egyptian military and police. And in fact, a senior Egyptian police colonel back in January 2014 passed over insider information which helped the group launched an attack at a security director headquarters in Cairo. So very significant details there, Erin.

BURNETT: Very significant details. All right. Thank you very much, Paul Cruickshank.

And as Paul is talking about that group and successfully recruiting in the military, Ian Lee is OUTFRONT. He's at the Sharm El-Sheikh airport. And Ian, the British government isn't allowing tourists to put any luggage in the cargo hold on their way home. Because they're obviously concerned the threat still be present. That insider that Paul is talking about could still be present.

[19:05:17] IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And there's increased security here tonight at the airport. There's a checkpoint before you even get to the terminal which is behind me. Then, inside there's layers of security. You're going to go through x-rays, metal detectors and probably even a pat down before you actually check in. That's because of ISIS in the Sinai. Probably the deadliest branch of the terrorists' organization that most Americans haven't heard about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEE (voice-over): As investigators comb through the debris and analyze the plane's data recorders trying to determine what led to the crash of Russian Metrojet 9268, ISIS is claiming responsibility for killing the 224 people on board. In a new audio message, reportedly from the Sinai branch, the militant group says find your black boxes and analyze them. We are the ones with God's blessing who brought it down. Today, Russian and Egyptian officials insisting there's currently no evidence of a bomb. But U.S. officials say, their intelligence is pointing to a bomb, possibly by one of ISIS' least known affiliates.

MOHANNAD SABRY, EGYPTIAN JOURNALIST: The Egyptian branch of ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula has proved itself as a lethal, very sophisticated and very powerful terrorist organization over the past specifically two years and over the past five years, since 2011.

LEE: It was late last year that the terror group previously known as Ansar Betal Mactus (ph) now called state of Sinai group pledged allegiance to ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi with numbers estimated in the hundreds. The group is eclipsing al-Qaeda in the region and has adopted ISIS' brutal tactics. Here, the aftermath of an attack against an Egyptian army checkpoint in broad daylight. In all, the group claims to have killed hundreds in roadside bombings, drive-by shootings and suicide attacks. While those captured are brutally executed.

The Sinai group is well known for illicit smuggling and the two most sophisticated weapons believed to be in their arsenal include Russian-made anti-tank missiles used in targeting tanks in a boat in the Mediterranean. And shoulder-launched surface to air missiles here taking down an Egyptian helicopter. Analysts say what they don't possess is sophisticated missiles to shoot down a jet traveling over 30,000 feet like Flight 9268. Whether or not ISIS actually brought down the jet, experts worry commercial airliners could now be in their crosshairs.

And Erin, that's not just worrying for officials here in Egypt but around the world. If ISIS is now viewing these as targets that they are going to start going after -- Erin.

BURNETT: Ian Lee, thank you very much, as we said live at Sharm El-Sheikh tonight. And now, the former CIA counterterrorism head Phil Mudd. And Phil, you saw Ian's reporting. This group has access to a lot of weapons now.

PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Yes.

BURNETT: It's one of the fastest growing and now possibly the most deadly part of ISIS but they have only been affiliated with ISIS for about a year. Right? They have their own group. They pledge allegiance to ISIS itself.

MUDD: Yes.

BURNETT: Could they have pulled this off themselves or do you think this shows ISIS central is now more powerful and directed an attack like this?

MUDD: Well, the big story here. We're talking about capabilities, that is, whether a group can hire a bunch of people or train a bunch of people to get into a relatively unsecured airport, maybe a modestly sophisticated device. The story here to me isn't whether they have or have had for the past year the capabilities to do this. What's interesting to me here is if you look globally at terror organizations, the hardest question as a professional to answer is, what is their intent? Most organizations like this struggle beyond saying, I want to attack a local police station. We're under a lot of pressure from security service. Let me fight them. The number of organizations that have a visionary leadership at the top that says let me take the ISIS or the al-Qaeda message and target the head of the snake, the Israelis, the Americans, the Russians, that is very few. The message here Erin is not the capability to get to Sharm El- Sheikh. It's the intent to get beyond local targets and go after the big guys.

BURNETT: All right. And the big guys, obviously now you're going after Russia. But then, what about the United States?

MUDD: That's right. People might sit back and say, hey, the Russians have entered the game in Syria. They are bombing the opposition in Syria, they're allied with Bashar al-Assad. ISIS has gone after them in this circumstance. Therefore, the Americans are off the hook. That is not the lesson I would take. Once an organization like this has leadership that says, we want to execute operations against the head of the state, whether you're the Israelis, the Brits, the French or the Americans, you cannot sit there and say, they are going to stop at the Russians. The Americans are bombing as well. They have to be saying, how do we come after Washington or New York or a U.S. airliner?

[19:10:18] BURNETT: And they have now shown, to your point -- they don't just have the capability but they have the intent interests.

MUDD: That's right.

BURNETT: That kind of focus that you saw from something like al Qaeda in 15 years --

MUDD: That's right.

BURNETT: They're going to focus on the United State. Something like ISIS is now showing they could be doing.

MUDD: That's right. In the next step, in my word is pretty straightforward. We're talking about an attack on an airliner. Inside the business, you have a straightforward simple question. Who is the leader who did this? Very few leaders are that philosophical about how they choose target. Second, who is the operational commander who organize this? Third, who was the bomb maker who built this device? And, fourth, what did that network that included people in Sharm El-Sheik to get on the aircraft? There are people sitting back saying, these guys have got to have a one way ticket up planet earth? They cannot stay here because they will target another aircraft.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Phil Mudd.

MUDD: Thank you.

BURNETT: And pretty somber, I know when you said they will target another aircraft.

Next, we're going to go inside a bomb lab to show you what investigators are looking at right now and whether they can figure out what sort of a bomb this might have been.

Plus, Egypt it's still saying there's no evidence to support claims of a bomb. Why? Why are they so adamant?

And Ben Carson says, he had a rough and violent youth. We asked a childhood friends what they remember about it and you'll be pretty shocked at what they have to say.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:15:40] BURNETT: Breaking news, President Obama for the first time acknowledging that a terrorist bomb may have downed Metrojet Flight 9268. Those comments contradicting Egyptian officials who maintain that there's no evidence. So, what are investigators looking for as they scour the massive debris field?

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The power of a bomb aboard a passenger plane. This demonstration by the U.S. attorney's office shows the end result.

THOMAS ANTHONY, FORMER FAA CIVIL AVIATION SECURITY MANAGER: Coming through the office.

LAH: The beginning tracked by forensic bomb expert Thomas Anthony.

(on camera): Is this a classic C-4 explosion?

ANTHONY: It is. Less push and more sort of force like that. We have less residue than a low explosive.

LAH (voice-over): Starting with a C-4 bomb, a type of plastic explosives, the former FAA civil aviation security manager walks us through the impact of several types of bombs and the telltale signs they lead behind.

ANTHONY: The residue from the black powder coming from a central point, look at the edges here. The edges on the black powder are very, very different. They have this sort of like almost coral-like look to them. This is napalm. Look at all the residue of the napalm that was left behind. That is something that is indicative and characteristic of the napalm.

LAH: Are there countless numbers of explosives?

ANTHONY: There are dozens of types of explosives.

LAH: Investigators begin to narrow the possibilities with field tests like this one. A quickly analyzed residue. This orange collar points to a C-4 bomb. Anthony says the severity of a bomb on a plane depends on many factors like timing and placement and there isn't always visible proof.

(on camera): Is it possible that an explosive can go off on a plane and there be no residue?

ANTHONY: It's possible that there could be no residue left.

LAH: Here's why. Look at the wreckage from the Metrojet crash, much of it consumed by fire.

ANTHONY: If you have melting aircraft parts, melting aluminum, it's mixing with the other parts that it could easily disguise any evidence of an IED. LAH: Anthony says it's critical to have forensic proof of an

aviation investigation and only a lab can sift out evidence from this. Just as important, piecing together clues beyond the wreckage knowing when and who may have placed the explosive device aboard the plane.

ANTHONY: There are so many electronics that we can buy off the shelf that can be programmed to activate hours, days, weeks, months in the future.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: So if this is indeed a bomb, how long before there is that tangible evidence and this Russian airliner disaster? Well, Anthony says it could be days, it could be months. And the intelligence here Erin could prove critical if that chatter could narrow down where in the wreckage these investigators look for that evidence -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Kyung, thank you. And now, the former FAA Safety Inspector David Soucie along with former CIA Operative Bob Baer.

Bob, you know, you heard Kyung's report that even if they don't find any traces of bomb residue, that may not mean anything, right? There could still have been a bomb and it doesn't leave a tangible trail?

BOB BAER, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: That's absolutely right. I have even seen explosions against buildings that left no residue and we knew it was an explosion, absolutely and it took years to actually come up with something, some real good forensic information. And if the plane did burned. And also as he said, it depends on the explosives. As PETN, it doesn't leave much residue and these bombs are fairly small and you've got the debris field so wide and the rest of it. You would really need a high-end lab like we have in the United States. You'd need the FBI on this. And what I don't trust is and I don't mean this the wrong way, but I don't trust the Egyptians. They don't have the sophistication to reassemble this airplane the way it should be and get to the bottom of this.

BURNETT: They also, of course, have been, you know, denying the possibility that anything could have gone wrong which we're going to be talking about more in just a few moments. But David, I want to show you some video. This as investigators coming through the debris fields of what's happening on the ground actually today. They are marking the plane with what looks like some sort of a, you know, sophisticated magic marker. What are they doing there?

[19:20:03] DAVID SOUCIE, FORMER FAA SAFETY INSPECTOR: What they're doing is looking for -- in Anthony's piece and Bob mentioned it as well, you have to know where to look for this residue. So, to do that, you have to look for what is the initial fracture point in the fuselage. So, what they are doing there is looking at the metallurgy, they're looking at how they're twisted in which way it points. If the fracture occurs, whether it's from a bomb or from any kind of internal pressure change, it's going to push that metal in certain ways and as it breaks, it makes a little indication. So those arrows, what they are doing there in the investigation we go through, we make arrows pointing to where that fracture point is leading us, where that information that you see on the field is pointing to.

So that when you do assemble the aircraft and Bob is right about the Egyptians, they may not have that sophistication but I'm hoping that they bring in people who have done this before, like the Flight 800 team. There's still some of folks around that would love to help with this. Put them together, they've done it before. They know how to reassemble aircraft. You put this together and then you have those arrows that will help you point to that fracture point. From that point, that's where you're going to find the residues where those fracture points that lead the investigators.

BURNETT: So, Bob, you talk about that this not have to be a very large device and I know you and I spoke this week. You've said, look, it could have been a pound or less. When you see a debris field like this where the tail is three miles away from a big portion of the debris field, I mean, it's a huge space we're talking about, how difficult would it be to find pieces of the device itself? Would they have a chance at doing that?

BAER: You know, there are chances they won't find the initiator. This initiator. Some of the wire can be actually drawn with a pen, conductors. It's very sophisticated, some of these bombs. Very small barometric switch would probably be blown up in the explosion. You know, the detonator, of course, is gone. You know? So really, as David said, we have got to find that fracture point and look for a residue but even then it's not going to be conclusive and what worries me is what sort of device was this? And if it's going to take us several months to reassemble this airplane, we don't know how many bombs are out there. If it was a May 15th device, for instance, which can get through most American airports, that makes me nervous that those bombs are out there and the Islamic State has them.

BURNETT: Right. Well, because I mean, you talk about how many bombs are out there. They wouldn't know because they don't know what kind of bomb it is. I mean, Phil Mudd was saying just a few moments ago, Bob, which is that there will be another airliner.

BAER: Oh, I think so. I think they'll make another attempt. Let's hope they don't get lucky. They have to know what they are doing. Our security is very good but, at the end of the day, most technicians at airports, most TSA points cannot identify these sophisticated bombs and let's hope that the Islamic State doesn't have these things.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.

And next, British and American intelligence say a bomb likely took down Flight 9268 but the Egyptians are in denial. They even today, quote-unquote, "Promoted the man in-charge of the Sharm El- Sheikh airport." Are they trying to cover-up the truth?

And Ben Carson has talked openly about his fight and quote, "pathological temper" as a young man, but is it true? We have a special report tonight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:27:09] BURNETT: Breaking news, President Obama weighing in on for the first time on the Russian passenger jet that went down in Egypt. The President admitting a bomb may have taken down that plane.

Also tonight, a U.S. official confirming to CNN that very specific chatter among ISIS-affiliated terrorists about the plane crash is why they believe terrorists downed the plane. Very specific chatter, bragging about it and also talking about the specific origin of the bomb. Russian and Egyptian officials are urging people around the world not to jump to conclusions, though, about what brought down the plane. So, why are Egypt and Russia saying not so fast when the U.S. and the UK are saying something so different?

Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An army of investigators walking miles to the desert searching for debris and any possible sign of what caused Metrojet 9268 to crash. Investigators from around the world but Egypt's civil aviation authority in full control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Egypt has adopted a surge of transparency related to this incident.

MARQUEZ: But with millions in tourism at stake, will Egypt offer a fully transparent and open investigation? Tourism is one of Egypt's largest industries in the warm waters around Sharm El-Sheikh, a huge draw, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars every year and already Egyptian officials are saying the plane was not brought down by a bomb and that Egypt is safe.

NASSER KAMEL, EGYPTIAN AMBASSADOR TO UNITED KINGDOM: What happened is a tragic airline incident that happens, unfortunately, part of the reality of our world with millions of flights every day, is we are bound to have an incident here or there. But Egypt as a destination is as safe as ever.

MARQUEZ: And two previous crash investigations raised potential questions about how Egypt reaches its conclusions.

PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: The Egyptians have the opportunity to issue an unbiased report. We've heard very little from them so far. A few contradictory statements. They are under enormous pressure.

MARQUEZ: Peter Goelz headed the NTSB investigation into the crash of Egyptian air flight 990 in October 1999. The flight left New York's JFK bound for Cairo, plunged into international waters off the coast of Massachusetts. Egypt was initially in charge of that investigation. The NTSB took over. But when pilot suicide appeared to be the cause, Egypt launched its own parallel investigation.

GOELZ: We became convinced that this was a deliberate act and the pilot, the co-pilot had flown that aircraft into the ground.

MARQUEZ: The Egyptian investigation concluded mechanical fault caused the Boeing 767 to crash. The NTSB determined first officer Gameel Al-Batouti deliberately crashed the plane. The final seconds from the voice data recorder, you can hear Al-Batouti repeating, "I rely on God." And a second voice in the cockpit asking him, why he shot down the engines and then begging him repeatedly to help him pull up before the recording ends. And this wasn't the only time Egyptian and western investigators differed over the cause of a crash.

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: In 2004, there was an accident off of Sharm el-Sheikh, a 737 crash. The BEA, the French and the Americans indicated that they believed it was pilot error. The Egyptians did not agree and blamed it on some sort of mechanical failure.

MARQUEZ: As the U.S. and other countries make their own assessments about why Flight 9268 crashed, the pressure growing on Egypt, the world watching.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now, Peter Goelz does say that we need to give the Egyptians time to come to their own conclusions and make more evidence public. But if history is any guide to how Egyptians have conducted their investigations, he says a lot of investigators and a lot of countries around the world will be watching very, very closely -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: We will. And, of course, the stakes are so high.

Matthew Chance is OUTFRONT now in Moscow.

The chatter we are talking about is very specific about a possible bomb with terrorists talking about even the origin of that bomb. What else are you hearing?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, from the Russian vantage point here, the Russians aren't acknowledging any of this has taken place. Certainly, they are not saying that they have any intelligence that matches this U.S. intelligence. They are even very critical of the fact that if there is any intelligence or the intelligence that the U.S. says it has, shocked is the word they have used, shocked that that intelligence was not shared with the Russians.

For their part, the Russians are saying, look, it's much too early to say what the cause of this crash was. They are not ruling out terrorism. They are just saying the investigation so far hasn't produced results that would sustain that conclusion and it could be months, according to the Russians, before the investigation is at the point where they can say why 224 people lost their lives in the Sinai Peninsula.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Matthew, thank you very much. Now I want to go back to our counterterrorism analyst, former CIA counterterror official director Phil Mudd.

I mean, Phil, it's pretty shocking, you have the British and Americans are talking about this chatter that they've intercepted. It's very specific. They have an insider at the airport. They have all of this information.

The Egyptians and the Russians appear to be in some sort of denial. What do you think is happening here?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERRORISM ANALYST: A couple things going on here. First, from an intelligence perspective, the Russians are an adversary. You picked up technical intelligence, intercepting ISIS in the Sinai, your first reaction isn't how do I pass this technical information to my adversary, the Russians. I think the interesting question down the road is they have lost 220-plus people on a Russian aircraft. They have a common target here in the Sinai, that is ISIS. Do they start saying should we have intelligence cooperation even as you, the Russians, support Bashar al Assad in Syria?

So, I think there's some people in Washington saying, how do we figure out intelligence cooperation in a common target with a security service that's adversary? This is pretty unique.

BURNETT: So what you're saying is that the U.S. could say, look, we've picked up terrorist A saying to terrorist B about this being the origin of the bomb but without giving their methods --

MUDD: That's right.

BURNETT: -- to give, to show how they actually got that would be giving Russians information that the U.S. is unwilling to give --

MUDD: That's right.

BURNETT: Bigger picture, right, about how the U.S. is tracking.

MUDD: Sure, if you're on the other side of that, if the roles were reversed and the Russians passed to me when I was at the FBI or the agency, passed to me intelligence information that says we're intercepting ISIS, and the Americans, our side, who just lost 200 plus people, I'd have a simple question. You've got to tell me how you're acquiring this intelligence because we have a to break in to whatever that --

BURNETT: So, the U.S. is just not saying the how?

MUDD: That's right. Any service wants to know what you know but how you got that, because we want to do the same thing. We want to intercept the same traffic.

BURNETT: It is pretty scary, though, bottom line, you have the Egyptians, they're control of the physical evidence here.

MUDD: Sure.

BURNETT: And in denial. MUDD: And they are sitting here saying, as others said, like in

Tunisia, this is a crushing tourism industry. We have to be careful how we rule this out.

BURNETT: All right. Phil Mudd, thank you very much.

MUDD: Thank you.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, Ben Carson's violent past. We asked his friends about his stories of fights with a bat, a hammer, a knife. What they remember will surprise you.

And an OUTFRONT exclusive tonight, Bush 41 on Cheney, Rumsfeld and 43. The former president speaks out, holding nothing back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:38:28] BURNETT: Breaking news tonight, we now know which candidates will be on the stage and which will be bumped from the next Republican debate? Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee both moving from the main stage to the undercard debate, and the eight candidates in the main debate on Tuesday, you can see them there.

We are also learning today that the two front-runners, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, have now gotten approval for Secret Service protection.

This comes as Carson faces new scrutiny for his claims about a violent past.

Joe Johns is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Candidates can come and --

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ben Carson's quiet dignified approach is a big part of his appeal. But he says his calm demeanor was carved out of a violent past.

CARSON: As a teenager, I would go out to people with rocks and bricks and baseball bats and hammers.

JOHNS: Carson wrote in his book about striking a schoolmate in the face with a combination lock, nearly punching his mother, smashing a kid's face with a rock. Carson said he also tried to kill a friend identified as Bob in a disagreement over the radio.

He describes his temper as pathological, a disease that made him totally irrational.

CARSON: I had a large camping night. I tried to stab him in the abdomen. And fortunately, under his clothing, he had a large metal belt buckle. And the knife blade struck with such force that it broke. JOHNS: It was he says a pivotal point in Carson's life, depicted

in a TV movie.

[19:40:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Benny, what did you do?

JOHNS: But then an epiphany. Carson said he quelled his anger with prayer.

CARSON: I locked myself in a bathroom and contemplated my life and realizing that I would never realize my dream of becoming a physician with a temper like that.

JOHNS: From that day forward, Carson says he was a changed man, now in the course from poverty in Detroit to world famous neurosurgeon.

CARSON: I never had another angry outburst since that day.

JOHNS: But that early picture of violence is not recognizable to some who grew up with Carson.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was shocked. I was surprised because he was just -- you know, he was quiet and calm.

JOHNS: CNN reporters Maeve Reston and Scott Glover tracked down 10 schoolmates and neighbors. None challenged Carson's story directly, only one said they've heard vague rumors about one of the incidents, but all said this was not the boy they knew.

STEVE CHOICE, FORMER NEIGHBOR OF CARSON: I was really surprised when I read he tried to stab someone. Like what?

REPORTER: Does it fit with the guy you knew? That kind of activity.

CHOICE: No.

JOHNS: The campaign has refused repeated requests to help find witnesses or the victims Carson mentions, only by first name, telling CNN it was a, quote, "witch hunt".

CNN has been unable to locate witnesses or victims.

TIMOTHY MCDANIEL, CHILDHOOD FRIEND OF CARSON: I associate him with a lot of things but never stooping to the level of a common street thug. So, I was a little surprised by it.

JOHNS: Timothy McDaniel says he was one of Carson's closest childhood friends. He says he raised it with Carson after the book came out.

MCDANIEL: I said, "Ben, you hid it from us all those years," and he said he was just too embarrassed to even talk about it. I was surprised at some of the things he said but, you know, he said them honestly. And I believed everything he told me.

JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT now, our national political reporter Maeve Reston. She and CNN's Scott Glover (ph) had one an enormous amount of reporting on this story.

Maeve, Carson's campaign declined numerous times to cooperate with your investigation, but he did respond today, first telling CNN the people that you spoke with only knew him after he had changed and then later he said this in response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARSON: The names that I used for instance are fictitious names because I don't want to bring people into something like this, because I know what you guys do to their lives.

REPORTER: But have you reached out to any of them since you've become a candidate?

CARSON: There are some that I stay in contact with, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Maeve, does that response add up to you?

RESTON: I'm just very puzzled about the entire response. Obviously, we've been working on this story now for a number of weeks, talking to many of Dr. Carson's classmates, neighbors and friends, his original assertion today that we only talked to people who knew him when he was 14 is totally wrong. We talked to them throughout his entire childhood.

And then to say these were fictitious names, I don't understand why the campaign, when I went to them more than a week ago, saying we have been unable to find Bob or Jerry, the guys in the lock and stabbing incident, why they wouldn't have said back then those are fictitious names because we went on to contact all of the Bobs and Jerrys that we could find in Dr. Carson's class and no one has materialized yet thus far.

BURNETT: Is it possible that he's, you know, really just trying to protect their names?

RESTON: Sure. Absolutely. You know, we certainly set out to find them in -- as part of our vetting process, we wanted to talk to them about these incidents. We wanted to vet someone who's running to be president of the United States, find out more about his temperament and his temper.

You know, Dr. Carson has said that these were incidents that he was embarrassed to talk about but when you're going around a close- knit neighborhood, hitting people with bricks and bats and baseball bats, you would assume that people would know about that and none of the people that we talked to did. BURNETT: All right. Well, Maeve, thank you very much.

RESTON: Thanks.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, for the first time, President Bush talking about his own life in his own words.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:47:30] BURNETT: Tonight, a harsh assessment of President George W. Bush's presidency, from his own father. Also, President George H.W. Bush kept an audio diary of his life. And tonight, we're hearing his recordings for the first time.

Jamie Gangel sat down with the president's autobiographer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham, who shares what he learned in his upcoming book, "Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I accept your nomination for president.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is George Herbert Walker Bush unleashed, sharing his most private thoughts on everything from his time in office to his family. --

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: This administration is not going to rest.

GANGEL (voice-over): -- to his son's presidency.

JON MEACHAM, AUTHOR: He handed over four years of diaries in the White House with no strings attached.

GANGEL (on camera): And he said to you --

MEACHAM: Call 'em like you see 'em. Let -- you're going to sort it out.

GANGEL (voice-over): Among the many revelations, Bush 41 is bluntly critical of the men who served his son in the White House. He called Vice President Dick Cheney "Iron Ass" and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld an "arrogant" fellow.

But perhaps the biggest surprise, Bush is critical of his son for his hot rhetoric.

(on camera): We've never heard him criticized his son before as president.

MEACHAM: Right.

GANGEL: Why do you think he went public now? MEACHAM: I think with the distance of history, he believed so

strongly in the fact that force and diplomacy have to be complementary, not competitive that I think he wanted to put on the record that he doesn't think the president has accomplished very much by swaggering. They should be strong but they don't need to be needlessly provocative.

GANGEL: So, is this a father worried about his son's policy being criticized, not being right? Is there a father/son here?

MEACHAM: There's always a father/son thing here. Of course. I mean, how could there not be.

GANGEL: Was George W. Bush at all defensive about the criticism from his father?

MEACHAM: He was surprised by it. I think it's safe to say, he said dad never said any of this to me, either during the presidency or after. He said he never would have said, "Hey, you've got to rein in Cheney, he's going to ruin your administration.

[19:50:06] And anyway, I disagree with him. These were my policies."

He knew he would never say these things directly to him, which is in and of itself fascinating.

GANGEL: In addition to the president's diaries, Meacham was given access to Barbara Bush's diaries and other insights include that Nancy Reagan did not seem to like Barbara Bush. He told his diary, quote, "Frankly, I think jealous of her."

There is a blunt assessment of Bill Clinton as a draft dodger and a liar. And Meacham writes the Bushes were, quote, "horrified" by the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Bush acknowledges he couldn't help but like the guy.

(on camera): Do you think it's a genuine friendship?

MEACHAM: For George H.W. Bush I think it is.

GANGEL: And for Bill Clinton?

MEACHAM: You never know, do you?

GANGEL (voice-over): That said, the Bushes don't seem to have the same warm feelings toward Hillary Clinton calling her, quote, "militant and pro liberal".

(on camera): Why do you think they let you go public while they were still there because they are both very -- she may be blunt, but they are old school.

MEACHAM: They are old school but they are also old school in this sense, which is that history will sort it out. I think they are fearless about history.

GANGEL (voice-over): Just one example, this is an excerpt from Bush's diary which he dictated on Air Force One in the lead up to the Persian Gulf War. It is the first time we're hearing it.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: It's been probably the most hectic 48 hours since I've been president and for terms of serious national security interests, I've been on the phone incessantly.

GANGEL: Another disclosure, what the family says about political competition between George W. and brother Jeb.

(on camera): There is this narrative around Jeb that he was supposed to be the one to follow in his father's footsteps, and both he and his father said on the record not true.

MEACHAM: George H.W. Bush said that talk, I think Jeb was the one that's (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

GANGEL (voice-over): The diaries also reveal that none other than Donald Trump played an earlier unusual role in Bush political life. In 1988, Trump apparently volunteered to be Bush's vice president.

(on camera): And what did George Bush think of this?

MEACHAM: Strange, unbelievable I think is the quote. But it does show you that Donald Trump has been eyeing that real estate for a long time.

GANGEL (voice-over): At the end of the book, Meacham decided to ask the 91-year-old former president whether his views had changed on gay marriage. He found the answer spoke volumes about the man.

MEACHAM: A day or two later, arriving in the mail was a little statement signed by George Bush that said I still believe in traditional marriage, but people have a right to be happy without discrimination. They should be able to do what they want to do. I guess you could say I've mellowed. To me, it's emblematic of a man --

GANGEL (on camera): Because? What does it say?

MEACHAM: It says that people have a right to be happy. He was in a very quiet way about tearing down barriers. He was about fair play. And it goes all the way back to Greenwich. It was all the way back to his mother. You're a stickler for the rules. You compete, you fight hard to win, but you always play fair.

This as President Obama said of him, this is a gentleman.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GANGEL: And for the record, according to Jon Meacham, Dick Cheney read the comments. He smiled and said, "It was fascinating." He also said he simply was always doing what 43 wanted him to do and what the country required. As for Donald Rumsfeld, he had a slightly different take. He

issued the statement today saying, quote, "Bush 41 is getting up in years and misjudges Bush 43 who I found made his own decisions."

Let's just say Rumsfeld and Bush 41 never got along --

BURNETT: No, leveling insult now.

GANGEL: Yes.

BURNETT: So, one of those sound bytes from the tape from the Persian Gulf War, he sounds very exhausted. It's a very human moment.

GANGEL: Right. So we've only heard parts of the tape but Jon has listened to all of them. He says he frequently sounds tired because it's the end of the day, but said they are almost like therapy sessions, like there was nobody else he could talk to, share this with. So, he's talking himself through the experience.

BURNETT: That's -- right. I guess as president you can't trust anyone even if you did want a therapist.

So, Donald Trump --

[19:55:00] GANGEL: Who could believe it? He was back there then. He's like the Zelig (ph) of the Bush family. I mean, it's just rather astounding but back then he was trying to be vice president. It's amazing.

BURNETT: That is amazing, especially given now obviously what is happening.

All right. Jamie, thank you very much. And we will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: And I want to make sure you know, Ben Carson will be a guest on "NEW DAY" here on CNN tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. As we said, Dr. Carson going to be answering to that report you just heard from Maeve Reston.

Thank you so much for joining us. Be sure to set your DVR to record OUTFRONT, so you can watch us anytime.

"AC360" starts right now.