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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Maine Governor Paul LePage Defends Comments; Police: Paris Fugitive's Fingerprint Found in Brussels Apartment; ISIS Fighter Executives Own Mother in Public; Missing U.S. Hellfire Missile Ends Up in Cuba; Affluenza Teen's Mom Facing 10 Years in Jail. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 8, 2016 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Interesting. You know, you heard some Chuckles when he said Shifty and D. Money. You didn't hear any Chuckles when he said impregnated white girls.

This is how the governor defended those comments a few minutes ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL LEPAGE, (R), GOVERNOR OF MAINE: I was going impromptu and my brain didn't catch up to my mouth. Instead of saying Maine women, I said white women. If you -- and I'm not going to apologize to the Maine women for that, because if you go to Maine, you will see that we're essentially 95 percent white.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Joining us now is Bill Nemitz, a columnist for the "Portland Press Herald, and also a long-time critic of Governor LePage.

The governor once said he wants to put Bill here on suicide watch. You have a long history with him. Have you ever heard the governor apologize for anything he said?

BILL NEMITZ, COLUMNIST, PORTLAND PRESS HERALD: Well, it depends on how you define apology, I suppose. He sought many times to clarify, put in a better perspective, I suppose, some of these comments, which have come frequently during his five years in office. This is not the first time that something that's come out of the governor's mouth has created these kinds of waves. This one, interestingly, has had a more widespread and profound impact than some of the other ones. I'm kind of surprised, frankly, this one has taken off as much as it has. But the more we think about it and the more you look at the nerve that this one has touched, I suppose it's not so surprising because it goes right to the heart of some very long- standing stereotypes we have not only in Maine but this whole country when it comes to racial tensions and what's at the root of some real, you know, long-standing fears that exist, you know, among racism in this country. I think he stomped all over them the other night. Whether he intended to or not, that's something that's certainly open to debate and being debated quite vociferously on our website. The fact is he said it. He used the term white to describe these women. It's very difficult for him to back pedal and say this was not a racial reference.

BOLDUAN: Bill, though, I mean, you heard the governor. He says basically he misspoke, is what he said today. Do you leave open the possibility that he did do just that?

NEMITZ: You know, anything's possible with this governor. I do believe there are times when, yes, his brain does perform more slowly than his mouth, so anything is possible. The problem is, for him, the purpose -- what he was speaking about the other night, this is one of many town meetings he holds around the state. His big issue going into this year is this very serious heroin epidemic which is not just paralyzing Maine, the northeast and many other states. This is a signature issue for him right now and he's trying very hard to get the state galvanized around the enforcement part. So, that's his message. He was trying to convey that message at this town meeting.

What he's succeed in doing now is diverting attention completely away from that and onto what is developing into, unfortunately, a rather nasty racial argument that's taking place on our website, as I said. We've had to delete a good number of the comments that are appearing under our story. It's a mess. It's diverted attention away from what's an important public policy issue. Whether he meant it or not, the fact is that's where we're at right now. By not regulating what comes out of his mouth, we're once again completely off track, talking about something that really isn't going to get us anywhere.

BERMAN: Bill Nemitz, thanks for being with us. I expect you may see more of this if you stay in Maine and continue to cover this governor.

It's interesting. He said he wants to apologize to Maine women. Not sure it was Maine women he insulted. It was racial minorities, essentially, implying they came and impregnated white women in that state. His language there even in the non-apology fascinating.

Here to weigh in on this "Washington Post" columnist, Dana Milbank.

Dana, thank you so much for being with us.

Dana, you write a lot about the level of political discourse in this country right now.

DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: And it keeps getting worse.

BERMAN: Do you think this is par for the course now? Is this the new normal?

MILBANK: You know, I think this, like so many things in our politics, we have Donald Trump to thank for this. There really is sort of no standard anymore and anything goes. And, you know, we've seen this with the Trump campaign. No, he couldn't possibly say there's, you know, a registry for Muslims. No, he couldn't possibly say they're going to ban them from the United States. And when, you know, you couldn't possibly believe that people would defend an armed takeover of a federal facility. Then these things happen and it seems like there is no particular standard now. So, of course, it's not -- I mean, LePage has been a bit of a loon for a long period of time, but --

(CROSSTALK)

[11:35:18] BOLDUAN: That's what I was going to say. Paul LePage was Paul LePage before Donald Trump was on the scene, right?

(LAUGHTER)

MILBANK: Indeed. He didn't have quite the platform now, but I do think the whole idea of Trump has unleashed people and made it feel safe to be, not just outrageous, but entirely offensive out there, all in the name of saying, well, I'm not into political correctness.

BERMAN: But there is that. There's this political correctness thing being debated right now. You hear people say, smart people say, there are a lot of people in this country who feel that for some time right now that their views, the way they speak, the way they live or the way they think has been demeaned in some way. No, maybe they don't agree with everything Donald Trump or Paul LePage says but they find being able to speak your mind liberating.

MILBANK: I don't think they're necessarily talking about political correctness. That's become the catch-all for everything with which they disagree but there is a real segment of the populous that's older, white, rural, that feels they're being left behind right now in this economy. There's a lot of truth to that grievance. So, it's not political correctness that has been the enemy for them but it's a convenient thing to say that allows them to come out and say something that previously you would have said, well, no, that's misogynist, racist, bigoted. And it's now sort of a protected way of speaking.

BOLDUAN: Dana, how do you think this latest episode of Paul LePage will play into the political campaign? LePage is a big supporter of Chris Christie, also not known to hold back when he feels like it. How do you think it plays?

MILBANK: It is tricky for Christie. In fairness, his problems go well beyond that. The amazing thing in this campaign, when you have a kerfuffle like this, it's gone until the --

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MILBANK: Think about it. It's already competing with the latest Trump outrage of the Bill Clinton sex scandals of the last millennium. So, you know, I'm sure there's going to be something new and outrageous tomorrow that will bump this one aside.

BERMAN: We can only hope there will be something outrageous to talk about.

MILBANK: Hopefully, we won't be the ones committing the outrage.

BERMAN: No, that's true.

BOLDUAN: I'm looking at you on that one, Dana.

(LAUGHTER)

Just kidding.

BERMAN: Dana Milbank, thank you for being with us.

MILBANK: Thanks a lot.

BERMAN: Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: There was a big event on CNN last night, the president's CNN town hall on guns in America. If by chance you missed it, you should not have, CNN is airing it again tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern time.

A horrifying new chapter in an already terrifying playbook. An ISIS fighter reportedly executed his own mother in the middle of the city in front of hundreds. His own mother. The reason just ahead.

BOLDUAN: Plus, a new clue in the search for one of the world's most-wanted terrorists right now. What authorities say they found that could bring them closer to the fugitive Paris attacker. Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:41:45] BERMAN: This morning a big new clue in the hunt for the Paris terror suspect who got away. Belgian authorities say they have found Salah Abdeslam's fingerprint in an apartment in Brussels along with explosive materials.

BOLDUAN: That apartment believed to be a bomb factory for the deadly November attack. Abdeslam is one of the most-wanted fugitives in Europe right now.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin is in Paris with the very latest.

We should note, Paris is very much on edge once again after a man tried to attack a police station yesterday.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. We are getting, as you say, a clearer picture of just how the Paris attacks were planned as well as more information about the alleged involvement of the so-called eighth attacker, Salah Abdeslam. A source with knowledge of the investigation had told CNN that authorities raided a so-called bomb-making factory in an apartment in Brussels. In that apartment, they found explosives, specifically TATP, as well as a range of other materials, including a sewing machine. Authorities working on the theory that the suicide belts were created in that apartment and somehow brought to Paris. But this morning the Brussels prosecutor announcing as well that they found a fingerprint belonging to Salah Abdeslam, placing him at the scene. He has been on the run since the Paris attacks, November 13th. Last seen, interestingly, in the area of this apartment. He has not been seen since. It will be very interesting to see if they can determine just when Abdeslam was in that apartment. Authorities still very much on the lookout for him -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Erin McLaughlin on it for us. Thank you so much. A troubling and important new clue possibly.

BERMAN: Just a few minutes ago, Israeli police said they found and killed the gunman who killed two people and wounded eight others a week ago outside a pub in Tel Aviv. Authorities say the suspect was tracked down to a town about 45 miles north of the city. Started shooting toward police before he was killed.

BOLDUAN: And if it is true, it could be a very shocking new low, even for ISIS terrorists. Two human rights groups in Syria are reporting that a 20-year-old ISIS fighter killed his own mother in public because she had urged him to leave the group and flee with her from the ISIS capital of Raqqa. CNN has not been able to independently confirm those reports. But no doubt, troubling coming from those groups.

Let's talk about this and much more with CNN counterterrorism analyst, Phil Mudd.

Phil, obviously it's horrific and a new low, if true, for is. But what is the propaganda value of doing this for is?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: You look at what this mother was accused of. She wasn't accused of selling is down the river, Kate. She was accused of apostasy, of violating religious laws. To my mind, one reason ISIS would have done this is to show people, we're responsible for executing the laws of God in this land. It doesn't matter if you're a mother, brother, sister or child, we'll execute those laws as we see fit. I've never seen anything like this before. It brings to mind what we've seen before, ISIS indoctrinating children as well into what is effectively a cult.

BERMAN: We'll kill anyone who doesn't believe what we believe, is the message it sends.

Phil, we just reported about this fingerprint uncovered in Brussels, related to Abdeslam, one of the attackers in Paris more than a month ago. You think what's interesting about this is the timing of this announcement.

[11:45:20] MUDD: There's a couple things interesting here, John. The raid was done about a month ago. It's hard for me to believe it took them a month to identify that fingerprint. In my judgment, what's going on here is the security services are getting leads that they don't want to release to the public because they don't want to show this cell. They still don't fully understand the cell. They don't want to show this cell everything they've learned about where these individuals went, who they talked to, what apartments they stayed in. So, I believe they have information they're not talking to us about. Obviously, in this case they had at least a fingerprint in evidence of TATP. They have some people in custody, so they're trying to draw this web together without tipping off to Abdeslam and the rest of the ISIS guys exactly what they know, John.

BOLDUAN: What they released, these new details they released, as Erin McLaughlin was reporting, he was last seen in this area, they believe. Do you think these details lead them any closer, though, to tracking him down? Because he could clearly be long gone, even in Syria?

MUDD: He's got to be long gone. There's no way he's been sitting around there for this period of time, have no one identify him, no element of the cell make a mistake. The identity of this cell is proving negative. When you go into an investigation like, this have you to look at every contact, every piece of money, and ensure there's not a location or especially a co-conspirator you haven't found. When they identify the photograph and location, it allows them to say, who lives here, who also lived here, who are the neighbors, to ensure there's not a piece of the conspiracy still on the cutting room floor.

BERMAN: Phil, I want to ask you about the news out of Houston, an Iraqi refugee, a Palestinian, born in Iraq, came to the United States, now arrested because he apparently lied on an application for citizenship to the United States, said he had no ties or links to terrorist organizations. They found links to ISIS. He said he never had weapons training. Turns out he had training with automatic weapons. So, is this a warning sign that such people exist, Phil, or is this in a way a good news story that they were able to discover this?

MUDD: I think this is a warning sign. It's not a warning sign that won't be used by judgment. I'm not a political guy. They'll talk about immigration. These guys have been here for years, before the rise of is. What this indicates is that we have an undercurrent of support for ISIS propaganda in the United States among immigrants and among people who are native born. We've seen a lot of convert who are native born in this country join ISIS as well. I think the bottom line we'll have to answer in this case, and being answered by the White House this week in conversations with Silicon Valley companies that own the cyberspace, that own social media, how do we enlist California, Silicon Valley, to surveil these people, to follow them on cyberspace, because there are too many, whether they're emigrants or native born, for the government to follow. Just too many out there -- John?

BOLDUAN: How do you fill in the gaps? And they seem to be growing in terms of social media. We only see them after the fact. Fortunately, they caught these guys before anything happened.

MUDD: That's right.

BOLDUAN: Phil, great to see you. Thanks.

MUDD: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Ahead for us, it is one of the most-important weapons in America's war on terror, a dangerous and expensive laser-guided hellfire missile. How did it end up in Cuba? Why officials say this could be a huge problem.

BERMAN: Seems like, yes.

BOLDUAN: Maybe or definitely.

BERMAN: Plus, weeks after her son went missing in Mexico, the mother of the so-called affluenza teen appeared in a Texas court today. What she faces for her role in her son's trip south of the border.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:52:11] BOLDUAN: New details this morning on a dangerous loss for the United States. The "Wall Street Journal" is reporting that an inactive hellfire missile was sent for training purposes, seemed to disappear, and then showed up in Cuba.

BERMAN: That is right. The hellfire missile disappeared and ended up in Cuba. Now U.S. authorities are working to get the missing missile back, and they're trying to find out how it ended up in Cuba in the first place.

Chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, with this latest on this.

Wow, Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is true. And the officials at the Pentagon are not commenting. It's trace it a little bit. It is a hellfire missile, an inert one, so it didn't have explosives in it, that was shipped by Lockheed Martin from the U.S. to Europe for use in a NATO training exercise. After the exercise, it was being shipped back, in effect, and it went through the web of various stops through freight companies and freight forwarding companies, and instead of coming back here in the U.S., it ended up in Cuba, but they don't know how. The investigators are looking into possibility that criminal activities were involved. Also espionage where someone paid a bribe. I don't have to talk about the seriousness of this loss. You mentioned earlier, John, this is a key weapon in the U.S. counterterror campaign. It's under the wings of drones that target high-value targets in the war zones frequently, in addition to be used on helicopters, et cetera. So the potential that if it goes from Cuba to someone else's hands that they could reverse engineer it and discover the secrets of the hellfire missile. To be clear, U.S. officials don't believe that Cuba is the risk here, that they'll use it somehow, but Cuba has a lot of friendships, even after the thawing of relations with the U.S., with countries in Russia or China or you name it.

BERMAN: Worrying to say the least.

Jim Sciutto, thanks so much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Jim.

BERMAN: A police officer ambushed and Philadelphia's police commissioner says the video of it is the scariest thing he has ever seen. We have new information just in about what police are now calling an assassination attempt.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:57:29] BERMAN: Just a short time ago, the mother of the so- called affluenza teen was arraigned in Texas. She is accused of helping her son flee to Mexico, and now she is facing up to 10 years behind bars.

BOLDUAN: CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Ft. Worth and watching all this play out.

So what happened, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John and Kate. Well, it was a month ago that the judge here in Tarrant County said that Tonya Couch and her son took off for Mexico. Tonya Couch arrived back here in Texas yesterday. This morning, making a brief court appearance and arraignment. She has not put in an official plea, but her attorney said that she is planning to plead not guilty to the criminal charge of hindering the apprehension of a juvenile fugitive for which she faces ten years in prison. She showed up there briefly for this hearing.

The real question for her right now is the $1 million bond. The attorney has requested a hearing to have that bond reduced. There is a hearing scheduled for next Monday here in Ft. Worth, Texas, to see if the judge will reduce that bond. Couch's attorney says that is considering the charge that she faces that the $1 million is too much. Clearly, the judge is concerned about her leaving the country again, and told her that if the bond is reduced she would be required to wear an ankle monitor.

But this would not an affluenza story without drama and moments that raise your eyebrows a moment. Tonya Couch's attorney showed up late for the hearing, and then afterwards, John and Kate, we were speaking to the sheriff about Tonya Couch's arrival back here in Texas. Remember, she has been in the jail for less than 24 hours. And the sheriff said that she has expressed a slight bit of displeasure with her accommodations, complaining of the bright lighting and constantly being watched.

BERMAN: Interesting, Ed. We will leave it there.

We have about 20 seconds left. Give us the latest on the son. What is the latest?

LAVANDERA: Well, he is still in Mexico City in an immigration facility down there in Mexico. He's going through the process. And obviously, the officials here in Texas want him back. January 18th, he is to be at a court hearing here at Ft. Worth to have the prosecutors try to move his case from the juvenile system to the adult system, but it is not clear if he is going to be back by then.

BERMAN: All right.

BOLDUAN: Bright light and being watched, and sounds like the definition of being behind bars.

BERMAN: And the bail, and words "flight risk" do come to mind.

BOLDUAN: I wonder why.

Ed, great to see you, and thank you so much.

And thank you all so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR. Quite a week.

BERMAN: Yeah, I tell you.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.

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