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Coup Attempt Underway in Turkey; Truck Attacker Identified in Nice; Military Coup Underway in Turkey; French Police Comb Through Terrorist's Apartment; Trump's Second Thoughts Over Pence?. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 15, 2016 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
O'HANLON: -- President Assad of Syria. And therefore, ultimately what he did was get friendly with groups that turned on their master like Frankenstein, if you will. And so in that regard, the military is going to say that Turkey's own internal security had been put at risk by a man who was also subverting Turkish democracy.
TAPPER: All right, Michael, stay with us. I'm sure Wolf Blitzer is going to want to use you. That's it for me and "THE LEAD." I turn you over to Wolf and THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you Sunday from Cleveland, "STATE OF THE UNION."
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Coup under way. The prime minister of a NATO ally, Turkey, says military units have launch an uprising. Gunfire is reported in the capital, bridges blocked and low flying aircraft have been spotted.
And terror investigation. Police comb through the apartment of the attacker that drove a truck through a holiday crowd in France, mowing down hundreds of people. What are they learning about him? Did he have any ties to terrorist groups?
And a mile of horror. A trail of carnage along the sea front promenade in Nice. The death toll rising to 84. Americans are among the dead and injured. Could it happen here in the United States?
And midnight misgivings. Donald Trump picks Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate. But CNN learned Trump had second thoughts, and in a late-night to advisors, asked if he could change his mind.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following several major breaking stories. The prime minister of Turkey, a NATO ally, says military units are attempting an uprising. There are tanks and troops in the streets. Bridges are blocked. Military aircraft have buzzed the capital. Reuters now says the Turkish military is claiming to have taken control. We have new information coming in right now. Stand by.
Also, an urgent search for answers as France is staggered by another terror attack, this time a slaughter along a seaside boulevard in Nice. The attacker plowed through a holiday crowd with a heavy truck, mowing down people for more than a mile before he was killed. Eighty- four people are dead, including ten children. More than 200 people were hurt; 52 remain in critical condition.
Officials say the driver was a 31-year-old Tunisian in France for a decade. Police knew him as a petty criminal. But officials say he had no known ties to terrorist groups.
A Texas man and his 11-year-old son are among the dead. Three California college students I injured and one is missing. President Obama calls the attack appalling and sickening.
The terror attack delayed and overshadowed Donald Trump's announcement of a running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, a strong social conservative. After putting off of a news conference for 24 hours, Trump tweeted today that he was pleased to have chosen Pence, but sources tell CNN's Dana Bash that Trump had second thoughts well into the night and was asking aides if he could change his mind.
I'll speak with the House Homeland Security Committee chairman, Mike McCaul. He's standing by.
And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of the day's top stories.
But let's begin with the stunning turn of events in a NATO ally, a key NATO ally, Turkey. There are reports of gunfire in the capital. Tanks are on the streets. Low-flying aircraft have been seen overhead. Turkey's prime minister says military units have attempted an uprising, and Reuters now quoting the Turkish military as saying it has taken power.
Let's get straight to our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. Jim, what are you hearing?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, really remarkable events still unfolding over the last several minutes, beginning just a little more than an hour ago. This is what we know now.
We know the Turkish military has now issued a statement, at least elements in the Turkish military, issued a statement saying they have overthrown the government of President Erdogan. They say that they want friendly relations with the world and that they are doing this, in their words in the statement, to restore democracy and human rights.
We know that the prime minister of Turkey before this statement said that an attempted coup was underway, then drew back from using the term "coup," called it a mutiny, said it is only parts of groups within the Turkish military that is attempting this, as opposed to the entire military, as well.
Here you have a portion of that statement. "This attempt will not be permitted. Those who attempted this will pay the heaviest price." An enormous show of military force in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city,
but also in Ankara, the capital of Turkey. You're seeing tanks at the Istanbul Airport, where that terrorist attack was just a couple of weeks ago. The main bridge you're seeing there, crossing the Bosporus, traffic has been blocked there. You're also seeing low- flying jets and helicopters over the major cities. When I say low- flying, I mean within feet of the ground, a remarkable show of force.
[17:05:05] As this is happening, you have that the president of Turkey, Mr. Erdogan, has been on vacation, though, in Turkey on the coast. We're told he's going to make a statement to the nation shortly.
Wolf, you and I have talked about this before. The Turkish military has carried out coups before. In fact, four times since 1960. They view themselves historically as a guarantor, to some degree, of democracy in Turkey. They move in when they feel that the civilian government has gone beyond its bounds. And know that there have been tense relations between the Turkish military at times with the Erdogan government on two points: one, on moving Turkey more in an Islamic direction. That is one thing. But also, two, what are seen by many in Turkey as anti-democratic moves by the government of Erdogan. Imprisoning journalists, shutting down media organizations unfriendly to the government, often shutting down social media as we're seeing happening there tonight.
So you do have a lot of opposition here but also a leader who has been elected a number of times, as well. So it's very tense.
BLITZER: It's still very tense but also very murky right now. Some elements in the military say they've taken over. Some elements of the government say that's not true.
SCIUTTO: No question. Here's the thing. You have a show of force going on right now. And there's an open question as to whether that show of force is all coming from one direction. Are they all forces disloyal to the government, attempting this coup? Or are some of them executing a show of force in support of the government? Extremely murky, as you say, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, stand by. I want to go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, who's following this, as well.
Barbara, this is a key NATO ally. The U.S. and other NATO allies, they have access to critically important military facilities in Turkey, including the Incirlik air base where they launch a lot of airstrikes against ISIS in Syria from. What are you hearing from your sources?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, Wolf, this is a crisis for the Pentagon and for NATO. Again, Turkey a member of NATO.
The U.S. for the last several months has been flying out of an air base in southern Turkey, conducting airstrikes against ISIS in Northern Syrian and Iraq. They have been encouraging the Turkish military and security services to crack down on ISIS trying to cross the border from Syria into Turkey from where ISIS operatives can then possibly move into Europe.
The Turkish military and security services also control the Bosporus, the flow of maritime traffic in and out of the Black Sea and on into the Mediterranean. It just doesn't get more critical militarily than this.
Now, if this is a full-fledged coup, if the Turkish military is in charge there now, it presents a dilemma for the Pentagon, for the Obama administration.
The U.S. military does not deal with countries where there is a military coup. The whole message from the U.S. military is democratically-elected governments.
So what will happen now? Will they have to pack and go from Incirlik Air Base, or will they say, "Well, the Turkish military is not anti- American, so we'll just stay down there and do our thing"?
Technically, they really should pack and go. They are not supposed to be dealing and supporting governments of a military coup that takes over by force. A deeper issue: the U.S. sells billions of dollars in American-made warplanes, weapons, armored tanks, all sorts of military gear to Turkey. It is in support of an elected Turkish government.
So again, you have a situation tonight, all of this weaponry out there. The planes, the tanks, is it American-made? Is it being used, potentially, against the Turkish people? This becomes a huge problem.
We don't have enough information yet, but what is so interesting here tonight at the Pentagon, officials here, at the White House, the State Department, and NATO, now a couple of hours into this crisis, are still scrambling first to figure out what is happening, and second to figure out what it all means -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Barbara, stand by.
Jim Sciutto is working his sources. You're getting more information, Jim?
SCIUTTO: A couple updates just in the last couple of minutes. One, reports of soldiers inside Turkey's state broadcaster. Another show of force there. We're also hearing from the U.S. State Department that social media has been shut down in Turkey: Twitter, Facebook, et cetera.
The State Department also is confirming reports, in their words, of gunshots and what they call a possible attempted uprising. State Department confirming that to U.S. citizens.
One final thing, Secretary of State John Kerry, he's in Moscow right now. At a press conference just in the last several minutes, responding to a question about the situation in Turkey, he said he hopes, quote, "There will be stability, peace, and continuity."
BLITZER: This is the kind of situation where it's a national security crisis, if you will, from the U.S. perspective, Jim. People, I'm sure -- top national security officials are meeting right now, maybe over at the White House situation room and over at the Pentagon. Certainly, they're having emergency meetings right now, as well.
[17:10:05] SCIUTTO: No question. Well, the first question being -- and I've asked a lot of them -- do they know what's going on? And they say it's still too early to tell. So they're trying to gather information.
But just one more thing about Turkey. The U.S. has a lot of important allies. It's hard to think of a more important ally right now than Turkey in light of its proximity to Syria, its central part in the war against ISIS, some difficult relations there, but a very crucial ally to the U.S., as well.
BLITZER: We've got an expert on Turkey. Soner Cagaptay is with us from the Washington Institute.
You're well-plugged-in to what's going on, Soner. What are you hearing about the latest reports that there is a coup under way and maybe even the military have taken power?
SONER CAGAPTAY, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE: Almost there. It started about an hour ago with news of a low-level coup. Then it escalated into potentially a more high-level coup, and that makes sense if you know the Turkish military. This is a very hierarchal organization. It doesn't do anything bottom-up. It does everything top-down. So my sense is that this is a coup attempt.
We don't know yet if the military has taken over. There are signs that they are. Public-run government TV has just issued a statement in favor of the military. I've heard from my contacts in Turkey that tanks which have encircled the headquarters of the governing Justice and Development Party, AKP, there are tanks in the city's central square in Istanbul. There are tanks that have crossed the bridges within the European and Asian sides of the city. The airport has been shut down.
So maybe, it's an evolving coup. The government will respond to it. It looks like they want to step down.
BLITZER: And the biggest grievance the military has, at least these elements in the military has against Erdogan is what?
CAGAPTAY: The biggest grievance is, I think his, No. 1, distortion of Turkish democracy. No. 2, massive foreign policy failure, which has exposed Turkey to huge threats from ISIS next door, to a Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey and in Syria, to confrontation with all regional countries from Russia to Egypt, and of course, more recently, ISIS threats, attacks, huge attacks inside of Turkey that have killed over hundreds. Turkey has not seen this kind of stability [SIC] in many decades, and I think that will be the biggest grievance the military would have aired.
BLITZER; All right, Soner, stand by. I want to go back to Barbara Starr over at the Pentagon. Barbara, the U.S. military watching very, very closely what's going
on. Deep, deep concern right now. This is a key NATO ally. Was there any indication that a coup could be in the works?
STARR: Well, I think for the last several weeks, there has been a lot of concern about the growing tensions inside Turkey, inside the Turkish government and with the military that folks are talking about.
But you know, look at those pictures we're showing, Wolf. The big problem for the U.S. military tonight as they look at those photos, they don't necessarily know, are those pro-government troops or are those coup troops? Whose troops, whose weapons, whose tanks, whose aircraft are actually out on the street?
This is a very significant issue. Is the democratically-elected government, such as it is, going to be able to maintain control. If we wake up tomorrow and the Turkish military is in control, this presents the challenge for the U.S. that we've been talking about.
Just consider this. It was only a couple of weeks ago, that the head of the U.S. Central Command made a very special trip to Turkey to talk to his military counterparts there about the fight against ISIS. And, you know, I guarantee you ISIS is watching this video tonight, too. If they sense instability, this is what ISIS likes. This is what terrorists like. They move in when they sense there is not control, and it is always worth repeating this is the summer season. Millions of tourists and Americans also there in Turkey tonight, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's an amazing development that's unfolding in Turkey right now. We're going to have a lot more on this.
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Congressman Mike McCaul, is with us, as well.
And I know you're watching this very, very closely. What are you hearing? What's your analysis of this coup attempt that's underway inside this key NATO ally, Turkey?
REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R-TX), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: As you said they're a key NATO ally. I've been over to Turkey many times. Istanbul to the airport. We had that recent ISIS attack in Istanbul at the airport.
And I think you have the military and President Erdogan have had tension over time. He's thrown the hierarchy out of the military. The military views themselves as more secular. President Erdogan is sort of Islamist. So I think that tensions have always been there, but I think the -- the ISIS attacks recently, along with the Russians being in that space, I think is driving, in my judgment, this military action.
But be mindful: This is a NATO ally. We have an air base, Incirlik, there that conducts the airstrikes from Turkey into Iraq and Syria. We don't want this in any way to jeopardize these ongoing operations.
[17:15:00] BLITZER: This is a very tense moment. And we've just been told that an announcer got on Turkish television just moments ago and announced, quote, "A peace council has now taken over." It looks like the military, at least elements of the military, are moving very, very quickly to try to take charge and get rid of President Erdogan.
MCCAUL: I think so. Whether they have taken it over is not confirmed at this point in time, but again, there's been this historic tension between the military and Erdogan. And I do think the recent security issues being raised with ISIS -- remember, for years, Erdogan and his administration, I think, sort of turned a blind eye to these foreign fighters that would go through Turkey, into Syria to hit Mr. Assad, President Assad in Syria. More recently, they realized that ISIS is not their ally and that they have blown back on the Turkish government and the Turkish people. I think the military are responding to this.
BLITZER: As you know there, have been strains from time to time in the U.S.-Turkish relationship. U.S. officials have often -- and I'm sure you're well aware of this -- complained about President Erdogan that he was too Islamist, if you will. He was taking steps that were anti-democracy along those lines.
The irony right now -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- the military may be pro -- more pro-American than Erdogan, who's the democratically- elected leader, the president of Turkey.
MCCAUL: Well, that's the hope. If this has, in fact, happened, my concern, again, is our air base over there and them being a NATO ally. Will the military that has taken over in this new coup support the NATO alliance, support our military base being there? If this movement is about security within Turkey, I would think they would be supportive of our efforts.
BLITZER: Because this is almost the kind of situation, if it develops along these lines, we saw a few years ago in Egypt. There was a democratically-elected Islamist government, Muslim Brotherhood-led government of President Morsi. There was a military coup. The former General El-Sisi is now the president of Egypt, and he's much more pro- American than the government of President Morsi was. Is there a parallel you're seeing here?
MCCAUL: There perhaps is. I just met President Sisi a month ago in Egypt. He is actually cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. We think brings stability to Egypt.
President Sisi and President Erdogan don't always see eye to eye, particularly when it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood issues. So I think this is going to be a very interesting foreign policy development.
But again, I think what our interests at stake are that we want to make sure this NATO ally stays an ally and that our air base stays intact.
BLITZER: It's a very, very tense situation. Mr. Chairman, stay with us. There is more. We're watching developments there, also getting new information on the investigation into that horrible terror attack in France in Nice. Much more coming up. We're following several breaking stories right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[17:22:14] BLITZER: We're following all the latest developments. There's a coup attempt underway in Turkey right now. We're just learning the Turkish military, according to an announcement read on Turkish state radio, the Turkish military says they have taken over the government and imposed martial law.
We're going to have much more on the breaking news coming out of Turkey, a key NATO ally. That's coming up.
But there's also a frantic search underway right now for clues as France is rocked by that huge terror attack.
The attacker, driving a heavy truck, mowed through a crowd along the seaside promenade in Nice, killing 84 people, injuring more than 200. Americans are among the dead and wounded, as well as missing.
We're talking with the House Homeland Security Committee chairman, Congressman Mike McCaul. He's with us. But first, I want to get the very latest from our CNN senior international correspondent, Clarissa Ward. She's at the scene of the attack in Nice.
Clarissa, what are you learning?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you can probably see behind me now, police have actually taken down the barriers that were blocking our view of the area where that brutal attack took place last night. There has been a massive clean-up operation under way.
I saw one particularly harrowing detail, which was a truck that had gathered bicycles that had been crushed, and even more disturbingly, baby strollers that had been crushed under the force of that massive truck in this terrifying act.
But just over 24 hours ago, Wolf, this promenade would have been teaming with thousands and thousands of people who were just watching the fireworks when the attack began. Take a look.
WARD (voice-over): Mayhem and carnage as a large truck careens through crowds of tourists and residents for over a mile. Hundreds are sent running for their lives.
Tonight the driver has been identified as 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a resident of Nice born in Tunisia. The terrorist was known to authorities for petty crimes but wasn't on the radar of counterterrorism investigators.
FRANCOIS MOINS, FRENCH ANTI-TERROR PROSECUTOR (through translator): He was unknown by the intelligence services. He had never been the subject of any kind of file or indication of radicalization.
WARD: Authorities are combing through the suspect's house, where he lived alone. A neighbor described him as odd. He wouldn't say hello, only nod his head.
The attacker's ex-wife was taken into custody and is being questioned by the police. Together, they had three children. Investigators are trying to figure out if the assailant acted alone or had help.
According to a source, Bouhlel was not affiliated with any mosque in Nice, and there have been no claims of responsibility for the attack by any group so far.
The horrific scene unfolded around 10:30 p.m. Thursday night. Thousands were gathered to watch fireworks celebrating French Independence Day.
[17:25:09] As the fireworks were ending and revelers began walking back along the promenade, the attacker first opened fire on the crowd from inside the rented 18-ton refrigerator truck. He then proceeded to accelerate, indiscriminately plowing through the crowds for over a mile, swerving left and right to hit as many people as possible, including dozens of children.
KARIM LAAMARA, ATTACK SURVIVOR (through translator): There were people were crying, people covered with blood. It is so sad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GRAPHIC: A lorry arrived and smashed into everyone. Everyone.
WARD: When police tried to stop him, the attacker opened fire.
MOINS: Police chased the truck for nearly 1,000 feet. The police officer was able to neutralize the person.
WARD: When the truck finally came to a stop, riddled with bullet holes, the attacker was dead, slumped on the passenger seat. Inside the cab of the truck, police found a semiautomatic handgun and ammunition, as well as several fake guns and a fake grenade. Also, the attacker's I.D. card and cell phone.
Among the dead, two Americans, Sean Copeland and his son, Brodie, of Texas. Tonight, President Obama is condemning the attack.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We pledge to stand with our French friends we defend our nations against this scourge of terrorism and violence. And this is a threat to all of us.
WARD: Now, as investigators continue to look into possible connections with terrorist groups, there's a sense, Wolf, here of growing unease in France. Just over a year and a half, three major terrorist attacks. And it's worth noting that when President Francois Hollande, the French president, when his motorcade passed by here earlier, some very mixed emotions coming out from the crowd, some people even shouting out, "Murderer." A lot of French now saying they're not feeling very safe at home -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Clarissa, thank you very much. Clarissa joining us from Nice in France.
We're back with the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Congressman Mike McCaul of Texas. He's also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
I know you're being briefed on this terror attack in Nice. What's the latest that you're hearing about any connect -- possible connection to an outside terror group?
MCCAUL: Well, that's what the French and the United States investigators are looking at this very closely, running his numbers, obviously, his name through the databases. As it was indicated, a cell phone was found in the vehicle. A search warrant on his home to get his forensics on any computer devices that he may have.
But right now, the clear fact is that he was not on the radar, completely under. There were no indicators that this was a guy that was a threat in any way. And it's the kind of case that does keep you up at night, because it can happen overnight. They radicalize, and then something like this happens.
We know the ISIS spokesman called for these types of attacks recently, calling for external operations in France, Germany, the west and the United States using vehicles.
BLITZER: So the question -- you're the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee; you oversee homeland security here in the United States. Are you worried that this could happen here?
MCCAUL: Of course. I mean, again, when the ISIS spokesman calls for these types, you saw it play out in Nice. It's been played out three times prior to this, by the way. A copycat in the United States. Somebody talking to somebody in Syria.
One thing is clear, Wolf, from my briefings. There's a lot of chatter going on in France right now, too, that concerns the president of France. That's why he's keeping a very high state of alert through this month as the Tour de France takes place. Because you have that chatter between Syria and people, operatives in France. Remember, you have a network here of cells between Paris and Brussels that are still very much active, and that's who they're monitoring right now.
BLITZER: Chatter among people plotting, potentially, other terror attacks inside France? Is that what you're suggesting?
MCCAUL: Well, that's -- that's the concern. And I can't get, really, any more into it than that, but the chatter level is very high, and they are concerned about other plots, potentially, underway.
The World Cup had been a potential target. Fortunately, that ended without any problems, but now we have the Tour de France that we're very worried about.
BLITZER: And what about here in the United States? Is there similar kind of chatter that you're picking up? MCCAUL: Well, when I asked, in terms of this suspect or some of the similar networks in Paris and Brussels, we don't see any connection, fortunately, between those individuals and people in the United States, but that's something we're always looking at.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue to stay on top of this story. Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for joining us.
MCCAUL: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Mike McCaul of Texas. And our deepest condolences. I know that two of those casualties, including that 11-year-old boy, are from your area, your part of Texas. Very, very sad.
MCCAUL: It's right outside of Austin.
BLITZER: I know. It's a very sad development, indeed. Thank you very much for joining us.
Turkish military leaders suggesting martial law has now been imposed in Turkey, a key NATO ally. It looks like that coup is moving along very, very quickly. A military coup in Turkey. We're getting new information. Stay with us.
[17:30:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Suggesting martial law has now been imposed in Turkey, a key NATO ally. Looks like that coup is moving along very, very quickly. A military coup in Turkey. We're getting new information. Stay with us.
BLITZER: We're covering multiple breaking stories right now. A military coup is under way in Turkey. A key NATO ally. And the ongoing investigation into the French terror attack that left at least 84 people dead.
France 24 correspondent Phillip Crowther is with us. Also our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, our senior law enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes, and CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank, is joining us from Nice, in France, as well.
[17:35:09] First an update from you, Jim Sciutto. This is a fast- moving story. Apparently martial law has been declared in Turkey, according to the military?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The U.S. -- the Turkish military announcing on television across Turkey that they have imposed martial law, that means a curfew for the Turkish people. It's encouraging them to stay indoors. But also in the statement, the Turkish military saying it will uphold all its international agreements including with NATO. Of course Turkey is a U.S. NATO ally, as well as with the U.N. And then it went into sort of a list of justifications for why it is
carrying out this coup. It said to restore democracy, to restore human rights, to fight corruption. And this point, in particular, interesting, in part in reaction to recent acts of terror. In effect saying that they are doing this to help make the country safe.
One more point if I could just add, we had this truly remarkable moment, just in the last several minutes in Turkey, and that is the Turkish -- elected Turkish president, Erdogan, giving his statement via Skype, help up on Skype by a Turkish journalist and you can see the image there. This was his statement and in that statement, him claiming to the Turkish people that he is still president and encouraging them, in his words to go out into the streets to support democracy. That shows that he is a president who couldn't get to the capital or get to a state broadcaster to make that statement.
BLITZER: Well, it looks like the military has taken over some of the major state TV networks right now.
SCIUTTO: That's right.
BLITZER: They're making all sorts of statements on the Turkish state television.
SCIUTTO: That's right. Apparently troops were seen as tanks outside Turkish media headquarters, troops going inside. And then as part of their statement then saying in effect that they are not only in control of the government but they are in control of the message. But as part of this martial law, they have shut down airports and ports, and remember, Erdogan was on vacation on the coastal area of Turkey, so to get back to Ankara, the capital of Istanbul, the main city, he would have to fly, and if those airports are closed, and based on the fact that he's giving a Facetime statement to the nation, it doesn't appear he's able to do that.
BLITZER: And the -- on the state television, Turkish state broadcaster TRT had an announcer come on and say, "Peace in the nation, Council is taking over. The political administration that has lost all legitimacy has been forced to withdraw." That from the announcer reading from a prepared statement, also declaring the imposition of martial law with a curfew in effect.
Here in Washington, we've just learned, though, that the president's national security team has been meeting, briefing the president on this unfolding situation in Turkey. According to the White House the president will continue to receive regular updates. And we're also just getting word that a check of Turkish Airline flights, that is, it showed all flights out of Istanbul have been canceled or marked indefinitely delayed for tonight.
You're getting word that they've severed all links with the Internet, is that right?
SCIUTTO: That's right. They've shut down social media in Turkey, although it's interesting, you're still able to see, I have seen some social media postings from inside. It's possible people are using VPNs or other tools to get around government censorship that is possible. This is a country that has imposed restrictions on social media before so there's some experience doing that.
But again as part of their curfew of martial law, they are now cutting down in effect Turkey's contract with the outside world. You can imagine that meeting inside the National Security Council right now, I think. We just had this attack in Paris, talking about international terrorism, threat from ISIS, other groups. Turkey at the forefront of this fight. They are literally on the front lines in Syria, with them. This is -- this is an enormous event not just for Turkey but certainly for the U.S. and NATO allies.
BLITZER: We know, Tom, that Turkey has been plagued with terrorist incidents killing a lot of people. There is deep concern right now that U.S. officials have for this overall security situation in Turkey. This is not necessarily something that a NATO ally wants to see, a military coup.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Normally not, Wolf. But in this case., it may benefit us the way it benefited in Egypt to have the coup that happened there. That if the government is moving to be too moderate and not protecting the people to enough of an extent, they have the military come in and say enough is enough, we're going to regain control in that sense. It may actually benefit us in the long return.
BLITZER: Because there is not only very close military-to-military cooperation between the United States and Turkey, but on the intelligence level very close relations.
FUENTES: Right. Absolutely.
BLITZER: You used to run the FBI operation there.
FUENTES: Yes, we had two offices in Turkey. In Ankara, the capital, as well as in Istanbul. Very close relationship with their intelligence and law enforcement authorities there, so I don't see that changing to be honest.
BLITZER: Paul Cruickshank, you've spent a lot of time over there. You know that situation well. What's your analysis of what's happening in Turkey right now?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, Wolf, it's very -- it's too early to call in the sense of who's going to come out on top.
[17:40:05] At this point it's a very chaotic in terms of the news coming in, but clearly these are very momentous times at the moment right across Turkey and we'll have to see how it all shakes out.
BLITZER: And the whole ISIS -- the war against ISIS and what happens inside Turkey as far as that war in Iraq and Syria is concerned, I know there has been a lot of criticism of the Turkish government, President Erdogan, the military has a different attitude, right?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, it depends which part of the military, Wolf, that you're talking about, but certainly, you know, however events are going to shake out in Turkey might have a deep impact on the fight against ISIS. There's certainly been some criticism that Turkish authorities from western capitals of being blind to this threat for a long time. But perhaps there has been evidence of that changing more recently, but this could obviously have profound impact on not only the war on ISIS, but the entire position with regard to the Syrian civil war, Assad and so on. So we're just going to have to wait and see how it all shakes out but deeply significant moments.
BLITZER: Very significant. The Turkish military declares martial law in Turkey right now. A military coup is under way against the government there. We'll have much more on this breaking story.
Also we're getting new information on that terror attack in Nice. Stay with us, we'll be right back.
[17:46:18] BLITZER: We're back with our correspondents and experts as we continue to cover the multiple breaking stories right now that are unfolding including a military coup under way in Turkey and the ongoing investigation of the French terror attack that left 84 people dead.
Philip Crowther, you're with France 24 TV. What's the latest you're getting on how much involvement others may have had in this terrorist attack?
PHILIP CROWTHER, CORRESPONDENT, FRANCE 24: Seemingly none at all at this point. What we know about this -- the one culprit right now, the driver of this truck, the man who was shot by police, as he was known by police beforehand but unknown by the intelligence services, essentially he's being portrayed as a petty criminal right now by the French authorities. They're saying he was giving a suspended jail term in March.
That was a suspended jail term of six months, which by the way would have meant that he wouldn't have been in Nice out on the streets during the time of the attack. But there are also members of the government who are talking about radical Islam, or Islamism, for example, the French Prime Minister Manuel Valis, he says there is undoubtedly a link to radical Islam or Islamism.
I think that's the strongest we're hearing so far, but still no mention of any people who might have worked with this 31-year-old Frenchman of Tunisian origin. He seems to have been a loner, that certainly is the conclusion --
BLITZER: But no evidence yet from social media that he was reading the ISIS material or Al Qaeda material online?
CROWTHER: There is absolutely nothing. There is no -- no organization has said they are responsible for him, there's nothing from the Islamic State group. There's nothing bigger than this one individual all by himself. All that French authorities are looking at right now, of course they're looking at what kind of conversations he might have had on people on his cell phone or in private. But the one person they know about is the ex-wife. She has been arrested, she's being questioned. We don't know at this point what she might have known, how much she might have known about this clearly planned attack because this truck was - it was rented three days before the attack. In other words, this man probably knew what he was about to do. It was not a spontaneous attack organized the day itself.
BLITZER: Paul Cruickshank, you're there in Nice for -- I spoke earlier today with the French ambassador to the United States, who made a point of saying this individual -- this individual is not a Frenchman, he is a Tunisian. He came -- he moved to France in 2005. He had permanent residence but he never became a French citizen.
What else are you learning about this terrorist?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, Wolf, what we are learning, fascinating and important new details from his father who has been speaking, the father of the attacker who's been speaking to journalists in Tunisia, and he has revealed that his son suffered from multiple nervous breakdowns, and when he suffered from these breakdowns, he used to basically throw things around in a very, very violent fashion and it's really -- it's sort of building a picture of somebody that may have had some mental health issues. Somebody that appears to be very volatile.
In January of this year he was involved in a violent altercation after a road traffic accident. He actually threw a wooden pallet at a driver and he was given a six-month suspended prison sentence for that in France. So some signs that this was an individual who suffered from some -- the challenges when it comes to his mental health. Of course we've seen that before in attacks where there's also a radicalization component as well.
And sometimes that can make the journey from radical thought to radical action more easy and quicker if you have some of these mental health issues.
[17:50:05] We've seen that before, Wolf, but the French Interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, saying so far the investigation has not uncovered any evidence of jihadism. This was not a guy like we've seen in some attacks in the United States, with the Orlando shooting, with San Bernardino, where he did everything possible to -- to allow ISIS to claim ownership by swearing loyalty to Baghdadi. We're not seeing that yet in this case.
BLITZER: All right. We'll see how this unfolds.
Everyone, stand by. We're following the breaking news out of Nice. Also the breaking news out of Turkey. A military coup underway right now in that key NATO ally. Much more right after this.
BLITZER: We're going to have much more on the breaking news. The military coup underway in Turkey right now but we're also following breaking news in the U.S. presidential race. CNN has learned new inside details about Donald Trump's hesitation
about picking Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate.
Let's bring in our chief political correspondent Dana Bash.
Dana, you really had some amazing reporting on the decision by Trump to finally go forward with Pence.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I'm hearing, Wolf, that that reality is that it really was down to two people, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Indiana Governor Mike Pence. And this very much was a choice between who Trump wanted in his heart, his loyal and old friend, Christie, or who he thought he needed, rock solid, squeaky clean conservative Mike Pence. And it seems that deciding between the two was excruciating.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You either have that instincts or you don't.
BASH (voice-over): Donald Trump would not be Donald Trump without a lifetime of following his gut. In picking Mike Pence, he was following political advice and being practical, not following his gut. That is why about midnight Thursday night after he offered the Indiana governor the running mate role Trump was on the phone with senior advisers asking if it is still possible to change his mind. He was told no.
In response to CNN's reporting, a Trump's spokesman insisted there is, quote, "zero truth to it." But Trump's uncertainly even played out in public during the phone interview with Greta Van Susteren.
TRUMP: I haven't made my final, final decision.
BASH: At that point Trump had already offered the job to Pence.
[17:55:01] In fact Pence was sitting in a New York City hotel room when an aide with him got a frantic call to turn on the TV because Trump was saying he hasn't yet decided. CNN is told that Pence stayed calm and said he was confident that Trump would keep his word. But some Pence confidante were panicked about Trump's comment since the governor was in the process of giving up his own reelection bid in Indiana to join Trump's presidential bid.
Indiana law required him to get off the ballot by noon Friday, which he did. Trump's last-minute second-guessing came not just because he was out of his comfort zone but also because he was annoyed that his own team was trying to box him in. Making sure he made the politically practical choice, Pence. The squeaky clean Christian, conservative, Midwestern governor with a dozen years of experience in Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you cal from Mr. Trump today? BASH: Instead of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. A loyal friend
who endorsed Trump as soon as he ended his own presidential run and became an influential behind-the-scenes adviser on all things politics, fundraising, campaign management and messaging.
But most of Team Trump thought Pence was the best pick and made a series of move to push the candidate in that direction. Like after Trump had plane trouble and couldn't leave Indiana as planned Wednesday morning, Trump's children flew out early and accompanied their father to breakfast at the Indiana governor's residence.
And even flew Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, a kindred political spirit of Mike Pence, out to Indiana to help Trump make his final decision. Complicating matters for Trump the fact that he didn't want to disappoint his friend, Chris Christie, whom he talked to about attorney general instead of vice president. Christie pushed back and argued to the billionaire that he would be Trump's best running mate.
Because of the deadly attack in France Trump postponed his planned Friday VP announcement which bought him some time. But by 10:50 a.m., despite the drama and indecision, Trump sent a tweet making it official. Mike Pence it is.
GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: TRUMP: We love Indiana. We love our country. My family and I couldn't be more honored to have the opportunity to run with and serve with the next president of the United States.
BASH: A Trump campaign aide insists the candidate made this pick because he is excited about Governor Pence and any notion otherwise is, quote, "just silly." And I've heard from several sources, Wolf, that Trump and Pence did get along quite well when they had their first extended time together, July Fourth weekend. They went golfing. Trump has publicly called Pence solid as a rock. Regardless, this is the first major presidential-like decision that Trump has made. Clearly not an easy one.
BLITZER: We'll see it all. We're going to have a lot more on the story coming up as well. Excellent reporting, Dana. Thank you very much.
Coming up, more on the breaking news. Troops are now on the streets of a key NATO ally as Turkey's military says it has taken over the government, imposed martial law following a coup.