Plot to use vehicle for Maryland terror attack thwarted

The Department of Justice has charged Maryland resident Rondell Henry with plotting to ram a truck into pedestrians at the National Harbor waterfront development.
23:39 | 04/08/19

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Transcript for Plot to use vehicle for Maryland terror attack thwarted
Everybody welcome to the brief him on Devin Dwyer on this Monday with our White House reporter captain Paul there's great to have you at this hoping had a good weekend spring has finally arrived here in the nation's capital were happy about it. Some breaking news right now coming into ABC news law enforcement sources. I tell us they have disrupted a major possible truck attack on pedestrians. Don at the national harbor area and Maryland this is a popular tourist destination just outside the nation's capital a lot of conventions. Are held their ten million visitors every year our justice reporter Mike Levine broke this story just a short time ago he joins us now. From the Justice Department might what are you learning. Yeah authorities believe increased outlook couldn't be true beauty and terror attack. And from the DC area lately Allen was arrested I think last re. By law enforcement authorities and he was at the national arbor a huge terror tourist attraction. The nation's capital. And he was rigged or stolen truck and authorities believe that he was concentrating using that truck Ron Hoover tourists. And we and we believe Mike that this was not actually a sting operation but they did encounter this individual input in potentially. Ready to do the act. Yeah authorities say what happened here is that whole seeing something say something about my uncertainty here Bowker. People just reported suspicious activity reported concerns. And authorities for people's stuff it's. All right Michael be breaking the story just coming in right now much morning abcnews.com and you know Mike more reporting. Out later today here on ABC news life thanks for that turning out to some other breaking news that's just coming in. I'm major shake up underway at the top of two the nation's leading Homeland Security agencies the president pulling the trigger Catherine fathers. First overnight on his Homeland Security as secretary Christian Nielsen forcing her route now just moments ago we've learned. That the Secret Service director has also been asked to leave the administration what's going to. Yeah I miss came as a surprise to us now of course we're so we're reporting this out but it's not clear. A weather in this departure at the Secret Service was connected to Nielsen's departure overnight we know the president has been upset with many of these officials that he's wanted them to leave. But still in they don't appear at this point at least meet. Can't until it certainly coming at the same time potentially others in the pipeline that's gone out of the White House are. Alex now and has been break out reporting on the Secret Service story just coming and Alex Alex what do we know about. The decision who who who who who the president has chosen to replace the outgoing Secret Service for our. Yes alike Katherine said this cot that the that the Secret Service largely by surprise. But are -- dot tea reporter and our justice unit says that. That he was told Alice was told actually a couple of weeks ago that he would be let go as part of a broader cleaning of house at ths. And what we're learning according to several officials the administration is that there's a two other top DHS officials work or potentially targets of this. Kind of cleaning of house that's going on. And that would include the US citizenship and immigration services director Francis is not. And the office of the general counsels John mitnick. Now this would leave a plethora of officials at the top upper ranks of DHS either out in their positions either vacant. But a lot of non senate confirmed positions hit at this crucial agency that handles both immigration. Terrorism. Drug and law enforcement and cyber security. So some key vacancies there now we know that that but but but Alice will be replaced by genes and marina he's a career member of the US Secret Service. And that is a contrast. Come from Tex Alice who was actually came from the outside he was a former. Marine. So this is something that somebody that is coming from the inside he was a former leader of the a Washington field office here in DC. And he is expected to take over as director beginning in May. An end Alex you know we're seeing here this statement from Press Secretary cirrus Sanders. Randolph Allison served forty years. Or in government service. Caught a lot of people by surprise as you said. Do we think this is connected at all to that security breach at mar a lot go a couple weeks ago that would Chinese woman who was captured with. Mall where on her thumb drives. So what we understand is that Alice was actually told that he was going to be transitioning out of his role before the moral -- incident happened last. Weekend so if we don't believe that the two are currently connected but this is is certainly a critical time. I'm for the secret services is has to answer questions before congress about this instance have been. As he continues investigating. Real really the motives of this alleged it this alleged Chinese spy. So I think it's definitely that you we saw obviously this this promotion from inside the inside the ranks now it's something that. Whitman would during the Obama administration for instance that this is something that deeply affects Morales the department. These promotions the leadership there it really has a direct impact on the first Stanley in all the other people that these Secret Service is task of protecting. Yeah they. You so much else downforce at the White House in captain certainly a surprise because the Secret Service has been out of the news lately they haven't had been generating any of this negative headlines that mark say about five years ago with the fence jumpers. Scandal in the ranks of the Secret Service want to bring in now I Don not Pollock an ABC news contributor former tops Secret Service official Isaac joins us on the phone Don thank you so much for calling in want to start with. With any reaction that you might be getting from your former colleagues inside the agency. It does seem like this was a complete shock to many people. They clearly weren't surprised that the Secret Service into the agents and the Secret Service. Anytime you probably seven sea change of the director spot. That it tend to be shocking but you know the keeper sort of divert professional organization and that the boots on the ground to get the job done. And my my assessment is that the rank and file agents political format that out before those. The and they have really performed exemplary. Service so far this administration there have been no major issues. Undated to speak either with security at the White House or elsewhere what were all trying to wrap our minds around what could have prompted this. Somebody with a forty year track record in government service what in your mind could have risen to the level that would've wish it would have. Suggested the president to get rid of Alice. But the great question what I think we're all trying to answer both from what we know is that the the administration was looking to pick VHS and a new direction. And there were looking to make some changes at the top of that leadership positions within VHS. That you guys just reported good director was apparently told a couple of weeks ago. That they would be making some changes down the road. I of course. Timing wise because and they couldn't no worse or or be. Were climbing. While apparently this was popular and have been discussed. By the administration with these officials. And they just decide to execute on it now. Our Donna Holler guy joining us on the phone former top Secret Service official ABC news contributor Don thank you so much. For that perspective a lot of shock both in the Secret Service and at the Homeland Security Department a sprawling government agency the second largest capturing. Second to the Defense Department. That was set into a tailspin late yesterday when their Christian Nielsen a Homeland Security secretary went to the White House in the afternoon. Are around 6 o'clock she left no longer in that position in that was not something that was planned you've been reporting a lot about how this went down. ESL. Just to recap generally how this went down as you remember she was down at the border with the president on Friday he was visiting the collect scope. A version of the border region of the border she had been there all week and she. Joined up with connect they are now this comes as he was threatening to close a portions of the border or the full border. And really what happened was after that trip and I'm told by our sources close to her she called the president on Friday you see images by the way of and they are just just on Friday so after that trip. After they partnered ways as she left she called the president on Friday and and requested a meeting with whom she wanted to talk about a way forward and she wanted to meet with him. This past weekend so. I'm told by folks close to her that she went over to the White House yesterday at 5 o'clock. And she believed that she was giving the president a border update now that a turned in a two hour meeting about her future and by 6 o'clock. The president had tweeted. And that she was actually leaving her post now she was forced to resign she was forced out and they've been at odds. Really for some time ever since her the White House ally the former chief of staff John Kelly laughs they've clashed. On a number of issues a source telling me yesterday that the president was holding her personally responsible for the border numbers he did not understand why she couldn't. Personally fix at the source said that that quote led to intense clashes an angry phone calls and frustration between. Her in the president's so in those numbers have been on the rise. Is families children migrants showing up at the US Mexico border. Are climbing despite this president's tough crackdown on immigration certainly an irritant to president trump but a lot to unpack. Your Department of Homeland Security is a critical agency in this government and overseas not just immigration rent. TSA at all airports has overseen the Coast Guard is part of Homeland Security. And of course anti terrorism efforts FEMA is part of that operation as well so there's really. A lot that Christian Nielsen oversaw we don't know I just yet who the president will. I nominate to replace her but a lot on the line we did hear from Christian Nielsen for the first time just a short time ago when she came out of her house. To address the news that broke late overnight that she had been fired tickle us. I mean announcements. I just I think the president again for the tremendous opportunity to serve this country. I'm forever grateful and proud of men and women if ths you worked so hard every day so you execute. Their missions and to protect the homeland and we look forward to you continued to separate them from the outside. As spends the last said Tony for hours since yesterday. Talking with government officials this administration officials members of congress to venture. As his transition as you know DHS as a vast array of missions and make sure that we continue to you execute them all with excellence through the transition. I share the president's goal of securing the border I will continue to support all efforts to address the humanitarian and security crisis on the border. In other is not among their way to keep doing what they can ask for the next few days it think you off for being here. So there's Christian Nielsen is standing by the president no critical words for him where she still ha. Going to work today tomorrow and Wednesday she say will be her last day captured. But it's been interesting to see the reaction in this town to heard news of her departure there have been very few people sad that she's leaving both among Republicans. And Democrats though there's certainly some for some praise for her service very few people. Lamenting her departure in fact Nancy Pelosi had a pretty harsh statement. About her specifically referenced in that policy that Christian Nielsen implemented. And that resulted in some children and families being detained this so called. Zero tolerance policy she says is deeply alarming the truck administration official who put children in cages. It's reportedly resigning because the president wants to go in a much tougher direction. We're in that it seems to be a true statement from what you're hearing captured. He at now we know that. I'm not going in is is going to be the acting. DHS secretary but but a lot of evenings and have been floated like can preach now and former Virginia attorney general Crist called buck these are. Hard liners on immigration so here we see Kevin Mac or Lehman who is currently the Customs and Border Protection. Had he's now gonna oversee the entire. Homeland Security apparatus at least in enacting the T yeah and what I wouldn't know about him is wiley has been has been willing and his role to implement. Though the president's hard line agenda he's also taken it. Issue with him a little bit he was one of the first people to come out and dispute in a sense. The child or an that his immigration policy. He was also one of the areas he's been at odds with the president. Is that US aid to Central America he's praised its effectiveness Reno that the president. I'm has ordered it cut off. So so what does it say about the direction that the administration could be headed with immigration policy. That we are now moving away from Nielsen who was no softy brown immigration. Or does it suggest you are aware and where he's over. Well look he said many once somebody tough fern that he wants demanded tougher direction but I think the question is though. Powell does this person is next person who we nominees. How do they get Tenet confirmed a lot of sources I've spoken to said there's no way that somebody that conclusion LE a Crisco about could be senate confirmed that in and really. How how are hardline policies that Nielsen wasn't implementing that remembers is the face of the child separation policy is an all night. It was she not yet exactly immigration not only was she not implementing them that she was unable to implement than they got reports put a lot of those things on hold we will see. If the president makes another turn back toward family separation of course the asylum ban is tied up in court on his travel ban was initially struck down so all of these things. As we head into campaign season right will be challenge not only by who he has net job. But by those those legal parameters to exactly who were button up this segment today by talking indeed going big picture one more time on the state of affairs in the west wing you spend a lot of time there there are so many acting. Secretaries. And officials over there this president has said he likes acting. But yet it sort of keep everything is in limbo take a look here Rivera Kevin. America lean and of course they've got an acting just Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan the acting interior secretary. And several others I mean this is sort of extraordinary. It really is and I also think it represents a lot of for the presidency an unwillingness in a sense to to commit to these patents to make a decision I mean he nick mall Laney. Has been his acting chief of staff since John Kelly left months ago he said that he likes people and acting roles and I can honestly look I think it's that detest the amount since all since he's been firing all sorts of people but you know who knows whether we get new DHS secretary. And we stick but the acting in our new Secret Service are used for that matter all of those will require senate confirmation and this is a very difficult political environment Karen bowlers thanks for your reporting much more. Ahead on world news tonight and world news prime at 8 o'clock tonight here's ABC news live. And on abcnews.com. Shifting gears now oversees another major development coming out of the State Department just a short time ago the -- administration has taken the unprecedented step. I declaring Iran's Islamic revolutionary guard the country's military. A foreign terrorist organization it's something that has not been done before and has some. A pretty significant implications for US troops in the region and four allies for more on this or want to go to the Pentagon were moot Louis Martinez has been. I've reporting out this angle on the story Louie. Want to ask you what this means practically speaking to declare Iran's military. A terrorist group. Well then and this is sanctions against the Iranian students who that they against the Islamic. Early hearing guard Courtney IR GC. They're described as Iran's elite military units on and the American estates has considered them to be sponsors of terrorism for decades. All across the region so widened the United States naming them as if they're a foreign terrorist organization. What he's gonna happen here is that. Sanctions that have already been on the books against some of this organization's top leaders some of their business and he's. That he and anybody that does business with them now faces on the hook American criminal prosecution. I'm that's we're talking about he is so this is adding teeth two the sanctions they we've always heard about over the last couple of years when it comes to Ron. I mean there is no secret that Iran. I has been considered to be a sponsor terrorism when it comes to Yemen when it comes to Syria when he comes to even in Iraq where hundreds of American troops were killed. By Iranian sponsored. Shiite groups are targeting American and American military officers inside Iraq. So this is adding some teeth to the sanctions of that of the diocese has had in place for quite some time. But it's also very significant as you said unprecedented. It's the first time the United States is designated any type of official organization from a government structure as a foreign terrorist organization. And certainly ratcheted up pressures and tensions between the two countries. Which have already been strained a given president from street are trashing of the Iran nuclear deal a stand by Louis want to bring in now aghast. Who has some experience in Iran is a running himself in fact motions housing are. Is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy here in now Washington DC also the found a former founder. A via Ronnie and revolutionary guard. Core back in 1979 of fled the country and is now vocal a critic and opponent of that group's sir thank you so much for joining us today in a briefing room. I'm given your experience how do you think this move by the United States will be received over Enron. To. The definitely it 'cause it'd be it'd. In fact them the man who economy out of Iran because I argued he it operation of the house of the leader. Control about 50%. Of GDP of the Iraq. And that second I think that the Indy V jolts from IRDs Cuba have. Problem to trouble. In other countries. To other countries especially European runs or allies of the US but. The must. Gay import them concerning Iran eased. If it's real and two why are between the US Sunday Iran. I thought as I know I RDC gun the leader of the W Iran Dave will not it would bit. First this step ahead. They've built to wait and see what you'll be the action from the United States. When they. Designate it is revolutionary guard the they the terrorists started and I nation. And do you think motion that given Iran's. Practice. A fun being some militias in say Iraq and elsewhere. That in light of today's developments that. Americans in the region are more at risk for retaliation by some of these Iranian forces. Not. And not to now. You know I'd you know I had gee he. Sixty bit dead based on. That's three back a few Mitt teak logs. And named for very them. I have you say. Ed they have been made it big as that network from upon a stunt to try to cut in Venezuela. That. A game I don't think that. If you then add in some countries like Iraq or. Vietnam or other countries. That we get help op Ed day militia groups that dates up court. Date put their first bid bid step ahead bit they would wait and see what the US release. They well and in it before we let you go sir do it was this. A Smart move on the part of the trump administration in something that use of support as is taking a harder line on Iran. Op. I think that says that in its third figure this step I think that that day you know. It sends a powerful message not only to the regime of Iran. But to get keep them out of Iraq. Because don't forget that I had GT is de main or run a nation that stopped Chris that people lobbying arm as well says. Dave hill make gave may have a more hope. Few days future. All right motions housing dar thank you so much sir for joining us a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. And former founder of the Iranian revolutionary guard corps before leaving that country insanity now with revolution thank you sir and got back to the Pentagon now before we. Close out this block today with some breaking news some very sad news just coming in from Afghanistan Willie Martinez. As with the C gamut the latest Louis we're just hearing. Some reports of several American casualties at a base in Afghanistan. That's right avenue S military's confirming that three US service members and an American contractor were killed when an attack on a convoy. Outside of the Bagram air base that's the largest US military base in Afghanistan. How we understand three other US service members are also injured in this attack this was a car bomb exploded as a convoy was passing by. I'm in this is the deadliest incident against US military forces in Afghanistan this year. This is the fit of fifth sixth and seventh Americans to be killed. In combat here now what we know is that the attacks are being claimed by the responsibility for the attack is being claimed by the Taliban. I'm not a surprise there but remember there are US talks under way with the pact with the Taliban right now on to try to come to a peaceful resolution to this. Decades long war now in Afghanistan. And though there may be progress. The negotiating table. When the attacks like this one are reminders of that is still a very deadly situation in Afghanistan. And that the dead that the Taliban is gonna continue its attacks even though there and holding. US while incredible that this is happening at those talks are under way indeed Louis Martinez thanks so much Arafat's emperors are with the families of those Americans killed. This afternoon and a suicide bombing at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. Finally today look ahead to tomorrow when. Attorney general bill Bart will be taking a hot seat. Up on Capitol Hill his first public appearance as attorney general. At a hearing before congress shall be before the House Judiciary Committee. The hearing is a sensibly about the budget for the Justice Department but you can. I imagine that the attorney general will be asked plenty of questions about that four page summary he wrote about special counsel Robert dollars 23 month investigation into Russian interference collusion allegations obstruction of justice claims. He's also likely to get asked about the Affordable Care Act lawsuit that the trop administration shocked everyone. A couple weeks ago in deciding made it would no longer defend any part of that law and would rather call for the entire thing to be struck down. Bill Barr tomorrow in the hot seat likely to be quite a contentious hearing will carry. How much of that for you here and ABC news live starting at 9:30 AM eastern time full coverage throughout the day. Thanks for joining us here Monday in a briefing room on Devin Dwyer Washington download the ABC news after the latest on all the stories we've talked about today. Cindy back here tomorrow 3:30 eastern time for another edition of the return of the season.

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