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Does Mother of Oregon Shooter Bear Some Responsibility?; Shelter in Place Alert on Philadelphia Community College; Trump Pushes Back on Question of His Political Demise; Did Biden Himself Initiate Questions of His Running for President?; Campbell Says U.S. Made Decision on Air Strike on Hospital. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 6, 2015 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:00] JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No fear, insurance tells us as long as the motorist has comprehensive coverage, moose damage will be covered.

(voice-over): But when the top moose went to claim his prize after all that work, what did the female do? She va-moosed.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for being here. I'm Ana Cabrera.

AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New questions about the mother of the Oregon shooter. What did she know about her son? What her online postings reveal about their history.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A top American commander testifying right now about why the U.S. bombed a hospital, killing doctors and patients. Hear why he says they made the decision.

BERMAN: Donald Trump, you've been the Republican front-runner for more than two months, so when are you dropping out of the race? Is this the case of the "Twilight Zone" meets 2016 or is there a deeper reason such as a self-proclaimed winner is being asked so much about being a loser.

Hello, I'm John Berman.

BOLDUAN: I'm Kate Bolduan.

There are new questions this morning about whether the mother of the mass murder in Oregon bears any responsibility for the horrific shooting at Umpqua Community College. According to "The New York Times," his mother talked about putting him in psychiatric care but also talked about and posted online about their shared fascination with guns. BERMAN: The mother talked about her son's struggle with

Asperger's Syndrome and his fascination with guns in her blog over the last ten years. In one post she writes, "I keep two full mags in the Glock case. And the A.R.s and A.K.s all have loaded mags. No one will be dropping by my house uninvited without acknowledgment."

CNN senior national correspondent, Deborah Feyerick, has been reading through the postings.

Deb, what are you finding?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What's interesting -- and CNN has confirmed all of this -- because these postings link back to an e-mail address, public records, that belongs to Laurel Harper, the mother of the gunman. We know she's a registered nurse. She posted some 34,000 answers on on a number of topics, a number health-related, but also a number about guns, identifying her as owning these particular guns. As a matter of fact, ATF found 14 firearms, both on the campus and also at the family's home.

She talks about her son as having Asperger's and she says, quote, "He's no idiot, nor is his life worthless. He's very intelligent and is working on a career in film-making." She also shares this knowledge with a 13-year-old boy suffering from anxiety, a 13-year-old who identifies as wanting to be a doctor, suffering from anxiety. And she encourages this individual saying, "Look, I have Asperger's," she says of herself. "I didn't do so bad. It wasn't easy but it can be done." Then in parenthesis she puts, "understatement."

She's very open about this. But, again, she's talking to people in that community. So, she clearly had a dialogue, clearly had a conversation, but she and her son shared a love of guns. And where have we heard that before? Sandy Hook shooting, which is where the mother and the son bonded over very little else except their shared love of going to the gun range and firing.

BERMAN: It does raise a lot of questions about a range of issues.

Want to bring in our legal analyst, Paul Callan; and Wendy Walsh with us, a human behavioral expert.

Paul, just because they love guns, right, none of these guns were illegal. They were all purchased legally, as far as we know. So, the talk there, in and of itself, not incriminating in any way. But when she starts to talk about her son's condition, saying he has Asperger's Syndrome. Does not preclude you from getting guns but "The New York Times" reports he was in a psychiatric hospital for a period of time and medicated. Then you start to ask questions about, well, is this someone who should have guns?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I've looked at the Oregon laws on this. People think Oregon is a place with liberal Philosophy on a lot of issues, but not on gun control. Unlike the northeast, people like their guns and hunting is a family tradition, so that's why even a lot of the victims' families came out saying, this is not a gun control issue. So I looked at the Asperger's claim and would that prevent someone from having a gun in Oregon. Absolutely not. That's on the autism spectrum. It doesn't relate to violence. His mere admission to a psychiatric facility and even medication at some point in his life would not preclude gun possession in Oregon. There's only one rule in Oregon and that is, if a court has ordered you confined to a mental institution, then your guns -- you can be denied a gun. In the absence of a court-ordered psychiatric stay, you can get a gun in you're a resident of Oregon and you're an adult.

[11:05:22] BOLDUAN: Let's also bring in Kelly Wallace. She handles a lot of the digital conversation and sees a lot of this going on.

And a lot of the conversation about the role of family here, Kelly. What do you think of this? Folks look at these online postings by the shooter's mother, they look at the situation, and the correlation is that -- not the correlation. The similar circumstances that Deb points out that we saw in the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, at Sandy Hook elementary school. It raises the question, what is the role of the parent? What is the liability of the parent? They're the ones should know, should see these red flags.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. You know, Kate, we're just seeing this conversation start to develop. As more and more parents hear about the Oregon shooter's mother's online conversations, you're likely to see that develop even more, I mean, if you remember after Sandy Hook with Adam Lanza, even the parents of some of the victims came forward and blamed Adam Lanza's mother in the sense they felt she should have done more. More mental health for her child when she saw he was isolated and then the issue of exposure to all those weapons. You're seeing the same parallels here. A lot of parents will say, what more should parents do, besides, a, making sure their children get the help they need, and, if your child is having psychiatric issues, should that young adult, be surrounded by guns? That's a big conversation people are starting to have.

BERMAN: Wendy, if you're with us right now f you're a parent, what do you look for? Because the simple fascination with guns here wasn't a tip to this mother. It was the opposite. The mother's thought of his fascination with guns was helping him cut on out of his shell, was something with enthusiasm, which for people with Asperger's, is something you look for.

WENDY WELSH, PSYCHOLOGIST & HUMAN BEHAVIORAL EXPERT: I'm not only a doctor of psychology but also a mother of a child with Asperger's. It's not a mental illness. It's just someone who's not neurotypical. My suspicion with this kid is comorbid with other anxiety issues, who knows, maybe schizophrenia. Not a single diagnosis person and all kinds of diagnoses could be happening with this kid. One of the features of Asperger's is obsession, with boys it's trains. I have an Aspy girl and her obsession is shoes and fashion. Don't let me go there. So, I understand a mother's urge to follow her child's interest, but this is an interest that could be potentially dangerous if it was comorbid with other diagnoses.

BOLDUAN: Every child is different here and how every family deals with any struggle is different.

Paul, in the case of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, there was a law filed by some of the families of the victims following -- filing a lawsuit against the estate of the mother. Obviously, the mother there, she was killed by her son. Is that something that you could see happening in this circumstance? Where is the legal liability, if any?

CALLAN: Well, there's always the possibility of the lawsuit. And sometimes there are settlements because the cost of litigation causes it. I think it's an uphill battle here because it would appear the mother didn't violate Oregon law with respect to how the guns were handled in the House. Listening to Wendy, it's readily apparent to me that with Asperger's, if your child has a fascination with shoes and -- but guns and bombs --



CALLAN: If you have a young adult focused on guns, I think you have to be careful about that. But no lawsuit.

FEYERICK: But he purchased those guns legally. Let's be very clear. A number were bought by the mother but a number were bought by him as well.

The interesting thing is, I read through a number of the documents he left behind, postings on one of these websites where you share with different people he is so incredibly intelligent, incredibly lucid. He talks about the police officer killed down in Texas. He says, look, empathize with the Black Lives Matter movement. But killing a police officer for no reason doesn't do anyone any good. But then he also talks about the Virginia shooters and, even there, he says, you know -- he's confused almost, saying, this is a guy who's completely alone and then he goes and does this, and then everybody knows his name. This is not an endorsement of any of these killings, necessarily, but clearly he was thinking through these individual killings. And why, all of a sudden, that moment came where he felt, now's my turn.


FEYERICK: That's what's so confusing.

[11:10:41] BOLDUAN: Will they ever establish that is obviously the question.

BERMAN: Deb, Paul, Kelly and Wendy, thanks so much?


BOLDUAN: Thanks so much.

BERMAN: We do have breaking news we want to get to right now. The Community College of Philadelphia on lockdown right now

because of, quote, "police activity." There's a Shelter in Place alert that's been sent out. You're looking at live pictures right now of -- I think it is the Community College of Philadelphia. The main campus completely locked down. No word on why. We'll give you the updates as we get them.

BOLDUAN: We did hear some -- we'll have much more on that, obviously, as we get more. This is just coming into us right now.

Also coming up for us, we have a lot of news ahead, including Donald Trump, right.

BERMAN: No, seriously, Donald Trump, when are you going to drop out? I'm asking because you're leading in all the polls. The strange fascination with the idea of Donald Trump quitting the presidential race.

BOLDUAN: Plus, was Joe Biden the one fueling speculation about his possible run about the White House and about his dying son's wish? New questions now about his plans one week before the first Democratic debate right here on CNN.

And the families of more than two dozen people waiting for answers after their ship disappears. Why did the ship sail into the path of a hurricane?


[11:15:58] BERMAN: The St. Louis Cardinals had the best record in baseball. So, when are they quitting the playoffs? Empire, the highest-rated drama on TV, so when are they canceling? Donald Trump is the Republican front-runner for months, so when is he dropping out of the race?

BOLDUAN: As you guessed, only one of those things is being discussed right now, and Trump is pushing back against the talk of his demise and predictions that he'd be out of the race by the Iowa caucuses next year. Listen.



DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION (voice-over): Would you get out? The answer is, I'm not -- I'm going all the way and we're going to win, OK? It's a simpler answer and people can't play around with that. I mean, I watch these politicians. You know they're getting out in the next two weeks and they say, oh, I'm never getting out. They're not telling the truth.


TRUMP: I am not getting out.

CUOMO: You send Marco Rubio -- (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Here to discuss with us now is Ron Bonjean, a long-time political operative in Congress, and far beyond.

Ron, it's great to see you.


Trump, this is one of the cases where Trump is right, right? I mean, whenever do you hear so much talk about the demise myself of a front-runner when he's the front-runner?

BONJEAN: That's right. Trump is leading the polls and I don't see him get out any time soon. His lead is not growing. It's plateauing and shrinking in Iowa and New Hampshire versus other GOP candidates. The natural question is, is the Trump era going to start shrinking? Is his second debate performance going to stay -- is he going to keep the same thing going? You know, his second debate performance was not good. His third debate performance needs to be a lot better. I think people are getting used to Donald Trump. You know, there was a lot of shock value, you know, and hoopla around him, but right now, people are getting used to it. I think as other GOP contenders drop out, as Trump says, you know, others are going -- the lead is going to shrink and it's going to go to somebody else. That's why he's really worried about Marco Rubio. He sent a case of bottled water to his office. So, you know, I think that those are all things to consider.

BERMAN: Ron, a shrinking lead is different than asking the guy who leads in every poll since august, when are you dropping out? I have a couple of theories. Number one, people don't take him seriously. They say Donald Trump is not a real candidate, even though he's been ahead. The other interesting thing is, this guy does so many interviews. He's on TV 12 times a day. You can call him -- a school newspaper, you know, anywhere, Nevada can call him and get a quote from Donald Trump. So, I think people are running out of things to ask him so they moved on to, when are you going to drop out?

BONJEAN: That's exactly right. Donald Trump is the only GOP candidate I know can call on every single show. People, I think, are getting a little tired of it. I consider him the Kardashian of this race. There's a whole lot of, look at me, look at how I'm the best, but very little substance behind him. As we go on and get deeper into this contest and the debates condition, I think his lead does shrink. However, it is a little premature to ask, when are you going to drop out, when you're leading the polls. I mean, that is a little bit of a silly question, sure.

BOLDUAN: But those silly questions, there's a lot of those, that's for sure.

Let's bring in CNN political commentator, Errol Louis, to join the conversation. Another thing we've been talking about a lot this morning is Joe

Biden. The guessing game or just the waiting game of will he or won't he jump in the race? Now this fascinating report in "Politico" that it was Joe Biden himself that helped fuel this speculation because he spoke directly, according to "Politico," with "The New York Times" columnist who kicked this all off. What do you make of that?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right. Credit where it's due. "Wall Street Journal" had a remarkably similar story a month before "the times." So it wasn't top-secret information. Everybody who knows Biden, it would logical for him thinking a way and a rationale and an opportunity to run for president. It's what he spent most of his adult life trying to do.

[11:20:07] BERMAN: Wrestling with and orchestrating the press coverage and how it's discussed are two different things, though.

LOUIS: I suppose. Maybe I covered this for a little too long, but --


BOLDUAN: Nothing surprises you?

LOUIS: Look. When he first talked about his son and his son's dying wish to have him run for president, it struck me as an excuse to either run or not run. You know, I just kind of considered it a wash. That what really mattered would be what Joe Biden wanted to do. He had this excuse again, he could use it to say, I'm too emotionally shattered to say, I can't win or I'm going to win one for the Gipper. This is my dying son's last wish.

BERMAN: What do you think about that? His son's dying wish. What's the conversation you're hearing amongst Republicans? Do they see that as a political calculation or something that, let's be honest, Joe Biden is truly struggling with?

BONJEAN: No, I think it's a combined thing here. People believe Joe Biden is extremely emotional over his son's death and this decision that's looming over him. At the same time, he's the one who leaked to the first story. He was the source. So, I think there is some political calculation that immediately happened after -- after his son's death. At the same time, there's no question that there was a lot of emotions running here.

BERMAN: I don't think anyone questions the genuine grief he feels for his family and his son. The question is, how much is he toying with right now. How much is he playing with the press to float that trial balloon higher every day?

Errol Louis, Ron Bonjean, great to have you with us. Really appreciate it.

BONJEAN: Thanks so much.

BERMAN: You do not want to forget this fact. The first Democratic presidential debate is one week from today, Tuesday, October 13th, only on CNN. Five will enter, one will leave. We'll be there live, Kate Bolduan, John Berman, starting on Monday. Stick around for that. Big-time political news.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead for us, a demand for answers. A top U.S. general facing tough questions about a deadly air strike on a hospital. Ahead, why some are calling that a war crime.

BERMAN: Plus, we do have breaking news. We now hear there are reports of an armed man on the campus of the Community College of Philadelphia. There had been warnings in that city. That is why there is even more concern. Shelter in Place. Details next.


[11:26:47] BERMAN: We do have breaking news out of Philadelphia.

BOLDUAN: The Community College of Philadelphia has been on lockdown, we're learning, because of the word from authorities there was because of "police activity."

Let's bring in justice correspondent, Evan Perez, with much more on this.

Evan, what more are you hearing about this situation?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this really gives you an impression of how on edge everybody is including law enforcements. There was a report of someone with a gun threatening a student on the community college. The police chief in Philadelphia, Charles Ramsey, just said about 9: 30, this is when this happened, someone with -- armed with a gun threatened a student and this is what caused all of this. They don't believe this is related to any threats. If you recall, over the weekend, there was talk of someone would carry out an attack on a Pennsylvania University. That didn't happen. They belief this appears to be a beef between two people. But it shows you how on edge everybody is. Police respond. The ATF is there. They're trying to figure out if the gunman is still on the campus or a report that was false, frankly. Right now they're still doing a search, but at this point it doesn't appear to be related to the threats made yesterday and it certainly shows you in light of what happened in Oregon, how these are being treated.

BERMAN: We understand that.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Evan, thank you very much. The search is under way to figure out what happened here but they seem to think it's under control at this point.

PEREZ: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Evan. Thank you so much.

Also for us now, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan says it was the United States that decided to go ahead with an air strike that hit a hospital in Kunduz in Afghanistan.

General John Campbell is testifying before the Senate Armed Services committee. Campbell said it was Afghan forces who called in air support because they were taking fire from enemy positions but he said the call to go forward was strictly a U.S. decision. Listen here.


GEN. JOHN CAMPBELL, COMMANDER, U.S. MILITARY, AFGHANISTAN: To be clear, the decision to provide aerial fliers was a U.S. decision made within the U.S. chain of command. A hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility. I must allow the investigation to take its course and, therefore, I'm not at liberty to discuss further specifics at this time. However, I assure you the investigation will be thorough, objective and transparent.


BERMAN: The strike killed 22 civilians, including patients and staff working for Doctors Without Borders. NATO has launched an investigation into this incident.

Let's find out more. Joining us now, CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr; and CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona.

Barbara, first of all, it seems like we're filling in the blanks and some details of what happened, and some of the details are a little different than what we first heard.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Very much so. General Campbell addressed that with the news media yesterday, moving on rapidly from the initial statement. The bottom line is they say the Afghan forces called in, said they were under fire from the Taliban, and the U.S. made the decision to go ahead and send in an A.C.-130 gunship to attack this area, that it was a U.S. decision. But -- and I think this is a huge but -- one of the most interesting things General Campbell said this morning is he has --