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Rep. Scalise In Critical Condition After Gun Attack; Anti-GOP Activist Shooter Attacks Congressional Baseball Team; Shooter Was Fervently Anti-Republican; Mueller To Meet With Top Intel Officials; Eyewitness Describes Congressional Shooting. Aired 5:30-6a ET
Aired June 15, 2017 - 05:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[05:31:35](BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know where he's at? Do you know where he's at? I assume people have been calling 911 already.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: A top Republican is in critical condition this morning after a politically motivated shooting. Will the incident reduce the divisive rhetoric in Washington? How is it affecting security for lawmakers?
DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: And, President Trump facingnew trouble in the Russia probe. Reports this morning say the special counsel is investigating the president for possible obstruction of justice. Welcome back to EARLY START, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs.
ROMANS: And, I'm Christine Romans. It is 32 minutes past the hour. A lot to get to this morning, folks. Members of Congress will take the field tonight as planned for the annual Congressional baseball game, just a day after the Republican team was the target of a shooting rampage. Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana -- he is in critical condition this morning. Doctors say a single rifle shot tore through Scalise's hip and pelvis. They say Scalise suffered internal injuries and will require more surgery.
BRIGGS: President Trump visited the hospital last night, accompanied on the surprise visit by first lady Melania Trump. The White House says the president sat at Scalise's bedside and spoke with his family. Hours earlier the president faced the first major test of his ability to reassure a shaken public, striking a unifying tone.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We may have our differences but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in our nation's capital is here because above all, they love our country. We are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: There had been talk of the president attending that baseball game. We learned late in the day, though, that's not going to happen, the White House citing security concerns. Representative Scalise is an avid baseball fan. He has played on the Congressional ball team since coming to the Hill in 2008.
BRIGGS: He was not the only person, though, injured in this shooting attack. Lobbyist Matt Mika is in critical condition, expected to be hospitalized for at least several days. Zack Barth, a staffer for Texas Congressman Roger Williams, is expected to make a full recovery. Two Capitol police officers, Crystal Griner and David Bailey being treated at a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. And police say a second unnamed congressman suffered minor injuries.
ROMANS: To help break this all down let's bring back in CNN law enforcement analyst James Gagliano and Chris Deaton from "The Weekly Standard." James, I want to start with an email, I think, that is kind of instructive for the mood for some of these people who are representing us. This is an email that was delivered to GOP Congresswoman Claudia Tenney. It says this. "One down, 216 to go. Did you not expect this? When you take away ordinary people's very lives in order to pay off the wealthiest among us, your own lives are forfeit. Certainly, your souls and mortality (sic) were lost long before. Good riddance." How do you protect the people who are elected to represent the American citizens?
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, ADJUNCT ASSST. PROFESSOR, ST. JOHN'S UNIVERSITY, RET. FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Christine, I read that, there's no doubt in my mind that is an overt threat. There's nothing implied there. That is a direct and overt threat. It's difficult. I go back, again, to the resources and I think that we're going to have to take a look at this and we're going to have to -- again, it goes back to money. We're going to have to staff up -- we going to have to staff up law enforcement agencies to investigate these type things.
[05:35:16] We have a robust cyber division in the FBI. The Secret Service has a robust division that handles that too, to look into threats. We're constantly on the counterterrorism side trying to find that needle in the haystack. The one person of the thousands that says something crazy but is actually going to act upon that. Very difficult to do but it all comes down to resources.
BRIGGS: All right, and those resources -- that is just almost an impossible task. Chris, they are clearly -- this sick individual hunting Republicans as he was yesterday. This was clearly an anti- Republican, unhinged individual. But then you hear things from former speaker Newt Gingrich, like this, we want to discuss in a moment. Let's listen to hear what he had to say.
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NEWT GINGRICH, (R) FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: You have the intensity on the left that's very real, whether it is somebody holding up -- a so- called comedian holding up, you know, the president's head in blood or it's right here in New York City -- a play that shows the president being assassinated.
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BRIGGS: All fair points. Chris Collins said "the intensity on the left is very real." Hope the Democrats "tone down the rhetoric." Now, the points about Kathy Griffin and the play are fair, but is it fair to characterize this environment, this rhetoric, as coming from one side, Chris?
CHRIS DEATON, REPORTER, WEEKLY STANDARD: No, it's not. This is an ongoing thing. It's an unfortunate nature of our political environment. I think back to the quote in the Lincoln movie that Steven Spielberg did where Lincoln's character is sitting down talking to Grant and he said we've made it possible for each other to do some terrible things. And I think about the vicious cycle in the American polity right now where we seem to feed on the purveyors of outrage sometimes and, you know, the people who disseminate that and the people who consume that are constantly changing. But it is an unfortunate reality of the present political environment in which we live.
I mean, I think back to the time that I worked on Capitol Hill. One of my old bosses, Tom Latham, he was an Iowa Republican.
ROMANS: Oh, yes.
DEATON: I've had -- I've had this image stuck in my head of him yacking it up with Jim McGovern in the hallway and I don't know why I can't get away from that particular image but it just seemed so normal to me -- the way that people who work inside of a business, the way people who might be neighbors and root for different sports teams. You know, we don't allow these things to tear each other down so it just seems common sensical to me that we would, you know, aim for some diffusion in this environment and not lay it at the feet of any one particular ideology or the other. It's kind of an ongoing thing and --
DEATON: -- crosses the entire American political environment.
BRIGGS: That's one of the great things about this Congressional baseball game and the Congressional softball game. It's one of the few incidents of true bipartisan -- just enjoyment that they have.
ROMANS: Well, I think you're right. You know, Chris, there are two outcomes -- there's potentially more than two, but two outcomes here. You could either diffuse that polar hatred on the "lock her up" and the intensity of the left hating Donald Trump. This could either start to diffuse that or it can make it worse when you start to have both sides going out there and then blaming the other.
DEATON: Yes, and what I worry about going back to that idea of the broader political environment in which we live is that we have a tendency to forget these kinds of flashpoints so quickly and revert back to our bad behavior, for lack of -- ROMANS: Right.
DEATON: -- a more eloquent term. So, I think we do have to bear in mind that, you know, some days -- and I actually think all days it behooves us to remember that, you know, to go back to another thing that Tom said once upon a time and I've been paraphrasing him. "I didn't learn a whole lot in my time here by talking but I did sure learn a whole lot by listening." And when we have that, you know, little bit more of an easier tone and a measured tone, which is difficult to do in the information age when stuff is flying at us so quickly, it benefits us all, I think.
And, you know -- again, you know, to go to the points of where a violent act occurs and try to tie that directly to any one environment of vitriol or the other to a given point in time you have to be careful about that. You know, there are some cases where that can be a stretch, but you can always say every day that it certainly benefits the American public for us to have that attitude of diffusing.
BRIGGS: Well, if you even think unity lasted 24 hours we'll see how much longer it can carry. Gentlemen, stay with us. We want to get your thoughts on some new reporting this morning on the Russia investigation. CNN has learned special counsel Robert Mueller plans to meet with the Trump administration's top intelligence officials, and "The Washington Post" reporting Mueller's expanding his probe to include possible obstruction of justice by President Trump. Now, Mueller's investigators have already asked for information from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and NSA Director Mike Rogers.
[05:40:00] ROMANS: CNN has been told by law enforcement sources only that Mueller is considering whether there is evidence to launch a full-scale investigation of the president for obstruction. If Mueller does so, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would have to recuse himself since he could be a witness given his role in the firing of James Comey. At a hearing last week, both DNI Coats and Admiral Rogers denied they felt pressured by the president to impede FBI's Russia probe.
BRIGGS: All right, so let's get back to our panel now and James, this -- some expected this to happen. How significant is this development? How difficult, if not impossible, is this to prove because intent?
GAGLIANO: It goes right to that, Dave. The fact that in perjury cases or obstruction of justice cases intent is the central theme here. I keep going back to the -- to the litany of testimony we've received thus far that pushes back on this and I think this is what former director Mueller's going to have a hard time trying to reconcile because recently you had both the DNI and the NSA director -- both of them state, you know, for the record that no, there was no -- there was no pushback to them.
GAGLIANO: May third, you had the former FBI director Comey state the same thing. He said no, this was not my experience, and then that was backed up and doubled down on, on May 11th before the Senate Intel Committee when the current acting FBI director Andy McCabe said as much. So it's going to be difficult here because someone's either lying or this deputy director from the National Security Agency -- his version of events just doesn't seem to square with those other four gentlemen.
ROMANS: Hey, Chris, I want to get your response. You know, the White House response on all this was to, you know, blast the leaking -- "The FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable, and illegal." That's a spokesman for Trump's private attorney Marc Kasowitz. And the talking points, really, from the Republicans on this is that the illegal leaks are the only crime, that the committees have struck out on collusion, there is no case here and this is a fishing expedition. When will this end? It's two different -- you know, two polar opposite views here we're seeing.
DEATON: Yes, two completely different views. Two completely different points are being argued and I think the long-term implications of this we've already kind of seen the last few months about how this environment of leaking is kind of for better or for worse and, you know, depending on where you fall down -- this type of stuff -- but it pollutes the political environment to a great extent. I don't think there's any question about that. We see that there are so many investigations and so many apparatuses -- committees, special counsel that are investigating this stuff that it's difficult to get oxygen in for some of the other stuff that's going on --
DEATON: -- the Trump administration would like to talk about.
BRIGGS: Indeed, and five sources on this one from "The Washington Post." No idea if that's the Intel Community, the FBI, the special counsel. But to your point, not helping the agenda move forward. Chris Deaton and James Gagliano, thank you both.
ROMANS: Thanks, guys. Nice to see you so early this morning. All right, many people jumping in to help after shots fired at members of Congress. Next, we speak to a witness who gave shelter to shaken lawmakers.
[05:47:17] BRIGGS: Lawmakers sprinting away from gunfire at the Republican Congressional baseball practice Wednesday morning were waved down by a good Samaritan who sheltered them at his nearby apartment. That man joins us now. Benjamin Childers on the phone with us from his home in Alexandria, Virginia. Good morning, Ben. Thanks so much for being with us. If you can share what the emotional state of those three Congressmen was when you flagged them down and welcomed them into your apartment.
BENJAMIN CHILDERS, WITNESS TO CONGRESSIONAL SHOOTING (via telephone): Sure. You could just tell that they were pretty shocked with what they had just gone through. You know, I think only one of them had seen that Rep. Steve Scalise had been shot when he shared information with the other two gentlemen there and that kind of set of like another wave of kind of shock for them and you could, you know, see that one of them really wanted to head back and check on Rep. Scalise. And then, the other two were able to make some phone calls and let their families know that -- just a lot of -- it was a, you know, obviously very extreme moment for everybody and they were just able to get inside and get a little covering.
ROMANS: Sure. I mean, it was three minutes of gunfire or something before police were on the scene, Ben. Give me a sense of, I guess, how eager they were to use the phone to call their family members. That was sort of their first reaction, right, to get away from the scene and to call their families?
CHILDERS: Yes, absolutely. I mean, that was -- you know, they got in. We were just trying -- my wife and I were just trying to do whatever we thought could make life a little easier. So, you know, like -- it's kind of dumb but, you know, you try and get them like a glass of water because it's like something to do. And then we were able -- you know, we got the phones -- we got our phones and then they didn't -- they didn't like call -- like how many numbers do you have memorized like nowadays, right, to like -- they were trying to like -- you know, we were trying to figure out like what the right phone numbers were to call and like trying to look them up on their websites trying to see like who is -- like what the phone number is to call their staffer because you just don't know it in your head.
CHILDERS: So we were able to finally like connect with them -- with one of their wives. And then after they left I kept calling one of their -- one of their children to let their child know that he was OK because we couldn't get through to that person.
BRIGGS: Benjamin, let's go back before that from when you first heard shots ringing out. What was your reaction and tells us about those initial moments for you.
[05:50:04] CHILDERS: Yes, sure. So, I was there on my balcony and I heard the first shot and I definitely didn't think it was a shot but it was some construction that we have near our apartment. Then after that first shot there were a rapid succession of shots right after that. Those shots woke my wife up. She came out of the bedroom. I called 911 and was able to, you know, report to the dispatcher there was shots being fired. (INAUDIBLE) definitely. I was like stumbling a little bit trying to like explain like there was an active shooter and there were like people that were on the ground that were running away from the baseball field. And then -- yes, and then that's when once I got off the phone with the police it was still like shots ringing out and that's when we saw the congressmen come running this direction --
CHILDERS: -- and we were able to get them inside the apartment. BRIGGS: Benjamin, clearly, this unhinged gunman was searching, hunting, some say, Republicans. Is it a well-known fact that Republicans practice baseball there when they do it? Is this something people around the town know happens? Is it very public?
CHILDERS: You know, what I would say is I was here for a year and the reason that I know they practice over there is that there's a dog park right next door that I take my dog to and like I had stopped by and had the opportunity to talk to senators before and watch other members like take batting practice and, you know, do fielding and things like that. So, I certainly knew about it but I would say that even the people that were in the dog park with me would be like oh yes, well it's like -- the people that were there were like Congressional Republicans like practice a baseball game. Like even the people that come to the dog park like don't know. You know, I think a lot of people don't pay a lot of attention to what's happening at 6:00 in the morning. You know, it's kind of --
CHILDERS: -- they let things kind of go. So, you know, I think you could have known pretty easily if you wanted to know but there's also not like a whole bunch of signs like around that --
CHILDERS: Like inflatable, giant elephant thing.
BRIGGS: Right, right, right.
CHILDERS: You would have to have talked to somebody at least.
ROMANS: Interesting. All right, Benjamin Childers, thank you so much for your time this morning and telling us your story again. Thank you, sir.
CHILDERS: You all have a great day.
ROMANS: You, too.
BRIGGS: You, too.
ROMANS: Fifty-two minutes past the hour. Can anything stop Tesla? That stock is up 75 percent this year. I'm going to tell you why on CNN Money Stream, next.
[05:56:42] ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Money Stream this Thursday morning. Global stock markets and U.S. futures lower right now after the U.S. Federal Reserve hiked interest rates. Wall Street's reaction was pretty mixed. The Dow hit a record high for the second day in a row --
BRIGGS: Really. ROMANS: -- but the Nasdaq and the S&P closed lower because of energy stocks. Oil prices fell to their lowest level in seven months and that pulled down energy stocks.
Tesla's stock is on fire. It's up 75 percent his year, a new all-time high. The company's now worth $62 billion. That's more than GM, Ford, Honda, or BMW, for the record. There are high hopes for the upcoming affordable model three but there are plenty of skeptics who worry it may fail to live up to expectations. Either way, the surge has made founder Elon Musk one of the world's richest people. He's now worth more than $17 billion which is, you know, $16 billion and a whole lot of millions more than either of us.
BRIGGS: That's taking a lot of calculators.
ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.
BRIGGS: All right, everybody, I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" starts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's also a victim down in the baseball field.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scalise was to my left and I saw him go down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the Capitol police were not there I'm afraid we would have all been dead.
TRUMP: We are strongest when we are unified.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We will use this occasion as one that brings us together.
PAUL RYAN, (R) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After the firing of James Comey, the FBI began to investigate the president for obstruction of justice.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: I still think it's outrageous the FBI is continuing to leak.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a huge deal. The President of the United States is under criminal investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Thursday, June 15th, 6:00 here in New York. Two major stories on the starting line. House Republican Whip Steve Scalise still fighting, still in critical condition after being shot in an ambush at a Virginia ballfield. We have information for you about his status. That's coming up. And we also know a lot more about the attack and the heroic efforts that saved lives. Investigators, this morning, are digging into the attacker -- his criminal record, his online rants all signs that he might have been headed toward violence.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And, there was a show of unity on Capitol Hill, of course, in the wake of the attack. The Congressional charity baseball game will go on as scheduled tonight, as President Trump is now in the midst of facing his first major domestic crisis. Meanwhile, "The Washington Post" is reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller is now investigating President Trump for possible obstruction of justice after the firing of FBI director James Comey. So we have a lot to cover today. Let's begin with CNN's Alex Marquardt. He is live in Alexandria, Virginia with the latest on the investigation. What have you learned, Alex?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. Well, this immediately became a federal investigation because it was members of Congress who were targeted. The FBI is taking the lead with support from local law enforcement. They are calling for members of the public to come forward with any information they may have about James Hodgkinson, the attacker. They do believe, for now, that this was an isolated incident, that he acted alone. The FBI special agent in charge, Tim Slater, saying "We hope to answer --