Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Source: Investigators Believe Vegas Killer May have Fired at Jet Fuel Tanks Before Firing on Concertgoers; Hurricane Warning Issued for Gulf Coast and Mandatory Evacuations for Parts of New Orleans; Trump Chief of Staff Struggling to Manage WH Chaos; Trump Admonishes Military Leaders, Wants Options Sooner; Trump Doubles Down on "Calm Before the Storm"; Makeshift Memorial Setup on Las Vegas Strip. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired October 6, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:14] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Breaking news out of Las Vegas tonight.
John Berman here, in for Anderson.
So, let's get right to it. New word on what the gunman first took aim at even before he began firing on 22,000 people at the music festival below.
CNN's Brian Todd has that and more, joins us now.
Brian, the shooter's first target may not have been the crowd at the concert. What are you hearing from your sources?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, John. A source close to the investigation telling us a short time ago that investigators believe that the gunman fired first on an aviation fuel tank before he fired on the concert venue. One aviation fuel tank was hit, according to a spokesman for the McCarran International Airport. That fuel tank is along the airport's western perimeter and from our calculation, it's about 766 yards away from the gunman's position at the Mandalay Bay hotel.
So, we're learning tonight he fired first -- they believe he fired first at that fuel tank before he fired at the concert venue. That fuel tank we believe is about 766 yards away from his position. The spokesman for McCarran international airport telling us that two rifle rounds did hit that single fuel tank, and one of the rounds actually went inside the tank but did not cause any explosion.
The spokesman reiterating that gunshots do not ignite jet fuel. So, it did not cause an explosion. That was a 43,000 barrel tank, though, John that this shooter apparently took aim at before he fired on to the concert venue. The same source also telling us tonight, John, about the note that was found inside the room.
The source telling us that the note contained only numbers, not letters or words. They are not sure the meaning of those numbers. They're analyzing that tonight, but only numbers on that note. No letters or words according to our source. BERMAN: And, Brian, we now know more about the timeline in the days
leading up to the shooting. What have you heard about that?
TODD: That's right. The undersheriff of Clark County, Kevin McMahill, saying tonight that they now believe the gunman made several trips to and from his room with weapons and ammunition in the days leading up to the shooting. That, of course, speaks to the very meticulous nature of this attack and the planning involve. They say he did make several trips to and from, you know, and, of course, we have been reporting that he brought that -- those materials up in different suitcases.
So, again, just kind of adding to the information that we're getting on his level of planning, his attention to detail, wanting to apparently sneak some of that material up to his room, those guns and ammunition. We know that they found about 23 guns inside the room, multiple clips of ammunition. We now know from the under sheriff of Clark County that he made several trips to and from that hotel suite with the guns and ammunition before the shooting -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Interesting. Brian Todd, thanks so much.
We have more also on perhaps the most troubling aspect of the investigation so far, the fact that with everything else authorities have uncovered, they have yet to uncover a motive.
CNN's Alex Marquardt joins us now with that.
And, Alex, did officials saying anything more about this motive at the press conference today or lack thereof?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Total lack thereof, John.
That same undersheriff that Brian Todd was speaking about spoke with reporters earlier today, saying that now five days after this massacre, they still have no idea what the motive behind this shooting was. They say that they have been digging into every aspect of his life from birth to death, they said, and that they have been coming up empty.
One thing that they did confirm was that there was no other shooter in that room. That had been reported. That had been rumored, no one else in the room with the shooter. That he acted alone that night. He didn't have an accomplice.
That's not to say that at some point along the line, he didn't have some sort of help. The police here have said that given the amount of ammunition, of weapons, of explosives of preparation that the shooter had, that at some point it's possible that the shooter did indeed have some help.
Now, we are learning over the past few weeks, the shooter did try to buy what are known as tracer rounds. That was at a Phoenix gun show several weeks ago. Now, tracers would have allowed the shooter to aim with much more lethality. Tracer rounds basically illuminate as if they're fired. So if you're shooting into the dark, as the shooter was, you can see what you're shooting at. Luckily, he was not able to buy any of those tracer rounds.
We have also confirmed, my colleague Kyung Lah is reporting, that the shooter was a fan of cruises. That he took some 20 cruises, many of them overseas to Europe and to the Middle East. Among those 20, he took his girlfriend Marilou Danley along on nine of them. Now, it may just have been that he enjoyed cruises because they have casinos and he was an avid gambler, but that is one more element that investigators are digging into -- John.
BERMAN: What about the explosive, Alex, the explosives that he had in his car? What more did we learn about that?
MARQUARDT: We know that he had a lot of it.
[20:05:01] He had 50 pounds of an explosive called Tannerite. That's a binary explosive which means it needs two ingredients. Those ingredients have to combine to create 50 pounds, which is really quite easy to set off. You can fire a single round into the Tannerite and it blows up.
He had some of 1,600 rounds of ammunition alongside that Tannerite in the trunk of his car at the parking lot here at the Mandalay Bay. So what was he planning on doing? Was he planning on blowing up that car? Using it as part of an escape plan or was he planning on carrying out an attack? Another attack, I should say.
The undersheriff today said that all he knows is that it was part of what he called the shooter's nefarious intent.
BERMAN: That undersheriff also had more information today about the security guard at the Mandalay Bay, who was the first one to come across the shooter he. This man sounds like he saved a lot of lives.
MARQUARDT: He did. The undersheriff wanted to make sure that we all know his name, that he is a hero in all of this. His name is Jesus Campos, and while the shooting was taking place, he went up to the 32nd floor which is where the shooter was. And this was by chance because the Mandalay Bay has a system where if a door is left ajar, an alarm goes off. There was a door that was left ajar in that hallway where the shooter was.
So, Campos went up to check it out and there he was shot by the shooter. We know that he had cameras set up in the hallway. Presumably, he saw Campos coming in, coming down the hallway. He fired some 200 rounds into the hallway, one of which struck Campos in the leg. Campos was able to retreat, call his dispatcher who then called the police. They were then able to pinpoint the location of the shooter.
So, it was rather coincidental, but he was possibly able to save many, many lives -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Alex Marquardt, one of the heroes in this, of the many, many heroes involved in saving lives. Alex Marquardt, thanks so much.
So, clearly, so much being learned but so many important questions remain. Here to talk about it, retired FBI supervisory special agent, James Gagliano, former FBI and CIA senior official, Phil Mudd, and former FBI senior profiler, Mary Ellen O'Toole.
You know, Phil, we've bin been talking all week. You've been suggesting that investigators know much more than they're letting on. Maybe only telling us 5 percent of what they actually know. But after today, when there was this public plea for help to all of the community, they're even putting up billboards with an 800 number asking the public for tips, do you still think they're in a good place in this investigation?
PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM : It depends on how you define good place. Look at where we would be. This is a substantial amount of time, this five days in an investigation with these amount of resources. They've interviewed -- I am going to tell you -- most of the people who they want to interview. They might even be starting secondary interviews, going back to people, where they see anomalies.
If you're looking at the data, they're acquiring, everything from the subject's Google searches to his telephone records, all of that at this point has been sifted through and that timeline has to come together. Meanwhile, I suspect the girlfriend is cooperating. She's adding color to that sort of two-dimensional timeline.
But the air gap here, John, is the difference between saying do they have ideas or avenues they're interested in pursuing on motivation? I guarantee you they do and are they confident enough on their thoughts on motivation to reveal those to the press, no way, not at this point.
BERMAN: James, the fact that they're putting up billboards, though, can you read something into that? Can you read they're not getting enough on their own, they feel like they still need more?
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: John, I ran an upstate New York FBI office and we used Clear Channel a number of times. If we had fugitives, if we had information, we need to get to the public. We've run Clear Channel billboards down in Times Square. It's a very effective tool. You can get the message out to a lot of people.
What is so baffling about this case, kind of just to Phil's point here, is folks that I've talked to, law enforcement sources connected to the case have said to me, there's no better description of this subject than an enigma. Every day, it seems like we learn more things and less becomes clear.
And the methodology, the planning, the things that he did, the military style tactics and methodologies that he employed, they're becoming more and more clear, and yet the motive seems to be sinking further and further into the distance.
BERMAN: So, Mary Ellen O'Toole, you're a profiler, the fact that a motive is so hard to pinpoint right now, does that tell you something about this killer? MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER SENIOR FBI PROFILER: Well, it does and in
part it's keeping with his incredible secrecy, with which he lived his life. As I watch this and follow this, this was really a tremendously amazing grand finale for him.
And so, now, the question is this, was there something that triggered him out of anger or disgust or frustration with the hotel or with Las Vegas itself or was this really an act that he had been planning for many years, especially in his thinking, and then there was something that occurred that made him decide now is the time to do this. And I'm wondering if that's really going to be the end result of all of this.
BERMAN: Thirty guns in the last year. Maybe a year out is the right timeline there.
[20:10:02] Mary Ellen, the numbers, there's no path left, with just numbers, not a suicide note, not any kind of manifesto, what do you make of that?
O'TOOLE: I think the numbers are in keeping with who he is as an accountant and a numbers person. It could be something relative to gambling. It could have been numbers relative to pick up this gun three times, do this three times. It could have been that kind of a reminder to himself.
But he's a numbers man, and he operates on numbers. And I think that it's just in keeping with what he did probably every day. And his girlfriend will be able to either corroborate that or come up with a different explanation when they ask her, did he keep messages or a pad of paper and did he write down numbers and what were those numbers?
So, they'll need to be that type of corroboration in order to make sense out of that.
BERMAN: James, the reporting we got from Brian Todd that the fuel tank was the first thing shot at before even the crowd. If in fact was aiming for the fuel tank there, you know, erroneously thinking he could below it up, what's that tell you about it.
GAGLIANO: Let's unpack a few things here for your viewers, John. First of all, the tracer rounds that he attempted to purchase, we know he went to a gun show and attempted to purchase, and was not able to do so. Tracer rounds have a little incendiary device on the end of them and they generally come in a four to one ratio, four regular rounds, one tracer round.
Now, it was very difficult to see the muzzle flashes from his firing from the windows on the 32nd floor because he appeared to be back inside. The tracer rounds would have helped his accuracy even from that distance, would have also helped law enforcement detect exactly where he was.
Now, could he have been firing them at the tanks as it conceivable because is he thought that he could have struck the tanks and exploded them? Yes, but this is -- from what everybody says a very smart man and we know that a rifle round is not going to ignite jet fuel. So --
BERMAN: Phil, security cameras everywhere and police say they have voluminous amounts of footage they're going through right now. Exactly what will they be looking for here beyond just say, the shooters movements?
MUDD: I want a people game here. This is a people game still right now. Anybody he talked to, anybody he sat next to at a slot machine, anybody he passed in the hallway. I'm looking at those.
And we've talked about the issues that are readily visible. People are saying, how much stuff did he bring from the car? That's not the question I have. The question is, I want to see every single face that said a single word and I want to find it.
When you think about that billboard question we had earlier, for example, if there's someone who passed him in the hallway, I hope they see that billboard. Every conversation counts especially when you're just a couple days before the act, John.
BERMAN: Mary Ellen, you often profile suspects. But what about witnesses here, key witnesses, say the girlfriend, Marilou Danley. What can you tell about her based on what we have heard from her lawyer and based on what authorities have said?
O'TOOLE: Well, there's a little bit of a conflict that may end up being far more significant. So for example in her statement, she saw nothing, she heard nothing, was aware of nothing. But then she started -- she supposedly made a statement about him having sleeping problems and waking up in the middle of the night. That's something.
And then there was the interview that was done with his hairstylist who commented supposedly that he was thinking about sending her back to the Philippines two months prior to this, and she was in the same room when this comment was made. So, that's a conflict in terms of what she knew, what she saw, what she heard, which again, would suggest to me that she's been with him. She's been on a cruise ship with him nine times. She spent time with him. Knew where he went.
That she is aware of more, and she may not know what she doesn't know. So they need to keep talking to her.
BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much, every one.
You know, it goes without saying this has been such a long and terrible week in Las Vegas. And so many other places that lost neighbors, friends, parents, children.
In just a little while, Anderson presents an hour long tribute to the fallen through the eyes of the people who knew them best. This is called "LAS VEGAS LOST: REMEMBERING THE VICTIMS". It airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time right here on CNN.
And coming up for us, more on the explosives. The Tannerite found in the killer's vehicle. A closer look at what it is capable of. And later, we'll talk to one of the hurricane chasers in a plane in
the storm itself about what he is seeing and what it means for everyone in Nate's path.
[20:18:04] BERMAN: You could see some of the frustration authorities must have written on the face of Las Vegas Police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill today as he took questions this afternoon. Without the kind of answers that normally come far sooner after most mass killings. Not this time. Though not for lack of evidence or items to fit into the picture such as the explosives, 50 pounds of the compound Tannerite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNDERSHERIFF KEVIN MCMAHILL, LAS VEGAS POLICE: Sorry to tell you I don't know what he was going to do with all of that Tannerite. I wish I did and we continue to try to find that information out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: No answers, but no shortage of theories. CNN's Tom Foreman has more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to fire in a few seconds.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What can 50 pounds of exploding target compound do? Just watch.
That's how much authorities say they found in the shooter's car and YouTube is filled with videos of people setting off other large amounts.
Exploding targets were developed so marksmen could see when they hit them at great distances. The chemicals to make them are sold by companies such as Tannerite, combined by the user in relatively small amounts and set off by high velocity bullets.
Tannerite is often used as a generic term for exploding targets so the company says it's not sure if the Vegas shooter had actual Tannerite products or some other brand. But an official says the only proper use is as a shot indicator. It's not designed to destroy property.
Still, the easy availability and potential for misuse triggered this bulletin four years ago. The FBI has identified multiple incidents where criminals and extremists have explored the possibility of employing the binary explosive mixture obtained from exploding targets to commit criminal and terrorist acts.
[20:20:05] If the Las Vegas gunman had placed some of that material down at the street level and aimed at it with a scoped rifle --
SAM RABADI, FORMER ATF SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: The binary explosives could have been detonated with rifle slugs from those rifles, from the 32nd floor, one for the effect of creating chaos amongst the crowd and secondly, as a result of the explosion, widespread shrapnel raining on the crowd.
FOREMAN: The implications are profound, considering how often these materials are simply used for unintended purposes, accidentally endangering and injuring people. A lawyer for the woman taking this video says she was 150 feet away from less than three pounds of explosive target material, not Tannerite but a similar product inside a refrigerator.
A fragment from the blast nearly ripped off her right hand.
(on camera): So, how much potential destructive power was packed into this gunman's car? If he set off all 50 pounds of this stuff, which investigators say they found, it could have easily flung shrapnel, the length of a football field in all directions, and that would likely mean that even today, we'd be talking about more dead and wounded.
BERMAN: All right. CNN's Tom Foreman reporting.
And one more note on the Las Vegas shooting, earlier in the program, we talked about the shooter's girlfriend, Marilou Danley. Well, late tonight, her attorney released a statement saying she continues to cooperate fully with the investigation and that she's not planning on making any public statements in the immediate future.
Up next, tropical trouble. Nate strengthens and takes aim at other Gulf cities. Mandatory evacuations in effect tonight for parts of the Big Easy. We'll get the latest forecast and talk to a NOAA hurricane hunter aboard a plane that flies into the storm. That's when we continue.
BERMAN: After so much damage, so much heartache, so many lives lost or changed forever, yet another dangerous storm is heading our way. This time, it's New Orleans that's getting ready and Mobile, Alabama, the storm is named Nate. It appears to have their number. We have new information on when it may hit and how bad it could be.
CNN's Allison Chinchar joins us now from the weather center with the very latest.
Allison, what's the forecast for Nate?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right. So, we just got the latest update at the top of the hour, and there were some changes. First thing is the winds have increased now, up to 65 miles per now, gusting up to 70 miles per.
[20:25:04] This storm is basically going to the Yucatan channel as we speak and from there, it will push out into the gulf. We do have new hurricane watches, hurricane warnings, as well as tropical storm and tropical storm watches and warnings. The latest is that not only is New Orleans in the center of that hurricane warning, but cities like Atlanta, Birmingham and Montgomery have now been added to tropical storm watches as well. This just goes to show you how far this storm is likely to spread.
Now, storm surge is going to be one of the biggest concerns we have with this storm. Areas like Mobile, Biloxi and New Orleans are likely to get storm surge of five to eight feet. The surrounding areas on both sides about four to six feet from there.
The question ultimately becomes that tied in with the amount of rain. Widespread you're talking two to five inches, but there will be some areas in those outer bands where you get the downpours that could end up seeing as much as eight to ten inches of rain. Even the lower end of that four to six is still likely to cause some pretty significant flooding.
Now, the track of this storm takes it up through the gulf and eventually making landfall just to the east of New Orleans.
BERMAN: How does this path compare to some of the other storms we've been seeing?
CHINCHAR: Right. So, that's a great question because both Florida and Texas have been hit from this storm. But this is going to be a little bit different. For starters, you have a huge high pressure system that's sitting over Florida. That's essentially going to block it from going too far east into the peninsula area.
But what about further to the west? In theory, if it just kept going in the same direction it would likely encounter Texas. We have another problem. You have this jet stream, those arrows that you can see moving there, that are coinciding with a cold front there which ironically at this point is actually causing some pretty bad severe weather across the plains.
That is not only going to steer Nate away from areas of Texas, but it's also going to have to do with the long-term track of where Nate goes. For example, take a look at this. After it makes landfall, John, it continues up to the north and east, impacting at least a dozen more U.S. states, including cities like Atlanta, New York City, Washington, D.C., as well as Boston.
BERMAN: Allison, before you mentioned that the latest wind speeds, they tracked them at 65 miles an hour which is actually stronger than I thought it would be at this point. Are they still forecasting this will hit as a category one or could it be even stronger?
CHINCHAR: So, the National Hurricane Center, their official says category one, but there are some models that indicate it could be slightly higher potentially, a category two. The real question, John, is how much can it intensify when it gets out over that open water of the gulf? The warm water is there. The fuel is available. The question is,
does it have enough time to intensify more than just a category one before it makes landfall?
BERMAN: And one unique aspect of this storm, really, they only have one day to get ready at this point on the Gulf Coast.
BERMAN: Not much time. They need to pay attention.
Allison Chinchar, thanks so much.
BERMAN: All right. Ian Sears is a flight director for NOAA's hurricane hunters. I spoke with him earlier by phone as he flew around the storm.
BERMAN: Ian, you've been up in the air now for close to seven hours tracking Tropical Storm Nate. What have you been able to observe?
IAN SEARS, NOAA HURRICANE HUNTERS FLIGHT DIRECTOR (via telephone): We've been dropping these instruments called drop sondes all throughout the Gulf of Mexico and these are like weather balloons and what they're trying to do is they're going to paint a nice picture of what the shearing flow is and what the environment out in front of Nate is and that information is going to get into the hurricane models and the global models. And what we're going to try to do is get the best information to the National Hurricane Center so they can best predict where Nate is going to do, how strong is he going to be when he gets there and what the impacts are going to be.
And so, everybody on the northern gulf coast and New Orleans, the Mississippi coast, Mobile, all the way to Pensacola, you need to be on the alert. This is a developing situation for sure.
BERMAN: Yes. They are waiting to hear from you, it's safe to say. This is your second flight into the storm. How has it evolved since your last flight?
SEARS: Yes. Yesterday evening, it was kind of how we would describe as sloppy. The thunderstorms weren't very well-organized and they weren't really centered around the core. And then tonight as we were flying around the actual hurricane or excuse me tropical storm, it was starting to really get its act together. The thunderstorms are starting to consolidate around the center and the winds are starting to respond to that. So I think they're up to about 60 miles per hour now.
BERMAN: You say it's starting to respond to that, really getting its act together. By the measurements you've been taking, does it look like it's strengthening? SEARS: Yes, it has been strengthening over the last few hours. The
pressures are dropping and the winds are coming up a little bit. And it's just a matter of time to see how strong is it going to be, and that's really why we're out here, to help the National Hurricane Center try to figure out the answer to those questions, how strong is Nate going to be and what are the impacts going to be when it arrives on the northern gulf coast?
BERMAN: That will be tomorrow night. Ian Sears, thank you so much for your work and thanks for being with us.
SEARS: Yes. My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
BERMAN: All right. Just ahead, exclusive new CNN reporting. What we've all been led to believe is mainly about the president's anger at the man who called him a moron, his secretary of state, instead --