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Terror Attacks and Mass Shootings Became the Norm; Mental Health Issue an Alarming Problem. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired November 6, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
Can I -- please pay attention if you're doing something or whatever. I really want your attention this evening and with an open mind.
How many more times are we going to have to do this? Mourn with people we don't know but meet under the most horrific circumstances, their loved ones lives snuffed out in an instant for no good reason?
How many times are we going to look up at the TV and see and hear people grieving, sobbing their hearts out in front of the world for the whole world to see and before we even know the full story the responses from our leaders are sadly as familiar as the details of the shootings.
Cases in point, Paul Ryan, reports out of Texas are devastating that people of Sutherland Springs need our prayers right now.
Vice President Pence, in part, "Karen and I send prayers to victims and their families in Texas." John Cornyn, "Truly heartbreaking news in Sutherland Springs. Please say a prayer for First Baptist congregation, first responders and community there."
Joe Manchin who tried and bail to pass bipartisan gun measures after the Sandy Hook massacre said this. "Gail and I are broken, heartbroken to learn of the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Sending prayers from West Virginia."
Ted Cruz, "Keeping all harmed in Sutherland Springs in our prayers and grateful for our brave first responders on the scene."
Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers. Don't get me wrong. Prayers are important. They really are. But can we just be honest for a moment and this is not about religion, it's not about politics. Democrats do it too.
President Obama has responded similarly in other shootings. And it's not about religion. As I said I'm not anti-thoughts and prayers by any means. I grew up in a very, a very religious south, a Baptist who went to a Catholic schools where we prayed at least four times a day, plus mass on Fridays and church on Sundays, sometimes twice. So spare me the anti-religion tweets. You can keep them. I won't even
read them. I don't care. These God fearing Christians were in church. They were already praying. Thoughts and prayers did not stop an oversight from the justice system which enabled a guy who attacked his stepson and assaulted his wife from getting a gun.
Thoughts and prayers didn't stop a troubled person from buying assault grade weapons that took the lives of 26 people in an instant. And please don't get me wrong. This is not at all about the Second Amendment or taking guns out of the hands of responsible gun owners.
I am a firm believer in the Second Amendment. I'll say that again. I am firm believer in the Second Amendment. I grew up with hunters, family members, friends, all around me. Louisiana it's all about hunting.
I also think responsible adults should be able to protect their homes, their property and themselves. But think about this. How many guns and of what caliber does one person need? Does a civilian really need an arsenal? Does a civilian really need body armor?
Those are good questions that we should all be asking. Maybe you think they should, but we should at least be asking those questions. Those are the questions our leaders should be debating. Our leaders should be leading, not following. And not afraid to be honest with their constituents even when it is unpopular, especially when really it is the constituents' lives that are at stake. And they are.
Leaders stand up to lobbyists. Yes, thoughts and prayers are important. So tonight, I hope you will join me in praying that our leaders will actually do something of substance and action this time that precludes another thoughts and prayers moment.
Remember this. Faith without works is dead. Now, let's begin. With CNN's senior national correspondent Alex Marquardt who is in Sutherland Springs for us this evening. Thank you for joining us this evening. Alex, thank you for joining us this evening. This is a horrific story. What are you learning about the shooter at this hour?
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Don, we're learning more about his dark and angry past. We are learning more about how his life ended. The coroner carried out an autopsy today saying that he was shot with three gunshot wounds, two of which came from a citizen gunman, one in the torso, the other in the leg.
The third was a self-inflicted wound although the authorities have not said with any sort of definition whether that was the round that ended his life.
We are also learning a hot more about the arsenal that he had in addition to the three weapons, one of which was a semiautomatic rifle. We also know that he had some 15 different magazines that contained 30 different rounds. Do the math. That's 450 rounds and the authorities tonight said, told the press that all of those magazines were empty.
[22:04:57] Now, we have heard from the Department of Public Safety that this attack was perhaps rooted in a domestic dispute. We know that the attacker had sent angry text messages repeatedly to his mother-in-law. His mother-in-law regularly went to this church. She volunteered at this church.
She was not there on Sunday, but her mother. So the grandmother was and we do believe that she was among the victims. Now we are digging a little bit deeper and we are learning more about a darker chapter in his past specifically from 2012 when the attacker was in the air force, and he was married to another woman.
Back then he was convicted on two counts of domestic assault against his then wife and stepson. He spent a year in the brig, was discharged and demoted. So this was a troubled individual, Don.
LEMON: So Alex, based on all of that, what are officials saying about why this shooter still had a gun?
MARQUARDT: Well, that really is the big question. And it appears that he slipped through the cracks. So after that conviction he should have been put on what is called the National Criminal Information Center database.
It appears that he wasn't because the FBI tells us tonight that he didn't pop up on any of the FBI background checks that people go through when they try to buy a gun. Those background checks are called NICIC.
Take a listen to what the FBI special agent in charge had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER COMBS, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, SAN ANTONIO FBI OFFICE: I can tell you that for the four purchases that he made, the next system did their required checks and there was no prohibitive information in the systems that we checked that say that he could not have purchased that firearm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: So now it does not look like the air force authorities relayed that conviction information to the civilian authorities. The air force along with the DOD, the Department of Defense, have said that they are launching an investigation. Don.
LEMON: Thank you, Alex. I appreciate that. I want to bring in now Christopher Leo Longoria. He attended high school with the Texas shooter Devin Patrick Kelley and knew him since sixth grade only to unfriend him on Facebook about a month ago. We'll talk about all of that.
Christopher, thank you so much for joining us. We're so sorry for what is going on there. You used to be friend with him. What was your reaction when you heard what he had done?
CHRISTOPER LEO LONGORIA, ATTENDED HIGH SCHOOL WITH TEXAS SHOOTER: I was in complete shock. I came home, I took a nap, woke up to realize that my Facebook friends were talking about Devin Kelley and it was just, I couldn't believe it, what a monster he turned in to be.
LEMON: So you've known him -- when did you notice a change in Devin?
LONGORIA: Probably around high school. He was more focused into women when he would joke along with all of our friends. He was more into the women's reaction rather than the guys. So that was a little creepy and it creped out the ladies as well.
LEMON: You recently unfriended -- I led into you by saying you unfriended...
LONGORIA: Socially awkward at times as well.
LEMON: Yes. You unfriended him on Facebook, why was that, Christopher?
LONGORIA: He was posting a lot of opinions. He was going after an individual attacks against his so-called friends. Also posting a lot of non-God beliefs, Atheism, a lot of gun violence and, you know, a lot of weapons that he was into. I just didn't want to see that on my news feed and I removed him because of it.
LEMON: And then when you saw that he targeted a church, what did you think?
LONGORIA: I'm sorry?
LEMON: When you saw that he targeted a church after posting all those you said non-God things in your words, what did you think?
LONGORIA: I mean, you can't predict those things. You can never believe that he would go and act of violence of that mass or any kind of violence at all. You can't predict those things out of anybody.
LEMON: Do you think that...
LONGORIA: Especially somebody you knew or grew up with.
LEMON: Do you think that his behavior should have, that there were some warning signs that people should have maybe closer to him should have seen or discussed with him? Because you saw it on Facebook.
LONGORIA: Well, I mean, yes, I mean, if you practice bad things, you become that bad thing. And if you just practice good, that's what I believe, you practiced the good of God, you will be, you know, a better person. And he was just practicing bad things. That's all there was to it.
I mean, I don't -- I'll let everybody else to decide on what could have been stopped or, but I believe if you just practice bad things, you're just a bad person. It becomes you. It eats you. You become a monster of what you practice. [22:09:59] LEMON: Yes. Is it -- can you put into words what you guys
are dealing with right now for the world? Is it fathomable to...
LONGORIA: It's hurting. I feel everybody's innocence and we just all need to come together and stop this. Just practice good. Just practice being a good person. And the world will be a better place.
LEMON: I hope everyone hears that.
LONGORIA: Stop all violence.
LEMON: Absolutely. I hope everyone hears your words. We all need to come, everyone, and take care of these horrific situations. Christopher Leo Longoria. Thank you very much. Take care.
LONGORIA: Thank you.
LEMON: Thank you. Joining me now, Chris Swecker, former FBI assistant director for the criminal investigative division, and CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey. Gentlemen, good evening.
Here we go with another conversation. We just had one for Las Vegas. Our victims in Las Vegas that are still in the hospital and we're having to deal with this again. So, you know, if the air force had entered the shooter's domestic violence conviction into the federal law enforcement database, would there be any way he could have purchased a gun, Chris?
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Short answer is no, Don. I mean, that -- again, just like Dylann Roof, this fell through the cracks. What he had was a type of violent conviction, an assault conviction of a child and his wife that would have disqualified him if they had entered it into the NICIC's database or the NICIC database which transfers into the NICIC database. So he would not been able to get a gun if they had put the information in.
LEMON: Yes. Charles, officials say that the shooter was obsessed with the domestic dispute and have sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law. But he didn't just go after her. He went after her church with 15 loaded magazines. What does that say to you about this individual?
CHARLES RAMSEY, LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, CNN: Well, aside from just being, you know, outright deranged, I was told that he's an Atheist and maybe he's trying to send a message that he could do this in a church. I have absolutely no idea.
But he definitely is an individual who was intent on causing as much destruction, as much harm as possible and make sure that people paid attention to it. And I mean, hitting a church on a Sunday morning during worship in a small town, I can't think of a softer target than that would be.
LEMON: Yes. There are local heroes in this tragedy, Chris. Stephen Willeford shot and chased the man who killed 26 people in that Texas church. Here is what he said. This is CNN affiliate KHBS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN WILLEFORD, SHOT AND KILLED TEXAS SHOOTER: The people in that church, they're friends of mine and they're family. And every time I heard a shot I knew that that probably represented a life. I was scared to death. I was. I was scared for me and I was scared for every one of them and I was scared for my own family that just lived less than a block away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What do you think could have happened if he didn't intervene?
SWECKER: Well, first, he is a hero. I had a friend today tell me when we were talking about this issue, his response was, well, well if the bad guys are going to have those weapons, I want one too. You know, this guy was -- he had planned an escape. He wanted to get out of the area. This guy prevented his escape. Who knows what he would have done next.
I mean, we think that he was targeting that particular church for domestic violence reasons. His in-laws had a beef. Not only had he had violent incidents with his first family but he now was texting and threatening his second family. There's now this estranged wife and family.
So this guy, you know, he was there to do a lot of damage and with those assault weapons, you can kill a lot of people in a short period of time.
LEMON: Yes. Boy. The same conversation over and over. Chris, sorry for the sigh. But you know, Charles, the gunman was wearing a mask and a ballistic vest with a plate on the front of it. What does that tell you about his intentions? Do you think that he thought that he would come out of this thing alive?
RAMSEY: I think so. He also may have thought that one of the parishioners may have been armed as well and he wanted to be able to live long enough to at least carry out his mission, if you will.
It's really hard to get inside of this guy's head, but I do agree that he did plan on getting out of there, and who knows if he had a secondary target in mind or anything else had that citizen not stepped up and did what he did. And he is truly a hero. We don't know how many people would have died had he not taken the action that he took.
[22:14:59] LEMON: Charles, Chris, thank you so much. Just ahead, President Trump refers to the Texas mass shooting as a mental health problem. Yet after last week's truck attack in New York, he called for swift justice. Why the different responses?
LEMON: Investigators in Texas saying tonight that mass shooter Devin Kelley had an interest in mass shootings and was obsessed about a family dispute.
I want to bring in now CNN political commentator Steve Israel, a former democratic congressman from New York and the author of the upcoming book "Big Guns," and CNN legal commentator, Ken Cuccinelli.
Gentlemen, good evening. Thank you for having this honest conversation with me. I hope that we will have one. Ken, I want you to listen to the president talking about the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Texas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This isn't a guns situation. This is a mental health problem at the highest level.
Look, we have a tragedy. We're going to do -- and what happened in Las Vegas is in many ways a miracle. The police department has done such an incredible job, and we'll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Ken, compare, please, that to what he said about the terror attacks here in New York City.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: That was a horrible event, and we have to stop it and we have to stop it all. We need quick justice and we need strong justice. Much quicker and much stronger than we have right now.
[22:20:04] Because what we have right now is a joke and it's a laughing stock.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The tone of the president's responses very different. What do you think is behind that?
KEN CUCCINELLI, LEGAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, for one, the talk of justice is the only -- the only murder, we'll call him that is the terrorist in New York that survived the incident was the one in New York. There's no justice to meet out in Las Vegas and Texas.
I think that, you know, it might be confusing to some people to hear what amounts to motivated domestic violence issues as a mental health issue. I think it's accurate to say that but it's not how most people expect to hear it discussed.
After the Virginia tech shooting in Virginia, at that time I was still in the middle of over a decade of work in the mental health system as a lawyer, and we realized that this is a guy, the shooter in the Virginia tech incidents, actually passed through our mental health system and wasn't caught by our equivalent of the NICIC system in the same way the air force didn't transfer this information.
We fixed that. Not only that, it was an opportunity for us in Virginia on a bipartisan basis to look at other ways we should be catching these folks from the various nets that we have out there, social service nets, criminal justice nets.
And here, I mean, that's the failure that could have actually stopped this with no change in the law. And we can talk about changes in the law. I know you'd like to do that. But at least we ought to make what we've got on the books work right.
And I would make one comment as a former state A.G. that I think a lot of your viewers might not -- might not occur to them. And that is for the state systems at least, and I assume it's similarly true for the federal, the computer systems we use are not what you use at work every day.
I mean, Virginia didn't update its old system, for instance, from 1970s programming until the last decade. We have a lot of old, antiquated, really, systems that are being relied upon in various parts of the country to make all of these different connections between the mental health system, the criminal justice...
LEMON: But don't you think we need to get some handle on the legislation and on the laws on the books before we worry about computer systems? Computer systems can be upgraded. Yes, I agree with you. It probably should be. But let me ask you one question before I go -- before I go to Representative Israel.
It seems that when the president what he considers to be terrorism, he has a different response, especially when he thinks it's Muslim or the way he treats white men. Do you think that this young man was a domestic terrorist?
CUCCINELLI: Well, I think terrorism by its nature involves making -- trying to advance political ends, which the ISIS guy was doing. This one was not. It is a mass killing...
LEMON: He was doing it on Facebook according to his friend. His friend just told us he was doing that on Facebook.
CUCCINELLI: Doing what?
LEMON: He was making anti-religious and doing political and gun posts.
LEMON: On his Facebook page.
CUCCINELLI: But the initial appearance and we're going to learn more as time goes on. This seems like a guy who is crazy with domestic violence. And domestic violence is an area where many of us who are hoping...
LEMON: He terrorized a church and killed 26 people.
CUCCINELLI: I understand that.
LEMON: How is that not terrorism? Why won't the administration call it domestic terrorism?
CUCCINELLI: Well, look, Don, if you just want to say killing a lot of people is terrorism, OK, then it is.
CUCCINELLI: But a mass killing makes -- is a better description if we're trying to talk about policy. Terrorism has a meaning and it is to advance a political agenda through violence. And I see this more as a domestic violence.
LEMON: And I want to get -- I want to get Representative Israel in now.
LEMON: So, some argue, representative that the armed heroes who chased down the killer are proof of why liberal gun laws are needed. What would you say to those people?
STEVE ISRAEL, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, they wouldn't have had to chase down the killer with guns had the killer not been able to acquire a weapon of mass destruction and use it against churchgoers.
Look, don, it doesn't matter whether you call them lone wolves or domestic terrorists, it may matter from a legal perspective.
ISRAEL: But it doesn't matter to most Americans. What matters is that we allow domestic terrorists and or lone wolves to easily acquire these weapons. We are now one month from Las Vegas. Back then there was all this talk about common ground on bump stocks. In the month since what have with he done? Nothing. What has the republican majority in Congress done? Nothing.
Today the good news is that the republican majority scheduled another moment of silence. Well, these moments of silence are becoming hours of silence. American lives are being lost.
This response that it's simply a mental health crisis is ridiculous unless it is a mental health crisis, and the American people -- we should all have our heads examined for continuing to vote for people in Congress who refuse to do nothing to protect their constituents. That is a metal health problem.
[22:25:04] LEMON: Well, in February, Steve, as you know, both houses of Congress passed a resolution revoking the resolution that President Obama did for adding legislation to put peoples' names who had mental health issue on the registry and improving the registry.
President Trump said this is about mental health, but then he rolled that back in February with no signing ceremony in private.
ISRAEL: Well, they say it's about mental health and then they have budgets that cut mental health research. This is not about mental health alone. That is a deflection and distraction. This is about the inability of a republican led Congress to take basic and fundamental action against the gun lobby to protect their own constituents.
LEMON: All right. I I've got...
CUCCINELLI You know, if you're ready to...
LEMON: Quickly, Ken, because I've got to get to the break.
CUCCINELLI: ... if you're ready to undercut fundamental rights, then say what you want to say. Get rid of the Second Amendment and go through the process of doing that.
ISRAEL: Nobody is saying that, Ken. You know that. Nobody is saying get rid of the Second Amendment.
CUCCINELLI: Yes, bull honky. You're avoiding saying it because that's what you want. We do have a mental health crisis in this country.
ISRAEL: No. No, Ken. Don't describe it...
CUCCINELLI: It's a substantial -- it's a substantial to have it on the state level.
LEMON: But Ken, can I ask you an honest -- can I just ask you an honest question, just take it down. Let me ask you this.
LEMON: Why is it that when people talk about at least having a discussion about what is sensible when it comes to who should be able to have guns in this country, how many and all of that, why take it to the extreme that people who want to discuss that is anti-Second Amendment? Why would you say that he is anti-Second Amendment just because he wants to either stop or figure out how to stop or preclude it from happening again? Why go to the extreme with that particular talking point or rhetoric?
CUCCINELLI: Yes. I didn't start there seven minutes ago when we started, but when I hear him blame everything on republicans, then I go there. And, look, the same kind of...
LEMON: He said a republican led Congress that republicans don't lead Congress?
CUCCINELLI: ... process and resolve were happening with democrats...
ISRAEL: Who should we blame, Ken? Who just -- who takes responsibility?
CUCCINELLI: Look, first of all, there is a tradeoff here and it's very painful to talk about in the context of a mass shooting. But the right to keep and bear arms is a personal individual right, and that right has costs.
And we're seeing, because we have a system that doesn't work very well, criminal justice, mental health, you can put all those pieces in together, those costs are higher than they ought to be. But the alternative is, and let's face it for what it is, it is to reduce freedom in this country. And that's the tradeoff.
ISRAEL: Ken, it's rhetoric. It's a talking point. It's not a freedom at all.
CUCCINELLI: Freedom is a talking point. I understand you think freedom is a talking point.
ISRAEL: No, no, no.
LEMON: One at a time, please.
CUCCINELLI: I think it's a pretty serious...
ISRAEL: With all due respect.
LEMON: Go on.
ISRAEL: Ken, look.
LEMON: Do you want to finish?
ISRAEL: Nobody is talking about confiscating guns. Nobody is talking about dismantling the Second Amendment, nobody is talking about canceling freedom. What we're talking about is stopping deranged, crazed lone wolves or domestic terrorists from getting assault weapons and bringing them into a church.
And if your argument is that it is more important to respect the rights of this deranged individual yesterday to slaughter people in a church than it is to pass common sense measures.
LEMON: OK. I've got to go.
CUCCINELLI: Of course not. And now I got lectured by the moderator here about my unreasonableness while you finish being outrageous.
LEMON: That's it, Ken. I was giving you a chance to respond.
CUCCINELLI: Hey, look, I agree that we should have fixed the problem here.
LEMON: Yes. All right.
CUCCINELLI: Everybody agrees to that.
LEMON: All right.
CUCCINELLI: So we leave in agreement. The problem was that this guy who shouldn't have had a gun didn't get in the system to catch his purchases. We all agree on that so we can finish on a point of agreement.
LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it. When we come back, new details about the president's former foreign policy adviser's testimony to Congress. What is he saying about Russia. Plus, the president in the middle of a very high stakes trip to Asia landing just moments ago in South Korea where he is right in the heart of a nuclear standoff.
We're going to cover it in the way that only CNN can, live insights South and North Korea. That's next.
[22:30:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Breaking news tonight on the Russia investigation. I want to turn right away to CNN senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju, and he joins us now. Manu, hello to you. You're getting new details on Carter Page's Capitol Hill testimony. What are you learning?
MANU RAJU, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, that's right. In this transcript, more than 200 pages released tonight by the House intelligence committee. A lot of focus was on the former foreign policy adviser Carter Page, his trip to Moscow in July of 2016, and who he met with while he was overseas and whether or not he briefed anybody in the Trump campaign and who in the Trump campaign knew about this.
Now, we are now learning that he met with at least one senior Russian official at that time. That's Arkady Dvorkovich. He's a deputy prime minister under Vladimir Putin. But he also acknowledged, Don, meeting with other senior Russian officials while he was there, saying he gave some valuable insights and suggested perhaps through some of his interactions that he gained some of those insights.
And Don, he also says that he had informed several senior campaign officials about this trip ahead of time, including Hope Hicks, now the communications director, Corey Lewandowski, then the campaign manager, the former Trump foreign policy adviser J.D. Gordon, as well as Jeff Sessions. And when he came back he said he spoke with Sam Clovis, the campaign co-chairman at the time.
Now even this trip Page suggested even bringing then candidate Trump to Russia, saying that Trump could go in his place. He said this in an e-mail from the committee saying -- speaking of President Trump, he said, "If you'd like to take my place on a trip to Russia and raise the temperature a little bit, of course I'd be more than happy to yield this honor to him."
Now, Don, this will all raise questions about Carter Page's interactions overseas, what he told the campaign afterwards, because for months and months he's acknowledged -- said he hadn't talked to any Russian officials as part of what he said was a private trip to Russia.
[22:35:04] The question is whether or not members of this committee are satisfied. But Don, he did acknowledge also speaking recently to the special counsel Robert Mueller.
LEMON: All right. Thank you, Manu. I appreciate that. I want to get some pictures. This is live. There we go. President Trump arriving just moments ago in South Korea where it is already Tuesday morning, as you can see. That is also an air base there in South Korea.
I want to bring in now as we look at these pictures White House correspondent Jim Acosta, who is in Seoul, CNN international correspondent Will Ripley who is in Pyongyang. He is the only American network correspondent in North Korea's capital. Hello to both of you, gentlemen.
Jim, I'm going to get to you first. Because President Trump arrives in South Korea just now as the threat of war looms over the peninsula. What can we expect?
JIM ACOSTA, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: That is the question, Don, what can we expect. We heard yesterday from President Trump when he met with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was almost more of the same. He talked about how the era of strategic patience is over. He was almost encouraging Japan to become more militarized, saying that Shinzo Abe should buy more U.S. military weapons so he could shoot North Korean missiles out of the sky.
But at the same time, Don, he was lowering his rhetoric somewhat maybe from a London broil to a steady boil. He was saying heading into this trip that he is still might meet with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un at some unspecified date. He also said that there is a potential opening for Kim Jong-un if he were to turn over people who were abducted from Japan many years ago.
And so that is the question is to how much he ratchets up the rhetoric here in South Korea. The South Korean president, President Moon, he's been sort of mystified by President Trump's policy towards North Korea, really a policy of brinkmanship.
Keep in mind, President Moon came into power here in South Korea promising to engage in some kind of dialogue with the North Koreans to try to lower the tensions on the Korean peninsula.
And Don, I'm looking at the Korean newspapers, South Korean newspapers as President Trump arrives here in South Korea. Many of these newspapers are talking about, well, if South Korean President Moon can't get through to President Trump perhaps they should align themselves more closely with China. That is obviously a consequence of this policy that the President of the United States doesn't want to see at this point, Don.
LEMON: Stand by. I want to get to Will. Will, this is your 17th trip to North Korea? President Trump says that the era of strategic patience is over. How is North Korea responding to that?
WILL RIPLEY, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: You know, Don, the sense I get, and I had discussions last night with North Korean officials here in Pyongyang, they are well aware that the stakes here are incredibly high. This is the first time that a sitting U.S. president has visited South Korea in 25 years.
And 25 years ago North Korea didn't have viable nuclear weapons. They didn't have an advanced missile program. And even last night officials were telling me that they feel they can't talk with the Trump administration. They think the fact that there are joint naval drills, huge naval drills with three U.S. aircraft carriers set to get underway, the fact that the rhetoric from President Trump continues to be so bellicose.
And of course, they match it with their own rhetoric on the North Korean side they have said that they don't think they can talk with the United States and they need to take action, they need to show President Trump that North Korea means business.
And so, there's a lot of concern from analysts who are watching North Korea's nuclear test site at Punggye-ri. There's significant new activity observed there, according to the watchdog group, 38 North.
South Korea has noticed increased activity at North Korea missile launch sites. So as President Trump now arrives on the Korean peninsula, he's about 120 miles or so from where I'm standing here in the North Korean capital. It's anyone's guess what North Korea is going to do, but they have been hinting that they're going to send him a very strong message.
LEMON: Will, Jim, thank you so much. I appreciate that. The president has lots more events there in South Korea tonight and we're going to bring -- we're going to be checking back with you both in just a little bit live.
When we come back, though, much more on the president's trip. I'm going to ask Nicholas Kristof, who was just in North Korea, what President Trump's tough talk could mean for peace in the region.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump is in Asia shoring up support for his aggressive stance toward North Korea, but could his tough rhetoric be setting the stage for a shooting, a shooting war with Kim Jong-un?
I want to bring in now New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof, just back from a visit there and his latest piece is called "Slouching Toward War with North Korea." So much I want to talk to you about that.
I just asked you in the break, I said are we headed for war. But can we talk about what happened in Texas? Because you heard there's yet another shooting. You heard the president's response. He's blaming mental health or mental illness. Why are Americans willing to live this way wondering when the next big mass murder will...
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: So I think there's a misperception that Americans as a whole are willing to. If you look at what Americans want to do, 93 percent even of gun owners in America want to have universal background checks.
Overwhelming shares of even gun owners want to have safe storage, want to ban the mentally ill from accessing weapons. But the problem is that Congress does not respond. And the NRA is just determined not to move on these issues. So we haven't even moved on bump stocks after Las Vegas there was an initial demand, OK, we've got to address this and then that just falls apart.
So, you know, I don't think that the problem is American gun owners in general. I think the problem is Congress and there's some movement in states that has made a real difference.
LEMON: What about mental health, mental illness, because...
KRISTOF: That's a distraction. I mean, it's a red herring. So there have been various studies that suggest about 4 percent of people who are mentally ill are engaged in violence, engaging violence. So it's a tiny proportion.
And meanwhile, if you're going to talk about mental health services, then President Obama had put in place an order that would have put up to 75,000 people who were mentally ill, who were unable to look after their own affairs on the list so that they could not a conveyor weapons.
[22:45:10] And in February President Trump took them -- removed that so that those people can now access weapons.
So, if you're going to have a conversation about mental health, then at least make it harder for people who have those problems to buy a weapon.
LEMON: Yes. It's always -- it's frustrating when you have a conversation the one that -- I don't know if you saw the one before.
LEMON: It was Ken and -- Ken Cuccinelli and Representative Israel because it always ends up -- you want to get rid of the Second Amendment. I don't think anyone is saying that, but it's just -- it becomes a circular argument. And it's so frustrating.
KRISTOF: I mean, I do think that liberals too often talk about periodically banning handguns or about gun control. I think a much better framing of it is gun safety.
KRISTOF: Or just treating guns the way we do cars.
KRISTOF: Public health issue.
LEMON: I just set to have my car inspected and registered this weekend. And it's a car, right. Yes.
KRISTOF: If you abuse alcohol, you can't get access to your car.
LEMON: Yes. So let's talk about North Korea now because you were there not long ago. You know tensions are high. The president is talking tough, saying that North Korea cannot be allowed to have nukes.
Kim Jong-un says he is going to have a missile with a nuclear warhead on it, able to reach the U.S. as soon as he can and he is not stopping. Are we on a path to war?
KRISTOF: I fear we are. I talked to a number of experts recently, and -- well, the estimates of the risk of a war range from, say, 20 to 25 percent from this former CIA director, John Brennan to 50 percent from the president of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass.
I think I would put it somewhere around 40 percent. But, I mean, this is staggering, a 40 percent risk of a war between two nuclear powers. One study says that on the first day of this war you could have a million people die.
And I don't think the public or frankly, we in the media are fully -- have fully kind of woken up to the fact that we could be facing -- that these two trains are headed -- we're headed toward a train wreck.
LEMON: My, goodness. I want to get your take on what's happening in Saudi Arabia what's going on with the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The king's 32-year-old son, right, and the head of the new anti-corruption committee behind the arrests of dozens of princes and ministers accused of corruption. It's a stunning move. Is it anti- corruption or is he getting rid of his rivals here?
KRISTOF: He's getting rid of his rivals. The expectation is that he will soon be named the king. The king and his father will step down and lay the groundwork for him to take over. He could be king for 50 years. And he's sending very mixed signals.
On the one hand he's been in favor of empowering women, allowing women to drive as of next June, calling for moderate Islam, putting extremists in clerics in check. On the other hand, he is but internationally he's behaved very dangerously.
In Yemen he's responsible for war crimes. He's led to the split with Qatar. LEMON: The president tweeted his support tonight, saying "I have
great confidence in King Salman and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. They know exactly what they're doing." And he says "some of those key are harshly -- some of those -- some of those -- they are harshly threatening have been milking their country for years." Why is he supporting the Saudi Arabia's king?
KRISTOF: So the Saudis has an extraordinary welcome for President Trump on his visit there in the spring, and I think that he and his family built, you know, a genuinely kind of warm relationship that contrasted with the cool relationship with President Obama.
But, you know, I wish that President Trump would remember that Saudi Arabia is also over seeing forced starvation in Yemen and war crimes in Yemen. And I hope likewise on his Asia trip that he will remember human rights when he goes to China.
LEMON: Thank you, Nicholas.
KRISTOF: Good to be with you.
LEMON: Always a pleasure. Thank you so much. When we come back, a new CNN poll shows the President Trump's poll numbers at their lowest yet. Could those numbers be a preview of what's to come for Election Day tomorrow?
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LEMON: President Trump's approval rating hitting an all-time low according to a new CNN poll just in time for Election Day tomorrow. But will it matter?
Let's discuss all of this. CNN political commentators Alice Stewart, she was Ted Cruz's communications director by the way, and Robby Mook who ran Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Also joining me Larry Sabato, director of the center for politics at the University of Virginia.
Good to have all of you on this evening. Thank you so much. Larry, you first. Voters in Virginia head to the polls to elect the new governor tomorrow. The contest there has largely revolved around President Trump.
He tweeted this today. "The State of Virginia economy under democrat rule has been terrible. If you vote at Ed Gillespie tomorrow it will come roaring back." Can you read anything into to his historically low approval rating on how this election might play out?
LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR POLITICS: Well, of course, I don't know how the CNN poll translates to Virginia. But I can tell you that all the recent polls here have had President Trump in the mid to upper 30s.
So that is not a good place to be if you want your party's candidate for governor to win. Having said that, Gillespie, the republican candidate has upset potential. I still think Northam is in the lead and he's more likely to win than Gillespie. But the Gillespie people have run a good campaign that also has been very tough and negative.
And Gillespie seized on the issues that Trump wanted even though he's been unwilling to bring Trump in. This is the first time since 1973 that the president has not -- the sitting president has not come in for his party's candidate and campaigned. Gillespie wouldn't have it.
LEMON: Alice, does Trump help Gillespie.
ALICE STEWART, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: He, given this is a blue state, obviously poll numbers for Trump are not great there. It wouldn't have been beneficial for Trump to go in there and campaign with him. That's why he kept him out.
And Ed Gillespie has done very well to focus on issues that he felt were positive with his base and really gin up the republican voters there in Virginia. I'm going to be going there tomorrow and be casting my vote for him.
But look, he was smart to keep Trump out of the loop. Trump did some last minute tweets. I think Northam was smart. He had President Obama come in there, and Obama made a really smart plea to democrats here. Saying look, historically democrats, you haven't been really strong on getting out during mid-term elections.
We need you to get out, we need you to go and cast your ballots and not lay asleep on mid-term election day. He made a very strong plea. You know, as we say Northam is 3.3 in the Real Clear Politics average. But I think the momentum Gillespie has run a smart campaign. And a negative ad coming out late by Latino voters against Gillespie was too strong and too vicious, and I feel it really backfired on him and it really generated support with the conservatives.
[22:55:06] LEMON: So, Robby, you say that democrats aren't capitalizing on disaffection and dysfunction. And you heard what she said with the president's plea. Why not?
ROBBY MOOK, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, I think the real challenge when you're dealing with Donald Trump is he absolutely dominates the news cycle. It is so hard to drive a message.
Now, I think this tax bill is a real opportunity for democrats to get out there and propose an alternative or at least point out what's wrong with the republican plan because there's a lot that's wrong it. You know we're talking about Virginia.
Virginia is a real interesting situation. I think part of what's booing Trump and continues to prop him up is that the economy is doing very well. And in Virginia where Governor McAuliffe has been in charge for the last four years, the economy is also doing very well. He's getting a lot of credit for that.
I think that's an important part of why Northam is in the lead. I think and he's likely as Larry said to win tomorrow more likely than not. But this all will come out to base turn out. And I think that's why our party has to keep laser focused on articulating the differences, what's at stake if the republicans are in charge. And the other thing that Northam is going to have to do to win this
race he is going to have to do a little bit better than Hillary did, than Obama did, than even Terry did in some of these more rural parts of the state. Pick up some swing voters up north to make up for losses in our base. So, that economic message is important for him as well.
LEMON: Hey, Robby, if Northam loses, is this a disaster for democrats?
MOOK: Look, it's not going to be a good day.
LEMON: Alice smiled when I ask the question by the way.
MOOK: It's just not. This is going to be very demoralizing. But I think oftentimes we, you know, blow these up a little too big afterwards. What is important tomorrow is looking for these little signs. We're doing a little bit better with those non-college educated white voters.
How is African-American turnout? How is the huge turnout? How are we doing with those college educated voters, particularly in northern Virginia? There will be important signs of how the mid-terms will go, but winning this race -- actually I'll give you an example. We won the Terry McAuliffe's race in 2013 and the 2014 midterms didn't go well for our party. So, we'll see little signs but this is not determinative.
LEMON: That's all we have time for. I want long conversation but we have so much news.
Thank you all. I appreciate it. When we come back, 26 dead after a shooting at a Texas Baptist Church. Everything we're learning about the shooter and his victims. That's next.
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