Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Sending Tanks To Stop Russian Aggression; Suspect's DNA Found In "Various Parts" Of Crime Scene. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 24, 2015 - 16:30   ET


[16:30:30] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: These quick calls to remove Confederate images started less than a week after the Charleston church massacre. But can it generate new laws restricting gun ownership?

The murder of 20 young children and six adults in Newtown could not spark such a change, even after months of debate. But now two U.S. senators may be raising the question again. Will it be enough this time to get something done? Should it?



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

We have some breaking news in our politics lead today. A key trade bill for which President Obama has clawed tooth and nail, even sparring with members of his own party, passed the U.S. Senate just minutes ago.

Let's go right to CNN's Athena Jones. She's on Capitol Hill.

Athena, President Obama could have this piece of legislation on his desk imminently.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The House has already passed this fast track authority.

This gives the president the right to have Congress vote an up-or-down vote on a trade deal, an international trade deal, making it very, very possible now for him to seal the deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That's a deal with about a dozen Asian and Pacific nations.

It would help open U.S. markets. It would help boost U.S. influence in Asia at a time when China has really been throwing its weight around. Supporters have said this bill is absolutely necessary to sealing that deal. Now that heads to the president's desk. It's been a top White House priority.

And what's so interesting about this, I should tell you, Jake, is that just a couple of weeks ago, the president's trade agenda seemed near death. And that's because House Democrats, skeptical House Democrats, people who are skeptical of these trade deals, blocked it, so they had to scramble, leaders on both sides had to scramble to come up a new way to get it passed.

Now the Senate has passed this fast track trade bill. A few more bills will going to vote soon -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Athena Jones, thank you so much.

Let's return to the shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston one week ago tonight. The massacre has reignited many divisive debates in this country, not only over the Confederate Flag, but also about the access of dangerous and deranged individuals to firearms.

Following the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, two senators who were supporters of the NRA joined forces to offer legislation that would have made it more difficult, they said, for criminals and the mentally ill to acquire firearms by expanding background checks to also include also commercial sales at gun shows and on the Internet. Now, that bill failed to secure the necessary votes. But Democrats in the Senate are now talking once again about trying to renew a push for restrictions on gun ownership.

Joining me to talk about this issue is one of the senators who sponsored that legislation, Pat Toomey, Republican from Pennsylvania.

Senator Toomey, thanks so much for being here. Good to see you again.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: So, let me ask, would that gun control legislation that you and Senator Manchin introduced in 2013, would that have prohibited Dylann Roof from purchasing the .45-caliber Glock handgun that he used in this massacre?

TOOMEY: From what little I know, I think the answer is probably not.

And the reason, Jake, is that I believe that he was never adjudicated as mentally incapacitated from this point of view, nor did he have a criminal record that would have forbid it. So it's entirely possible that he still would have been able to obtain a weapon.

TAPPER: The overwhelming majority of the American people, 86 percent of the public in a recent CNN poll support your legislation, your idea to expand background checks, but I have to ask, can you point to a shooting that expanded background checks might have prevented?

TOOMEY: I think that the case of the Virginia Tech case may have been one, where, had the information about his mental state been made available, that might have made a difference, Jake. I would have to double-check on that.

But what we do know is that the background check system as it exists, and, as you know, all licensed firearms dealers have to perform a background check anytime they sell a firearm. So, what we're trying to do is get at the exceptions, the non-licensed firearms dealers who are selling on a commercial scale, either at a gun show or on the Internet.

Anyway, there's a lot of background checks done. And it's not unusual for the check to reveal a disqualifying factor in someone's background, so we know that there are occasions where this works.

TAPPER: So, as I know you know better than I, gun rights advocates say that every time there's a horrific shooting, politicians dust off whatever gun restrictions they want to impose, bring them up, regardless of whether they would have had an impact.

Let's work backwards here, the other way in this shooting. This shooter, Dylann Roof, had a pending drug charge. Now, that, as you pointed out, it would not have prevented him from buying the gun because it was a pending charge. Also, it was a misdemeanor.

Do you think that certain misdemeanors, if they are drug-related or violence-related, should certain misdemeanors be included to prohibit gun purchases?

TOOMEY: You know, I'm not convinced that we ought to be changing the definition of what constitutes a disqualifying thing in a person's background.


I think the idea of establishing the background check system we have, applying it in commercial sales where it's not applied makes a lot of sense. And I think it makes a lot of sense to look at the mental health issues and try to discover and intercept and intervene earlier on, when a troubled teenager, before that troubled teenager becomes a -- you know, a young man who is plagued by demons driving him to do mad things. I think that's the right approach.

TAPPER: Polls show support for further restrictions. But, as you know, they can't get through Congress.

President Obama in an interview with the comedian Marc Maron recently said that the grip of the NRA -- this is a quote -- "The grip of the NRA on Congress is extremely strong."

Is that the reason?

TOOMEY: You're better to talk to the people who oppose my legislation for the reasons why they oppose it.

I still think that background checks make a lot of sense. I think, in fairness, some folks on the other side are concerned about a slippery slope argument. They have real questions about this administration's willingness to live within the four corners of a given law, and so they're worried about where this leads to, at least based on the many phone calls and e-mails I got, many of them from my friends who are fellow Second Amendment supporters.

I'm a big believer that there is an individual constitutional right to own firearms. I'm a Second Amendment supporter, but I don't think there's anything inconsistent in supporting the Second Amendment and supporting commonsense background checks to make sure that the people who don't have that legal right, by virtue of their mental incapacity or their criminal background, I think it's OK to identify those people.

For the opposition, I think it's a combination of things. Part of it is the slippery slope argument.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Pat Toomey from the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, thanks so much.

TOOMEY: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: In the world lead, a revelation today from the White House that caught many off-guard, the number of American hostages in captivity worldwide right now.

Plus, the politics lead, Donald Trump's surge in a key presidential state, but that jump to the number two spot is not good enough for the Donald -- that ahead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In our World Lead today is an actual military showdown between the U.S. and Moscow imminent? U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter today directly put Russian President Vladimir Putin on notice announcing that the U.S. is putting heavy combat equipment including tanks and other weaponry into NATO countries surrounding Russia.

This comes just days after Putin broadcast plans to add 40 new ballistic missiles to its nuclear stockpile in what appears to be a modern era arms race. Our Barbara Starr has that story.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ukraine fighters under fire from Russian backed separatists, Russian military moves largely unchecked in this part of Eastern Europe. The U.S. and NATO military response, some of the biggest allied military exercises ever, 13,000 ground and maritime forces.

[16:50:01] Nearly 50 ships, more than 60 aircraft, and they aren't done. More is on the way. Meeting with U.S. allies in Europe. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the U.S. will increase prepositioning of heavy weapons.

ASH CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: American rotational forces need to move more quickly and easily to participate in training and exercises here. We will temporarily stage one armor brigade combat team's vehicles and associated equipment in countries in central and eastern Europe.

STARR: It will include nearly 90 battle tanks, 140 armored vehicles and some 20 pieces of heavy artillery to be stored in the Baltics, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland brought out for future training exercises, a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is an indicator of what we are prepared to do. When I think a few years ago, he believed we were neglecting the continent of Europe, he thought, it's now my time to attempt to influence some of the NATO nations or the European nations to swing back toward my side.

STARR: After the Air Force talked about putting F-22 fighter jets in Europe, Putin fired back.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): If someone threatens our territories, we will have to aim our armed forces and modern attack capabilities at those who threaten us, what else can we do?

STARR: If Russia were to move against Europe, the U.S. has also committed to contribute weapons, aircraft and troops to a new NATO rapid reaction force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the key message. The United States still sees its European partners as being critically important for security.


STARR: And so far, no indication that any of this is changing Vladimir Putin's mind -- Jake.

TAPPER: Of course, not. Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

A family and their housekeeper held hostage then brutally killed, their house and car set a fire. Police only have arrested one person for the horrific D.C. mansion murders. But now will evidence just uncovered put anyone else at the scene of the crime? The latest in the investigation next.



TAPPER: Welcome back, CNN has uncovered shocking new details about the grisly murders in the mansion which took the lives of the family and their housekeeper in March. Pamela Brown is here with me now -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We're learning more about Darren's cousin who worked with him at American iron works. His cousin was fired from that company ten years ago. So we have some new leads that we've been following up on for this special that we put together for tonight as police search for more suspects in the quadruple homicide that rocked the nation's capital.


BROWN (voice-over): It was a race against time for the U.S. Marshalls chasing down 34-year-old Darren Wint, the man accused of killing the Savopoulos family and their housekeeper. ROBERT FERNANDEZ, U.S. MARSHALL: We think his plan was, to try to get some I.D. and or a passport or something and leave the country and go back to Guyana.

BROWN: An intense 48-hour manhunt led authorities to this Howard Johnson Hotel near Washington, D.C.

FERNANDEZ: The advance team told us, they took off, they're going up Route One, we had to real quick jump in our cars and try to catch up to them.

BROWN: U.S. Marshall Rob Fernandez in a small fleet of law enforcement officials followed this white Chevy Cruise Wint was riding in along with the truck of unknown associates after the suspect's vehicles performed a bizarre u-turn, Fernandez made his move.

(on camera): What was Wint like, was he combative at all?

FERNANDEZ: His body posture and the look on his face was like he was thinking of running, but we were right on top of him. He never had a chance.

BROWN (voice-over): CNN has learned investigators found Darren Wint's DNA in various parts of the crime scene where the victims were tortured. Sources say police are investigating whether one of Wint's relatives is connected to the crime. His cousin who has not yet been named also worked at American Iron Works and was fired around the same time Wint left in 2005.

Sources say the cousin threatened to burn the place down. A threat taken so seriously, the company took out a restraining order against him.

JOHN TORRES, FORMER ICE SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Even though it's been almost 10 years, for some people, they harbor that resentment, and that builds up until they feel they get an opportunity to strike back.

BROWN: So far, Wint is the only person charged in the crime. Police do not believe he acted alone. CNN has also learned he has a criminal past and was in danger of losing his green card when he was arrested last March for receiving stolen property. But officials say Immigration and Customs Enforcement was never notified.

TORRES: Darren Wint is arrested in March, and ICE never received those fingerprints until after he's arrested for the quadruple murders. It tells me, it's an indicator to me that there's a breakdown in the system somewhere.

Had ICE been notified, they would have taken a look at that particular file. They would have looked at Darren Wint's history and undertook a legal review to determine whether or not he's eligible for removal.


BROWN: The Metropolitan Police Department here in D.C. says it ran Wint's fingerprints through the national FBI database, which was supposed to automatically share fingerprints with ICE. Also, Jake, we interviewed the go cart coach of the little boy, Phillip Savopoulos. He talked to us about his last race where he was in an accident, had a concussion, and that is why he was home the day the horror began -- Jake.

TAPPER: Tragic story. Pamela Brown, thank you. Make sure to tune in tonight at 9:30 Eastern for a CNN Special Report, "The D.C. Mansion Murders."

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper and also @theleadcnn. Check out our show page for video and extras.

That is it for THE LEAD today. I am Jake Tapper. I am now turning you over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer who is in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.