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Motive Unknown in Chattanooga Shootings; Who Was the Chattanooga Gunman?; Family Releases Name of One Marine Killed in Chattanooga; Interview with Rep. Marsha Blackburn; Movie Theater Gunman Found Guilty of Murder; Chris Christie Shares Views on Justice System, Immigration. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired July 17, 2015 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ED REINHOLD, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: At this point, we don't have anything that ties him to an international terrorist organization.
[07:00:03] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Targeting U.S. military personnel, Abdulazeez first headed towards Chattanooga, Tennessee's military recruitment center, driving by and shooting at the window.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was one shot, and then it was just endless shots, one after another, just unloading.
SANCHEZ: Then the gunman headed seven miles away to a Navy operational support center, where he rammed into the front gate. According to law enforcement officials briefed on the investigation, it was a harrowing gunfight, since Abdulazeez had so much ammunition. Another source says he was strapped with several weapons, including an AK-47-style gun and packed 30-round magazines. In the end, he killed four Marines and wounded three others before police shot and killed him.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Our nation mourns the loss, the senseless loss of four of our nation's heroes.
SANCHEZ: Asking her face be blurred for her safety, an unidentified relative of the gunman tells affiliate KPRC the family can't even process what happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were shocked like everybody else in this nation.
SANCHEZ: Abdulazeez is described as a devoted Muslim and a trained mixed martial artist. You can see him here fighting in a video from 2009.
ALMIR DIZDAREVIC, KNEW GUNMAN: Every time he talked to me, shook my hand. He was smiling. He was courteous. He was polite, never raised his voice.
SANCHEZ: A friend and former MMA coach saw the shooter about a month ago. He says Abdulazeez recently travelled to either Jordan or Yemen for a period of time in the past two years. He was supposedly teaching children wrestling. DIZDAREVIC: And I asked his dad about it, "Where's Mohammad?" I
hadn't seen him in a while. And he said he moved back home. But I saw him a couple of times when he visited.
SANCHEZ: This as Abdulazeez's high school yearbook photo surfaces along with a quote, now laden with the heavy weight of his actions: "My name causes national security alerts. What does yours do?"
SANCHEZ: And that yearbook quote taken about six years ago. His friends say he was a jokester and that he was likely just joking. Chris, obviously, a very morbid joke in light of what happened yesterday.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. The next part of the story is the terrorism task force, led by the FBI, is now looking into this gunman to see what was not a joke. For more on what authorities know about his travels and his online posts, CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown joining us with that. What do we know?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, this is being investigated by the joint terrorism task forced. But at this point, the motive is still a mystery. We're being told through sources that, at the time of the shooting, the gunman didn't utter anything like "Allah akbar" or any outward manifestation that he was working on behalf of a terrorism organization. Though this investigation is being treated as terrorism, at this stage, as they try to learn more about 24-year-old Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez.
He was a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, had an engineering degree, graduated from there in 2012. He was not on the FBI's radar, as far as we know. He wasn't on any U.S. suspected terrorist databases, anything like that.
We know the only run-in with the law that we're aware of is that he was arrested in April for a DUI.
He was born in Kuwait as a Jordanian citizen. And a friend, a wrestling coach of him, told us that just recently, in the past couple of years, he traveled to the Middle East. The friend said he either went to Yemen or Jordan, where again, he was a citizen of.
We're also learning that his -- from his yearbook, as Boris Sanchez talk about, this quote, this quote saying, "My name causes national security alerts. What does yours do?"
Also, he started a blog recently, just in the days before the shooting. This is a blog about his Muslim faith and religious teachings. And here is one quote we pulled from that blog. It says, "Don't be fooled by your desires. This life is short and bitter. And the opportunities to submit to Allah may pass you by. Take his word as your light and code, and do not let other prisoners, whether they are so-called scholars or even your family members, divert you from the truth." But there's no indication in the blogs, as far as we can see,
indicating violence or anything like that. In fact, we've learned that, through family interviews, through interviews with friends, that even though he was a devout Muslim, there was nothing indicating that he was radical. Though we are told that recently, he began going to the mosque more, and he recently grew a beard just in the last couple of months. But nothing indicating that he supported any terrorist groups, in particular. That is key in this investigation.
Right now, authorities are looking through his laptop, looking through any information found at his home, talking to anyone who may have known him, trying to piece this together. It's still very much a mystery.
Back to you.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: It is a mystery. And that's what makes it so challenging to connect the dots here for investigators. Pamela, thanks so much for that.
Security stepped up at some federal facilities this morning. Officials have released little about the four U.S. Marines killed. But we do now know the identity of one of the victims.
CNN's senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, is live in Washington with more -- Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alisyn, four U.S. Marines killed in these two attacks on military installations in Chattanooga. As yet, only one of those individuals publicly identified. He is Marine Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Sullivan. He's 40 years old. There are reports he has worked in the past as a Marine recruiter.
The names of the three other Marines killed in Chattanooga have yet to be released publicly. We also don't know the names of the three individuals who were injured but survived.
The official reaction to the shootings in Washington has been muted, though the Department of Homeland Security said it is enhancing the security posture at certain installations.
The president, for his part, expressing condolences of the federal government to the victims and their families. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is a heartbreaking circumstance for these individuals, who have served our country with great valor, to be -- to be killed in this fashion. I speak for the American people in expressing our deepest condolences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: So the case continuing to be treated as an act of terror until terrorism is ruled out -- Chris. CUOMO: All right, Joe, thank you very much.
We have Congressman Marsha Blackburn. She represents the 7th District of Tennessee. She joins us now.
And again, Congresswoman, I'm sorry that you have to be here on this day with what's going on. What is your initial reaction for the people in your district and what needs to happen?
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: Yes, well, I think for all Tennesseans, everyone was just shocked. And then there's the dismay and the fear that comes with it.
You know, here was this attack in a normal, regular city, on a summer day and you have someone that goes into this military recruiting center, the armed services recruiting center, with the different branches, and just opens fire.
And the investigators are doing a great job. I tell you, the mayor and governor have both done a really good job with this.
But I think that, talking to friends in Tennessee, what surprised people was how quickly it was, the FBI taking charge, and it was a federal investigation. It's as if they knew from the start.
CUOMO: And given what the killer had and how much ammunition...
CUOMO: ... this -- this could have been much worse. But it was bad enough as it is.
CUOMO: Two different recruitment centers taken on.
What matters to you right now in terms of how you move forward here?
BLACKBURN: I think one of the things that all of us in Congress are going to look at is the national security issue write large, if you will. And people are very concerned about homeland security. They're concerned about what is happening on the security front in our world, whether it's the Iran deal, dealing with ISIS, dealing with radical Islamic extremists. What they want to know is that, in their homes, in their communities, they're going to be safe, their children are going to be safe. So that issue will move more to the forefront, I think, as we move through the balance of this congressional session.
Cuomo: What do you tell them about a guy like this? He's not on anybody's radar. You know, there's nothing overt yet. Who knows who the authorities know. They moved so quickly. There's no reason for them to tell us. You'll know before we do. But how do you protect against a threat that comes out of almost nowhere?
BLACKBURN: One of the things we have to be aware of is citizen participation and individuals who see something or hear something working with law enforcement and not dismissing it. And you know, when you look at the fact that attacks are occurring around the country.
And making certain that we realize that not everyone works in a vacuum alone and by themselves. That there is a networking and cells and sleeper cells around the globe. And there needs to be attention put to that.
There needs to be the ability, also, for our intelligence community to share information, whether it's military intelligence or...
CUOMO: It brings up a very important issue, though, because we just had this debate, a lot of it down there in Congress, where you kind of pushed back how much the intel community can reach into people's lives without really heavy justification. Do you think now this pendulum may start to swing back the other way, in light of things that come out of nowhere, like this?
BLACKBURN: I think what you will see is looking at what is public information, posted in the public domain and then also looking at privacy and allowing people to protect their private right and have the ability to protect their virtual you.
CUOMO: Tricky balance.
BLACKBURN: It is a very tricky balance, but it is one that we, in Congress, on the issues of privacy and data security, are going to have to revisit.
CUOMO: The reason that the men and women in the recruiting centers weren't armed is because that's the tradition; that's the policy.
BLACKBURN: That's correct.
CUOMO: Do you think now that this has alerted us to a potential soft- target situation and that has to be addressed whether they can be armed as armed services?
[07:10:05] BLACKBURN: You know, that is going to be a question for our command team via the Pentagon. And I'm certain that the joint chiefs will have something to say about that. And possibly, even some considerations that they're going to make about it.
In this day and age, and when you look at the fact that there are radical extremists, if you will, that choose to go after what are the iconic symbols of our society, then you have to revisit some of these issues and have a discussion about it.
CUOMO: No question what's happening in Tennessee is the priority right now. But I know that part of the reason you're here is you think it's important people know that you want what's going on at Planned Parenthood investigated.
CUOMO: I know that already, you know more than the video that may well have been selectively edited that's circling around the Internet. But what is your concern, given what you know?
BLACKBURN: The concern, in the hours of video that exist, is the way Planned Parenthood has participated in the selling of the tissues and the body parts. And of course, the video is absolutely abhorrent.
CUOMO: Do you believe the video on its face, or do you think it has been edited to look that horrid?
BLACKBURN: There is -- there is plenty of video and commentary that is there. And our committee, the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has oversight and also handles health care, is going to conduct an investigation. Judiciary Committee is also going to have some investigation. We will let these committees do their work and then, if we need to issue subpoenas, we'll be issuing subpoenas.
CUOMO: Is the careful balance here to not let the politics of how people feel about reproductive rights color the factual perception of what Planned Parenthood does? By that I mean, they've been doing this since the '30s, selling fetal tissue for medical research. I say "selling" in quotes, because Planned Parenthood says they don't make any profit on it. And the numbers that were offered up in this video were about transplant costs. And it was edited to make it look like they're selling and taking in money.
How do you balance those two? People don't like reproduction, you know, abortion in a big part of the country, but you don't want to paint Planned Parenthood the wrong way.
BLACKBURN: I think that what you do is look at the Title X funding that Planned Parenthood receives. Money is fungible, and Planned Parenthood has become not the organization that is focused on healthy family planning, necessarily, but they are the nation's largest abortion provider. And overwhelmingly, overwhelmingly, the American people do not want taxpayer dollars being used to fund abortion.
CUOMO: So that's going to be an entry to this, while balancing whether or not the facts on the ground of what happened in this case.
BLACKBURN: Right, the investigation -- right, the investigation will lead us to the conclusions. And we will start that probably as we come back in September.
CUOMO: We will follow that story very closely.
CUOMO: But obviously, the priority, certainly for you, is what happened in Tennessee today. And thank you...
BLACKBURN: Thank you.
CUOMO: ... for giving us perspective on that, as well.
All right. In a few minutes, as the congresswoman was mentioning, the governor, the mayor, they've done a great job in Tennessee. We have them both on the show. We're going to have the governor coming up, and then we're going to have the mayor, as well, Andy Berke. So please stay with us for that -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: All right, Chris. Another masked shooter brought to justice. Colorado movie theater gunman James Holmes, he was convicted Thursday on all 165 counts against him. And now, a jury must decide if he gets life without parole or death. The jury rejecting the defense claim that Holmes was insane when he killed 12 people and wounded 70 others.
CNN's Ana Cabrera is live in Centennial, Colorado, for us. Good morning, Ana.
ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Alisyn.
After about 11 1/2 weeks of testimony from 250-plus witnesses, thousands of pieces of evidence that were admitted, now the verdict. Guilty on all charges, prompting tears and hugs inside that courtroom packed full of victims' family members and survivors. This was the verdict they've been waiting to hear for years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, the jury, find the defendant, James Eagan Holmes, guilty of murder in the first degree.
CABRERA (voice-over): The reading of the verdict lasting more than an hour on Thursday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Count 20.
CABRERA: Though James Holmes had already sealed his fate three years ago when he massacred a crowded theater in Aurora, Colorado.
It was a swift decision on the jury's part, taking them just over 12 hours to deliberate, finding the 27-year-old guilty on all 165 charges.
TOM TEVES, FATHER OF VICTIM ALEX TEVES: This isn't about a thing who indiscriminately kills. And if you look at it, it would kill again if it was let out. And thank God, the jury saw that, and they saw it pretty quick. It's about these people and all those people who were hurt.
CABRERA: Staring stone-faced, Holmes displayed no emotion as the judge read the verdicts.
JANSEN YOUNG, GIRLFRIEND OF VICTIM JONATHAN BURK: It's just good. It's just closure. It's finally over. I mean, justice for John, and maybe I can really start making sure I put this behind us.
[07:15:08] CABRERA: For the victims' loved ones, relief that the jury did not buy the defense team's insanity strategy.
SANDY PHILLIPS, MOTHER OF VICTIM JESSICA GHAWI: We're very happy that this animal, this monster will never see the light of day.
CABRERA: Instead, it was key evidence like his planning notebook, booby-trapped apartment, and this sanity evaluation that convinced the jury guilty.
DR. REID: At that time, did you have any doubt that you would end up killing a lot of people?
JAMES HOLMES, CONVICTED MASS MURDERER: No.
CABRERA: Now this same jury must decide Holmes' sentence.
MARCUS WEAVER, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Will it ever be over? It's hard to say. Some people move forward. And others, you know. But at the same time, we'll never forget what happened in the wee hours of July 20 at the hands of the shooter. That's the painful part.
CABRERA: Up next, this trial moves into a sentencing phase, which will be like a mini-trial, expected to last about a month. And this same jury, nine women and three men, who found Holmes guilty will decide whether he should spend the rest of his life locked up or be put to death -- Chris.
CUOMO: All right, Ana. Thank you very much.
We also have new details this morning about former President George H.W. Bush's recovery after breaking a bone in his neck. The neurosurgeon treating him says the break will be allowed to heal on its own. That's good. Recovery could take three to four months. The doctor says Bush is in great shape and in great spirits and should make a full recovery.
CAMEROTA: That's good to hear.
Well, chilling video surfacing now of Russian rebels ransacking the luggage of those killed on the doomed Malaysian airline, MH-17. You can see them at the crash site. They are rifling through victims' belongings. The aircraft was shot down one year ago today. Russia denies that its forces shot down the aircraft.
CUOMO: We were there in the moments right afterwards.
CAMEROTA: I remember when you were there.
CUOMO: Phil Black was there before just about anybody else. It was horrible, how the dignity of the dead in that situation was ignored and disrespected and delayed.
CAMEROTA: And now, here you see the video evidence of it.
Well, meanwhile, presidential hopeful Chris Christie on the record and on the offensive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: The fact that he would engage that kind of conduct, if
that's what he did, is just -- is just sickening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Who is he talking about? Find out in my one-on-one interview.
CUOMO: Will you tell me in the break?
CAMEROTA: No. You have to wait.
CUOMO: Come on.
[07:20:49] CAMEROTA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. More now of my one-on- one interview with presidential hopeful Chris Christie.
We talked about the governor's ideas to stop illegal immigration. But we started with the historic visit yesterday of President Obama to a federal prison. It turns out that is a subject high on Governor Christie's agenda. Listen.
CAMEROTA: This is the first time in history that a U.S. president has entered a federal penitentiary to visit. And you just completed a speech talking about criminal justice reform. Why has this issue suddenly bubbled to the surface?
CHRISTIE: It hasn't suddenly bubbled to the surface in New Jersey. I mean, this is something I've been working on since I became governor six years ago. I learned these things when I was U.S. attorney for New Jersey for seven years and the chief federal prosecutor, that there's good things about our justice system, but there are things that need to be changed.
CAMEROTA: What do you think is the biggest problem with our justice system?
CHRISTIE: Its unfair and disparate treatment of people. We need to keep violent folks behind bars as long as we can. But nonviolent offenders, drug offenders that we're -- that we're warehousing in prisons for years makes no sense. It makes them less productive when they come out. And it doesn't deal with the root of the problem, which is their drug addiction.
CAMEROTA: And so what would you do? You would no longer have any prison sentences for people who were found with possession of drugs who were users.
CHRISTIE: Right. First-time offenders, in that regard, I would send to treatment rather than incarceration. I would nationalize the drug court system. We have a great drug court system here in New Jersey. You hear -- you
heard today in the speech some of the results in the introduction. Some of the results that has provided for our state. Our prison population is down 31 percent in New Jersey. For those who have gone through our drug court, the recidivism rate is 16 percent, compared to well over 50 percent of recidivism rate at the federal level. Those are real results that are not only good for those individuals and their families, but it's good for society; and it's good for the taxpayers.
CAMEROTA: Let's talk about immigration. Obviously, that's been a hot topic this week in terms of illegal immigration, undocumented immigration. Let's be specific about this. Everybody talks about they want immigration reform. But specifically, with the 11 million, 12 million undocumented immigrants who are here today, what would you do with them?
CHRISTIE: We didn't do anything until we fix the problem that is getting everybody in trouble to begin with, which is we have to deal with our border situation.
And I'm one of these folks who believes that the most effective way to deal with the border situation, in addition to Border Patrol and electronic surveillance, is the use E-Verify in this country. Folks come to this country illegally because they want to work. And we've got to penalize employers who hire people here who are here illegally. So we need to make bigger fines to make sure that those employers who violate the law are taken into account.
CAMEROTA: So that's where you'd start, with the 12 million, roughly, who are here currently today. You would start by penalizing their employers. And would you have any pathway to citizenship for those 12 million who have been working here?
CHRISTIE: I have to tell you the truth, I -- we have a number of undocumented immigrants here in New Jersey, many whom I've met over the course of my governorship. None of them has ever come to here and said that, "Governor, the reason I came here was to vote." They said they came here to work. So let's deal with the work situation first, and then we'll deal with everything else.
I don't believe -- I think, you know, when Secretary Clinton talks about path to citizenship for people here illegally, she's just pandering.
CAMEROTA: but you talked about a pathway to citizenship. I mean, in 2010, you said, "As a former United States attorney, I had to deal with these issues for seven years. We simply didn't have the resources to deal with them effectively. So the president and Congress have to step up to the plate. They have to secure our borders, and they have to put forward a common-sense path to citizenship for these people."
CHRISTIE: Well, first of all, yes, I agree with everything I said in there. We don't have the resources from a law enforcement perspective to forcibly deport those folks, not in those numbers. We simply don't.
CAMEROTA: So then what...
CHRISTIE: Let me finish. Secondly, we have to have Congress and the president come together to come up with a common-sense way to deal with this. They haven't done that yet. The president's done it by executive order. He hasn't brought folks together on this.
And my perspective on this is, after watching this and operating now -- it's five and a half years since those statements as governor. That's not what folks really care about. What they care about is the ability to work. And so that's what we need to deal with. And we've not -- we haven't dealt with this well at this point.
And quite frankly, a lot of those folks are been exploited by these employers who are paying them significantly lower wages in order to make a greater profit. Those people need to be penalized for that, and that will be the way to stop the flow from wherever they're coming from, south of the border or elsewhere, into this country illegally. And there should be no special way for anybody to get citizenship any different than any other foreigner.
CAMEROTA: And I just want to ask you, people are talking about this, Bill Cosby. As a former prosecutor, as the U.S. attorney for seven years, you know, there have been more than 25 women who have come forward to say that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted or raped them. Do you believe that Bill Cosby should be prosecuted?
CHRISTIE: Well, you know, listen, if he's guilty of what he has been accused of, then he should be prosecuted if the law allows it. I will tell you that in New Jersey, what just happened was that he said -- the prosecutor said the statute of limitations had long since passed. That's something that a legislature would have to deal with, if they wanted to change that.
But the fact is, let's focus on what's really important here, which is the conduct. And the conduct is reprehensible. If in face, which it appears from the reports I've read he's admitted, under oath that he engaged in this kind of conduct, and it's absolutely reprehensible conduct. And as the father of two daughters, it makes me sick.
You don't want to always change laws just to deal with one circumstance. But the fact is, if the law permits prosecution, and the evidence is there, he should be prosecuted. And if it doesn't, then we need to examine those laws on a going forward basis and see what we may need to do.
But the fact is, the thing that I focus on the most as a father is just how incomprehensible it is to me that someone -- if what he did -- if what's alleged is actually what he did. That someone in a position of authority and influence and esteem in this country. You know, I watched "The Cosby Show."
CAMEROTA: Who didn't?
CUOMO: Right? The fact that he would engage in that kind of conduct, if that's what he did, is just -- is just sickening.
CAMEROTA: So we covered a lot of topics. And it was interesting to hear what he said about immigration. That he believes that the problem is the employers and that, if you penalize them, that it would solve the problem and that immigrants, he thinks, are not coming here for citizenship. I mean, he was ignoring the idea that people come here to put down roots.
CUOMO: It's complicated. Right? I mean...
CAMEROTA: It is complicated.
CUOMO: Why do you want to work? You want to work so you can take care of your family. Where do you want your family to be? You want them to be with you. And then what is that? That's putting down roots.
The idea of going after employers, the question is not whether that's a good idea. It's a great idea.
CUOMO: Why isn't it done? Why hasn't it been done? That's going to take you right back into the ugly circle of politics and how money often wins.
CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, you heard him. That would be where he would start if he were elected president.
CUOMO: So the candidates, he's one of them. Five of them, including Mr. Christie, were stumping in New Hampshire Thursday. All the campaign news. I know you want it. One place to get it, "Inside Politics," coming up.