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THE SITUATION ROOM

Three Officers Killed, Three Wounded in Baton Rouge; Interview with Senator Bill Cassidy; Interview with Representative Cedric Richmond; Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 17, 2016 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:07] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir. Sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: This was the scene. Now you can hear the heavy gunfire. A civilian recorded this video this morning's shootout about a mile from police headquarters. The East Baton Rouge Parrish Sheriff's Office says the gunman is dead. He was shot and killed on the scene. Officials stressed, and this is important, there is no active shooting situation under way. That's what they just said. State and local authorities just wrapped up a news conference moments ago laying out the timeline.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COL. MIKE EDMONSON, SUPERINTENDENT, LOUISIANA STATE POLICE: At approximately 8:40 a.m. Baton Rouge PD officers at a convenience store observed the individual. He was wearing all black, standing behind a beauty supply store, holding a rifle. At approximately 8:42 a.m., reports received of shots fired. At approximately 8:44 a.m., reports received of officers down on the scene.

At 8:45, reports received of more shots being fired. At 8:46 a.m., reports received of the suspect -- again, he was wearing all black standing near a car wash located right next to the convenience store. At 8:48 our Emergency EMS units started arriving at the scene. They were staging so they could start approaching and getting the bodies that -- at the scene to render first aid.

Officers engaged the subject at that particular time and he ultimately died at the scene. That was officers that were responding to the scene itself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Once again, momentarily, the president of the United States will be speaking from the White House on this shooting of police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We're going to go there in a moment, but very quickly I want to bring in CNN's Nick Valencia. He's just arrived. He's near the scene in Baton Rouge. He's joining us on the phone.

Nick, what's the situation right now? NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Wolf, we will

be verbally constrained about what we're allowed to say. We want to be very careful also about what we show. We arrived here just in the matter of the last 10 minutes to an ongoing and very active police situation on Airline Highway where those three officers had their lives taken earlier this morning.

What I can tell you from my vantage point now is I see at least two officers in tactical gear, one with their long rifle pointed in the direction across the street towards the car lot, another officer in tactical gear also has his handgun out. We did see a number of police cars, at least two police cars head in the direction where these officers are currently standing, about 250 yards away from the corner of Goodwood and Airline. That is just about a half block up from the Baton Rouge Police Department headquarters.

There are several helicopters in the sky right now. We assume at least one of them is a police helicopter, perhaps other affiliate choppers in the sky right now. The situation is not quite as tense as it was when we arrived, but officers are still looking at an area that is a heavily wooded area. There is a number of bushes and brushes right next to this area at -- near a car lot. This, as we were told earlier at the press conference from the state police, is still a very active area, though they believe that the person responsible for the shooting --

BLITZER: All right. Hold on, Nick, I'm going to interrupt you. The president is now about to speak.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As all of you now, this morning three law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge were killed in the line of duty. Three others were wounded. One is still in critical condition.

As of right now, we don't know the motive of the killer. We don't know whether the killer set out to target police officers or whether he gunned them down as they responded to a call. Regardless of motive, the death of these three brave officers underscores the danger that police across the country confront every single day, and we as a nation have to be loud and clear that nothing justifies violence against law enforcement. Attacks on police are an attack on all of us and the rule of law that makes society possible.

Earlier this afternoon, I spoke with Governor Edwards and Mayor Holden, and I offered them the full support of the federal government and reiterated my full support for law enforcement in Baton Rouge and for police officers across the country. I also spoke to the attorney general. The FBI has already been on the scene and through the work of all levels of government, justice will be done.

Most of all, our hearts go out to the families who are grieving. Our prayers go out to the officer who is still fighting for his life. This has happened far too often, and I've spent a lot of time with law enforcement this past week. I'm surrounded by the best of the best every single day, and I know whenever this happens, wherever this happens, you feel it. [17:05:05] Your families feel it. But what I want you to know today

is the respect and the gratitude of the American people for everything that you do for us. Five days ago, I traveled to Dallas for the memorial service of the officers who were slain there. I said that that killer would not be the last person who tries to make us turn on each other, nor will today's killer.

It remains up to us to make sure that they fail. That decision is all of ours. The decision to make sure that our best selves are reflected across America, not our worst. That's up to us. We have our divisions, and they are not new. Around the clock news cycles and social media sometimes amplify these divisions, and I know we're about to in a couple of weeks at conventions where our political rhetoric tends to be more overheated than usual.

And that is why it is so important that everyone, regardless of race or political party or profession, regardless of what organizations you are a part of, everyone right now focus on words and actions that can unite this country rather than divide it further. We don't need inflammatory rhetoric. We don't need careless accusations that can unite this country rather than divide it further.

We don't need inflammatory rhetoric. We don't need careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda. We need to temper our words and open our hearts, all of us. We need what we saw in Dallas this week as a community came together to restore order and deepen unity and understanding. We need the kind of efforts we saw this week in meetings between community leaders and police, some of which I participated in where I saw people of goodwill pledge to work together to reduce violence throughout all of our communities.

That's what's needed right now, and it is up to all of us to make sure we are part of the solution and not part of the problem. Now someone once wrote, a bullet need happen only once, but for peace to work we need to be reminded of its existence again and again and again.

My fellow Americans, only we can prove through words and through deeds that we will not be divided and we're going to have to keep on doing it again and again and again. That's how this country gets united. That's how we bring people of goodwill together. Only we can prove that we have the grace and the character and the common humanity to end this kind of senseless violence, to reduce fear and mistrust within the American family, to set an example for our children.

That's who we are and that's who we always have the capacity to be and that's the best way for us to honor the sacrifice of the brave police officers who were taken from us this morning.

May God bless them and their families. And may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: The president of the United States delivering a short, but important statement urging everyone, in his words, to temper our words right now. Open our hearts. This is clearly a very, very sensitive moment in the United States. Three more police officers shot. One police officer now fighting for his life.

The president said justice will be done. He said our hearts go out to the families, especially that one officer right now fighting for his life.

Art Roderick, you're with us. You're a former assistant director of the U.S. Marshal's office. You've worked in law enforcement your entire career. When you hear the president say those words, as a law enforcement officer, what's your reaction?

ART RODERICK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it's comforting to hear him say that. I mean, I think he struck all the right chords there with his speech. I think that he's absolutely correct. He just came back from Dallas. We saw him out there in Dallas talking to the police officers, talking to their families, and I think hopefully we're turning a corner here where we can start bringing the community and law enforcement together around the country to work out a lot of these issues.

But I think in this particular instance with what happened there in Baton Rouge it's horrifying and unfortunately he might have to go to another three funerals and talk to other family members of law enforcement.

BLITZER: It's a horrific situation. Bob Reed, you're a former sheriff here in Cuyahoga County in Cleveland.

[17:10:02] What's your reaction when you hear the president?

BOB REED, FORMER SHERIFF, CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OHIO: Yes, it is comforting. And to have been a part of police deaths over the last 10 or 15 years in Cuyahoga County, Cleveland police officers, a few suburban officer, I know how difficult it is. It's difficult for the families. It's difficult for the whole law enforcement family. And to hear the president's words, it is comforting.

BLITZER: It's becoming all too familiar, Gloria, this whole notion of the president as comforter-in-chief. He feels he has that responsibility right now to go out and make a statement along these lines, only five minutes, but a powerful statement and a statement urging everyone to be careful precisely now because the feelings are so raw.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think also his statement went beyond comfort into kind of a sort of a warning to a degree, which is to the country, which is you cannot make this -- let us turn on each other, that we can't let that occur. And he made the point quite directly, we're going to enter a couple weeks of political conventions. He didn't say -- he actually said rhetoric will be overheated, more overheated than usual.

And he sort of let the American public know that we -- he said we don't need inflammatory rhetoric or accusations that advance a political agenda. You know, what he said is we need to kind of calm down and make sure that we understand we're better than what happened in Baton Rouge or what happened in Dallas. And so -- but it was quite clear to me that he was sort of saying to political leaders of all ilk, I would say, let's just kind of cool it here because you don't want to -- you don't want this to continue.

BLITZER: The president said it remains up to us to make sure that these killers fail. He said we have our divisions, they are not new, but it's very important that we all stop engaging in what he called careless accusations.

We just did get a statement in from Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Let me read it to our viewers.

"Today's devastating assault on police officers in Baton Rouge is an assault on all of us. There is no justification for violence, for hate, for attacks on men and women, who put their lives on the line every day in service of our families and communities." Hillary Clinton adds, "We must not turn our backs on each other. We must not be indifferent to each other. We must also stand together to reject violence and strengthen our communities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and families of the police officers who were killed and injured today."

Pamela Brown, you cover the Justice Department. You heard the president say he spoke today with the attorney general, Loretta Lynch. The FBI is now deeply involved. What are you hearing about this incident?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've learned now the identity of this shooter, 27-year-old Gavin Long. 29, I should say. In fact, this was his birthday, so we have learned that he was killed in that shootout with police on his birthday. 29-year-old Gavin Long. Still trying to learn more about him, where he's from, why he was in that area, and what his motive was, but at this point law enforcement officials I've been speaking with are skeptical that there are more shooters than just this one, this 29-year-old Gavin Long.

And Wolf, as you very well know, in the beginning there's an assumption that there are more shooters. At this point, it hasn't been ruled out that there could be more. But the thinking is that it could just be this one 29-year-old, Gavin Long. And we know that there was this 911 call made before the shooting where someone called in and said that there was someone wearing all black and a face mask carrying a long rifle, which is the description of this suspect.

And one scenario law enforcement officials are looking at in the investigation is whether this was an intentional phone call made perhaps by the shooter or someone he knew to lure police in, or whether this was a suicide by cop scenario, or whether police were just responding to another situation. And then there was this long firefight. We know there was video that captured the firefight that law enforcement has been looking at. That video has been taken down from social media, but that is a key piece of evidence in this investigation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And a statement just coming in from Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives. I'll read it, "I'm deeply disturbed by today's shooting in Baton Rouge. We will not tolerate brutal violence against law enforcement, the people who dedicate their lives to protecting Americans. Our nation grieves with Louisiana today. My prayers are with the fallen officers and their families."

There's more developments happening right now. We're going to go to the scene of the shooting momentarily. Let's take a quick break. Much more right after this.

[17:14:40]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: We're covering the breaking news of that horrific shooting of three more police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Three other police officers were shot. One of them right now critically injured, fighting for his life.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, he reacted to these shootings. Two statements. Quote, "We are trying to fight ISIS and now our own people are killing our police. Our country is divided and out of control. The world is watching."

Another statement from Donald Trump. "We grieve for the officers killed in Baton Rouge today. How many law enforcement and people have to die because of a lack of leadership in our country? We demand law and order."

Let's go to Baton Rouge right now. Nick Valencia is on the scene for us.

Nick, just before the president spoke out and delivered that statement, you were updating us on what you were seeing and hearing in Baton Rouge right now. Just -- for viewers just tuning in, start from the beginning and tell us.

VALENCIA: It was about 30 minutes ago that we arrived here on the scene about a half block up from the Baton Rouge Police Department headquarters.

[17:20:04] And as we learned very quickly when we arrived, it is still an ongoing police situation. Within five minutes of getting here on the ground we saw at least two officers, with our own eyes in tactical gear, pointing their long rifles across the street near a car lot in an area that has a lot of bushes, a lot of -- sort of a heavily wooded area. And within a few minutes after that, we saw police cars head south to try to check out perhaps a lead in this investigation.

We heard earlier during a press conference from Louisiana State Colonel Mike Edmondson that they believe the man responsible for the deaths of these officers has been killed. But this still is an area that they are canvassing. Still a very tense and anxious environment. Helicopters were hovering overhead, presumably some police officers, others affiliates' choppers getting a signal of what's going on here. But still a very active scene when we arrived. A lot of anxiety here in this area right now -- Wolf. BLITZER: And does it still seem to be a very, very active scene right

now?

VALENCIA: Well, within the last 10 minutes, that anxiety sort of subsided. We saw those officers that were pointing their weapons across the street put their guns down. Those officers, those police vehicles that went to go check out the scene about 200 yards away from me here behind my back here, it seems to have died down for the moment. But still we see a lot of police presence, a lot of unmarked police cars. Some other Baton Rouge police departments. East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's officers that are in the area checking things out here.

There were initial reports that there was suspected to be more than one person involved right now. Police officers no doubt want to make sure that the public safety is a priority here and ensure that everything is clear. For right now, we can't reiterate enough just how tense it is in this environment in the hours after three police officers were shot and killed in this city that is still healing from a violent episode involving police officers.

The death of Alton Sterling, more than a week and a half ago, putting this community in turmoil. We saw a lot of grieving from residents. Police on high alert in the days after that. Just a couple of days ago, we reported here on CNN that there were suspects who were involved in a burglary of a pawnshop. And they were suspected or alleged to be using those weapons or wanting to use those weapons against police officers.

Of course in the days after those arrests, there were some discrepancies. None of those suspects were charged in a plot to kill police, but it just speaks to the level of anxiety in this area that something like Dallas could happen here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Nick -- Nick, stand by for a moment because the Alton Sterling family has issued -- released this statement. I want to play it for our viewers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VEDA WASHINGTON-ABUSALEH, ALTON STERLING'S AUNT: We don't call for no bloodshed. That's how this all started. With bloodshed. We don't want no more bloodshed. So if you're not in accord with us, leave, go home, go wherever you come from. This is our house. You can't come in our house, killing us. That's what you're doing because at the end of the day, when these people call these families and they tell them that their daddies and their mamas not coming home no more, I know how they feel because I got the same phone call.

No justice. No justice, no peace. That's what we're calling for. Stop this killing. Stop this killing. Stop this killing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Very emotional statement from the Alton Sterling family in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Republican Senator Bill Cassidy is joining us now live from Baton

Rouge.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us. I wish we were talking under different circumstances. As you know, the president, he just spoke moments ago about the killings of these police officers in Baton Rouge. I want you to listen to a little bit of what he just said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Everyone right now focus on words and actions that can unite this country rather than divide it further. We don't need inflammatory rhetoric. We don't need careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda. We need to temper our words and open our hearts, all of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Important words from the president.

Senator, what do you make of the president's words today? You heard his statement. Are they enough from your perspective?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: It is. I agree. I tell folks right now we just need to support law enforcement as one example. If you have any kind of complaint about anyone, don't even make a casual comment. There may be someone who is unbalanced and this tips them over. So we -- right now we need to focus on the fact that we're Americans, that we are all together, and not the divisions that the folks that killed these police officers are hoping to open up.

[17:25:16] In Baton Rouge, we're not divided like that. We have problems. We have made so much progress over the last 20 years and we have more to make. We have much more to make. On the other hand, that these folks are trying to move it backwards, make it worse, that must be resisted.

BLITZER: Senator, what are you hearing from your law enforcement investigators who are in the state right now? What can you share with us about what precisely happened? We know that Gavin Long, 29 years old, has been identified as the killer. What, if anything, can you tell us about him?

CASSIDY: Wolf, I don't know what you know that he's actually from Kansas City, Missouri, and that he came here and that he is obviously -- we don't know yet, but we can imagine wanted to kill police officers to open up divisions not just in our community, but elsewhere. Someone like that man in Charleston, South Carolina, who walked into the church killing people, hoping to start racial strife. It is -- they win if that happens. It is up to us, of goodwill, to not allow that to happen. And that's the way we defeat the evil that this man or these men tried to rot.

BLITZER: This individual, Gavin Long, is it your understanding he acted alone, that there's no investigation -- there's no search now for accomplices, if you will? CASSIDY: All I've read again is what you've read that two folks have

been -- have been picked up for interest and there are no active shooters at large. So I assume that means that if there is someone, they feel like as if they have them or else there are no others. But again that law enforcement, and aside from the press conference and what you know, that is what I know.

BLITZER: What about a motive? Is there any indication what this individual, this 29-year-old, may have had as his motive for doing this horrible, horrible murder?

CASSIDY: I'm told there's a Facebook page that he is on, the organization to which he belonged was one that has been associated with hate, if you will. But again, this is what I picked up on a Web site, not that I know personally or has been told by law enforcement. And I think that will develop.

BLITZER: When you say hate, this individual was associated on his Facebook page with an organization associated with hate, hate of whom? Hate of what?

CASSIDY: And that I don't know.

BLITZER: Was it hate of the police? Is there any indication of that?

CASSIDY: Again we can only imagine. I think the investigation will show. It's my understanding one of the police officers is an African- American. And so if you will, it may be directed more towards police, in which case the man he shot, as I gather, had a 2-year-old, 2-month- old son or 2-week-old son, and it's an incredible tragedy.

I'll go back to what I said earlier. There's a war right now on police. And we who wish to stop that must do everything we can to support the police officer. Anything negative we say can be interpreted by others as an excuse to attack them. And that we must not give that excuse.

BLITZER: And Senator, how is your community there in Baton Rouge and in Louisiana holding up?

CASSIDY: It's holding up well. And I will say again, there's been lots of progress building bridges between races over the last 10 to 20 years. There has more to do, but there's been much progress. And I think everyone is fearful that this will move it back. And people of goodwill are just working to make sure that does not happen.

At my church, which is predominantly white, went to a predominantly black church, after the Alton Sterling shooting and the protest just to connect. And one of the people at my church was given a note. And the note said, "Thank you for being here." It gives me hope that others care. And it was given to her by an African-American woman. And so there is in our community those that wish to bridge the gap to keep us together. And that's in Baton Rouge but also in our state and our nation, I'll also say in our nation. And that's what we have to focus on now. BLITZER: Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. Senator, thank you so

much for joining us. Our deepest condolences to you and especially the families of those police officers who were killed and we're certainly praying for that police officer right now fighting, fighting for his life. Appreciate it very much.

We'll take a quick break. We're getting more information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. We'll update you when we come back.

[17:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. More shooting of police officers. Three more police officers shot and killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Three other police officers shot. Two of them are in stable condition, but one right now fighting for his life, according to local authorities. We're praying for that police officer.

Fredricka Whitfield is on the scene for us now in Baton Rouge. She's joining us.

Fred, we're getting more information -- you're getting more information right now. What else are you hearing?

[17:35:01] WHITFIELD: Well, let me tell you, Wolf, you know, hearts are very heavy here because we're talking about a very tight-knit community. At the same time, it has been rather tenuous particularly within the last couple of weeks after the shooting death of Alton Sterling by two white officers and now you have this. Hearts are heavy because you hear the governor who today who said an attack on one is an attack on all of us. When we were coming to this location here, we noticed this two-mile radius that has been cordoned off not far from the Baton Rouge police headquarters here.

The location of the shooting just behind me. And as we approached, we saw police officers that were hugging each other, comforting one another. I spoke with one officer who said this hurts very deeply. Tears in his eyes. He knew two of the three officers that have been killed. One we know is of course fighting for his life. Among those who were injured here. This goes very deep. And of course, all of this happening on the heels of what we saw just recently in Dallas with the sniper shooting five officers there.

This is neighboring Louisiana. This is a very tight-knit community. And officers here are wondering at what point, you know, is this going to come to some close. They're looking to each other for comfort. They're trying to figure out what is behind this 29-year-old Gavin Long of Missouri. Why did he have this long arm rifle that witnesses called in and said they saw this person in this location not far behind me?

And when officers arrived, witnesses say he simply opened fire, taking down -- killing three officers and of course the others who remain hospitalized, one in critical condition fighting for his life -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And the community there is, I'm sure, in shock right now as a result of this. The community has been going through an awful period over the past week and a half or so as a result of the killing of Alton Sterling as well.

Give us a little sense, if you can, right now of what people are saying to you on the streets, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Well, you know, this is a neighborhood. I mean, if you look around me -- I don't know if we can kind of loosen the tripod right now and just take a look behind me. Well, this is a main thoroughfare here. This cuts right through a residential community. We drove through the neighborhoods. People were still out biking, you know, trying to, you know, continue on their Sunday kind of ritual, but this has impacted everyone because, given the size of this community, someone knows someone who is a police officer or has a loved one who is a police officer.

What we've learned about the police officers, some with as little experience as one year, others as much experience as nine, 10 years. It is a tight-knit community. We're seeing people who have been coming up, just trying to, you know, get a look about what's going on. But this entire area, this is, you know, a fairly commercial strip. You've got car dealers here. You've got, you know, restaurants. This is a major thoroughfare, but right now it's cordoned off for about a two-mile radius while police remain here.

It is still an active crime scene, even though officials said earlier they have no reports, they have no reason to believe that there is still an active shooter. They do believe that the 29-year-old Gavin Long may have acted alone. They took him down. No active shooter, but of course it does remain an active scene.

BLITZER: All right, Fred. We'll get back to you. Fredricka Whitfield is on the scene for us in Baton Rouge. Thanks very much.

And joining us on the phone right now from Louisiana, the Grayson Police chief, Mitch Bratton. He's a former president of the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police.

Chief, thanks very much for joining us. The association, I know your association is headquartered in Baton Rouge, service more than 350 police departments across the state.

Chief Bratton, what are you hearing from your fellow police officers?

CHIEF MITCH BRATTON, GRAYSON POLICE: Well, Wolf, we just had a statewide conference the last three days of last week, and it was discussed -- obviously it was on everyone's minds. There's an increased sense of vigilance, but we have to counter that with maintaining the same level of service for our citizens in our communities that they deserve.

We are all fairly in agreement that we don't have a black and white issue. We don't have a police versus non-police issue. We have a right and wrong issue. And there are people from all aspects that are on both sides of that.

BLITZER: I assume police officers in Baton Rouge, elsewhere in Louisiana are now stepping up their own efforts to enhance their security. They're worried about their security. What are you hearing from them on that front?

BRATTON: Well, obviously, different departments are taking different measures. I talked to some police chiefs that were restricting their patrols to two officers per car instead of having one officer.

[17:40:06] We have some that were taking steps to solidify the security at their administrative buildings, dispatch centers, things of that. Obviously there's some training. There's awareness going out to officers in my area and other areas of the state, I'm sure. It's most definitely something that's in the back of everyone's mind when they walk out the door.

BLITZER: Chief Mitch Bratton of the Grayson Police Department. Chief, good luck. Our deepest, deepest condolences to everyone there as a result of this horrific, horrific murder today. Thanks very much for joining us.

We're getting new details on the investigation. They're just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Stand by for that. We're also getting reaction from Donald Trump, the Republican presumptive presidential nominee, to the statement just made by President Obama. We'll have all of that and much more coming up right after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

[17:45:41] BLITZER: We're continuing to follow the breaking news out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Very disturbing news. Three police officers have been shot and killed. Another three are wounded. One of those police officers fighting for his life right now. Police say a single gunman was killed on the scene. They aren't looking for any other suspects. That's what police are saying right now.

I want to bring in Representative Cedric Richmond. He's a Democrat from Louisiana's Second District, which covers Baton Rouge. He's also a member of the House Homeland Security committee.

Representative Richmond, thanks very much for joining us. We're just getting confirmation of what we just heard from Senator Bill Cassidy. The shooter, 29-year-old Gavin Long. Law enforcement sources now saying, confirming he is a 29-year-old black male from Kansas City, Missouri.

Is there any more information you can tell us about this individual Gavin Long, this 29-year-old from Kansas City, Congressman? What else are you learning about him and his possible motive?

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D), LOUISIANA: The truth is, Wolf, we're so early in the investigation that that information is not known. I know that there'll be an update tomorrow at 2:00 by law enforcement, the governor, and others. Really right now it's just a real fact-finding in terms of making sure that we gather enough information and that by the time we start going into those -- answering those questions that we know absolutely the absolute fact. And you have to imagine that Baton Rouge is at a very fragile, fragile place right now. And we just -- we want to be overly cautious that everything is done with a lot of thought and -- a lot of thought behind it.

BLITZER: Because we also heard from Senator Cassidy -- and I don't know if you have confirmation of this -- that apparently this individual Gavin Long on his Facebook page has some sort of association with some sort of hate group, if you will.

Do you have any indication what that hate -- who this individual may be associated with as far as hate is concerned?

RICHMOND: Well, I don't think that -- I don't know that for sure. We've heard that, but no one has confirmed it and law enforcement has specifically not confirmed it.

BLITZER: So that's all in the works of being confirmed.

I want you to listen, Congressman, to what the sheriff of East Baton Rouge said just a little while ago. I'll get your reaction. Listen to this.

RICHMOND: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF SID GAUTREAUX, EAST BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA: This is not so much about gun control as it is about what's in men's hearts. And until we come together as a nation, as a people, to heal as that and this madness continues, we will surely perish as a people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, Congressman. When you hear those words, and they're poignant, obviously, what's your reaction?

RICHMOND: I think the sheriff is absolutely right that we do have to -- we do have to change hearts. I mean, I think that that is at the root of it, but the other part is our officers can be outgunned. But the sheriff is absolutely right. We're at a place in this country, which I think may be an all-time low when you start looking at American citizens doing acts like this. Then we need to search our soul and our hearts. We need to watch our words and we need to engage in some very honest conversations -- some very honest conversations about where we go from here.

BLITZER: Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana who represents the Baton Rouge area. Thank you so much for joining us.

RICHMOND: You're welcome, Wolf. Thank you.

[17:50:03] BLITZER: Thank you. Once again we're getting more information on the investigation. New

details coming in. We're also going to share with you Donald Trump's reaction to what we just heard from President Obama. Much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: We're here in Cleveland on the eve of the Republican convention. We're following breaking news. People are reacting to the shooting of six Baton Rouge police officers today. Three of them were killed. One right now fighting for his life, the other two in stable condition.

Here with us, our chief political correspondent Dana Bash, CNN political commentator Michael Smerconish, the host of "SMERCONISH" on CNN. Our senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, Carl Bernstein, our CNN political commentator, author as well.

Michael Smerconish, I want to play -- read to you two tweets, Donald Trump reacting to what the president of the United States said just a little while ago at the White House. Trump tweeting, "President Obama just had a news conference but he doesn't have a clue. Our country is a divided crime scene and it will only get worse." He also tweeted this moments ago. "Our country is totally divided and our enemies are watching. We are not looking good, we are not looking smart, we are not looking tough."

Your reaction?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought that the divided crime scene comment was awkward and strange. There is no divide in America when it comes to the brutal slaying of three police officers in Baton Rouge. We all stand undivided on their sides. So I don't -- it's almost as if he's seeking to extenuate some kind of a divide for political purposes. That was my first reaction.

BLITZER: And your second reaction now that you've thought about it?

SMERCONISH: The same as my first.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right. Just want to make sure when you say your first reaction.

Dana, Donald Trump now brand himself as the law and order candidate. That's a major theme. We'll be hearing it here in Cleveland all week.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And tomorrow night the very first night, the opening night of the convention will be just that, it's going to be about law and order. So there's no question, as you said, that Donald Trump thinks that he can capitalize on this politically, and you know what, he might be right. [17:55:10] It's kind of ironic given the fact that Hillary Clinton

from the second Donald Trump became the presumptive nominee, began to paint him as somebody who is not ready and he doesn't have the temperament to be president. And yet he's trying to seize on the notion that people are upset and worried and angry and fearful and try to turn the way he is into a positive. We'll see if that works.

BLITZER: When Donald Trump says the country is divided, he's right. The country is pretty divided, right?

CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Of course. It is divided but we just had the president of the United States make a truly appropriate and dignified and very sensible response to what has gone on. And we have a dialogue in this country that has been promoted by Donald Trump going back to the birther question in which the demonization of the president of the United States and the cultural moment we're at in which the language and rhetoric of our politics has become debates with these kind of attacks on our leaders as well as you can't have a reasoned debate, you can't have a fact-based debate in our political culture today.

And this campaign is an example of it. But as Dana says, he is the beneficiary of this. Hillary Clinton has been unable to meet him on anything like an equal basis on this, and she's in terrible trouble as a result of these cultural moments.

BLITZER: The president has said all of us have to be very careful right now. He warned us against using what he called inflammatory rhetoric and careless accusations.

But you know, Nia, there is going to be a lot of inflammatory rhetoric coming up and a lot of careless accusations in this new world of social media.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and Donald Trump certainly the social media candidate, the social media presumptive nominee of this party, and I think we saw today that rather than kind of doing something different, he goes back to his same strategy, which is to react on Twitter, to use lots of exclamation points and rhetoric that many, I think, consider overheated.

I think it's an open question as to whether or not he will be able to politically capitalize on that. I think, sure, he is trying to do that, but I think just as many people who might be drawn to Trump are also turned off by him, particularly demographics, college educated white women, college-educated whites more generally. So I think we're going to see what this tone is at this convention.

We've got a lineup of speakers. A lot of them have already been released. So we'll see what he continues to do around events like this.

BLITZER: And Michael, this convention here this week takes place just in the immediate aftermath not only of this horrific shooting in Baton Rouge, but what we saw in Nice, France. A horrible terror attack, 84 people killed. A coup in a NATO ally, in Europe, Turkey. All of these kinds of developments are going to certainly hover over this convention in Cleveland and then the Democratic convention next week in Philadelphia.

SMERCONISH: We all know because we've had to come through a gauntlet in order to get precisely where we're seated today. And this town is in a security lockdown, and my first consideration are for the law enforcement officers who are charged with keeping us all safe, and Wolf, as you know and have been discussing, it's an open carry environment, and I'm concerned about the Trump rhetoric in firing up individuals who would be inclined to show up with their weapons as some Second Amendment solidarity movement. It's a time for lessening the emotions and taking it down a notch, in my opinion.

BLITZER: You've been speaking to a lot of people here, Dana. What are you hearing?

BASH: Well, certainly there is concern, I would say, just to add to that. There was a call from the head of the Police Officers' Union today for the governor, John Kasich, to try to suspend the concealed carry during the convention, and I just asked the governor's office for a statement, and the answer was, he's not constitutionally able to do that. It just doesn't work like that. He can't just kind of, you know, wave a magic wand or use his pen to do that.

So, you know, in that sense, nothing is going to change. But I do think it's interesting that the police union themselves seem to be concerned about it. Hopefully their concerns are not going to be realized.

BLITZER: Carl, you and I have covered a lot of these conventions and you've walked around here. And Cleveland security is very tight.

BERNSTEIN: It's very tight, but what's really different is that I think you get a sense all over the country, including some of the delegates here that I've talked to, including Trump supporters yearning for real leadership in this country that is not coming from either party with their prospective nominees. And so this convention takes place with great dissatisfaction going on about who the two candidates are.

This is not a love fest that we're about to watch here. And at the same time there is unity about Hillary Clinton being almost the anti- Christ, and that, too, is indicative of how our cultural warfare has now defined our politics to the point where we can't come together. Trump is right about this. We have an inability to come together because we have no common ground even about what our problems are and a way of knowing --