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CNN NEWSROOM

Five Shot in Virginia; Shooter's Social Media Rants; President Calls for Unity; Baseball Field Layout and Timeline; Mueller Meets with Senate Intel Chairs. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 14, 2017 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Brianna Keilar, and I'm coming to you from a very shaken U.S. Capitol Hill right now. Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, the third ranking member of the House GOP leadership, is in stable condition with a gunshot wound to the hip. The man who shot him is dead. Scalise is the Republican majority whip. He was one of five people shot in an early morning baseball practice just across the Potomac River in a quiet suburban park in Alexandria, Virginia. A lobbyist who coaches the team, a congressional aide and two members of the Capitol Police also were shot. And before police took down the attacker, all of that happening, he had opened fire from behind one of the dugouts with some kind of rifle, they say. And now investigators are trying to pinpoint a motive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JEFF DUNCAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I actually left right before the shooting happened and had an interaction with who I believe was the shooter based on the profile that I saw on TV. I've given a statement to the Alexandria Police Department this morning after I heard about the shooting. They asked me to come down there because I did have an interaction with someone in the parking lot who asked me if the team practicing was a Democrat or a Republican team. I told him they were Republican. He said, OK, thanks, turned around. I got in the car and left and found out that my Republican colleagues were targeted by an active shooter today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: The dead gunman has now been identified as James T. Hodgkinson, 66 years old, from Bellville, Illinois. The FBI says it is too early to know whether this was an act of terror or whether lawmakers were targeted for assassination.

Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks was there at the practice. He actually used his belt as a tourniquet to help one of the victims. He's given some of the most riveting accounts of this morning's horrors.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA, WITNESS TO BALLFIELD ATTACK: Well, I was on the third base side of home plate getting ready to have batting practice, and the first shots were pretty much past the third base dugout, maybe 10 or 15 feet. Hard to ascertain for sure. I'm looking at it from an angle. And I hear the big blam (ph), and I thought it was a car backfiring at first until I see the rifle barrel and a white male taking careful aim at congressmen, staffers, whoever he could get ahold of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Let's go live now to the scene. That's where Barbara Starr is for us.

Barbara, what can you tell us about what you're learning about the happenings of this morning, also the victims and also what you're learning about the shooter?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, we're just about 25 minutes south of you at the site of the attack this morning. I just want to mention, I think over my shoulder you can see a few minutes ago some very large black trucks, vehicles, appeared on the scene suddenly. We are told they are federal law enforcement vehicles, part of the investigation. The FBI now is leading at this site.

Many of the emergency vehicles have now departed, but now a fully led FBI federal criminal investigation into what is an attack on the United States Congress. The FBI agent who briefed reporters being very cautious, not offering a lot of detail, making the very point you mentioned, too soon to say whether this is an act of terrorism. Some information coming out in the last few hours that it may be some politically motivated attack.

But what we have are five people transported for emergency medical care. The call came in this morning here at this baseball field just down the street. 7:09 a.m. to Alexandria City Police. That's the jurisdiction here. They were able to respond, they say, within three minutes, get to the scene. Some of the shooting had already erupted between the shooter and the Capitol Hill security personnel were here. Alexandria Police also engaging in shooting at the attacker and he was brought down. The president, of course, announcing a short time ago that man has now died.

So the FBI making the point that there is a very intense investigation. They need to interview a lot of witnesses and that they will go through every thread they can to find out what led to all of this.

But I want to take one second and tell everyone about the neighborhood we're standing in. This is, as I say, 20 minutes south of Capitol Hill, 10 minutes south of the Pentagon, where I was this morning when I got in the car and came here. A very established neighborhood. You know, gun violence, I think many law enforcement will tell you, has racked this country. Law enforcement feels pretty strongly about that.

But in this neighborhood, they have never seen anything like this before. People are here at 7:00 in the morning walking the dogs, getting the kids ready to go to school, beginning their commute to work. This is a neighborhood right now that I think it is very fair to say is shocked. People brought some of the congressmen into their apartments and homes to give them shelter in the moments after the attack.

And just us here at the media that have gathered here, I want to mention, you know, people make a lot of comments about the news media these days. What we had here this morning is the police who were on the scene came up to us, on this very hot morning, to offer the news media some cold water.

Brianna.

[14:05:22] KEILAR: Awe, bringing out some of the best in people there, Barbara. And you are right, that is an idyllic neighborhood that prides itself on certainly its neighborly relations. It's unlike a lot of neighborhoods that you will find.

Barbara Starr for us in Alexandria, Virginia, thank you.

President Trump was quick to respond to the shooting. Here's some of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many lives would have been lost if not for the heroic actions of the two Capitol Hill Police officers who took down the gunman despite sustaining gunshot wounds during a very, very brutal assault. Melania and I are grateful for the heroism and praying for the swift recovery of all victims.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Now I want to get more on the gunman. He was killed in this gun battle with Capitol Police. Federal law enforcement are identifying him as James T. Hodgkinson, 66 years old, from Belleville, Illinois. He left a trail of clues on social media that indicates he is anti-Donald Trump, he is anti-GOP. A lot of those kinds of sentiments. And CNN's Shimon Prokupecz has been following all of this for us.

So we can see that the gunman was active on social media. What are you learning about this?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Yes, that's right, Brianna. I mean, I think you put it perfectly. It was this trail. It was an open trail. He didn't do anything to hide. You know, his FaceBook page was open to the public. His tweets were open to the public.

And what we've learned, and what law enforcement has learned and what they're basing their investigation on are these anti-Trump tweets, this anti-Republican, anti-GOP sort of rhetoric that, you know, perhaps some investigators feel may have fueled this. And it's certainly becoming part of this investigation as to intent and motive.

Just to give you kind of a sense of some of the FaceBook postings that they have come across and that we now have confirmed belong to him, in one FaceBook post he called Trump a traitor. Quote, "Trump is a traitor. Trump has destroyed our democracy and it's time to destroy Trump and co." You know, there was a second tweet where he went even further in saying, "Trump is guilty and should go to prison for treason."

Now, all of this is part of the FBI investigation as to motive and intent. We also learned that it's believed he volunteered for Bernie Sanders at some point during his campaign and that, you know, he, certainly on his FaceBook page showed a lot of appreciation for Bernie Sanders, was a Bernie Sanders supporter. And today, you know, unfortunately, you know, for Bernie Sanders, had he to respond to this. And take a listen. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Mr. President, I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice this morning is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign. I am sickened by this despicable act. And let me be as clear as I can be. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PROKUPECZ: And also here again, I mean, obviously, you know, his political view, the shooter's - the gunman's political views here are going to play a factor in this investigation. You know, and keep in mind, Brianna, so he lives in Illinois. Now investigators want to know how long he's been in Alexandria, where was he living, who he was living with, who was he talking to. And so they're now going backwards and trying to build out a timeline.

The FBI is leading this investigation because of, you know, who the victims are here. And so, you know, certainly we should hear more in the coming days about his motives, his moves, of where this gunman was and what - you know, how long perhaps he was even planning this for. That's all part of the investigation now.

KEILAR: All right, Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much for that.

Tennessee Congressman Chuck Fleischmann was at this morning's baseball practice when that gunman started shooting. He was one of several who dove for cover. And this is something that we saw from a number of these members, bloodied elbows, bloodied hands from just diving into the dugout trying to shield themselves. I spoke with Fleischmann just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHUCK FLEISCHMANN (R), TENNESSEE, WITNESS TO SHOOTING: Well, this was a routine day of practice for our Republican baseball team. And it was at the conclusion of practice. So I was doing my stretching like I always do after practice. I'm 54 now, so I stretch after practice. And I was walking in on the -

[14:10:03] KEILAR: Where were you? FLEISCHMANN: I was in left field.

KEILAR: OK.

FLEISCHMANN: And I was walking in on the third base side. I saw my dear friend Trent Kelly from Mississippi and we were bantering back and forth about how well we had done today. And I didn't realize it but at that point in time the shooter had to be to my back because I walked forward and then we heard a single gunshot. I heard a pop. I did not recognize that as a gunshot at that time, so I didn't do anything. I stood there and I was with my friend Larry Hardy (ph), who's one of our coaches. He comes up and he coaches us.

But within a few seconds, all of a sudden there were multiple gunshots being fired. And Larry and I both went down. The shots were obviously coming from the third base side. By this time, I was behind home plate laying on the ground with Larry by the fence. It was obvious that there was an active shooter. And after about a minute, I got up and I ran and I dove into the dugout on the first base side where there were several people in there. One -

KEILAR: There was a pile of you, basically, right?

FLEISCHMANN: Absolutely. We were all trying to get to cover. I lay upon the inside wall of the dugout because I figured that was the best way to cut down an angle because shots were being fired. And at this point in time -

KEILAR: How many at this point, do you think? Could you even count?

FLEISCHMANN: Oh, several. It was multiple gunshots. And it continued for a long period of time. And finally there was some return fire, thank God, from the Capitol Police who were there guarding our majority whip. He had security with him. Two of our great Capitol Police folks were injured saving our lives because we were sitting ducks in that dugout. When I got in the dugout I realized there was blood all over the place. It was not a good place to be. There was a child in the dugout. Congressman Barton's son. Children come out to the practice -

KEILAR: Right.

FLEISCHMANN: Because this is supposed to be a very safe and wonderful place. It always has been over the past seven years. Just a terrible day.

KEILAR: And so you were - you got out of the first base dugout and then - and then where did you go?

FLEISCHMANN: After we were told that it was all clear, and it seemed like it took forever to subdue the shooter, and they did, then they came and they took us and they put us in a crime scene area.

KEILAR: Whose - whose, they? The police or -

FLEISCHMANN: The police. Law enforcement did. KEILAR: OK. How much time do you think passed?

FLEISCHMANN: Five minutes. We were told to go to a basketball court that is adjacent to the basketball field and they put up yellow tape around there and they said, you all stay in here until we interview you. And then they interviewed every witness and asked for our account.

KEILAR: Congressman, how are you feeling right now? I mean we've been talking to members of Congress. They seem still very shaken. This didn't happen very long ago. How are you feeling about what just happened and also about what this means for the future?

FLEISCHMANN: First of all, I'm very sad. I'm sad for my colleagues who got shot. I'm sad for my colleagues who got severely injured. And I feel sad that today, when I went to baseball practice, like I had for seven years in the past with my colleagues and friends, I had always felt safe. Now, after today, I wonder whether or not I will ever feel safe going to a baseball field with practice like that because literally if that horrific shooter had chosen, I was in his line of site. He could have shot me as easily as anybody else. I was just fortunate not to be shot.

KEILAR: Or, and from my experience participating in the women's softball game, the congressional women's softball game -

FLEISCHMANN: Absolutely.

KEILAR: People don't make every practice.

FLEISCHMANN: Right.

KEILAR: So I'm assuming Steve Scalise - I'm assuming he makes a lot of practices and has good attendance but maybe isn't able to make every one, especially with his leadership obligations. So I'm sure - I feel like that has been coming to the minds of many of you as you think about what would have happened if he hadn't been there with the detail. If his detail weren't up there, there would have been no security, right?

FLEISCHMANN: That's absolutely right. And Steve Scalise is my dear friend. He's my dear colleague. He's a great American. I wish him a speedy recovery. My heart goes out to him. I saw him actually laying there at his second base position after he had been shot. He does make all the practices. He's a great athlete. He's a great baseball player. And his security is omnipresent. Fortunately they were there because otherwise we would have had much greater damage.

My heart goes out to the Capitol Police. My thanks go out to the Capitol Police. But for the fact that they returned fire, this horrific shooter could have killed more people.

KEILAR: Did you get the sense that it was the Capitol Police, that it was the detail that was able to subdue the shooter?

FLEISCHMANN: Absolutely. Initially they were the only presence that was armed there. And the reason I knew that, as we lay in the dugout, we're being fired upon. There were bullets being fired all over the place, bouncing all over the place. Finally, we heard return fire and we knew that was our folks, the Capitol Police, firing back at the shooter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[14:15:13] KEILAR: And immediately after the shooting, the first family tweeted out their thoughts and prayers. The first lady tweeted out a thank you to the first responders. CNN White House correspondent Sara Murray is joining me now.

Sara, the president was calling for unity in the aftermath of today's violence. That was a message that was certainly received well here on Capitol Hill.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The president made brief remarks here at the White House today. He, of course, commended Capitol Police and first responders for their reaction in the wake of this shooting and sent his prayers to the victims. But h also made it clear that this is not a moment for political differences but a time for people in Washington to come together. Here's a little bit more of what President Trump said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We may have our differences, but we do well in times like these to remember that everyone who serves in our nation's capital is here because, above all, they love our country. We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans, that our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace, and that we are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Now, earlier today, the president spoke with House Speaker Paul Ryan, as well as Congressman Scalise's wife, before he made those comments. Both he and the vice president scrapped their public events today. A very quiet and somber day here at the White House.

Back to you, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Sara Murray, at the White House for us, thank you so much for that.

The chilling minute by minute account of how this shooting unfolded, including where the gunman was staked out and what he was doing moments before the attack. We have witnesses to that.

Also, the powerful message from House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to members of Congress shortly after the shooting.

We'll also have much more on the victims. We will focus on them. We're going to take you live to the hospital where some of them are being treated. You're watching CNN's special live coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:21:04] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: Although we don't yet know the motive behind today's shooting at a Republican congressional baseball practice, we are learning more about how this attack unfolded. And the congressmen caught in the middle of the gunfire are praising Capitol Police for their quick response. Listening here to some of the harrowing dispatch calls that began around 7:00 this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DISPATCH: Units arriving (INAUDIBLE) Monroe, receiving reports of shots being fired and there are people running, possibly victims involved.

OFFICER: I've still got shots being fired.

OFFICER: We've got one in custody.

OFFICER: We need medics. We got a suspect shot.

DISPATCH: 225, give me your exact location.

OFFICER: Right by the baseball field by the YMCA. There's also a victim down in the baseball field.

OFFICER: I have another one down. I think a total of five down.

DISPATCH: OK. Does anybody need a chopper?

OFFICER: Yes, that's affirmative. We will need a medevac.

OFFICER: We've got some witnesses that are trying to leave. I'm trying to keep them on the scene.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: And those are some of the 911 calls that we're listening to there.

I want to go now to CNN's Rene Marsh. She has more details on how all of this played out.

And, Rene, I think some people might be surprised by how early this practice took place. It was actually something that began in the 6:00 hour.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. It began in the 6:00 hour. As you mentioned, the calls for help happened around the 7:00 hour. And this is where it happened. Brianna, in happened in the Delray neighborhood. That's in Alexandria, Virginia. It's about eight miles from where you are now at the U.S. Capitol. So, we know this happened at the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park. And this

is where the members of Congress, they were practicing that baseball game there. This happened in a residential area. I mean take a look around. You see homes there. This is a coffee shop. You have a daycare center and you have the YMCA that we've been talking a lot about. And we know at the YMCA actually two bullets pierced through the windows there. One of the bullets landing by the pool area there at the YMCA.

Now, I want to just kind of drill down. How did this all happen? And this is all based on information that we've received from members of Congress who were actually there. One of those representatives, Mo Brooks, saying that he was on deck. He was standing right here around home base when he heard what was a loud bang and he says that it came from right around here. This is the dugout right by third base. When he heard it, he ran away, obviously the opposite direction, running towards this section here where he said there is a bit of netting. And this is where he went for cover. So you see it's not much protection here. There's a little bit of netting. This is what they use for batting practice.

After that, he said there was a pause in the shots. He stopped hearing gunshots. He took that moment to run towards the first base dugout, and that's where he hid out. And there were many people, multiple people hiding in the dugout here.

And I want to give you a better look at to what we're talking about. This is why this is the ideal place for these individuals to hide here. You can see it sits a little bit lower. We also know that the walls are fortified with cinder blocks. So, a lot safer.

So as he's running away from the gunshots, remember, we said that the gunshots were first heard coming from this area and everyone is running this way. We know that Representative Scalise was standing right around second base. And it makes a lot of sense because he was in the direct line of the gunman if what we are hearing from Representative Brooks is correct.

I also want to show you here third base, just the street view. This is where we believe the gunman kind of walked up. There is a parking lot here. This is the area behind the third base dugout. You see the fencing. We should point out, the shooter never made it onto the field. He remained in this back area, but was still able to fire shots. Again, that street view is this area right here.

[14:25:16] So, Brianna, that is what we know. We do know that after a certain period of time, all those folks who were kind of hiding out in this first base dugout, they started to hear some more shooting. They were unclear where those shots were coming from. We do know now that that was Capitol Hill Police returning fire at the gunman.

Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Rene Marsh, thank you so much for that.

And here with me now is Congressman Dave Reichert. He's a Republican from Washington state. And not only that, you were the former sheriff of King County,

Washington. This is one of the biggest jurisdictions in all of the counties. So you have this law enforcement background that you bring to this. You're not on the team, but certainly you heard this news, a number of your friends and colleagues were there as this happened. What was your reaction, especially with your law enforcement background to this?

REP. DAVE REICHERT (R), WASHINGTON: Well, you know, my first thing was, I'm just shocked and was hoping that everyone who was injured was going to be OK. And the word that we've got so far is that these are injuries, still praying, of course, that everybody's going to fully recover from. So - and then lastly, you know, it's that thought of - as a police officer, I would have wanted to be there to help protect people, but I was so happy to hear that the Capitol Hill Police were there on the spot. No doubt in my mind that they put their lives on the line and prevented so many others from being injured or killed.

KEILAR: Well, Senator Rand Paul, to that point, said that if - it would have been a massacre, he said, if they had not been there. And knowing - I talked to one member of Congress who was there who said, thank God Steve Scalise was there. And what if he hadn't made it to practice on this day, there wouldn't have been anyone there to defend them.

REICHERT: Yes. Right. Members, you know, across the country, every time we have a recess from Congress, we're working in our districts and they're out in the public with no security. We don't have the Capitol Hill Police security. But we do call upon our local police department, our local sheriff's office to - we're going to be here. There could be a problem. We notify them. But there are also other, you know, additional security measures that we also employ.

KEILAR: There are inherent risks, obviously, in that and you're not always going to call out as much law enforcement help as you might need for a situation that normally wouldn't happen but just to be careful for it.

REICHERT: No.

KEILAR: But, you know, I know that for you, for instance, you have made security adjustments in your district even prior to this. You have been concerned. So tell us about that.

REICHERT: Yes.

KEILAR: And also how you'll adjust going forward.

REICHERT: Well, you know, any public figure - in my background, I've just recognize that they're at a position that someone who doesn't necessarily agree with everything they say is going to point to them as a target. And so recognizing that immediately, of course, coming from the sheriff's office, we have security measures in place. But over the last year or two, we've enhanced those measures with additional screening at the front door with a locked front door, with a camera system set up, an intercom system set up, with additional cameras in the parking lot and then just training for my staff where I'll sit down or my district director, who has experience in law enforcement will sit down and explain, here's what you need to do when you drive into the parking lot. Be aware of all your surroundings. Note this, note that. When you leave in the afternoon, note these things. When someone calls. So it's the - you know, if you see something, say something sort of mentality. But I think that some members are questioning whether or not there needs to be additional security and that's really a sad statement for days.

KEILAR: But what would that look like, additional security?

REICHERT: Well, let's say that instead of notifying the sheriff's office that I'm going to be at an event, I actually ask if they can provide physical presence of police officers at the event. And if - if certain threats reach a level that is really of concern to me, I might ask the Capitol Police to send an officer out to be with me during a district work period. So - or enhanced - even enhanced security at our residences because some of them threatened at their own homes and their families have been threatened.

KEILAR: You carry a firearm back in your district, not here in D.C. Is that going to change?

REICHERT: I - that might change. I do carry one back in D.C. and carrying one back here might change for me.

KEILAR: All right, Congressman Dave Reichert, thank you so much. We do appreciate you spending time with us today.

REICHERT: You're welcome.

KEILAR: And I want to get now to Manu Raju because we have some breaking news from him.

Manu, can you catch us up? What's new?

[14:30:02] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, that's right. Actually, as you know, Brianna, the Senate Intelligence Committee has been investigating the issue of Russia meddling and its - any campaign coordination that occurred with Trump associates and Russian officials last year. And now we have learned that