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Mass Shooting at Church Deadliest Ever in Texas; Trump's Asia Tour; Saudi Crackdown on Corruption. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired November 6, 2017 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everybody. Thank you for joining us. We want to welcome our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Cyril Vanier.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And I'm Rosemary Church. We are following several breaking news stories this hour.
Donald Trump is on his first trip to Asia as U.S. president. He just held a news conference last hour with Japan's prime minister, where Mr. Trump talked about North Korea. More on that in just a moment.
VANIER: But first, we want to tell you about the horror and disbelief that has gripped Texas after the latest mass shooting here in the U.S., the deadliest that Texas has ever known. At least 26 worshipers were killed when a man opened fire in a church outside of San Antonio.
The shooting happened in a small rural community, the kind of quiet American town, where everyone knows everyone. That's how it's being described.
CHURCH: And the suspect is 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley. He was found dead of a gunshot wound in his car after a brief chase. Kelley was discharged from the U.S. Air Force for bad conduct after being convicted of assaulting his spouse and his child.
Last year he bought the rifle he used legally and here is more on how this tragedy unfolded.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At approximately 11:20 this morning, a suspect was seen in a Valero gas station in Sutherland Springs, Texas. He was dressed in all black. That suspect crossed the street to the church, exited his vehicle and began firing at the church.
The suspect then moved to the right side of the church and continued to fire. That suspect entered the church and continued to fire. As he exited the church, a local resident grabbed his rifle and engaged that suspect. The suspect dropped his rifle, which was a Ruger AR assault-type
rifle, and fled from the church. Our local citizen pursued the suspect at that time.
A short time later, as law enforcement responded, that suspect, right at the Wilson-Guadalupe County line, he ran off the roadway and crashed out and was found deceased in his vehicle.
VANIER: Among the dead in that church shooting is the 14-year-old daughter of the pastor. As the town now mourns the victims, the question remains why.
What drove the shooter to attack innocent civilians, including children? Investigators are still trying to find out the motive.
Here is Ed Lavandera.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that motivation is what drew him to this church. It's still very much up in question. A couple of interesting things to point out. Kelley lives in the town of New Braunfels, which is about 40 miles away from this town here in Sutherland Springs. New Braunfels just north of San Antonio.
So why he would drive 40 miles and pick out this church is obviously something investigators are taking a much closer and deeper look into. And obviously whether or not he should have been able to legally purchase a gun is something that is in question as well tonight.
As you mentioned, he was able to purchase this assault-style rifle legally back in April of 2016. And so the question kind of becomes, he was released from the military on a bad conduct discharge, which is different from a dishonorable discharge. And he was accused, court martialed and convicted of abusing his spouse and his child.
So questions as to whether or not the conviction on those charges should have been able to disqualify him.
But from according to sources that CNN has spoken with tonight, there was nothing that popped up in the background check that would have disqualified him from being able to get that weapon apparently.
So we'll continue to look closer into that. That's one of the things that investigators also taking a much closer look, as they try to piece together what exactly the motivation was in this attack.
CHURCH: Ed Lavandera with that report.
And while the U.S. president is in Japan, he says his thoughts and prayers are with the victims in Texas. Mr. Trump spoke last hour at a news conference with Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also want to take a moment to continue sending our thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences to the victims of the horrific assault on a church in a beautiful area.
So sad, Sutherland Springs, Texas, such a beautiful, wonderful area with incredible people.
Who would ever think a thing like this could happen?
So I want to send my condolences, the condolences of our first lady. In tragic times --
TRUMP: -- Americans always pull together. We are always strongest when we are unified.
To the wounded and the families of the victims, all of America is praying for you, supporting you and grieving alongside of you. We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries.
But this isn't a guns situation. I mean, we could go into it. But it's a little bit soon to go into it. But fortunately, somebody else had gun that was shooting in the opposite direction.
Otherwise it have been -- as bad as it was, it would have been much worse. But this is a mental health problem at the highest level. It's a very, very sad event. These are great people and a very, very sad event. But that's the way I view it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: And with us now, Steve Moore is a CNN law enforcement contributor and former FBI special agent.
Thank you so much for being with us. Let's start with that point, that President Trump raised in his news conference in Japan, that mental health is the problem in this shooter's case.
Is that a valid point that needs perhaps more investigation?
Or is it an effort to divert attention and avoid debate on the gun control issue?
STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't want to put a word into the president's mouth as to why he said that. Mental health is, A, is a part of this issue.
We cannot ignore the fact that mental health is part of this because, frankly, if we were to get rid of guns today -- not possible -- but if we were, there are still explosives. You're not going to stop violence by regulating the means of violence. You may be able to slow down the amount of violence they do.
That goes to the second point. We have to do something about military-style weapons that are on the street, that are accessible by people like this with mental health issues. So it is a two-pronged issue. And we can't do one without the other.
CHURCH: And, of course, we understand the shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, was discharged from the U.S. Air Force for bad conduct and was also convicted of spousal and child abuse charges.
What does that tell you about the shooter and, of course, his access to guns?
MOORE: Well, it tells me that there is ample evidence that this person had some issues. I've also spoken to some sources in New Braunfels, who said that this type of issue went all the way back to preteens with this guy. So there is adequate forewarning about this guy, at least that there is some problem.
And the fact that he did a year in what was essentially prison for the attacks on his wife and child should not have gone unreported to the civilian authorities. You can't just say it happened in the military; we're not talking about it.
You have to tell people because you're putting him back in the civilian world. You can't put him back without letting his record follow him.
CHURCH: And that's the thing, isn't it?
These red flags that appear, of course, after the fact, to be so obvious.
But why weren't they picked up?
MOORE: The problem is, Rosemary, as you can probably imagine, there are a lot of people who have these kind of stressors; there are a lot of people who have mental illness that do not go in and murder 26 people. But there is science that is catching up with this topic.
And it's -- we're going to have to get much better at this. And following people who have certain types of -- or certain types of problems in their lives who demonstrate certain types of behavior. We can't just look at it anymore and say, well, I don't want to get involved with what's going on.
CHURCH: And, of course, we don't know the motive here. We don't know why the shooter targeted this particular church.
And that's a big problem, isn't it?
Trying to figure that out.
But when you talk about mental health, does that answer half of that question? MOORE: That's a good way of saying -- I used to tell the agents who worked for me, that if you understood why you did this, you would be mentally ill. The profilers help us in understanding the way certain people with certain mental health problems will act.
And we have to understand that they will go after certain targets. I suspect that, from my experience, you're going to find he has an issue with this religion or with a church similar to this one or even possibly somebody at that church. But it's going go back to that central core issue.
CHURCH: And Steve --
CHURCH: -- we have our audience here in the United States but also right across the globe --
CHURCH: -- watching this.
And they want to know why do we see so many of these types of shootings in America?
And why do we rarely see any progress made in terms of gun control or mental health issues?
MOORE: I can't answer all those questions for them. I can tell them this, though. I think that there is a problem with -- in America with violence in resolution -- resolving issues.
America, even if we could stop the guns today, would still be a more violent place. I mean, look at what happened in Oklahoma City. We had a standard citizen load up a truck with hundreds of pounds of ammonium nitrate and take down an entire government building.
You don't see that kind of thing around the world. This type of violence is uniquely American, sadly.
CHURCH: Steve Moore, we appreciate your analysis and your perspective on these issues.
CHURCH: Many thanks.
VANIER: We're going to take a short break. But when we come back, we'll continue to follow the developments out of Texas. We'll hear from a woman, who witnessed the deadly mass shooting at the church.
CHURCH: And stern warnings to North Korea. President Trump and Japan's prime minister present a united front. We'll have that when we return. Stay with us. (MUSIC PLAYING)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARRIE MATULA (PH), SUTHERLAND SPRINGS RESIDENT: We were flabbergasted. There is just no reason for something like that to take place, especially here where everybody is family.
VANIER: And that was Carrie Matula. She lives in Sutherland Springs, Texas. And she witnessed the mass shooting at the church on Sunday, the deadliest in that state's history.
CHURCH: And all of Sutherland Springs is shocked and mourning right now after the gunman, believed to be 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, killed at least 26 people during that Sunday church service. The victims were anywhere from 72 to just 5 years old.
VANIER: At some point, a resident of the town grabbed his own rifle and chased the gunman away from the scene. Kelley was found a short time later, miles from the church, dead from a gunshot wound in his vehicle. Friends and neighbors held a candlelight vigil Sunday night, saying prayers for the victims.
We'll continue to update you on the Texas shooting throughout the hour. But for now, we want to shift to the U.S. president's Asian tour. Donald Trump had a busy day in Japan, including meeting with Emperor Akihito at the imperial palace. You're seeing that right now.
CHURCH: He also observed an honor guard ceremony and had a working lunch with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Later at a joint news conference, President Trump offer no apologies for his dire warnings to North Korea on its nuclear program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're working to counter the dangerous aggressions of the regime in North Korea. The regime continued development of its unlawful weapons programs, including its illegal nuclear tests and outrageous launches of ballistic missiles directly over Japanese territory.
Are a threat to the civilized world and international peace and stability. We will not stand for that. The era of strategic patience is over. Some people said that my rhetoric is very strong. But look what's happened with very weak rhetoric over the last 25 years. Look where we are right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: "The era of strategic patience is over." We've heard those words from the U.S. before. Let's speak now to our
correspondent Alexandra Field. She's in Tokyo. She has been, of course, following this for us.
So dealing with the North Korea issue is one of Mr. Trump's priorities during his Asia tour. We know that, Alexandra. And during this first leg of his tour, we got the confirmation that he and Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, are on the same page when it comes to North Korea.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much on the same page, Cyril. This Asian tour for President Trump started with a visit here in Japan, which meant a visit with really his closest ally in the region, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The two men have been taking really great pains to underscore the closeness of their relationship for the international audience, that is so closely watching this trip with the lunches, the informal dinners, the round of golf.
And now with this press conference, during which both of them spoke in exceptionally superlative terms about one another, about the closeness of their relationship and the closeness of the alliance between the Japan and the U.S., both saying the two countries have never been closer in the history of the alliance and they're on the same page, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe put it, 100 percent, when it comes to the strategy of how to deal with North Korea and countering that mounting threat going forward.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying that he is in agreement with Mr. Trump, that now is not the time for dialogue, indicating again that years or decades of attempts to speak with Pyongyang have failed and have resulted in this dangerous situation.
So, again, saying that he believes that the way forward is the path that's been laid out by the Trump administration, which is maximum pressure on North Korea. And to that end, Cyril, he went on to announce that Japan would levy new sanctions against 35 different North Korean individuals and entities, trying to put out a strong message on behalf of Japan in those terms -- Cyril.
VANIER: The other priority for the U.S. president is dealing with trade. Mr. Trump says the trade with Japan is unfair and he keeps saying he wants a better deal.
What does that mean?
And can he get that better deal?
FIELD: Yes, this was a really interesting thing to watch as President Trump headed here to the region because he made it clear that his priorities on this trip would be to talk about both trade and security.
And while he and the prime minister are very much on the same page when it comes to security and the North Korea issue, we knew going into this that President Trump has advocated for individual trade deals, trade deals between the U.S. and Japan, versus a multilateral approach the U.S. would have gotten, had Mr. Trump --
FIELD: -- not pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that 12-nation deal that Prime Minister Abe has advocated for. These two countries had opened up economic dialogue prior to this trip to talk about what the trade relationship into the future could look like.
You heard both of them coming out today, talking about all the positive benefits of free and fair and open and reciprocal trade, using a lot of these words over and over and over again, suggesting that they were making progress.
But, Cyril, what exactly would this look like?
Where have they found common ground?
They didn't go into the specifics. You just heard President Trump repeat some of the points that he has made before, which is that he wants to see greater investment from Japan in the U.S. and greater access for U.S. goods within the Japanese market.
So there was really no separating of these two leaders, who want to very much present a unified front, even on an issue that is somewhat divisive for them. They said is something they're going to continue to work toward and stated it essentially as a goal to continue these conversations.
VANIER: Yes, that was something of a surprise to me. There were absolutely no specifics and they pushed it back to a later date.
Something else that stood out for me, Alexandra, if you leave aside the substance, was really the tone of this and the fact that the Japanese prime minister really heaps praise on Donald Trump. I mean, really went out of his way to praise him and to show how much he liked him and respected him.
And it's not something we've heard very much since the beginning of Mr. Trump's presidency.
FIELD: Yes. This is probably a lesson for international leaders. It's something that a number of international leaders have observed, that in order to get along with President Trump, they've got to cultivate a close personal relationship.
We have seen Prime Minister Abe taking pains to do that and talking at length about the countless hours that they've spent, talking with one another, the rounds of golf they have played, not just here in Japan but also in the United States, and really trying to present to the world that these are two men who enjoy each other and who have a friendship with one another.
He was asked a couple of questions on these issues that should be divisive between these two men; trade that, we just talked about, but he really didn't underscore the differences between them there.
And he was asked another question, Cyril, during the press conference. He was asked to respond to reports that President Trump had criticized Japan's decision not to shoot down missiles that were sent up by North Korea that flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Instead, he simply said that Japan is continuing to purchase more weapons from the U.S. to up its defensive capabilities. And he said that Japan had closely monitored these missiles, that they weren't posing a threat to Japan and that decisions about shooting down missiles in the future would be made jointly with their close ally, the United States.
So there was not a moment where the two leaders wanted to show any space between them, Cyril.
VANIER: Yes, no daylight between Mr. Trump and Mr. Abe. Alexandra Field, our eyes and ears in Tokyo, thank you very much.
CHURCH: Well, let's go to Kazuto Suzuki now for more on President Trump's Asia tour. He is a professor of public policy at Hokkaido University. He joins us now from Sapporo in Japan.
Thank you so much for being with us.
KAZUTO SUZUKI, HOKKAIDO UNIVERSITY: Thank you.
CHURCH: So what was your assessment of the relationship on display between President Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their joint press conference?
And did they both say what Japan and the Asia region needs to hear at this time?
SUZUKI: I think this is a success of the prime minister, Abe, for this hospitality diplomacy, that he push up the President Trump as much as possible. He treat him with hamburger and golf and everything that he likes. And to make him a better feel -- a feel good moment and then tried to evade all the difficult questions, including the trade issues.
So this is one of the reasons why the president didn't go into details of the trade issue. And I think the prime minister is setting up the sort of tone, that this is the beginning of his tour in Asia and this will be the sort of setup of the high standard of the trading affairs, which is the -- basically the aim of the Japanese government.
CHURCH: Right. And we will talk about the trade issue in just a moment.
But probably the biggest issue that Mr. Trump is discussing on this trip to Asia is the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
Did Mr. Trump and Mr. Abe give all the necessary assurances on that specific issue?
We saw their united front. And that, of course, is critical on an issue like that.
But really, did they say what people are looking for, the outcome here?
SUZUKI: Well, I think no one knows how to deal with this situation, either military offensive actions, more military offensive actions or more sanctions or peaceful dialogue.
I don't think there will be -- I mean, everyone is looking after a different objective. And I think the most important thing is that the United States is not doing -- acting alone without consultation with Japan or South Korea and to surprise us.
I think with the prime minister and the president on the same page is the most important thing. And whatever the outcome is, I think this is the assurance that the president is giving us, that he will not act alone, is the most important part.
CHURCH: Right. And let's go back to that issue that we mentioned, President Trump discussing with Mr. Abe the U.S.-Japanese trade relations.
They're not on the same page when it comes to that, are they?
But discussions are continuing. We heard that.
But what does Japan want to see come out of those trade talks ultimately?
SUZUKI: Well, ultimately, I think Japan wants to bring U.S. back to TPP scheme. But I think it is very unlikely. So what we are trying to do is to set up a bilateral negotiation framework between Vice President Pence and Vice Prime Minister Aso and to make sure that this framework will assure the United States, to approximate this bilateral trade agreement, closer to what we call TPP-11, so that we can assimilate the U.S.-Japan trade agreement, which allows the United States to easily come back to the TPP scheme so that we can set up the higher standard trade framework in this region.
CHURCH: Kazuto Suzuki, we appreciate your analysis. Thank you so much.
SUZUKI: Thank you.
CHURCH: Well, a mass shooting tears apart a small community. We will take you to Texas for the latest on the tragedy at a church there.
VANIER: And we'll take a closer look at what's behind Saudi Arabia's swift new crackdown on corruption and what it means for the kingdom. Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [02:30:00]
CHURCH (voice-over): A warm welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and, of course, all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.
VANIER (voice-over): I'm Cyril Vanier. And we begin with the church shooting in Texas. We want to update you on our top story. At least 26 people are dead after a gunman opened fire in a Texas church.
CHURCH: It happened in the small town of Sutherland Springs in Central Texas. Investigators say the victims' ages ranged from 5 to 72 years old. They say Devin Patrick Kelley stormed the First Baptist Church Sunday morning. Police are not sure what motivated Kelley, who was later found dead in his vehicle.
VANIER: Mourners in the small community gathered Sunday night for a vigil. And earlier, Texas's governor had a message for those shocked by yet another mass shooting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GREG ABBOTT, R-TEXAS: As governor, I ask for every mom and dad at home tonight, that you put your arm around your kid and give your kid a big hug and let them know how much you love them, knowing that we support each other. Tell your friend and your neighbor that you support them and that you will work with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: At a news conference in Japan, U.S. president Donald Trump says the Texas shooting was caused by a mental health problem and not by an issue with U.S. gun laws.
CHURCH: Sutherland Springs is a tight-knit community of only a few hundred people. Local pastors and residents are now trying to console one another. Our Kaylee Hartung has more.
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a town, I'm told by residents, is one in which everybody knows everybody. Those 26 victims ranging in ages from just 5 years old to 72 years old. We know among the victims, the 14-year-old daughter of the pastor of First Baptist Church.
The gunman identified as Devin Patrick Kelley, a 26-year-old man with no known ties to that community or that church. He once served in the United States Air Force beginning in 2010. But the terms of his discharge are still being investigated.
The first sighting of Kelley was at 11:20 this morning, as told to us by officials. They say he was seen at a gas station just across the street from the church, wearing all black, dressed in tactical gear, as they described it, with a ballistics vest on.
He approached the church and began shooting from the outside, Entered the church, continued to shoot and then was approached by a local resident, who brought his rifle to the scene. That encounter led Kelley to flee the church.
A pursuit then ensued that ended in Kelley's death, though it's still unclear if he died at the hands of that local resident, armed with his own gun, or if the gunshot wound was self-inflicted.
Now this is an ongoing and active investigation by authorities, state, federal and local assets on hand. To support it, authorities saying their first priority now, the victims' families -- in Atlanta, Georgia, Kaylee Hartung, CNN.
VANIER: Let's speak to Juliette Kayyem now, CNN national security analyst and former Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She is going to give us the law enforcement perspective on.
Juliette, is it normal that somebody who is discharged from the military for bad conduct, someone who was court martialed for assaulting his wife and son, can get his hands on an assault rifle, simply by ticking a box, by the way, that he has never had any criminal problems before?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, unfortunately, it is. The standards of review, even for the requirement of a license, can be quite lenient, even in a place like Texas.
So that's what we're seeing. He didn't have a criminal conviction because he was in a separate judicial system. So it appears he was able to access the amount --
KAYYEM: -- of guns and arms essentially that he had this morning. So, you know, we don't know the nature of everything that went on in the military. That is probably ongoing right now. But this is a man that, even just from the allegations that we're hearing, should have never had access to weapons once he was discharged in the manner that it appears that he was discharged by.
VANIER: OK. So the U.S. president was asked about this when he was in Japan a short while ago.
VANIER: He said this is not a gun issue. This is a mental health issue.
From a law enforcement perspective, do you agree with that?
KAYYEM: No, not at all, because part of what it means to deal with safety and security is to not only look at motivation -- it might be mental health; it might be terrorism; it might be whatever -- but to also look at how do people get weapons that kill civilians so quickly so often?
So you look at both the motivation and then the access issue. And in this country, right, people have -- are able to access guns in ways that no other country can ever imagine.
So other countries have mental health issues. Other countries have ISIS issues. They don't have the sorts of mass shootings that we have, essentially, every other day in this country now.
And so you can't bifurcate and just say it's a mental health issue. You have to look at both.
Also, we really don't know what the motivation was at this stage. So I think it's a little bit it's trying to frame the debate so we don't have the policy debate. But I also remind viewers, it's also very defeatist to just simply say, well, it's in the mind of a crazy person.
Well, actually, nations that look at the data, all of them would come to the conclusion that the United States has a access to weapons problem. But we never get there in any of these mass shootings.
VANIER: But if authorities and, starting right at the very top, starting with the president, if authorities decide to treat this purely as a mental health problem, how can law enforcement even act on those threats then?
Is there anything that can be done, if it's purely mental health related?
KAYYEM: Well, look, there is a whole mental health community. You can talk to communities. You hope that their family members come forward. But so long as we bifurcate sort of the mental health issue and the access to weapons, it's almost impossible.
VANIER: You can't keep an eye on everybody who has a mental health problem or who presents a mental health risk.
KAYYEM: Well, that's exactly right. So that's why you can't separate motivation from access issues because you're never going to be able to determine who is always mentally ill.
So in this country, in the United States, you have to deal with it, with many different facets of the problem. But to say it's not a gun problem is just -- you know, you look at the numbers. I mean, obviously, it's a gun problem because people with mental health issues in this country are killing unarmed civilians in rates that no other country sees in this world.
VANIER: All right. And the president pointed out that the fact that there were more guns involved, the fact that the neighbor had a gun and was able to track down the gunman, was actually a positive thing. There is a lot more to talk about in this conversation.
VANIER: Juliette Kayyem, thank you very much.
KAYYEM: Thank you.
CHURCH: All right. We're going to take a very short break here. Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, the last 48 hours have sent political shockwaves through the Middle East. And they're all emanating from Saudi Arabia. The details still to come.
CHURCH: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM.
Some members of Saudi Arabia's formerly untouchable upper class are now in deep legal trouble.
VANIER: It's all thanks to the country's King Salman and the crown prince Mohammad bin Salman. The king appointed him head of an anti- corruption committee this weekend.
And just hours later, at least 17 princes, officials and ministers were arrested. A number of others were detained. This is part of what is said to be the prince's top to bottom overhaul.
CHURCH: Among those arrested, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. He is one of the Arab world's wealthiest and best known businessmen.
VANIER: Let's try and find out what is happening. Let's talk to Becky Anderson; she is in Riyadh, knows the region very well of course.
Becky, how much of this was about really fighting corruption versus about the crown prince consolidating power?
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it really depends on who you talk to. It was certainly an extraordinary weekend here in Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh, providing further confirmation, if anyone needed, of just who is in charge here and how the kingdom's new leadership is positioning itself, both domestically and on the international stage.
The announcement of this anti-corruption committee on Saturday was, as you rightly point out, followed almost immediately by the news that at least 17 princes, top officials, government ministers had been rounded up.
As one Saudi watcher put it, cynics might call this a power play. But he says it's actually a message that an era of elite indulgence here is over. You point out that one of the most high profile targets was Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, he is the billionaire businessman owner of Kingdom Holding, which has stakes in companies like Citigroup, Twitter, Apple, News Corporation.
The campaign also ensnaring other big name business people, such as the chairman of the Binladin Group, which is a major construction firm here in the kingdom, and the Saudi media mogul, Waleed al-Ibrahim.
The crackdown, though, extends way beyond the business world. Also out, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, for example, from his post as head of the national guard. He is the son of the late King Abdullah; his brother also arrested. Senior princes and businessmen then, who, for decades, seemed to operate above the law, now being held accountable.
That is the way certainly the Saudi authorities are presenting it here. Some observers say the moves are also part of the consolidation effort by crown prince Muhammad Bin Salman.
He has been personally appointed as the head of this anti-corruption committee. And critics say he has taken the opportunity to remove any challenges to his leadership.
But when you speak to people here in Riyadh, many say that this fight against corruption is real. It undermines the country's potential, that corruption, and it will be hugely supported by many of the young generation of Saudis, 70 percent of whom are under the age of 30 and who know that elite indulgence and entitlement, effectively by these sweeps, as it were, is at least, to the young leaders' mind, a thing of the past.
This is Mohammad bin Salman, who is at the helm of pushing for --
ANDERSON: -- a diverse economy under the umbrella of Vision 2030, that he wants to be able to compete globally. And he thinks that the time has come to clean the Saudi house. And many will say here, what better way than to start from the top and send a really strong message -- Cyril.
VANIER: Some of those who have been sidelined are close to or even part of the Saudi royal family. Help us understand why the crown prince would go after his own cousins or members of his own family.
ANDERSON: Speak to people here and they say, ultimately, at this stage, in this era, in this new iteration with the Saudi 2030 vision being so important to this country for its future, with its economy really sort of flatlined at present, looking to this non-oil diversified economy going forward, that it really doesn't matter who you are. The point is you need to be with those who are forging ahead.
You know, here, it is an environment whereby you will get things done. It's those who are on your side, are prepared to make things happen for you. So you know, the message from here at least is it doesn't matter who you are, nor which part of the family you are from, we are getting on with this. And you'd better be with us.
VANIER: Becky Anderson, reporting live from Riyadh on the latest changes and perhaps power plays within the kingdom, CNN's very own Saudi watch, Becky, thank you very much.
CHURCH: Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia may have played a role in the surprise resignation of Lebanon's prime minister. Saad Hariri announced he was stepping down Saturday during a speech given in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. He cited fears of an assassination attempt. Ben Wedeman is in Beirut with a closer look at Hariri's resignation.
What are we to make of this suggestion by Hariri himself, that he stepped down due to fears of an assassination attempt but the Lebanese army says they found no proof of such a plan?
And what part did Saudi Arabia play in all of this?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there is no doubt that Saudi Arabia had some influence to say the least, on the decision by Saad Hariri to step down or to announce his resignation on Saturday.
Now keep in mind that that was his second visit to the kingdom within just five days. And his first visit, when he came back to Lebanon, he seemed to indicate that the Saudis were in support of his government, which does include ministers from Hezbollah, that Saudi Arabia supported the Lebanese state.
But the second visit, which came and resulted in his resignation, was a surprise not only for the political leadership of Lebanon but for many people within his own party itself.
And, therefore, yes; it does appear that there was Saudi pressure on him to resign. It's significant that he made the resignation from Riyadh and not on Al Mustaqbal, which is the Hariri-run television station, nor on state television of Lebanon but rather on Al Arabiya, which is a Saudi-funded Arabic news channel.
So clearly the Saudis are unhappy with the role that Hezbollah plays within the government of Lebanon. And they and the Trump administration have made it clear that they want Hezbollah cut down to size.
But it is easier said than done, given that Hezbollah plays a major role not only in the politics of this country but also in the security. It played a key role in the fight to retake the town of Arsal in the Bekaa Valley, which is right up against Syria, a town that was under the control of ISIS.
And, therefore, you can't simply, with a magic wand wave, away Hezbollah's role in the country and, in the same sentence, Iran as well, which is a major supporter of Hezbollah. And sort of in the wider picture, clearly the United States and Saudi Arabia are concerned with the growing influence of Iran in the region.
But it's a little late to try to stop that influence, given Iran's role in propping up the government in Baghdad in its fight against ISIS and also in maintaining the regime in Damascus. So it's a little too late to talk about cutting Iran down to size.
CHURCH: Right. Now, of course, the big question, who replaces Hariri?
And what happens next in Lebanon?
Ben Wedeman, we'll have to leave it there, joining us live from Beirut. Appreciate that.
VANIER: Next up on CNN NEWSROOM, more on the mass shooting in Texas, where residents are stunned that something so horrific could happen in their tight-knit community. Stay with us.
Welcome back. We want to update you on our breaking news out of Texas. A close-knit community in mourning after Sunday's deadly shooting at a Baptist church. At least 26 people were killed and that includes the 14-year-old daughter of the pastor; 20 others are also wounded.
CHURCH: The suspected shooter is 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley. He was found dead from a gunshot wound in his vehicle after a brief chase. Kelley was discharged from the U.S. Air Force for bad conduct over charges of assaulting his spouse and their child.
Authorities have not said what may have motivated the shooting. The town where the shooting happened, Sutherland Springs, has just a few hundred people, the kind of place where everybody knows everybody.
VANIER: And the residents there are just shocked that something like this could happen --
VANIER: -- in their small town.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is a loving pastor, man of God. We knew his girls. The one that didn't survive, I've known her since she was about 8 years old. And there is no word to describe how wonderful people they are, Christian.
It's just a small Christian town, a very small community. Everybody is united. Everybody is so close to everybody. Everybody knows everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever think that a community like yours would go through something like this?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never in a million years, would I ever imagine this happening, never, never. I can feel the pain that everybody is going through. So much hurt for a small town, for a small community, so united. Never in a million years would I expect anything like this. I could never imagine anything like this ever happening here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: All right. We're going have a lot more on this and our other top stories right here on CNN. For now, though, we thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier.
CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. For our viewers in the United States, "EARLY START" is next with more coverage on the Texas church shooting.
VANIER: And for our international viewers, we'll be right back with more from CNN NEWSROOM.