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Massive Manhunt for Waffle House Killer; Trump Defends Michael Cohen Says He Won't Flip; Trump Tweets "Obstructionists" may Vote against Pompeo. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired April 23, 2018 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:07]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

Breaking news this morning, a two state manhunt for a mass shooter. This man, Travis Reinking, is accused of walking into a waffle house with an AR-15, killing four people. This happened in Antioch, Tennessee. He was disarmed by a customer, disappeared into the night and is now believed to be armed and dangerous at this moment.

Our Nick Valencia is in Antioch right now. Nick, I still understand no credible sightings of this believed killer.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. An alleged killer still on the loose at this hour. No credible sightings of Travis Reinking overnight. And what makes this shooting, this mass shooting all the more unnerving is that Reinking, in 2017, crossed into a restricted area at the White House, and was arrested. He told Secret Service agents that he had a meeting or wanted to meet with President Trump. He also said he's a sovereign citizen. He had the right to inspect the grounds.

In 2016, he told police in a separate incident that he believed that Taylor Swift was stalking him. He also in other instances said that he was hearing voices and he believed that his computer was being hacked. What happened after 2017 is the FBI recommended that his weapons be taken away from him, in his home state of Illinois. They were given back to him, however, when he moved to the Nashville area in 2017, by his father, the man who was supposed to keep those guns away from him.

Now, we know that this could have been a lot worse if not for the heroic actions of one individual who was there at shooting, James Shaw Jr. who got into a scuffle with the gunman and was able to disarm him before the gunman fled. Yesterday, James Shaw Jr. spoke to the media saying he's not a hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES SHAW, JR., DISARMED WAFFLE HOUSE GUNMAN: I actually went behind, like, a push door, swivel door, and he shot through that door, I'm pretty sure. And I'm pretty sure he grazed my arm. And it was at that time I kind of made up my mind, because there is no way to lock that door. That if it was going to come down to it, he was going to have to work to -- work to kill me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VALENCIA: There are four victims in all, four of them that died, all in their 20s. Taurean Sanderlin, Joe Perez, 20 years old, both of them killed outside. And Akilah Dasilva, 23 years old, DeEbony Groves, 21 years old, also died. We should mention, John, as well. There are two victims still in the hospital. They're listed in stable condition.

BERMAN: All right. Nick Valencia for us in Antioch, Tennessee. We'll have much more on this manhunt throughout the morning. Thank so much, Nick.

This is a big week in diplomacy for President Trump, major meetings with French Leader Emmanuel Macron and the German Leader Angela Merkel coming up. But it isn't clear at least from the president's writing that these meetings are on his mind.

Let's go to the White House. Kaitlan Collins is there. The president, Kaitlan, seems to be focused on far different things.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: It does. He does seem to be focused on far different things here, John. It is going to be a consequential week for this president. It's his first official state visit where he's hosting the French president and his wife who are expected to arrive here today.

But, of course, on Twitter, the president is all over the place over the weekend, a remarkable weekend for him, actually, on Twitter. He's usually tweeting more on the weekends when he's not here at the White House. Especially that this weekend, he may have broken a record with 24 tweets from Friday evening to Sunday evening, all over the place. A lot about the Michael Cohen story in the "New York Times," that the president's legal team and advisers resigned to the fact he could cooperate with the federal officials who are investigating him. The president disagreeing with that, writing on Twitter that he doesn't believe Michael Cohen will flip.

Of course, several other things as well, referring to one former aide as a drunk, drugged up loser, tweeting, also tweeting about North Korea and what not. But back to Michael Cohen, the president was also tweeting about pardons this weekend, pardoning that former boxing champion Jack Johnson and there were a couple of questions as to why the president was tweeting about that this weekend, whether or not he's thinking of pardoning Michael Cohen, should it come to that. Here is what the Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said this morning on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is the president open to a pardon for Michael Cohen?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think that we're going to talk about hypotheticals that don't exist right now.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is he sending Michael Cohen a message by talking about Jack Johnson and Scooter Libby pardoning -

SANDERS: That's something that's been on the table for quite some time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It has nothing to do with Michael Cohen?

SANDERS: That call took place to my -- I'm trying to remember, probably close to a month ago, so this is something that has been ongoing.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why tweet about it this weekend, then?

SANDERS: Because we're getting close to the second conversation on that front.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: So, it certainly could be that they are getting close to that pardon there. But it also could be the president reminding people about his pardoning power here. Of course, Sarah Sanders also asked if the president had received assurances from Michael Cohen that he's not going to flip on him or begin cooperating. But she said that she isn't aware of any conversations they have had since the FBI raided Michael Cohen's home, office and hotel, John.

[10:05:02] BERMAN: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Kaitlan, thank you very much.

Joining me now, CNN political commentator, Tara Setmayer and CNN political contributor Michael Nutter, former mayor of Philadelphia.

Mayor, I want to start with you. The White House press secretary just refused to rule out the possibility of a pardon for Michael Cohen, the president's lawyer, who has had his offices, home, his hotel room raided and investigated by the FBI. The president also wrote at length over the weekend about Michael Cohen. It's pretty interesting to hear all of this talk what has been ruled in and ruled out, no?

MICHAEL NUTTER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Sarah Sanders was -- she was struggling. She was searching for some words. Her lips were moving, but it was very difficult to figure out what in the world she was talking about. I have no idea why Donald Trump at the moment cares about great boxer Jack Johnson.

But I think the previous report alludes to -- the president is literally just floating out the words pardon, and hoping that Michael Cohen receives the message. This is like a little bit of a Jedi mind trick here. And trying to influence quite frankly what Michael Cohen does. The president should not count, I think, on Michael Cohen. I don't know Michael Cohen from a can of paint. But my impression is he's not built for prison and with a young family. He's going to do ultimately what's in his best interests or he should.

BERMAN: So, Tara, the mayor here is suggesting Jedi mind tricks by the president, possible. These are not the droids you're looking for. Inside the president's writing over this weekend, he's also criticizing some of the sources written about inside the "New York Times" article. And part of it here I want to read to you and get your reaction because I don't want to let it pass by. He talks in the "New York Times" and he says, "They use non-existent sources and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael."

Now, I don't know for sure who the president is talking about right now, but Sam Nunberg is quoted inside Maggie Haberman's article and there were questions about Sam Nunberg. He said he was on - when he was speaking to Erin Burnett. Should a president, should anyone be talking about addiction issues in that way?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Of course not. The president shouldn't be talking about a special counsel investigation, an ongoing federal criminal investigation into his personal lawyer. He shouldn't be talking about any of these things like this on Twitter. None of this is OK. None of it is normal. It is ill advised, even legally. I don't know any lawyer worth their salt that would approve of a client discussing a case that they're potentially involved in this way, never mind the president of the United States.

And then, yes, the insensitivity of drug addiction or especially from someone that is claiming that the opioid crisis is a priority, in his administration, to be so cavalier about that, I saw the Sam Nunberg series of interviews and it was clearly someone who needs help. And to minimize that, it just seems -- just goes to show you, excuse me, either he doesn't care or that he's just so self-absorbed that it doesn't matter who he attacks in his -- in his ire when he decides to go on Twitter and throw a temper tantrum.

BERMAN: This morning, I want to add, Tara, the president has written extensively, talks about the wall, wanting to build the wall again, talking about Mexico paying for it. It could be part of the NAFTA deal, talks about sanctuaries, he says -- he rolled his eyes. I'm curious why you rolled your eyes and why you think the president is bringing that up this morning?

SETMAYER: Because this is what he does when he's under attack, when there are other things coming up that are -- that hurt his presidency considerably. He goes back to his bread and butter, which is immigration, border security, those are the issues, the wall -- those are the issues that help propel him to the top of the Republican ticket during the campaign. He knows that gets his base riled up.

So I'm not rolling my eyes at the idea of border security. I worked on immigration for many years on Capitol Hill. I'm pretty - I'm a hawk on border security. But I just -- the way he does it, it is so flippant that now it is back to border security again this week. I mean he does this when he's in trouble. To deflect from what he's in trouble for, to get his base focused on what is over here instead of what's in front of him.

BERMAN: Mayor, I'm going to get in trouble for bringing this up now because we're going to talk about it later in the show. But Mike Pompeo is in trouble in committee. The committee vote to confirm him to be Secretary of State. He could lose the committee vote. It will then go to a full Senate vote. In all likelihood it will pass the full Senate because Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and some other red state Democrats might vote yes.

So, you could make a case that he will become Secretary of State with votes -- because of votes from Democrats. And, you know, there are people who will criticize that in private, but should Democrats, if they don't want to see Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State be criticizing it in public. Are these Democratic senators letting you down, Mayor?

[10:10:00] NUTTER: Well, Mike Pompeo has a whole bunch of issues in his record that from my perspective at least, would disqualify him from being Secretary of State because of his previous service. I'm assuming that some of the Democrats that you're mentioning may be, you know, anticipating some electoral concerns but I think the vote for Secretary of State is one of conscience and should be least as political as possible. So, I mean, you know this will not be the first elected officials to, you know, let personal interests, political interests intervene. But I think this is a serious position, Mike Pompeo should not be Secretary of State based on his previous service.

BERMAN: Tara, the president also criticizing Democrats for holding up not just these votes, but other votes as well, including the nomination for ambassador to Germany here. Do you feel as if Democrats are mocking up the system in a different way than we have seen in the past, partisan politics have played a role?

SETMAYER: I don't think it is any different. This is a tactic that both sides use in the Senate, particularly, when it comes to nominations. Unfortunately this time around the president has put up some questionable nominees that probably don't -- shouldn't be confirmed. And we have seen this in the past with some others going through the confirmation process, even they have withdrawn or, you know there has been some type of an issue.

So, I mean, but it is a tactic that both Democrats and Republicans use especially when they're in the minority. And he did put out a tweet where we said, we need more Republicans so that this obstructionist -- these tactics can't happen. Well, you know, all it takes is one senator to hold up a nomination. And so, having more of one or the other doesn't really matter. All it takes is one. But he knows that most people don't know how to byzantine rules of the Senate works. So, it is just a political tactic to keep the, you know, -- Democrats. I mean, that's what you do in a midterm.

BERMAN: Tara Setmayer, I can't believe politics are at play here. Mayor Nutter, thanks so much for being with us. I do appreciate it.

(LAUGHTER)

All right, ahead, more on what it is looking -- what is looking to be an historic snub. The president's pick for Secretary of State, it is likely to fail inside the Senate committee. What does that mean?

And remarkable few days for the first lady. Today, Melania Trump planning a major state visit at the White House, and what she's been up to the last day, last few days in the very public pictures that went viral. Why? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:16:49] BERMAN: New this morning, facing a historic committee no vote for a Secretary of State nominee. President Trump just wrote, quote, "Hard to believe obstructionists may vote against Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State. The Dems will not approve hundreds of good people."

Director Pompeo is expected to become the first ever Secretary of State nominee to be rejected by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Our Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill with what this means. Ryan?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is certainly a significant vote this afternoon, John. But it may not ultimately determine Mike Pompeo's fate. And it is his background that's really coming into question both in favor of his nomination and what is drawing some of the opposition.

Let's take a look at where Mike Pompeo was before he got to this point. He was, of course, currently serves as the CIA director. He was nominated relatively easily to that post. And before that he served as a member of Congress from Kansas. It was during that time as a conservative Republican that he made some comments about Muslims that have some of these members of the United States Senate a little bit concerned. But it is his other credentials that Republicans say make him a good candidate for Secretary of State.

He graduated the top of his class at West Point, was also a Harvard Law grad. And that's some of the arguments that Republicans are going to be making today and then when this vote moves to the full Senate confirmation, and it is expected as you mentioned, John, that he will be the first Secretary of State to not receive a favorable confirmation at the Senate Judiciary level. And that means it is the full Senate vote that we're going to have to keep an eye on.

And it is likely going to be a couple of Democrats that come over and vote yes to push Pompeo over the finish line. We already know that Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota is going to be a yes vote. There are a couple of other Democrats to watch, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, also like Doug Jones from Alabama.

And there is also one Republican we're still keeping an eye on, and that's Jeff Flake of Arizona. He's not said whether or not he's going to vote yes. And it is because of Rand Paul's decision, the senator from Kentucky that Mike Pompeo is not going to receive that favorable vote later today. And it is also one of the reasons that Democrats are going to have to come over and vote for him if he's expected to be a confirmed as a Secretary of State. Certainly, a rocky entry for Mike Pompeo into this position, this very important position as Secretary of State, but, John, it is expected even though it is going to be difficult for him to get to that point that he will ultimately become the next Secretary of State. John?

BERMAN: All right, Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill. Ryan, thank you very much.

Joining me now is Mike Rogers, CNN national security commentator, former Republican House Intelligence Committee chairman. Mr. Chairman, you are so intellectually and politically nimble. I'm going to ask you to argue both sides in an argument right now. Mike Pompeo is likely to be rejected by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It will likely be a no vote. First, make the case that this is at least symbolically important and then make the case that it doesn't matter at all.

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECUTIRY COMMENTATOR: Well, for the symbolism of it I think the Democrats are going to try to push back and have been pushing back on lots of nominees for the president. So in their mind this energizes their base. Just like the President Trump goes out and tweets that on the wall and other things to try to get his base fired up. I think that's what you're seeing from the Democrats, even on the committee, trying to push back and finding issues that they think can be politically viable for them moving forward.

(CROSSTALK)

[10:20:03] On the other side, it is not going to matter. He's going to be Secretary of State. And I think he's already shown that he's able to put some things together. If you look at where we are in North Korea, I think, you know, people are kind of, you know, pooh-poohing it, if you will. But I'm telling, this is big movement and its real opportunity. There's also opportunity for it to get off the tracks, but there is real opportunity for movement where we haven't seen that in North Korea in 20 years.

BERMAN: Let's talk about North Korea, since you shifted there again, showing off your intellectual agility right there. The president wrote, among other things this weekend, "Wow, we haven't given up anything and they have agreed to denuclearization, so great for the world, site closure and no more testing!"

It isn't true that the North Koreans have agreed to denuclearization, not even close, correct? What the North Koreans -- Kim Jong-un has agreed to, is no more testing and closing a testing site. Those two things are very different.

ROGERS: Very, very different. But it is movement. So I think the president, you know, takes a fact and sprinkles some dust on it and moves out smartly. But what -- here's the thing. So, the president is certainly going to get out and try to spin that. What needed to happen, the national security folks for a long time have been pushing, hey, if you really ramp up military pressure, meaning show up in the pacific in a real way, the United States, with military resources that could actually take out Kim Jong-un. That happened.

And so, that pressure was building over time. And remember, this whole thing that Kim Jong-un was -- if I get - I'm going to get nuclear weapons, that's it. This was a big step to get the meeting. It doesn't mean any of that stuff can't be turned back on. But there had to be concessions in the -- for those of us who believe you couldn't allow Kim Jong-un just to show up with no penalty. Well, he put something on the table. He said I'm going to close the site and stop testing. That doesn't mean we're even close. But it means that he was willing to do that to get the meeting. And I argue, that's a great outcome, still lots of ways for this thing to go wrong, but a really good outcome. And we shouldn't be too braggadocios. We ought to be focused on trying to rally our allies including, by the way, China in this and the South Koreans in line with U.S. position on where Kim Jong-un ought to be after the meeting.

BERMAN: The cynics, though, the critics of putting too much weight on this say that Kim Jong-un hasn't given up anything that he's not perfectly willing to give up already. No more testing doesn't matter if you already have nuclear weapons, which he appears to no more testing doesn't matter if you already have missiles that can shoot far, which it seems to have to a degree. Saying that the United States can keep its troops in South Korea doesn't matter if there is no way the United States was ever going to withdraw its troops from South Korea.

ROGERS: Well, the only difference I would have there is that the -- again, all of those -- if skeptics are right to be skeptical about this, my wife says I'm an eternal optimist, it is a genetic defect. I'm optimistic for a couple of reasons, before he said under any conditions that U.S. troops have to leave the Peninsula. He changed in order to get the meeting.

He's also said that he would do whatever he wanted on nuclear testing. So the suspension of it was a big deal in the sense that he made some offering of which we could see. We could verify. To me, that's a big difference here. And that subtlety of that, in a long-term diplomatic effort to get Kim Jong-un off of his nuclear weapons program is huge.

Now, again, lots of ways this could go wrong, including, by the way, if the president is too far ahead of his headlights on this. We need a really smart long engaged diplomatic effort, take what he has offered, have the meeting, see if we can get to step two. That's what I would recommend to them.

BERMAN: I would only note if you were in fact an eternal optimist, you would say it is a genetic gift, not a defect there - counter to you on arguing.

We just had Joaquin Castro, the House Intelligence Committee on this show, a short time ago, who said if the Democrats take over the House, he believes they should reopen the House Intelligence investigation into the whole Russian meddling matter. Is that, a, surprising, b, politically important?

ROGERS: Listen, at some point, you know where I stood on all this, I believe that Mueller should have the freedom to do the investigation. The IG report on both what the FBI did and what the Russians were up to, all of that is really important. At some point you have to stop, this has been going on for a long time. So my argument to Mueller is if you have some evidence here. Let's go. Bring it out. Let's deal with it. If not, at some point we have to stop the, you know, the eternal investigations that happen surrounding this, and the clubs that come out. So the investigations that have happened on the Intel Committee already have been candidly quite partisan and partisan in nature, both from the Democrats and the Republicans. If it switches, you're going to get more of the same. I don't know how that is helpful to the country moving on and trying to heal itself and then actually producing something that would stop the Russians from interfering in our elections.

[10:25:00] BERMAN: Mr. Chairman, Mike Rogers, great to have you with us. Thank you very much.

ROGERS: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: The AR-15 used in the deadly shooting in a Tennessee waffle house. It had been taken away from the suspect less than a year ago after an arrest at the White House. So, how did this man get the weapon back? We're going to look into that and also, the latest on the manhunt after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Happening now, some schools around Nashville are on lockout this morning, which means no visitors allowed. Why? Police and federal agents are looking for the man who opened fire in a waffle house very early Sunday morning.

[10:30:00] Four people were killed, others wounded before a customer jumped the attacker and took away his AR-15. The shooter got away. You're looking at a picture of the suspect right now. He is still believed to be armed and dangerous and police say there were no credible sightings.