Return to Transcripts main page
Massive Manhunt for Waffle House Killer; Trump Considers Pardon for Boxer Jack Johnson; Trumps Host Their First State Dinner Tomorrow Night; Duchess of Cambridge Gives Birth to a Boy; Ronny Jackson Faces Tough Confirmation Hearing; Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired April 23, 2018 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: 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 overnight.
Joining me now, CNN law enforcement contributor, retired FBI supervisory special agent, Steve Moore.
Steve, thanks so much for being with us.
STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: Sure.
BERMAN: How far away do you believe this suspect is at this point? Among other things he carried this attack out naked, wearing nothing but a jacket, then ran off. What do you believe the status of the manhunt to be?
MOORE: I think right now you're going to be looking in the general wooded area around Antioch, where he could have gotten so far. If you keep in mind that he's still got his main currency, which is going to be a firearm, he can get pretty much whatever he wants, whenever he wants it, if he sees people. And that's what you're looking for this morning.
Overnight, we don't know necessarily what he's done. It's very possible that he's carjacked somebody, stolen a car, taken somebody. We won't know until there is reports of missing or -- missing items or missing people in the morning. Otherwise, he's hunkered down in the woods.
BERMAN: What authorities have done to this point publicly is release this picture you're looking at right now. We've also learned his past. I'm interested -- I'm curious about why no more information. They have played things pretty close to the vest. Is that because they don't want to tip him off?
MOORE: Yes. I mean, there are certain things you're going to do to follow somebody like this. And if you tell the public what they're going to do to follow him, he's not going to do those things. He's going to not do certain things that the authorities really need him to do in order to find him. BERMAN: We also learned that this man was arrested at the White House
last year after jumping a barrier. He didn't get within the White House grounds per se, but he was arrested. The FBI investigated and then state and local officials in Illinois took his weapons away for a period of time. They deemed him too dangerous to have weapons. Then local officials there, county officials, gave the weapons back to the father, which I understand is within the law in Illinois right now. But does this suggest some kind of systemic problem to you?
MOORE: Yes, this is going to have to be the next thing we deal with. I have seen too many situations where a -- where weapons were taken away from a person who -- which was deemed to be too dangerous to have firearms and then authorities later gave firearms or allowed firearms in the possession of a household member.
In one case, the person had a safe, a firearm safe, and they kept the guns away from the person who shouldn't have them by keeping his combination safe. Well, eventually he decided he trusted him again and gave him the combination. He used those guns to kill people.
We have to get realistic about the fact that when you take away guns from one person, you need to take away guns from the people who would be likely to give them back to him.
BERMAN: Back to the manhunt, you know, hopefully this apprehension will happen soon. What do you believe ultimately and generally speaking how do perpetrators like this get caught?
MOORE: Well, you know, if you go back to Eric Robert Rudolph, he survived for months and months and months in the wilderness. But he knew what he was doing. He prepared for it. He was clothed, for instance. There is no indication that Reinking has any idea how to survive in this kind of weather, in this kind of situation, and he left for all intents and purposes wearing only pants.
So I would say that he is going to be caught sooner rather than later. I do, however, believe that it is probably going -- not going to be the standard, OK, I give up, you know, you got me. There is no reason to believe that a delusional man who's already killed four strangers and still probably has a gun is going to sit there and go pleasantly into that good night.
BERMAN: Let us hope there is no more violence.
Steve Moore, thanks for your expertise, I do appreciate it.
President Trump says he may pardon boxer Jack Johnson, who was jailed under Jim Crow laws. The president says it was a suggestion from Sylvester Stallone, but is there more about the timing here?
[10:38:58] BERMAN: President Trump says he is considering a posthumous pardon for the first African-American heavyweight boxing champ Jack Johnson who was jailed under truly heinous circumstances under Jim Crow laws. The president is throwing out that possibility during a series of
statements he made over the weekend that had to do, additionally, with Michael Cohen, his own personal lawyer. The president claims that Sylvester Stallone, who you may know played Rocky, called him to talk about the Jack Johnson pardon.
Joining me to discuss, Paul Callan, CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor.
Paul, I want to talk about Jack Johnson briefly, but insofar as it relates to today. Number one, I think we can all agree that this was just an absolutely horrific heinous conviction or wrong conviction --
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Utterly terrible.
BERMAN: Over the Mann Act.
CALLAN: Based on racism because he was the first African-American heavyweight champion and he richly deserves a pardon. But --
BERMAN: However, let's talk about that however here. However, two things here, why hasn't he been pardoned or what's the complication with pardoning people posthumously? And number two, do you think that the president's sudden interest in this is only because of boxing?
[10:40:05] CALLAN: No, I think his interest in this has a lot to do with Michael Cohen and possibly other people that he might be considering pardoning in the future. I truly believe that his focus on pardons has something to do with that.
The reason, by the way, that this case hasn't resulted in a pardon, and by the way, even Obama did not pardon him when he was -- you know, Senator McCain and others begged him to issue the pardon and he didn't. But Obama and other presidents have said no to historic pardons because it takes up the resources of the Justice Department.
CALLAN: You have thousands of people who are really in jail today, who deserve pardons and clemency. Justice Department spends 10 months investigating these things and if all those resources go to giving historic pardons, what happens to the guys who are in jail now?
BERMAN: Let's talk about Michael Cohen, which may or may not be connected to the Jack Johnson interest for the president of the United States. I was struck by the fact that the president was writing so extensively about Michael Cohen over the weekend. You put the tweet up on the screen, I'm not going to quote the whole thing. What a fine guy he is, a businessman of his own account, he'll never flip on me, he's not the type of guy to flip on me, the president indicates.
Is that odd or potentially dangerous for the president to be writing about? It sounds like the "Godfather," you know, or so and so, he'll never -- he'll never go, he'll never flip. CALLAN: You know --
BERMAN: He's not going to turn on me.
CALLAN: You know, what's truly bizarre about it is to say he's not going to flip. Well, when you say that, you're saying, I did something illegal that he knows about, that he would have to flip over. If you're a truly innocent person, you don't say he'll never flip on me. You'll say he has nothing on me. Let him say whatever he wants. But that's not what the president is saying. He's talking like an organized criminal, saying our guys never flip. So I find it to be bizarre that the president would send out a tweet like that.
BERMAN: He says sometimes someone under pressure will make things up to mitigate their circumstances, although he doesn't say Michael Cohen has nothing on me.
If we can, I want to talk quickly about James Comey. I'm going to read one tweet from the president on that. "James Comey illegally leaked classified documents to the press in order to generate a special counsel, therefore the special counsel," spelled incorrectly, "was established based on an illegal act. Really? Does everybody know what that means?"
What the president is suggesting is this is a case of fruit from the poison tree here.
BERMAN: Right? That because James Comey may have done something wrong leaking the documents, which we don't know yet, that's being investigated, that everything that happened after that is somehow flawed.
CALLAN: Yes. The president needs a lesson in constitutional law because the fruit of the poisonous tree only applies if as a result of the violation of the U.S. Constitution the police sees evidence and from that evidence they learn of other things and they make out a case against you. Now even if Comey illegally leaked classified information, that doesn't violate the U.S. Constitution. So that doctrine would not apply.
BERMAN: Paul Callan, thank you very much for being with us, appreciate it.
CALLAN: Thank you.
BERMAN: First Lady Melania Trump steps into the spotlight this week. She really has been in the spotlight the last few days. It will be her first state dinner. What is being planned and also we'll talk about some of the photos that have made so much news over the last few days.
[10:47:38] BERMAN: A big few days for Melania Trump. She has spent months planning the first official state dinner of the Trump administration without help from an event planner. And yet just days before the event, she was in Texas attending the funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush.
Our White House reporter Kate Bennett, she was the first to report on the first lady's involvement for planning for this dinner.
Kate, what have you learned?
KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's true what you said, John. She didn't hire an event planner, which is actually fairly common in recent history for first ladies to do. Michelle Obama had that -- and Barack Obama had that big final Italian state dinner on the lawn that was tented, there were chandeliers, Gwen Stefani performed, there was a huge to-do.
This one is going to be a little different. The Trump state dinner is going to be about 100 to 150 people inside the state dining room at the White House. As we just said, the first lady planned everything from the menu to the chair cushions. That's what the social secretary told me. So she's really been actively involved and I think a lot of it will have, you know, touches of the French American relationship, often these state dinners do, and the menu and the color scheme and the flowers.
I'll get a sneak peek of that later this evening when the White House lets some press in to take a look. But yes, this is definitely a pressure moment for Melania Trump who, you know, certainly has spent a lot of time focusing on this and we'll see how it goes.
BERMAN: A pressure moment, Melania Trump very visible over the weekend, attending the funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush. There were some photos that have caused -- I mean, people have been talking about them.
BENNETT: That's right. I mean, listen, the first lady said almost two days before the president that she was going to go pay her respects in person to the Bush family on the loss of Barbara Bush and that was something she wanted to do. You know, she's sitting right next to somebody that quite frankly during the campaign she had -- you know, implied was -- she was part of the birther movement, that the president wasn't born in America.
I mean, Michelle Obama joked about handing her that present on the "Ellen" show, the Hillary Clinton, the, quote-unquote, crooked Hillary that her husband likes to call on Twitter. I mean, she's walking into a real sort of lion's den of adversaries and she was embraced by them, and vice versa. And I think those pictures indicate that this funeral superseded any sort of politics and that it became a very gracious moment between former presidents and former first ladies, and the current first lady.
BERMAN: It's a great point. It was about no one other than Barbara Bush and should not have been about anyone other than Barbara Bush and the first lady -- the current first lady Melania Trump looked comfortable and looked happy, smiling when conversing with former president Obama and the other former leaders.
[10:50:11] Kate Bennett, great to have you with us. Thank you very much.
So the Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to a baby boy. Kate Middleton and Prince William welcomed their third child at St. Mary's Hospital in London. Kensington Palace says both Kate and the baby are doing well.
Our royal correspondent Max Foster outside the hospital in London with the latest -- Max.
MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: John, very exciting here because we're expecting Prince William to leave the hospital in the next 10 minutes or so and go and pick up George and Charlotte, who haven't met their little baby brother just yet. They're going to go -- he's going to go back to the palace, pick them up, he'll probably arrive about half an hour later, then we'll see them go into the hospital behind us.
And then at some point today, we do expect to see them but they haven't actually been decided whether or not they're going to leave today. They're going to make that decision in a couple of hours' time. And we're not going to see all five of them together, I'm told. We're just going to see the parents and the baby on the steps if they do. But it could be tomorrow morning, so they might want to stay an extra night, you know, to make these decisions.
Usually they will leave on the day of the birth, but haven't made that decision just yet. So there's some recovery to be done, I think.
BERMAN: No doubt. And in terms of the decisions to be made, we still do not know the name of the new baby boy. And, Max, I should tell you, you and I caused quite a stir, an international incident, with our last discussion about the baby's name. I suggested that maybe Severus Albus Windsor would be a good name, you know, homage to Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling, the author of "Harry Potter," of course writes, "They discussed names and the anchor said he's rooting for Severus Albus to tie everything together and I had one of my regular 'out-of- body how the hell did all this happened' moments." It happened because, you know, I have issues.
My issues aside, Max, what was the leading candidates for the names?
FOSTER: Well, we don't know. They kept it to themselves. We're saying Philip. I'm just going to pick a name out there. It's probably something that goes with the title prince. So Prince Philip is one that sort of rings true. I know that Prince Harry and Prince William are very close to Prince Philip. So maybe that one. If there is any sort of name you can go for really, but I prefer your one, actually.
You know, you've got more leeway with number three, don't you? Not going to be king. He can be who he wants to be. And J.K. Rowling can actually come out with some --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. He may not --
FOSTER: -- rather suggestion that she's going to criticize you on.
BERMAN: I agree, Max Foster on the Severus Albus. Come on board that bandwagon. Great to see you, Max. Let us know when we see William leaving the hospital.
In the meantime, Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, not the only Cabinet pick facing some trouble this week on Capitol Hill. Why Republican aides say that the nominee to be Veteran Affairs secretary, Admiral Jackson, is the most vulnerable of all.
[10:57:17] BERMAN: All right, new this morning, another tough battle looming for a Cabinet nominee of the president. The nominee to be the secretary of Veterans Affairs, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson. The White House physician could be grilled on Capitol Hill over his qualifications to run the government's second largest agency.
Joining us now live on Capitol Hill, Sunlen Serfaty.
Sunlen, what are you hearing?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it certainly is a big week for Ronny Jackson. Wednesday, he'll be appearing before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and certainly there is so much riding on how he does in that confirmation hearing. Last week he was up here on Capitol Hill, really making the rounds with senators on that committee. But this week will be the first time that we will see Ronny Jackson really face a grilling and face very direct questions from many senators who have already expressed a lot of concern about him on that committee.
There have been significant questions raised about his qualifications, is this someone that has the experience necessary, especially the experience necessary to and management style to lead such a large agency. And also there is a lot of unknowns about him, the fact that Ronny Jackson simply does not have a long track record in terms of policy. So likely there will be a lot of questions about where he stands on significant policy questions that senators want to see answered.
Remember, a lot of times that we see -- most recent time we've seen Ronny Jackson, the most high profile time is when he appeared in the White House briefing room as a White House physician, defending President Trump's health. Here he was back in January.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- how a guy who eats McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken and all those Diet Cokes and never exercises is as in good of shape as you say he is in?
RONNY JACKSON, VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY NOMINEE: It's called genetics. I don't know. Some people have great genes. I told the president if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years, he might live to be 200 years old. I don't know. I mean, he has incredible genes I just assume.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: And that was Ronny Jackson back in January. Of course he will be up here on Capitol Hill in a much different role, John, and certainly a huge issue for Democrats, will he be for or against privatizing the VA? Many senators said that they were left with the impression coming out of those meetings he had up here on Capitol Hill last week that he's against privatizing the VA. So certainly a lot going into this hearing on Wednesday -- John.
BERMAN: Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill. Sunlen, thank you very much.
Nearby where Sunlen is, the line is already forming outside the Supreme Court, ahead of a hearing on the president's travel ban. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear if President Trump can restrict travel to the United States from several countries. The latest version of the travel ban restricts entry to foreign nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Syria, North Korea and Venezuela.
Thank you all for joining me today. I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts now.