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THE SITUATION ROOM
Ten Dead in Santa Fe School Shooting; U.S. Officials Dispute Trump Claim, Say FBI Informant Not Planted Inside Trump Campaign. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 18, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST Happening now, breaking news: Texas school massacre.
A deadly high school shooting rampage leaves 10 people dead, 10 wounded, and many asking, how could this happen again?
Bombs and pressure cookers. Explosives found in the school and nearby, as investigators search a trailer where they believe the devices were made.
And first appearance. The 17-year-old suspect, a student at the school charged, with capital murder and scheduled to go before a judge this hour.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, an ongoing search for explosives after pipe and pressure cooker bombs were found at the Texas high school where a 17-year-old student is suspected of killing 10 people and injuring 10 more in a shooting rampage.
We have our correspondents and analysts standing by.
CNN's Brian Todd begins our coverage this hour.
Brian, we're learning more about the suspect.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are, Wolf, new information coming in tonight from multiple sources.
We're getting details on the suspect's background, on his plan for attacking this school and on horrific, minute-by-minute accounts of how this unfolded just after he walked in wearing a long coat and carrying a shotgun underneath it.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, investigators are questioning 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis, who they say planted explosives around Santa Fe High School in Texas before opening fire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shots fired.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More shots fired. Additional shots fired.
TODD: The first call came into 911 at 7:32 this morning, shortly after school had started.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Still have several more shots.
TODD: Students stay Pagourtzis, who attended Santa Fe High, seemed to have a plan. Fire alarms were pulled around the time the shooting happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in the history hallway. And as soon as we heard the alarms, everybody just started leaving, following the same procedure as we did. Nobody thought it would be this. Nobody thought it was a shooting. Everybody just thought it was a normal procedure or practice fire drill.
TODD: Pagourtzis appears to have set off explosives, which officials say they believe he built himself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just put IEDs, threw them in a room. We might have eyes on a pipe bomb.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just hear so many -- three gunshots. A lot of explosions and all the teachers are just telling us to run, run, go. Like, run.
TODD: As police began surrounding the school, inside, they say he continued shooting using a shotgun and a resolver taken from his father.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's actively shooting. He's in the art room. We've got shots fired right now, guys. We need you all up here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They heard three shots and then Vaughn (ph) -- Mr. Vaughn said to run. So, everybody took off. I grabbed her. I ran to the tree line.
TODD: Officials say Pagourtzis was injured at some point, though it's not clear how. He was eventually taken alive.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: The shooter has information contained and in journals on his computer and his cell phone, that he said that not only did he want to commit the shooting, but he wanted to commit suicide after the shooting. As you probably know, he gave himself up and admitted at the time that he didn't have the courage.
TODD: Officers cleared the building, evacuating students and searching some.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Me and my friend Ryan Calvert (ph) ran to the forest, so we could get shelter, and that's when I called my mom.
TODD: In addition to the shooter, police say they are holding a possible accomplice, an 18-year-old fellow student.
Tonight, investigators say they're focused on tracking down any other explosive devices the shooter may have planted at and near the scene. They say they have already found at one Molotov cocktail, as well as a carbon dioxide device.
Police now have warrants to search two nearby homes, as well as the shooter's car, but are proceeding carefully because of concern about other bombs.
WALTER BRAUN, SANTA FE SCHOOL DISTRICT POLICE CHIEF: Community members should be on the lookout for suspicious items and anything that looks out of place. Do not touch any items that look out of place.
TODD: Tonight, students and parents in Santa Fe are describing moments of terror and confusion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you would have heard what I heard this morning, the fear in my loved one's voice because of my son being in that classroom.
TODD: Tonight, a law enforcement official tells CNN that authorities are talking to the shooting suspect. One law enforcement source says officials are discussing whether to bring federal charges against him because the bombs involved today are considered weapons of mass destruction, which are under federal jurisdiction.
He already faces state charges which carry the death penalty -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Did -- Brian, did the suspect own the guns that were used and how did he get them?
TODD: Wolf, according to the Governor Greg Abbott, neither gun was owned legally or possessed by the shooter, legally by the shooter.
The guns were legally owned by the shooter's father. It's not known whether or not the father was aware that his son had taken the weapons from the home.
BLITZER: And he's about to appear, make his initial appearance in court? Is that right, Brian?
TODD: That's correct, Wolf.
We're expecting that at any moment. And, again, it's going to be interesting to see what kinds of charges are brought against him, whether federal charges can be brought.
He's already got the state charges that bring the death penalty. Also, they're going to need to know more from him about a possible accomplice who they have been holding and questioning here and just how these two might have been involved in this thing together.
They're also still searching properties around the area for possible explosives and traces of it. They need a lot more information from him.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.
Our panel is standing by. We have experts getting ready to assess the latest developments. We're getting more information even as we speak.
But joining us on the phone right now is the Galveston County Judge Mark Henry.
Judge, thank you so much for joining us.
You were born in that area, raised in that area. First of all, our hearts out to you, to everybody in the community. How is the community responding?
MARK HENRY, GALVESTON COUNTY JUDGE: Oh, thank you very much, and thanks for having me.
The community is in shock, is the only way I can describe it. And this is the kind of thing that you never think is going to happen in your backyard.
BLITZER: We're still learning about this suspect. There's a lot more we need to learn. Does it look to you, Judge, like there were some serious warning signs that were missed?
HENRY: What was briefed to Governor Abbott and myself was that there were really no warning signs, or they were so subtle that they would have been missed.
So, we have not been able to ascertain any criminal history of the suspect so far or any outward overtures that would be problematic or concerning to anyone.
BLITZER: There was that T-shirt. He posted a picture of him wearing a T-shirt "Born to Kill." That's a pretty serious statement.
HENRY: It is.
And looking backwards, that would be the only thing we can point to, and that, by itself, I'm sure a lot of teenagers have worn a similar shirt and taken pictures. That doesn't mean it ends up like this.
BLITZER: Yes, I see that, "Born to Kill."
He also had a trench coat with Nazi paraphernalia, other kinds of paraphernalia. He always wore this long trench coat to school, the students said, even if it was 90 degrees outside. That's obviously, with hindsight, something else that we should study, given the fact that he apparently had that shotgun underneath that long trench coach.
What can you tell us, Judge, about these explosive devices that were discovered at the school, on the scene near the campus?
HENRY: We were informed by Galveston County Sheriff's Office investigators that there were two devices. And I think the ATF is working with them.
Neither device was actually capable of discharging or detonating. So, they were two crude attempts to make an IED-looking device, but not one that would actually function.
BLITZER: Judge, what can you tell us about any possible accomplices?
HENRY: The only person of interest, I got a pretty detailed briefing on that.
I think it's way too early to suggest that he's an accomplice. It sounds like he may be most who just needs to be questioned. We do not immediately see a direct connection between the person of interest and the suspect.
BLITZER: Do we know if this suspect simply, he is 17 years old, took these two weapons from his father or if the father allowed him to take those weapons? Obviously, there's a big difference.
HENRY: There's a big difference.
And the investigators will have to do their job and investigate that. We only know that it appears they did belong to the father. I am a father. I would never allow my 17-year-old to have possession of them. I just don't assume that we can make that leap at this point.
BLITZER: If the father was simply negligent and didn't have those weapons locked up, would the father potentially be in legal jeopardy?
HENRY: That's a question to ask of investigators and prosecutors, not me.
BLITZER: How's the community dealing with all this, Judge?
HENRY: It's a shock. I don't know how else to describe it.
The first call to 911 went at 7:32 this morning and it's been but surreal ever since. I was notified about 7:45. I have made three trips so far to the high school. I'm with the governor now. We're about to go up and meet one of the victims and his family. So, it just -- this is not at all how we thought our Fridays was going to turn out.
And I have to same the same thing about those poor students.
BLITZER: Do you know, by the way, Judge, if police ever were called to the suspect's home in advance? I'm referring to what happened in Parkland, Florida, back in February. There were a lot of missed signs, local police, FBI. There were warnings there, but simply ignored.
HENRY: So far, we have no indication that he had any previous police contact. Like I said, the investigators told me they did run criminal history and there was no criminal history on this suspect up until now.
BLITZER: And no criminal history on his father or his family?
HENRY: Say it again?
BLITZER: What about his father?
HENRY: We -- I don't have that information.
BLITZER: No information on that.
What do you think needs to be done in order to try to prevent these kinds of horrific school shootings? Nine kids are dead. One teacher is dead; 10 others were injured, wounded. What needs to be done to prevent this down the road?
HENRY: That's a great question for elected policy-makers. That's not really my role here.
My role is to try to manage the crisis as best I can and provide as much aid and comfort as I can to the citizens of Galveston County.
BLITZER: And they're going to need a lot of aid and comfort right now, especially the kids.
HENRY: Yes. Yes.
BLITZER: Hey, Judge Mark Henry, thank you so much for joining us.
HENRY: Thank you, sir.
BLITZER: All right. Let's dig deeper right now with our specialists and our analysts.
And, Shimon Prokupecz, you're getting some new information right now.
What are you learning?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I think what that judge there, judge just said appears to be new information, certainly, Wolf, in that these were two crude devices.
That this person who we were told may have been an accomplice officials wanted to talk to, it seems that they have talked to this official, according to what the judge says, and just basically he's now describing him as someone that they just needed to talk to.
So certainly those new pieces of information are just coming in to us. We have not talked to any of our law enforcement sources yet to figure out where they stand in terms of the investigation, but certainly what he said there seems to be new information.
BLITZER: The suspect is about to make his initial court appearance. What do we anticipate will unfold? We're going to have coverage of that.
PROKUPECZ: Well, I would assume he will be told what his charges are.
We're told that they're capital murder charges. So, some of that will probably be revealed. We may learn some more about how he was taken into custody. The governor there told us that he gave up essentially and he wanted to kill himself, but he didn't -- was not able to follow through on that and he gave up.
We may some learn more about the interaction that the police had with him, but it sounds like this is going to be an initial appearance. So, I don't expect a lot will come out in this core proceeding. But, certainly, it will be the first time that we all get to see him, and this will happen hopefully within the next hour or so.
BLITZER: And, Jessica Schneider, you're our justice correspondent.
What are you hearing about how authorities are approaching this investigation? And I must stress, we've learned a lot, but it is only just beginning
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is just beginning.
This has been unfolding all day. But there's a lot more to come here. So, while we wait for this suspect to appear in court, this investigation is spanning far and wide, I mean, with a lot of different agencies here.
You have the federal agencies, state, and local. We know that state, the Texas Department of Public Safety, they're taking the lead here, but FBI, ATF, they have all sent their agents there, and in particular, you have got bomb techs on the ground.
You have got other agents on the ground from the FBI field office in Houston. The bomb techs are interesting, because both local bomb techs and federal bomb techs, they've all gone to the same schools. They have the same lingo. They speak the same language.
And that will be very important, because one of the concerns right now are the IEDs, the explosives. We know we heard from the governor that there are these search warrants out there, but they have to be very careful when they're going into the vehicles, into the homes. They just don't know what they're going to find.
So, these bomb techs, both on the federal level, state level, both going to be crucial to as this investigation moves forward. There's a lot of work to do.
BLITZER: Want to show our viewers.
We have got a live picture coming in right now. This is the camera in the courtroom where the suspect will be making his initial appearance momentarily, we're told, fairly soon. We're going to have coverage of that. We will see what he says. We will see what the judge says. Stand by for that, the initial court appearance for this suspect.
Josh Campbell, you used to work at the FBI. You were a supervisory agent over there, special agent. Walk us through how authorities are now trying to figure out whether or not there was an accomplice or accomplices.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So there will be multiple data points here that will help them assess whether or not they are out of the woods when it comes to this being one person or one person who was working with someone else or may have been assisted.
The first thing that they're going to be doing obviously is that interview with the subject. And we have to understand as this timeline moves forward and we get closer to this initial appearance, law enforcement officers will have less of an opportunity to continue interviewing him and talk to him.
I imagine at this point he's probably already been lawyered up or has been provided a lawyer by the state. So, once that happens and once that initial appearance kicks off, I don't know if he will waive his preliminary hearing or move straight to trial. A lot of that would depend on whether he actually pleads guilty or not guilty.
But law enforcement officers are going to capitalize on this time right now in order to gather that information, to determine if he's being cooperative. Did he work with other people?
And then they are going to move and talk to witnesses, people who knew him, people that were in his orbit, whether that's family members, whether that's friends at the school, to try to again assess was he acting alone or were there others here that were assisting him?
And with respect to the locations, we will see the physical searches, we will probably have video footage of that with law enforcement officers coming to that trailer, for example, and other locations.
They're racing daylight right now. So, in a situation like this, where there's the possibility of explosive devices, some type of crude incendiary device being on the other side of the door when they're executing a search, that's something that they're not necessarily going to want to do once darkness hits.
A lot of this investigation is going to continue and it's going to be multifaceted and it may last more than just today, obviously, with respect to the searches, but that information will start coming out in short order as far as what they're dealing with and how big a picture this is.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta is getting more information over at the White House.
Jim, what else are you learning? JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I can tell you
that we just talked to the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, about what happened down in Texas.
I pressed her on what the administration is doing to prevent these kinds of school shootings, to try to tamp down on this problem of gun violence in this country. She said to us just a few moments ago that the conversations about school safety are ongoing.
And she said that the administration's School Safety Commission -- this is something that was created in recent weeks after what happened down in Parkland, Florida -- that that commission had been activated today, she said, and that the commission is going to have its first meeting next week.
Now, when people obviously are at home and they're inclined to support gun control measures, Wolf, they hear that a commission has been created, a commission has been activated, they're going to have meetings, that doesn't exactly sound like any kind of movement happening quickly in terms of gun control.
And they may be right. That may be the case, but it was notable, Wolf, that the White House press secretary said that they're activating that school safety commission and they're going to start having meetings beginning next week on this very critical issue of protecting the nation's schools, which obviously are not being protected at this point, because this problem of mass shootings at our nation's schools, it just keeps happening.
But when I asked her what else is being done at the moment, she said that the president did speak with the Texas governor, Abbott, earlier today, and no word yet as to whether or not the president will go down to Texas and visit the scene or the town of Santa Fe, Texas.
But they are keeping tabs on it, monitoring developments with officials. And she said conversations are ongoing as to how to protect these schools. The question, of course, Wolf, in the end is ultimately what the president will do about this, because, as we saw earlier this year after what happened down in Parkland, Florida, the president sounded very receptive to gun control measures, even talked about going back to the Manchin-Toomey background check legislation, even talked about going after, perhaps, the age limit on people buying long rifles and assault-style weapons, that sort of thing.
And then the president backed down after he met with the National Rifle Association. And, as we know, earlier this month, he even said that the Second Amendment rights of Americans are under siege and that that's not going to happen on his watch.
But Sarah Sanders just a few moments ago made it sound as if this conversation is once again getting restarted over here at the White House in light of what happened down in Texas -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta, we are going to get back to you.
We're awaiting his first court appearance. We're told that's going to happen momentarily. There you see live camera -- cameras in the courtroom. We will see what he says. We will see what the judge says.
Stick around. Our breaking news coverage continues.
BLITZER: Our breaking, the Texas high school shooting that left 10 people dead, 10 injured, of the 10 dead, nine of them kids, students, one teacher. We're standing by for the first court appearance by the suspect, a 17-year-old student at the school.
Let's dig deeper with our specialists and our analysts.
Shawn Turner, the fact that it wasn't just a .38-caliber revolver and a shotgun, but also improvised explosive devices that were planted at the school, on the campus, that raises the level of this attempted mass murder.
SHAWN TURNER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Yes, this is a very different -- very different than what we saw in Parkland or what we see in other places.
The fact that there were improvised explosive devices communicates a level of calculation on the part of the shooter and tells us that he was able to -- he was able to stop and not only think about what he wanted to accomplish, but he was thinking beyond going in and shooting up these students in this school.
So I think that I was a little surprised when officials came out early on and said that there were no warning signs at this point. But I think that when you look at what he did in terms of putting those devices other places, I think we're going to find that there were certainly some warning signs, because you just don't do this level of calculation, this level of planning, without there being something to indicate that you're up to something.
And let me go to Josh, because, Josh, certainly with hindsight, there were -- looks like -- and this is just a few hours later -- there were plenty of warning signs.
And Shawn is spot on when he talks about the devices taking this to a new level. I mean, it's one thing obviously for someone to wake up and this crime of passion, where they have some type of grievance, something that they're trying to act on and to grab a firearm and to go act.
That's obviously very difficult to stop, because the flash to bang, so to speak, whenever someone decides to do something and when they act is very short. But when you start talking about devices, these take time. You have to get ingredients. You have to learn the expertise and the know-how. Maybe if there are others that are showing you how to do this, these are all different areas where possibly a plot like this could be interdicted, could be stopped, if someone sees something suspicious and says, what is this person doing?
Who gathers this type of -- these ingredients? And what's going on here? So it shows a level of sophistication. I also think -- I agree with Shawn that we're probably going to learn that there were opportunities of someone may have seen something and maybe didn't actual report that to law enforcement.
BLITZER: And, Jessica, do authorities acknowledge that they missed some signs?
SCHNEIDER: Well, they haven't acknowledged anything like that.
But they are talking to one or two people of interest here. There was one person on scene who they're speaking with. And, of course, with all of this, with the weaponry and also with the social media posts, the big questions are going to be with the parents, and perhaps with any close friends, because obviously those weapons were owned by the father.
The question being, did the father know that his son may have had access to it? Did the father know that his son took these guns? And then what did they know about just his behavior?
As Josh said, these IEDs took some time to assemble. It took material. So were they delivered to the house. What did his parents know? Maybe what did any family members know or close friends?
And if you take a look, Shimon, at the journal that they discovered, it's said -- and this according to the governor of Texas, Governor Abbott -- he said that he was planning on killing these individuals and then committing suicide, but he didn't go through with the suicide.
And that was -- when I heard that, certainly, that -- I was taken aback. It tells you that there was some level of planning here. It doesn't sound like there was a lot of sophistication, in that these IEDs that he made were not -- clearly didn't go off and were not well- made.
But whatever it is, he had some planning. He did keep this journal. I think the police -- he's cooperated, it seems, with the police. They have interviewed him. He's given them information.
So we can also tell by -- because he's appearing in court that essentially they're pretty much done with speaking to him. So they have learned a lot about him. They haven't shared exactly what the motive is.
But I think if you look at all the information that they have now gathered, it's very obvious that they know exactly what was behind this. And I think when we talk about warning signs, we talk about warning signs on Twitter. We talk about what warning signs on Facebook. We talk about warning signs on family and friends and whether or not someone called the police on him prior to today.
None of that right now exists. So, I think that's what authorities are saying, why there's no warning signs. Whether or not his family knew that there was something wrong, I'm sure we will find out that something was wrong. But they didn't probably feel that they needed -- it was at a level where they needed to go to authorities about it or go to the school and say, we have some concerns.
And also it's Texas, right? I mean, guns are guns. And the shotgun here that was owned by his father and the handgun, the 38, all legally owned. Perhaps maybe he was -- family knew he would shoot the gun. Nothing wrong with that. Probably pretty common in Texas.
So I think there's a lot more digging that needs to go on here. And we need to know what the family knew. That is going to be the big question.
BLITZER: We're getting some more information.
I want to go to CNN's senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, who has been looking into the suspect's social media postings and a whole lot more.
And, Drew, I understand you have some new information.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are digging into his social media, which, by the way, has been mostly taken down.
But I just want to add on to the conversation in terms of the early warnings and was there a warning, Wolf?
By -- compared to all the other shootings that we have covered -- and we have covered a bunch of them -- by this time -- this is many hours after the shooting -- we would have information on warning flags by friends, warning flags by police reports, warning flags, not just on social media, but other places.
And I think what's striking about this case, as we're about to show you, is, this suspect really was, as the governor said earlier, a clean slate.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, had scant details of his life on Facebook before the page disappeared.
But this is what CNN was able to confirm before Facebook removed him from its platform. Pagourtzis says he started attending Santa Fe High School three years ago. He posted pictures of himself showing what appears to be a normal, nondescript high school student.
On April 30, less than a month ago, he also posted this, a custom black T-shirt that says "Born to Kill."
DUSTIN SEVERIN, STUDENT: He wears a trench coat every day. And it's 90 degrees out here.
I talked to him a few times because I used to play football in ninth grade. He's nice, but he's real quiet. He keeps to himself. He doesn't talk to very many people. He will be walking around with his trench coat on and headphones in. Doesn't say anything.
GRIFFIN: On the same day he posted his T-shirt, he also posted a photo of this a black duster jacket with Nazi, communist and fascist religious symbols, and under the name Kamikaze, Pagourtzis posted three rap songs on YouTube. That is it. The rest typical teenager. A photo of him in a church group. Other photos showing an average teenage American.
On his Facebook page, he showed interest in joining the U.S. Marine Corps starting in 2019, he wrote. The Marines have no record of him.
Before high school, Pagourtzis had also attended Santa Fe Junior High, where he was listed on the sixth grade honor roll. He was mentioned as a standout player on the school's J.V. football team a few years ago, but that is it.
Law enforcement tells CNN, at this point, they have no reason to believe he was on anybody's radar, and, so far, there is no explanation for why he would have done this.
GRIFFIN: And so far, unlike past shootings, Wolf, no threats to somebody was made. Nobody coming forward to say the police were at that home multiple times. We have no record of any police involvement at this point with him.
Obviously, this is a early investigation in terms of how these investigations go. But I'm just comparing this to other cases. We've had a lot more information at this point showing that there were warning signs missed.
BLITZER: There certainly were. Drew, stand by.
I want to go back to Jim Acosta. He's over at the White House for us. Jim, the president spoke out, tweeted about this, but he also made a public statement.
ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf. And we should also point out the flag has been lowered to half-staff over here at the White House. Once again, the flag being lowered to half-staff after yet another mass shooting in this country, and one at a school, this time down in Texas.
And the president, as you said, he spoke to the public earlier today. He was at an event on prison reform. But at this event he vowed to have his administration do everything possible to prevent school shootings in response to this massacre down in Santa Fe, Texas. And facing yet another shooting on his watch, the president noted that these massacres are a problem that the nation has faced for decades, and here's more of what the president had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This has been going on too long in our country. Too many years, too many decades now. We grieve for the terrible loss of life and send our support and love to everyone affected by this absolutely horrific attack. To the students, families, teachers, and personnel at Santa Fe High, we're with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever.
My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools and to keep weapons out of hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others. Everyone must work together at every level of government to keep our children safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And just to illustrate what a profound problem this issue of school shootings is for this country, Wolf, take a look at this. This is a list compiled by CNN of all of the school shootings in 2018. There are 22 school shootings that have taken place in 2018. It is only May. So we are on course for something in the ballpark of 40 to 50 shootings by the end of this year if this rate continues.
And there you are on screen, Wolf, seeing all of these school shootings on the map of the United States that have taken place all across the country. It just really makes it sink in for you, to see how widespread a problem this is. How schools are just not being kept safe from mass shootings in this country.
And it's unclear, Wolf, what the president will do in response to this school shooting in Texas. As we saw earlier this year, he backed away from any kind of substantial gun control measures, despite initially sounding supporting -- supportive of those kinds of laws in the days after the massacre in Parkland, Florida, last February. That was when the president toyed with the idea of various ideas when it comes to beefing up gun control laws. But the president appeared to reverse course on that issue after meeting with the National Rifle Association.
And Wolf, just a few moments ago, we had a chance to press the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, on this issue of whether or not the White House is going to revisit this issue of gun control, gun safety. She said the conversation is ongoing as to how to protect schools in this country, Wolf.
But it is just unclear as to what the president is going to do at this point, given his rhetoric on this issue. Keep in mind, just at the NRA national conference that occurred earlier this month, the president said to gun rights backers that "Your Second Amendment rights are under siege, and they will never be under siege as long as I am your president." That is a direct quote from the president of the United States just a few weeks ago on the subject.
So Wolf, it's just unclear at this point what exactly he plans to do, if anything, on this issue. It's an issue, obviously, that's not going away, as the flag being at half-staff here at the White House underlines, yet again -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It was very much in contrast, as you point out, Jim, to after the Parkland, Florida, shooting when he told bipartisan lawmakers in that meeting over at the White House --
ACOSTA: That's right.
BLITZER: -- "Don't be so scared of the NRA."
ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf. And you saw that meeting. We all saw that meeting. It was pretty stunning. He had lawmakers from both parties. He had Dianne Feinstein, you remember, the senator from California, who was a strong supporter of gun-control legislation. She would like to see restrictions placed on the purchase of semi- automatic weapons, assault-style weapons.
[18:35:12] And the president at one point during that meeting suggested that perhaps her legislation could be folded into the Manchin-Toomey legislation that was almost passed during the Obama administration that would create universal background checks.
After that meeting happened, of course, the NRA and many of its supporters were up in arms, because they just couldn't believe that the president, who they had contributed millions and millions of dollars to during the campaign, would say such a thing. And it was in short order after that meeting with those lawmakers, when the president had his own meeting with the National Rifle Association, that he backed away from all of those measures; and they haven't really done much of anything since, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. And they certainly haven't. All right. Thanks very much for that, Jim Acosta at the White House.
Once again, we're standing by for the initial court appearance. We've got live cameras there. The suspect in this case, the 17-year-old high school student, will be making his first court appearance. We'll see what he says, see what the judge says. We're going to have live coverage of that. Stick around for that.
But Josh Campbell, walk us through right now -- you used to work at the FBI -- where this investigation stands right now and where it's heading.
CAMPBELL: So two aspects here. So there's obviously what law enforcement officers are doing right now. And that is, we've talked about, you know, interviewing witnesses and associates, trying to determine did this person act alone, what that motive was.
There's also the physical aspect where they'll be going through these locations, you know, this trailer that we've been seeing, where there may be evidence of criminal activity, the incendiary devices and the like that are there.
Also, you know, the social media, that digital space where this person may have resided, where evidence may have been. So that's the investigative side that's going on.
The second part is going to be what we're about to see here coming, you know, very shortly. And that is this initial appearance. And this is the first opportunity for the subject to be brought before the court. I suspect this will be a very short hearing, where the defendant will be presented formally with the charges against him. As we've heard reported that, you know, there are likely to be these capital offenses, obviously, in Texas with murder.
And then he'll enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. And you know, it will be interesting for me as an investigator to determine what that plea is, because that may tell us the following.
Obviously, in this situation where you're trying to protect life, you're trying to determine did this person act alone? Are there devices out there that may be cause -- may be a threat to the public? I could see a circumstance in the state of Texas where, you know, if someone facing a capital offense, the prosecution investigators may come to him and say, you know, "Cooperate with us. Let us, you know, determine that, you know, there aren't other accomplices, there aren't devices that are out there, and we may take the death penalty off the table and just leave life in prison." Obviously, that's going on behind the scenes.
If he steps forward and pleads not guilty, that's more likely that he's not cooperating and he's going to test the sufficiency of the evidence at his trial.
BLITZER: Yes. Well, these are -- Shimon, these are state capital murder charges that he's now facing in the state of Texas. That doesn't necessarily preclude the possibility of federal charges being imposed, as well.
PROKUPECZ: No, it doesn't. But normally, in these kinds of cases, the FBI and the Department of Justice doesn't charge 17-year-olds, because they're considered minors under the federal statute. So it's usually not something that they do.
It has been done in cases, and they would need to go and get permission, special permission from the attorney general to do it.
In this case, because there are IEDs and potentially explosive material, they could bring some kind of WMD charge here. We've seen that in terrorism cases, along with -- usually coincides with other charges.
We also don't know exactly yet what the motive is, right? If there's a motive here that falls under a federal statute like a hate crime or some other kind of federal crime, then they can also bring charges because of that.
But it makes this much more difficult, because the Department of Justice generally does not like to bring charges against 17-year-olds. You know, we've seen cases like this before. Terrorism cases, they usually wait until someone is 18 before they bring charges.
But look, that is something we're told that's being considered, and certainly, there's some political motivation here, as well, because the president certainly is -- as he's expressed today, fed up with this happening. He could be putting some pressure on the Department of Justice to try and file federal charges here.
BLITZER: Yes, you know, Jessica --
CAMPBELL: Can I --
BLITZER: Go ahead.
CAMPBELL: I was going to quickly say -- sorry, Jessica -- that along with that, along with what Shimon was saying there, that I think any federal charge here would probably be largely symbolic. Because I know, you know, having worked investigations in the past, you -- if you're a federal investigator, you'll sit down there with your counterparts on the state side and try to compare who is likely to get the most severe charge, whether it's through the federal system or through the state system.
I have to tell you, in the state of Texas, obviously, the criminal justice system is very severe when it comes to these types of charges to include, you know, capital murder. So the idea that this would then go federal, I think, again, probably more largely symbolic.
BLITZER: And they're still searching, you know -- I'll get Shawn into this, as well. They're still searching the home, the cars for explosive devices.
TURNER: Yes, they are. And I think that if -- if they find more explosive devices, what they're really going to want to try to understand is what was the motive here? There's a big difference between someone who does this because they were -- there's scorn from a relationship, versus someone who has some sort of ideological bent. And so I think that's going to play a major role in how this case moves forward.
[18:40:21] BLITZER: You know, Jessica, there clearly seems to be some ideological bent here. There's the "Born to Kill," the T-shirt, the full -- the full coat with all sorts of Nazi paraphernalia and communist paraphernalia, all sorts of other very disturbing signals.
SCHNEIDER: Yes. And what's interesting about that is, you know, they say there's no criminal record here. There were no maybe clear warning signs.
If you notice when these postings were from, these postings were on April 30.
SCHNEIDER: It's just a matter of weeks ago. So was there something within the past few weeks that may have triggered this mass shooting? So, you know, there weren't warning signs before. Maybe there were in the past few weeks, and they were missed.
TURNER: And there were also -- we also -- there are different kinds of warning signs. I mean, there are warning signs that have to deal with, perhaps, mental illness and psychological issues and then there are warning signs related to behavior. And so that's one of the reasons we have to be very careful about calling this a mental health issue. Because he may not have exhibited any mental health or psychological issues that gave an indication that he was about to do this.
But we can also look at his behavior. And Josh mentioned this. What was he buying? Where was he going? What was he collecting? That's also a behavior that would have given us some warning signs.
PROKUPECZ: The trailer we've been reporting, they've been doing the search, where there were explosive devices. That's near his home. In fact, I think that's connected, kind of, to his home. So he had to be spending some time in there. And his family, were they ever in there? Did they know what was going on in there? I mean, those are good questions to ask.
We're also now learning, Wolf, that the FBI there in Houston is saying that they expect this area to be closed around the school and around his home and the surrounding areas for some time, because it's a crime scene. And we've sort of talked about this.
You know, the FBI is helping. He's assisting and processing this crime scene as well as the ATF. And also, given the -- just the number of deaths here. You know, you have to imagine what the inside of the school must look like, and also this idea there may be other bombs. We haven't heard an update on officials on that, that they feel it's secure enough that they're not concerned that there may be other explosives out there.
So it's understandable that this area will be closed for some time, and we should see these FBI agents and ATF agents -- there are crime scene technicians now from the FBI and from the ATF that come into the scenes and they help and they assist the local authorities. And the explosive materials, we should also note, that some of that -- some of that evidence is being processed by the FBI. So this is going to go on for some time.
BLITZER: It is. All right. Everybody stick around. We're waiting for the shooting suspect's first court appearance. We've got a live camera inside the courtroom. There you see live cameras. He'll be making a statement. The judge will be making a statement, as well. We'll see what happens. We're getting more on this investigation. We'll be right back.
[18:47:40] BLITZER: Breaking news. A high school shooting left ten people dead, nine of them students, one teacher. Also ten wounded in Santa Fe, Texas, near Houston. A 17-year-old student is in custody and charged with murder right now.
Shimon, you're getting some new information on these explosive devices. The search is continuing by no means over.
PROKUPECZ: That's right. No, by no means over. The FBI, they're in Houston tweeting that the searches are ongoing. They're using bomb techs and a K-9.
Obviously, that's -- (INAUDIBLE) any explosive material, there is still concern it seems that there may be explosive devices out in the field there that the authorities have not been able to locate. So, that is why they're also telling us this area is going to be closed for quite some time, because they're going to go over this not once, not twice, but probably like three or four times before they're certain there's nothing there and they can reopen some of this area.
They also need to collect evidence. We have a criminal case now, at least pending now in one area in Galveston, Texas. We're expecting to see the shooter in court soon. We have a criminal case. They need to collect evidence and make sure people don't taint the evidence that they may recover.
But the big issue is the concern there may be explosive material in this field they don't know about.
BLITZER: If he was building these kinds of improvised explosive devices, Jessica, you don't do it in a day or two. This has been going on for a while. You need to buy the ingredients. People presumably would see some disturbing activity on his part.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You would think. Pipe bombs, pressure cookers, those are some of the devices found. Also, Molotov cocktails.
The governor talked about a CO2 device. So, there was a lot of preparation here. And the question is who knew what, when, and how much did his parents know?
You go back to the social media posts. It may prove that these April 30th posts, there may prove to have been an event that happened around that time that may have triggered the anger on social media and may have triggered some of this action, building these explosive devices, getting these weapons.
We don't know when he actually took the weapons. It may have been in the position of his father, or locked up. We don't know the situation was there.
So, there are a lot of questions. As Shimon mentioned, there are agents on the ground. There is a massive so the questions will be talking to these witnesses, asking what they knew and of course getting there are a lot of questions.
As it was mentioned, there are agents on the ground. There is just a massive response from many different agencies, local, state, federal.
[18:50:03] So, the questions will be talking to these witnesses, asking what they knew and, of course, getting to the parents, getting to his father.
BLITZER: And, Shawn, just searching for explosives, that's a really dangerous mission, as you well know. You were a marine.
TURNER: Absolutely. So, these investigators are going to have to be extra careful when searching for these devices. You know, as I think through this, there's this question of whether or not there was trigger here. When we think about what we learned, clearly, they were not well made. Clearly, they were not set to a point where they were explode and to damage as far as what we know right now.
So it kind of begs the question was there something that happened that caused this individual, who was planning something much larger and much more dangerous to suddenly wake up this morning and say today is the day and move out on this.
BLITZER: Everybody stick around. There's more breaking news we're following. Our headed back live to Texas for the latest on the deadly school shooting. What investigators know about this gunman.
Also, President Trump claiming the FBI planted an informant inside his presidential campaign. But what we're learning is this. That's not exactly the case.
[18:55:51] BLITZER: Our breaking news coverage of the Texas school shooting continues just ahead. But first, U.S. officials tonight are telling CNN that a confidential intelligence source was not planted inside the Trump campaign despite the president's claims.
Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is working the details for us.
Jim, the president has now tweeted about this two days in a row.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: And not to be lost here, this is a remarkable claim for the president to make, that the FBI in effect spying on its campaign, planting an informant inside the campaign. Of course, not the first time the president has made a similar charge. He previously charged without basis that the Obama administration has placed a wiretap on Trump Tower and again here, multiple officials telling myself and my colleagues that this is simply not true. That there was no informant planted inside the Trump campaign.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): It is the president's latest attempt to undermine the Russia investigation. A tweet citing an unsubstantiated claim that the FBI planted an informant inside his campaign. Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted for political purposes into my campaign for president, the president tweeted.
His personal attorney asserted the claim on CNN this morning.
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: We're told there were two infiltrations. Two embedded people in the campaign.
SCIUTTO: U.S. officials tell CNN that no informant was planted inside the Trump campaign. U.S. law enforcement did have a source however. An American whose identity has been kept close for the source's protection, based on law enforcement practice, this would likely mean the source came forward voluntarily with information.
Rudy Giuliani acknowledged he and the president have no knowledge of any plant.
GIULIANI: First of all, I don't know for sure nor is the president, if there really was one. We're told that.
SCIUTTO: According to the "New York Times," former Trump campaign advisers, George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, both met with the informant several times.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has agreed to narrow the scope of a potential interview with President Trump from five topics to two, according to Giuliani, who says that questions related to the president's long time personal attorney Michael Cohen are now off limits.
GIULIANI: The main focus that we want I can tell you, simply is Russia. Was there a connection with Russia?
SCIUTTO: More broadly, Giuliani sought to discredit Mueller's motives for the interview.
GIULIANI: Explain to me why they even need an interview with the president, if it's not to trap him into perjury.
SCIUTTO: CNN has reported that Mueller's team wants to question the president about the June 2016 meeting with Russians at Trump Tower, as well as his role in crafting a misleading statement aboard Air Force One about the purpose of that meeting.
Mueller is also interested in his firing of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former FBI Director James Comey. Comey's replacement as FBI director told Congress this week that the Russia probe is legitimate.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You said at your hearing the Russia investigation was not a witch hunt. Now ten months, you're far more details of the FBI. Is that still your opinion?
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Yes.
SCIUTTO: Giuliani, however, contradicted Wray, claiming he knows more about the probe than the nation's top law enforcement official.
GIULIANI: Well, it is a witch hunt. I know more about the case than he does.
SCIUTTO: Well, we should remind that Christopher Wray, of course, not alone in saying that the Russia investigation is not a witch hunt. Several officials appointed by this president and senior intelligence and law enforcement positions, the heads of various agencies, et cetera, have expressed the same view, that the Russia investigation is substantial and to continue.
BLITZER: How he say, Giuliani, that he knows more about the case than the sitting director of the FBI? Whole bunch of FBI agents involved.
SCIUTTO: Who knows? I mean, there were lot of claims that Giuliani made, some of which were contradictory, within the time frame of that interview. I mean, perhaps he can say the special counsel has given them some guidance on the questions that he wants to ask perhaps to the degree that the FBI director himself doesn't know.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, reporting for us, thank you very much.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
Our special coverage of the breaking news, the Texas school shooting continues right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".