Return to Transcripts main page

INSIDE POLITICS

Annapolis Shooting Details; Gunman Attacks Journalists; Trump Wants to Unveil Nominee Soon; Trump Talks of Annapolis Shooting. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 29, 2018 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:01:00]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm John King. Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS."

You're just watching there Wes Adams, the district attorney of Anne Arundel County.

And we begin this hour, right there, in Annapolis, Maryland, a city mourning the death of five of its citizens. Journalists killed in what police call a targeted attack. The police chief speaking just moments ago describing this. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF TIMOTHY ALTOMARE, ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, MARYLAND, POLICE: Within two minutes, they were pushing in on the suspect and starting to get him cornered and not let him hurt anybody else. So I -- to answer the spirit of that question, do I think that the Annapolis City cops, the county cops and the Anne Arundel County Sheriff's Department saved people's lives yesterday? Without question. Without question.

I'll say this. The fellow was there to kill as many people as he could get.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The chief saying there is no longer an active threat to local citizens, convinced this suspect was acting alone, that after yesterday afternoon's horrific shooting at "The Capital Gazette" newspaper. Police say the 38-year-old suspect, Jarrod Ramos is his name, now being held without bail. Police say he was working alone and they found evidence in his home that he had planned this attack in great detail. They say he was armed with a legally purchased shotgun and smoke grenades and that he barricaded at least one exit before he began shooting.

As for why he took those lives, court documents say he had filed a defamation claim again the paper back in 2012. The paper had covered a harassment case against him the previous year.

Joining me with the latest on this tragedy, CNN's Rene Marsh.

Rene, police just held this news conference. What new details did we learn?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We learned quite a few new details. We know that at this hour this shooter is still not cooperating with investigators. He hasn't been cooperating since he's been taken into custody. So much so that in order to identify who he was, they had to use facial recognition technology. Maryland used a photo of this man that they had in a database, and they were able to ID him that way.

We also, as you mentioned, John, know that they were able to locate his vehicle nearby. They also searched his home. And they say based on what they found inside of his home, it is clear that this attack was planned out. However, they didn't get into detail as far as what exactly they found. But the police chief did make the comment that when asked whether the plan went as he hoped it went, he said that it was pretty close to it. So what -- the plan he had sketched out, it seems as if what he pulled off yesterday was very much in line with what he hoped to and what he planned to do.

But what remains unclear for investigators is motive. So we do know that there is this longstanding issue and grudge that he's had with this newspaper because of that 2012 defamation lawsuit that he filed against the paper over an article that they wrote about him. But what is unclear is why now. The grudge started back in 2012. This is many years later. So they still don't know what triggered him at this point.

John.

KING: Rene Marsh, appreciate the live reporting on the new details.

Now let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd, who was actually in the bail hearing as this played out there when the prosecutor gave us some of the new details of the investigation.

Brian, what do we know?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, some dramatic new details that came out in this bail hearing. Those coming from Wes Adams, the state's attorney for Anne Arundel County. He just spoke here at a news conference a short time ago.

So at this news conference and in the hearing that we just attended, he said -- basically laying out details of the plan that prosecutors allege that Jarrod Ramos had to attack this building and to kill people inside. What we learned was that he had allegedly barricaded a back entrance to "The Gazette" offices so that people could not escape. This is kind of laying out the thoughtfulness of his plan here. He barricaded that entrance, then came around -- according to the prosecutor, came around to the front entrance, shot his way through the doors, got into the office and started shooting people in the small offices there of "The Capital Gazette." We know, of course, that four people died right at the scene. One person died later at a trauma center. What we also learned from the prosecutor was that he shot at least one

person who was trying to escape that back entrance. So that detail of his plan there in just -- you know, just horrific, grizzly information about how he allegedly planned this out, John. He was denied bail at this hearing because the judge and the prosecutor have argued basically that he is still a threat, a danger to the community. He's held without bail pending his trial. The next hearing is probably going to be within 30 days.

[12:05:21] But, again, just the detail of the extent to which he allegedly planned this attack are just horrifying this morning. He came in with a plan. The police said last night that this was a targeted attack. But he went in and basically methodically shot at his victims. But then when the police arrived within 90 seconds, they found him hiding under a desk, John.

KING: Hiding under a desk after setting up what I heard one of our law enforcement calls a kill zone.

Brian Todd, appreciate your reporting there outside the courtroom.

Before we continue, let's take a few moments to read the names of the victims, to remember them and the legacy they left behind.

Wendi Winters' peers describe her as a prolific storyteller. She was 65-years-old and a true veteran of the news business. The mother of four children and an active volunteer in her community, Annapolis, Maryland.

John McNamara's friends and colleagues called him Mac. Fifty-six- years-old. Loved covering sports for the newspaper. Had been in the business long enough that he was the guy in the newsroom who could do just about anything, writing, editing, even designing pages.

Thirty-four-year-old Rebecca Smith started working at the paper's sales department just last year. Her colleagues call her thoughtful, kind and considerate. She was engaged to be married. She posted on her FaceBook profile about being a dog mom and a survivor of endometriosis.

People affectionately called Robert Hiaasen "Big Rob" because of his height and also, his brother said, his remarkable heart and humor. He's remembered as a generous mentor. And his brother tells CNN, he saw his work as part of a civic duty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARL HIAASEN, ROBERT HIAASEN'S BROTHER: You know, Rob never thought of it as heroic, he thought of it as a civic duty, as a responsibility in a functioning democracy. But he was more -- he was just this big, generous, gentle guy and gifted -- such a gifted writer and editor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Gerald Fischman, an a word-winning journalist, served as the paper's editorial page editor. The 61-year-old was quiet, reserved, clever and quirky friends said. Respected by his peers. Local politicians say he asked tough questions and treated every local story with deep importance.

One of the survivors of Thursday's shooting was a college senior, the newspaper's intern, Anthony Messenger. Listen here. He tells NBC his colleagues were kind and good-hearted and he never expected something like this to happen in a newsroom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY MESSENGER, "CAPITAL GAZETTE" INTERN AND SHOOTING SURVIVOR: That's never something that crossed my mind when I took the internship, that I might see people die. People that were nothing but welcoming and comforting to me in such a -- it's a big job to take. I never really had a job at an office yet, and they were accommodating to me and they really tried to help me write the best stories that I could. So it was unfortunate to see such good-hearted people ultimately suffer such untimely, senseless deaths.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Joining us now on the telephone, Donna Cole, a local TV reporter who once freelanced at "The Capital Gazette" and who stopped by the paper this morning to check on her peers and her friends.

Donna, what was that like going by the newspaper the morning after this horrific tragedy?

DONNA COLE, FORMER FREELANCE REPORTER, "CAPITAL GAZETTE" (via telephone): You know, John, radio, not TV, radio report. And I hadn't broken down too much. I've been in a state of shock for the -- since this happened. I couldn't even go out and cover this story because I was so much in the state of shock.

And when I went past with all the satellite trucks and all of the rest of the media, I -- that was my chance to break down, I guess, and that's when the tears flowed. And, thankfully, our mayor of Annapolis, Kevin Buckley, was there and he held me, as did the spokesman for the city of Annapolis.

So, no, normally you would not be seeing the journalist break down with the mayor of Annapolis crying, but that's what I did. And, you know, this was an attack on the capital. It goes beyond that. It was an attack on Annapolis. And it goes beyond that. It was an attack on journalism and it was an attack on journalism worldwide. And I'm a journalist. So I'm not -- I'm upset by this.

KING: Help our viewers understand the unique culture of a small community newsroom like this.

COLE: You know -- so, yes, we know -- we all know everyone in Annapolis. We know the news makers. We know those that write about the news makers and those that photograph the news makers. And those that -- those journalist that do that, we all know one another and we're all (INAUDIBLE) stories together and there's -- it was indicated Wendi and I rose up through the freelance ranks of "The Capital" together. She stayed at "The Capital." I moved on.

You know, this is horrific what happened. And we should all be upset and we should all remember those five names. And they shouldn't have died. And as I've explained to my 16-year-old who is leaving in a week to go study journalism, this is not normal. This isn't how I grew up. This -- John, this isn't how you grew up. And this could have easily happened in your newsroom. It could have happened in my newsroom. This isn't normal.

[12:10:16] KING: This is not how I grew -- this is not how I grew up. I'm a former paperboy myself from the old school.

Tell me about your -- these are your colleagues, your former friends, but you were particularly close with Wendi Winters. Tell us -- tell us about her.

COLE: Well, I wasn't working -- yes, Wendi -- yes, so Wendi and I rose up through the freelance ranks together. We weren't best friends, but we worked together at "The Capital," and we worked side by side on stories together. Wendi is such an incredibly valued member of the community, as are all the others that we lost yesterday. But Wendi truly tells each and every story that is happening out there in the community. And if she doesn't, I'm sure she's delegating them to someone else.

We've lost some treasures here in Annapolis. We -- Wendi writes a column that I used to write called "The Home of the Week." She goes in and tells about people's homes. I was not a tough act to follow. Wendi is going to be an impossible act to follow.

KING: Thank you for using that term, treasures. Especially local community journalists like this are treasures in the communities, and they cover the schools and they cover the mayor and they cover the stuff that a lot of, forgive me, national news organizations tend to forget, even though it is so important.

Donna, were you ever aware - I'm not sure of your timeline at the paper -- were you ever aware of the tensions, the confrontations, the threats from this suspect?

COLE: I was not until I read some FaceBook posts that I won't go into yesterday because those should be held private. But, you know, when you learn that threats in journalism aren't new, threats in community journalism aren't new. We need to take them seriously. I'm thankful for the Anne Arundel Police Department, for -- and the other responding agencies for ensuring that other lives weren't lost yesterday.

I will tell you yesterday's big story in Annapolis was supposed to be indoctrination day at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. It wasn't supposed to be the mass murder of five people at a newspaper. It wasn't supposed to be.

And I will tell you this, Wendi was very much involved with the Navy community. She has kids in the Navy. And she's very much involved with the Naval -- was very much involved with the Naval Academy. So please remember those names. Please remember what these journalists

did. And the fact that Rebecca was brand new and supporting those journalists at "The Capital." Remember those names.

KING: Amen to that.

Donna Cole, appreciate you taking the time today. Good luck to your son. I hope he stays in the fight. We could use the help in the business. Appreciate it so much.

COLE: Oh, (INAUDIBLE). Thank you.

KING: So much. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:17:03] KING: Welcome back. Live pictures here. The East Room at the White House. You see presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner there. The commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, has his back to you. Kellyanne Conway, the president of the United States, moments away from an event to mark six months -- it's actually six months in a week -- since he signed the big tax cut into law. The president wanting to promote that today, make the case that the economy is doing well because of that tax cut in this midterm election year.

We're also told he is expected to comment for the first time on camera about the Annapolis newsroom massacre yesterday. We will bring you that remark from the president when we get to it.

Again, you see the crowd gathering. The East Room of the White House.

Now moving on to another big story facing the president and something very different from this president as he mulls filling now a second Supreme Court vacancy. The trademark for this White House is chaos, replaced, at least at the outset of this search, by a careful, methodical process. The White House made calls to more than a dozen senators yesterday, day one of the search process. Plus, last night, a presidential sit-down with six senators crucial to the confirmation process.

Here they are. Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, Republican moderates, absolutely critical swing votes here. Joe Donnelly, Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp, three Democrats up for re-election in big win -- big Trump state wins. States the president won big. Let me try that in English.

Smart politics for the president who hopes to move swiftly here. The hope is, we are told, for the president to settle on a choice in the next week to 10 days to unveil it before he leaves for a trip to Europe. Both parties now bracing for a bruising election year fall confirmation showdown.

It is instructive, so (ph) credit to the president, but also to Don McGahn, the White House counsel, that on this one they have a process. They have -- they understand the importance of reaching out. Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, two Republicans who are worried that with swing vote Anthony Kennedy gone, Roe v. Wade could be at risk, or at least significant, new restrictions on abortion could come into play. Critical. And with John McCain absent, if you lose a Republican, you're going to need at least one Democratic vote, so you bring in the three Democrats who are most likely to be your target of opportunity here.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they definitely do not want to mess this us. This is one of the very few things that this White House has actually hailed for doing smoothly last year. That was the confirmation and nomination of Neil Gorsuch, who is obviously a Supreme Court justice now. And you saw them less than 24 hours after Anthony Kennedy announced he was going to retire, Don McGahn, the White House council, is already making these calls, the president is already having dinner with all of these people who will be critical votes to deciding what the Supreme Court looks like for the next few decades.

But we are getting a timeline of just how quickly the White House wants to move this process. We were told shortly after we found out that Kennedy was retiring that they were going to move this quickly. And now we are seeing just how quickly they want this to go. A nomination by July 9th is really big. That's very soon. And they've had this list that they're going to choose from, the 25 since last fall when they updated it from the Gorsuch process. But, still, that is a very quick timeline to pick a new person.

KING: Right. And it's exactly what the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants, who has relayed to the White House 66 days for Sonya Sotomayor from confirmation -- from nomination to confirmation. Sixty- six days for Neil Gorsuch from nomination to confirmation. Mitch McConnell wants to do this, this fall. He thinks that's the right way to do it for the courts. He also thinks, guess what, it's a midterm election year, it's the right way to do it for politics.

[12:20:16] KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It's also that, you know, he sticks to that window of time that he's now set for himself. The new session starts in October. September 30th they have to pass a budget. That might be one window in which the Democrats would have to actually throw things off the rails.

They can't really -- if they can convince any of these members that are -- that they're making calls to, senators they are making calls to, to actually come on board with a nomination.

But the question is going to be -- I mean, look, this is basic math. With Murkowski, Susan Collins and the three Democrats, everybody knows this math, and Chuck Grassley controls this committee. So they don't get genius points for that.

The question is, are they talking with those senators to figure out who they would be willing to stomach and sit with because, frankly, anybody that's on that list is probably going to be inclined to make changes to Roe V. Wade. And so we keep saying, well, that's the issue for Collins and Murkowski, but it's probably the issue, just generally speaking. So who is it that they -- either they can sit well with or would put people like Manchin in such a tight spot that they can't say no.

KING: All right, we're keeping an eye on this event at the White House.

Just put up the list. There are some of the names. The president has a list of 25 names -- as we wait for him to speak in the East Room here. He has a list of 25 names. Here are some of them here. I just want to go through these, Brett Kavanaugh, 53. Amy Coney Barrett, 46. Raymond Kethledge, 51. Amul Thapar, 49. Senator Mike Lee, 47. Thomas Hardiman, who was the runner up to Neil Gorsuch, 52.

The president is looking to put somebody young on this court, in addition to Neil Gorsuch. We'll be talking about the Trump judicial legacy, whether he serves one term or two. Twenty, 30, and 40 years from now, this will be a conversation in America, not just because of the Supreme Court, but because of the Supreme Court and the lower courts.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, and they have been meticulously planning for this, to your earlier point, such a contrast with the chaos that we see on other fronts in terms of legislation, in terms of executive action. Very quietly, behind the scenes, in ways that we are not even privy to, although my colleagues reported on some of them in today's paper, this administration has been laying the groundwork for a nomination -- another nomination and confirmation site. They actually made some steps to try to persuade Anthony Kennedy that now would be the time to retire. And when that happened, they were very much prepared for a quick process to try to get this person through.

And no matter who it is, whether it's somebody on that list or somebody that's not on that list, there's no question that it's going to change the complexion of the court in the way that President Trump has talked about wanting to do.

KING: Right.

All right, we'll take a break from the Supreme Court conversation. The president of the United States. This event again designed to promote the Tax Cut Act the president signed into law six months and one week ago. But we also expect some comment on that horrible massacre in Annapolis, Maryland, just yesterday.

Let's listen to the president.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, everybody.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Wow. (INAUDIBLE), right?

(INAUDIBLE).

Thank you very much, everybody.

The economy is indeed doing well.

Six months ago, we unleashed an economic miracle by signing the biggest tax cuts and reforms. I have to add the word reform. A very important word. But the tax cuts is what got us there and that's what's really doing it. The biggest tax cuts in American history. Now it's my great honor to welcome you back to the White House to celebrate six months of new jobs, bigger paychecks and keeping more of your hard-earned money where it belongs, in your pocket or wherever else you want to spend it.

Before going any further, I'd like to address the horrific shooting that took place yesterday at "Capital Gazette" newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland.

This attack shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief. Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job.

To the families of the victims, there are no words to express our sorrow for your loss. A horrible, horrible event. A horrible thing happened. When you're suffering, we pledge our eternal support. The suffering is so great. I've seen some of the people, so great.

[12:25:20] My government will not rest until we have done everything in our power to reduce violent crime and to protect innocent life. We will not ever leave your side. So our warmest, best wishes and regrets. Horrific, horrible thing.

Thank you.

For today's event, we're honored to be joined by our great vice president, Mike Pence. Stand up, please.

Also joining us are Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has been keeping very busy lately. Steve. Secretary Wilbur Ross. Wilbur. Secretary Alex Acosta, who just came up with a great health care plan. Thank you, Alex. A great health care plan. People are really liking it. Association. Sonny Perdue, the great secretary of Agriculture. Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon is doing an incredible job. Director Mick Mulvaney. And Treasurer --

KING: The president of the United States in the East Room here introducing senior members of his cabinet, and other senior members of the presidential team as the president holds this event.

Again, we're in a midterm election year. The tax cut law the president signed six months and one week ago is a big, significant accomplishment and achievement for this president policy wise. He also hopes politically it helps Republicans in the midterm election year. The president interrupting himself at the top of his remarks to speak

publicly for the first time about the massacre yesterday at "The Capital Gazette," a community newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. The president offering his condolences for the victims, also promising that his administration would not rest until violent crime was reduced in the United States.

Let me deal with this up front. There is some commentary that because the president so frequently attacks the media, because the president calls the media an enemy of the state, there are those out there, if you look at social media, who are blaming him for this. The president has nothing to do with this. I'm going to say -- disagree with me if you want, but the president of the United States, in my view, has nothing to do with this. This particular suspect has a six-year history of grievances with this newspaper. Sued this newspaper. Threatened this newspaper.

But there is a -- what -- I believe what the president says about the media, by the way, is reckless and reprehensible and horrible. It just has nothing to do with this particular case. It's also a fraud in that the president obsesses about his media coverage.

But to the -- to the point there, there was some commentary yesterday, why didn't the president say something yesterday. Is that fair? Does the president have to comment on every big event in American history?

DAVIS: I mean typically when there's a shooting like this in America, somewhere in America, a president will sort of rush for the first opportunity to comment on it. So I don't think it's unfair that people wondered why he didn't do that.

That being said, I think you're completely right, he doesn't have anything to do with this particular case.

What was striking there, I think, what we just heard from him, is that he said something along the lines that journalists deserve to live, you know, without fear of violence. And it was one of the only times I've actually heard him say something positive about journalist and people who cover the news and, you know, that's -- that's since he's been president. We often hear the opposite from him. And that gets amplified by his supporters in a lot of ways, including some very violent ways, for those of us who are on social media. But that was an instance, maybe the only instance I can recall, where he said something positive about what journalists do and what journalists should be able to expect as they do their jobs.

COLLINS: And I don't think anyone is blaming the president for what happened yesterday. But that was -- no one says he has anything to do with it. That guy clearly had had a grudge against the paper for so long. But it's hard to see an attack on journalists, like that, and ignore the rhetoric we've seen toward journalists and journalism in general. And a lot of it does come from this White House regularly, from the president, saying the press is the enemy of the American people. They are not. Those two things can both be true that the president had nothing to do with this but also that the White House and the president of the United States should not be making remarks like that.

So I think that is why people, obviously, brought up their rhetoric. Someone brought it up on the plane to the deputy press secretary saying this because when they are saying that they are fake news and they are the enemy of the American people, these people were doing their jobs, editing stories, making sure the paper was ready to go out for today, and they were murdered in their newsroom. You cannot ignore the president's rhetoric in light of that.

[12:30:05] PERRY BACON, SENIOR WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: I agree. And there's -- yes, I'd love to add there. I mean I'm concerned about the president's rhetoric (ph) of the media every day. You know, Monday I was concerned about it. Today I'm concerned about it. I'll be concerned about it next week too.