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Synagogue Massacre: Alleged Gunman Faces 29 Charges Including Hate Crimes; Trump: An Armed Guard Might Have Been Able to Stop Shooter; Three Hate-Filled Crimes, Three Hate-Filled Suspects; Trump Condemns Mass Killing as "Evil Anti-Semitic Attack". Aired 7-8a ET
Aired October 28, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:00:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please join now in a moment of silence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And the NFL announced there will also be a moment of silence before today's game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think everyone will remember October 27th.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this moment of hope, suddenly, there was this act of horror where a man ran into the synagogue with automatic weapons and murdered in cold blood 11 people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel that we are all attacked. The people of Pittsburgh feel violated too.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a case they had an armed guard inside, they might have been able to stop him immediately.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are hearing from synagogues all over the world and not only their condolences but their expressions of solidarity.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Squirrel Hill is strong. And we are going to remain that way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to watch each other's back and we have to be there for each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Good morning. I'm Christi Paul in Atlanta. My colleague Victor Blackwell in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania right now.
And, Victor, I would assume that that is exactly what the people of Pittsburgh are doing right now, trying to hold each other up.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Christi, good morning. I'm just about a block away from the Tree of Life Synagogue.
And I just got a copy of "Pittsburgh Post Gazette", the Sunday edition here. And take a look. It's the Squirrel Hill massacre is the headline.
This tight-knit community is now one of those communities, unfortunately, where you can simply say the name and people, unfortunately, remember a tragedy, like Sandy Hook or San Bernardino where a large group of people were taken in such tragedy.
In just a couple of hours, this community will hear read out from the law enforcement for the first time the list of those 11 who were killed. Of course, they likely know those names because they know their neighbors, they know who did not come home, they know the cell phones that were not answered, and we'll talk more about those victims and the community in a moment.
Let's first talk about the suspected shooter Robert Bowers, facing federal hate crime charges after police say he stormed the Pittsburgh synagogue and unleashed the bullets on worshippers there. In all, the alleged mass murderer faces 29 federal charges and dozen more state charges.
We are learning new details from a criminal complaint filed overnight. Court documents say the suspected gunman killed 11 people -- 8 men, three women -- and opened fire on police several times. The shooter shot at the SWAT team as well on the third floor of the synagogue and they were wounded and he was wounded in this gun fight.
He then told officers he wanted all Jews to die reportedly. And we expect to learn more about yesterday's tragedy and a few hours of law enforcement officials hold that news conference. The FBI, we know that they had taken charge of this investigation. Agents say this is the suspect's online footprint, that will be an important focus here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB JONES, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE OF PITTSBURGH FBI OFFICE: We are in the early stages of this investigation. And over the next several days and weeks, we will look at everything in the suspect's life. His home, his vehicle, his social media, and his movements over the last several days. At this point, we have no knowledge that Bowers was known to law enforcement before today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: More on the next step for the investigation in a moment. But, first, here's how it all started.
BLACKWELL (voice-over): a somber vigil outside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, as thousands gathered to remember those killed in one of the deadliest attacks on the Jewish community in the history of the United States. ANN BELSER, HEARD GUN SHOTS FROM SYNAGOGUE: I think everybody will
remember October 27th. I think that is going to be -- that is going to be a date that is etched in everybody's mind. But I think that Squirrel Hill is strong and we are going to remain that way.
BLACKWELL: Eleven people killed, six injured, including four police officers who exchanged gunfire with the suspect at the scene in the historic Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. 911 calls about an active shooter came in just before 10:00 a.m. Saturday during Sabbath services. Police radio captured the chaos and tactical teams engaged the gunman.
PATROL: We've got a guy barricaded, actively shooting at SWAT officers.
Operator shot! I've got one operator shot at this time!
Third floor contained in one room -- one operator down.
BLACKWELL: The 46-year-old Robert Bowers surrendered after shot several times by police.
[07:05:04] He now faces more than two dozen offenses, including federal hate crime charges and he could face the death penalty.
JONES: This is the most horrific crime scene I've seen in 22 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Members of the Tree of Life synagogue conducting a peaceful service in their place of worship were brutally murdered by a gunman targeting them simply because of their faith.
BLACKWELL: Pittsburgh police said Bowers made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting and in custody receiving medical treatment he reportedly told police he, quote, wanted all Jews to die for committing genocide to his people. Bowers also targeted Jews and immigrants in post on social media including gab, a so-called free speech network, blaming Jews for helping migrant caravans, and he called those in migrant caravans, quote, invaders.
Five minutes before the shooting, Bowers posted this: I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in.
GOV. TOM WOLF (D), PENNSYLVANIA: My heart breaks for the members of the Jewish community. Today, all of Pennsylvania mourns with you. Anti-Semitism has absolutely no place in our commonwealth. Any attack on one community of faith in Pennsylvania is an attack against every community of faith in Pennsylvania.
BLACKWELL: Let's learn more about those who were injured. Let's go to Jean Casarez live from the Pittsburgh Hospital, where many of the injured were taken.
Jean, what have we learned about the survivors of the shooting but also the doctors, those emergency room doctors who jumped in to help? JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: absolutely amazing, Victor. There
are six surviving victims and I just received correspondence from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center public relations office that all of the conditions remain the same. That is very good news because that means that the two in critical condition have, in fact, made it through the night.
And we do know that a 70-year-old victim who had received multiple gunshot wounds to his torso affecting major organs underwent two surgeries yesterday. They have said a third may be necessary, but he remains in critical condition this morning, as well as a 55-year-old officer who confronted the suspect in the synagogue, multiple injuries to his extremities, remains in critical condition. We also have a 61- year-old victim, a female, as well as two other police officers. One police officer was actually released from the hospital.
But what we do know is that there were three emergency room physicians that went to the seen and triaged the wounded. We weren't there, but CNN has recovered the actual dispatch audio as this all was going down. Listen to it for yourself.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PATROL: Patrol at the front door -- we got to evacuate some of these hostages.
DISPATCH: Received -- request for patrol at the front door evacuating hostages.
PATROL: We have a spent magazine -- looks like a high powered AK -- middle hallway off the 1-4 corner.
PATROL: I have a description.
DISPATCH: Go ahead.
PATROL: Tall white male, short hair, light blue shirt, jeans. Again that's tall white male, short hair, light blue shirt, jeans.
PATROL: I got one alive.
PATROL: We're evac'ing one right now -- still alive. We have a least four down in the atrium DOA at this time.
DISPATCH: Was there earlier intel that he may be in the basement?
PATROL: I had a report of at least one victim in the basement.
PAROL: I have an additional 4 victims -- 4 victims in the back of the atrium of the front hall total 8 down, 1 rescued at this time.
DISPATCH: What's your status in the basement?
PATROL: We're probably at the bottom of the stairwell cleared to the left. Working room to the right we have rifle cases in here with blood. (END AUDIO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Of course, we will learn more at a news conference a little later this morning. Jean Casarez, thank you so much.
Christi, back to you in Atlanta.
PAUL: All right. Victor, thank you very much.
President Trump is again calling for unity after the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. He followed through with a scheduled campaign rally in Illinois which he considered cancelling at one point we know. The president said terror cannot be allowed to interrupt our lives and said an armed guard may have prevented that attack.
CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood is with us now.
Sarah, what did he say yesterday?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Christi, President Trump was condemning bigotry and condemning anti-Semitism at that rally in Illinois last night, which as you mentioned, White House aides look at an option cancelling out of respect for the 11 people who lost their lives in Pennsylvania yesterday but opted to go ahead and hold the campaign rally any way.
Now, the president did demonstrate a more moderated tone. He restrained his focus more to policy than we usually see at these rallies.
[07:10:09] Take a listen to what he said at Murfreesboro.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This evil anti-Semitic attack is an assault on all of us. It's an assault on humanity. It will require all of us working together to extract the hateful poison of anti-Semitism from our world. This was an anti-Semitic attack at its worst. The scourge of anti-Semitism cannot be ignored, cannot be tolerated, and it cannot be allowed to continue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WESTWOOD: Now, this is not the first time the president had addressed the shooting. He'd done so several times throughout the course of Saturday. One of them being at a farmers' event in Indiana.
And speaking to reporters as he was leaving Washington at Andrews Air Force Base the president threw out several options for preventing this tragedy in the future. One of them was strengthening the death penalty, saying people who commit these heinous attacks should pay the ultimate price. But the other was putting armed guards in houses of worships, churches and synagogue, but the one that was attacked yesterday. He even suggested that the synagogue in Pennsylvania might have only had one casualty, the gunman, if an armed guard had been there. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If they had protection inside the results would have been far better. This is a dispute that will always exist, I suspect. But if they had some kind of a protection inside the temple, maybe it could have been a very much different situation. They didn't. And he was able to do things that, unfortunately, he shouldn't have been able to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WESTWOOD: The flags at the White House behind me are at half-staff in honor of the people who died yesterday. The president and first lady are holding a Halloween event at the White House later this afternoon, so it's possible we could hear more from the president about this tragedy today -- Christi.
PAUL: All right. Sarah Westwood, we appreciate it. Thank you so much.
We have CNN political commentator Errol Louis with us now, political anchor for Spectrum News as well.
Errol, thank you for being here.
I cannot believe just yesterday we were sitting together talking about these bomb packages and now we're talking about 11 people who have died in this massacre.
We heard those two options from the president. He certainly said things that the people probably needed to hear. He said this was anti-Semitic attack and it was the worst, it was evil. But when he starts talking about armed guards, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio did not take kindly to that. Let's listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: We should never blame the victims in an attack like this. We should never suggest that a house of worship has to have an armed guard for people to be able to go about their religious observance. That's not America. That's certainly not New York City. We do not require houses of worship to have an armed guard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: For clarity, the president didn't -- as far as we can tell -- blame the victims. Are armed guards an option?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would disagree with you there, I have to say. That sounded a lot like blaming the victim. If only they had an armed guard. That is a nonstarter in most communities, certainly in New York City. I speak in synagogues frequently. I have a son whose friends get bar
mitzvah, he is and out of synagogues as well. This is not the way it works here. You don't have to have an armed guard all over the place.
And then as a practical matter, I think we now know, just from the accounts that we have received so far, that even when fully armed, highly trained police officers responded, four of them were shot. So, the suggestion that we have more shoot-outs as a way to prevent these massacres is really -- it really doesn't make a lot of sense and it's not the president really leading on this issue. I mean, yes, anybody can speculate. Gee, what if we had a better shoot-out, maybe it would have happened differently. That is not leadership and not an answer.
I think it should be clear to most people, though, that leadership has to come from below. We as a society got ourselves into this situation and it's we as a society, not the political leadership, that gets us out.
PAUL: People want to hear -- a lot of people want to hear -- they need a moment to absorb what is happening, certainly. But they want answers and they want to know something is being done to try to stop this.
What did you need to hear from the president?
LOUIS: You know, I -- having met, interviewed, and covered the president, I wasn't expecting much to tell you the truth.
PAUL: But what do you need to hear, Errol? What do you need to hear?
LOUIS: Well, we -- the country and what I would say we need to hear is somebody who has some passion and some empathy, not simply, you know, calling for hardened houses of worship and more guns and sitting back.
[07:15:13] A lot of the president's tweets and even his comments made him sound like a bystander like rest of us. Gee, what a terrible thing, what a terrible tragedy. What we do need to hear I think is some direction forward, a path forward.
What we need to hear the toxic brew of mental illness and universal availability of guns and social media that stokes a lot of it and public hate speech the president has been slow to recognize or condemn. That toxic brew, when it's all put together creates the conditions that allow this kind of thing to happen. So, recognizing that it is complicated instead of having more guns would be what we need to hear from the political leadership.
PAUL: All righty. Always appreciate having you hear, Errol Louis. Thank you.
LOUIS: Thank you.
PAUL: Uh-huh. A reporter for the "Pittsburgh Tribune" review tells us about the scene that she encountered at the synagogue massacre. We have that for you next, as well as trying to really grasp the picture of how this community is coping and going forward this morning.
[07:20:30] BLACKWELL: Live pictures from Washington here. This is, obviously, the White House. You see atop that staff, the flag there at half-staff in response to the mass shooting that happened here in Pittsburgh yesterday.
Let's talk about the investigation and what we are expecting to learn today. Officials are gathering more evidence and building a profile of the suspected shooter. They are talking to some of his neighbors. One of his neighbors said that he mainly kept to himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HALL, ROBERT BOWERS' NEIGHBOR: He kept to himself. He would smoke cigarettes in his car. Go for a drive and be back at odd hours. TV would be on but I couldn't really hear.
REPORTER: Definite a girlfriend or boyfriend or?
REPORTER: Did he talk about being from Pittsburgh or do you have any --
HALL: I have no -- I have nothing. I wish I was more neighborly. Maybe I wish I wasn't as neighborly. I don't know. I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Let's bring in CNN law enforcement contributor, Cedric Alexander, former FBI counterterrorism agent, Tim Clemente, and former assistant director of the U.S. Marshals, Art Roderick.
Gentlemen, good morning to all of you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning.
BLACKWELL: Art, I'm going to start with you.
How important -- I mean, we, of course, wanted to learn more about this suspect, but how important is the conversation with the neighbor, with the coworker to the investigation?
ART RODERICK, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF THE U.S. MARSHALS: Well, they are going to try to put together a profile of this individual, so we are going to peel back the layers of his life going back months, maybe even years. Just topics with neighbors. Did he say anything that would cause you some concern? Did anybody help him? Was there a conspiracy involved here? Were there any other people involved?
So, I mean, they are going to put together a fairly good package, especially if they are going to look at the death penalty here.
So, you know, they have got plenty of time here to conduct this investigation. And they are going to go all the way back. He has several addresses in his record. He doesn't have a criminal history that I have found but, you know, they are going to peel back several layers of this individual's life and find out exactly what this person is all about.
BLACKWELL: Cedric, weigh in on president Trump's suggestion as citing that if the Tree of Life synagogue had an armed guard at the door, that that potentially would have saved some lives. Your thoughts on that.
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Good morning, Victor. First of all, let me respond to that. Sad to say, unfortunately, after such a tragic event as that, I don't think that should be the initial response for anyone. It really is a time of sympathy and empathy and show compassion and concern.
But to your question, quite frankly, that does not guarantee in any stretch of the imagination that this event would not have occurred. But the notion or the idea to think somehow that an armed guard at a church or synagogue in this place and would have somehow interrupted this dastardly event, I really can't find words for it.
Certainly, in a free society in which we live, any -- any -- any religious group, any organization can hire an armed guard, but we have to ask ourselves a bigger question as a nation -- do we really want to see ourselves as having armed guards when we go to worship in our respective places? I don't think that was an appropriate response, quite frankly, to such a horrific event, and we should consider ourselves as a nation and try to figure out and ask ourselves a more complex question -- how do we move forward?
So, we are all responsible for each other and we all are safe and we don't have to feel that every place we go, whether in a religious institution or wherever it happened to be, that we should have an armed guard. That should not be the standard.
BLACKWELL: Tim, let me come to you. We know synagogues across the country, namely D.C., their local police, as this described it, increasing attention paid to synagogues there. What is the realistic possibility of a copycat crime like this?
[07:25:02] TIM CLEMENTE, FORMER FBI COUNTERTERRORISM AGENT: It's an extreme possibly and the problem with this level of coverage. Unfortunately, we have to talk about these crimes. But these individuals do a lot of it for notoriety.
Thankfully, the BAU from the FBI will be involved in this case and deeply looking into this person's background so we can learn from him to prevent future crimes like this.
I would disagree with my colleague there about whether the possibility of having an armed guard or anyone with a gun there might have dissuaded this individual or prevented an attack. It's been clearly shown where armed citizens are not only able to prevent attacks or stop attacks, but also help police officers who are being attacked. So, we can't say that there is not a possibility that it could have helped. I as a person who trained civilians regularly in firearms believe that the individual that wants to prevent an attack, if they are dedicated and motivated and they have the element of surprise, they can be very effective and preventing these types of mass shootings early on.
I agree that a man with an AR against an individual with a pistol, it may be an uneven go fight but at least a person with the gun has the propensity to provide some level of defense that otherwise isn't there.
BLACKWELL: Cedric, do you want to respond to that or do you want to move on?
ALEXANDER: Let me jump in here for a second. Yes.
BLACKWELL: Go ahead.
ALEXANDER: Yes, let me respond to that. I think the whole point here is being missed. It's not fact that they could have had an armed guard which may in some kind of way have minimized that threat. That may or may not have happened.
The bigger issue here, as you heard from Mayor de Blasio earlier, is that we are a nation where we should not feel that we have to have armed guards at our synagogues and our churches. That is the bigger issue. It's not as simplistic as having a guard stationed at the door.
It's more of a complex issue is where are we going as a nation and what is happening in our country that is causing us to have to have armed guards, or consider have armed guards at a synagogue. This group of people that were there for renaming ceremony of a child should not have felt that they should have been armed with weapons or should have been trained in case of an attack.
That is not the nation that we are. And I hope that is not the nation that we become. It's not that simple of a response. It is a more complex issue that we need to address and we need to address as a nation.
Art, let me get you back into the conversation. As soon as shootings like this, after, some say we need to talk about the availability of these types of guns. We know from law enforcement sources that he had one assault weapon, three handguns as well. And then there are some who are opposed to gun control measure saying this is not the time.
From your perspective, is this the type to have the gun conversation?
RODERICK: You know, we have this every single time after one of these shootings. We talk about gun control issues and do I think that there is loopholes that can be, you know, tightened up within the current gun regulations? Yes, I do believe there is but I believe the biggest gap is the mental health issue.
You can lie on the forum to purchase a weapon and I think initially our initial indication here is that this particular individual legally purchased these firearms. But on that form when you go to purchase a weapon, Form 4473, there is a mental health question on there but there is no way for that question to be checked through any type of database.
So, basically, it's the honesty of the individual filling out that form that they don't have a mental health issue and I think the biggest gap we have here, especially if we find out and confirm the fact that this individual purchased these weapons legally.
BLACKWELL: All right. Art Roderick, Tim Clemente, and Cedric Alexander, thank you all for the conversation.
Christi, back to you now in Atlanta.
PAUL: All right. Victor, thank you so much. Great conversation there.
Three crimes in 72 hours is what we are talking about this morning. And it renews the conversation about hate in America. We'll talk about it. Stay close.
[07:34:05] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Three incidents, 72 hours, one thing in common -- hate.
Yesterday, suspect Robert Bowers, police say, opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue, shouting anti-Semitic slurs, killing 11 people.
And on Friday, Cesar Sayoc, he was arrested for sending mail bombs to high profile critics of the president.
And on Wednesday, Gregory Bush, a white man with a history of violence, shot and killed two African-Americans in Kentucky, at a grocery store after a failed attempt to barge into a black church.
Let's talk about what happened here with Adam Hertzman. He's a marketing director of the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh.
Adam, thank you for being with us. First, it's been, you know, 21 hours or so now, and you've had some time to sit with this. What going through your mind this morning?
ADAM HERTZMAN, MARKETING DIRECOR, JEWISH FEDERATION OF PITTSBURGH: I am still shocked. I think the whole community is. Nobody got a lot of sleep last night.
[07:35:00] In general, the Pittsburgh Jewish community has been one of the safest in the country and that just makes this incident even more shocking.
BLACKWELL: Now, you know this synagogue. What would have been happening 9:45, 10:00, 10:15, that time on a Saturday?
HERTZMAN: It's typically Saturday morning prayers. They often start at 9:15, 9:30. People wander in sometimes a little bit late. In this case, as I understand it, there was a Brit Milah, it's a Jewish baby naming ceremony and it would have been a welcoming and joyous time for people to get together.
BLACKWELL: How does this neighborhood get together? Not just the Squirrel Hill neighborhood but the neighborhood surrounding as we talk he is vigil last night?
HERTZMAN: The Pittsburgh Jewish community is really, really tight- knit. Really an attack on one person feels like an attack on my family because it's like a family. I've seen an amazing outpouring of support, not from -- not just from Jewish Pittsburgh but the entire Jewish community and Squirrel Hill and other communities where the Jewish community is have come together and will continue to come together in the next couple of days.
BLACKWELL: I'm not asking for name here but do you know any of the names of the people killed here?
HERTZMAN: I don't know yet. As I understand it, the families may have been notified last night but we are still waiting for this morning.
BLACKWELL: OK, one of the things that everyone is battling with is that you can't legislate love. You can't legislate tolerance or acceptance. So what does one do? How do we change? This is a big question, but how do we change the atmosphere here?
HERTZMAN: I think what we have been trying to do at the Jewish Federation of the Greater Pittsburgh and what of the Jewish organizations and synagogues are trying to do is bring people together and understand we are stronger together both in terms of outreach and in terms of programming and in terms of helping people in need. It's a matter of realizing that we are all part of one community and that if we rely on each other, we are going to be stronger.
BLACKWELL: Adam Hertzman, thanks so much, especially during this time and spending a few minutes with us.
HERTZMAN: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: Thank you.
Christi, I'm going to send it back to you here from Pittsburgh. And this is what we're hearing from a lot of people who even if they did not know someone who was killed or injured personally there yesterday, that they are feeling it because of the texture of the Squirrel Hill community.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: No doubt about it. Victor, thank you so much. Helping us really understand what it's like for those people this morning.
Earlier, we spoke to a staff writer at "Pittsburgh Tribune Review" who was at the scene at the synagogue as the scene was unfolding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGAN GUZA, REPORTER, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE REVIEW: It was still an active scene when I got here. There were SWAT teams in military outfits and something I've never become across before in my coverage. They all running in the same direction and still very active to the point there were still police officers telling residents and the media to get inside, to get back. It's not safe on the street.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[07:42:31] PAUL: Well, President Trump condemned the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, calling it a wicked act of mass murder and anti- Semitic crime.
Rochelle Ritchie, former press secretary for the House Democratic Policy Communications, and Jeff Ballabon is an adviser to the Trump campaign.
We appreciate you both being here.
We do need some clarity to this. The president it seemed ignored the truth again last night, justifying and holding a scheduled campaign rally by citing how the New York Stock Exchange reopened after the 9/11 terror attacks. In reality, the New York Stock Exchange waited six days before they reopened.
So, I wanted to ask you, first of all, Rochelle, do you believe that the president's tone matched the political moment last night?
ROCHELLE RITCHIE, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC POLICY COMMUNICATIONS COMMITTEE: No, I don't. I think what we have seen with these bomb scares across the country, as well as the unfortunate massacre that we saw in Pittsburgh, is an example of hate speech turning into hate crimes. And I would have thought that the president would have been more somber and, quite frankly, more angry in his rhetoric or his response simply because of his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner being of the Jewish faith.
And instead last night, what we saw the president tweeting about baseball and managing a baseball team as opposed to how to manage the tensions in this country. So, it's disheartening to see this president come the way he has and say that possibly a gun would have prevented this massacre inside that synagogue.
PAUL: OK. So, I want to go to you, Jeff, because I want to go to a tweet that you put out just seven hours ago. You said, I am in mourning tonight for today's innocent dead Jews and for those who surely will follow and I am sick tonight because I see nothing but politicization of this tragedy. Please, please stop. You're making all Jews everywhere political targets.
When you heard from the president yesterday, do you feel you heard what you had needed to hear?
JEFF BALLABON, ADVISOR TO THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: I'm going to ask for something I don't usually on a news program where speech is what matters and I'll ask if it's possible not to politicize and start with literally just five seconds of silence for the victims yesterday, both Jewish and African-American. Just five seconds.
BALLABON: You live in a time, very clear about this. The Jews that were targeted yesterday and the African-Americans their targeted yesterday, were not targeted because they were right wing or left wing or Republican or Democrat or conservative or liberal or globalists or nationalists, or socialist or capitalists.
[07:45:15] They were targeted because they were Jews and they were targeted because they were black. That's what I'm talking about.
Now, we live in an age we are so politicized that rather than point fingers and rather realize we each hear the other side talking and we assume the worse. The fact that is the message I heard resonated well with me, but I recognize because I assume the best for the president, because I've come to know him as a man who I believe has the best interest for the Jewish community and the country at heart, I know many don't believe that. I don't want to argue that point.
I want to say that we have come to the point of politicization and anger where we believe the worst of each other and it's led to this kind of violence. The fact is that even the association of these acts with the pipe bombing. The pipe bombing was directed at obviously the highest profile political figures and whether it was a bomb or a hoax we don't know that yet.
But these are acts that are to shoot innocent Americans just because they are black, they are Jewish and come to a point if we can't step down from the political rhetoric and we can't understand this, then all is lost. I fear that all is lost.
PAUL: I want to listen to the president yesterday call this what it is, an evil attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This was an anti-Semitic act. You wouldn't think this would be possible in this day and age. But we just don't seem to learn from the past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Do you believe, Jeff, that the president really understands that he absorbs the enormity of this for the Jewish community?
BALLABON: I believe the president -- again, not a political statement. This is a statement from the heart. I believe the president understands it, not just understands it intellectually, but feels it in his gut and every fiber of his being.
The president is the father and grandfather of Jews. The president is the father and grandfather of observant and open Jews. And the fact is he feels it. He knows it. He spent his whole life dealing with our people. And so, yes, I know that's a fact.
You can disagree with his approach and I know many people disagree with his approach, but the truth is, there's so many communities around the country where we do want to have restrictions taken away so that our synagogues can be armed and people can be armed. That's just the truth. Many places they disagree with that. Fine. Let the synagogues decides for themselves.
But to try and make this political is just -- not just wrong. It's evil and it's wicked and it will lead to more bloodshed.
PAUL: Rochelle, do you think you heard the community needs to hear from the president. Or what more would you like to hear from him?
RITCHIE: I think I would like to hear him condemn the shooter in this case. I did not hear that from the president yesterday. We often hear him, you know, he is able to call different politicians dogs or things like that but we did not hear him say the same things about this shooter yesterday.
And I understand, you know, that this is a very difficult time for the Jewish community and, you know, I also want to make sure that we continue to recognize that there was also a white supremacist that attempted to get inside of a black church in Kentucky, and when he was not able to do so, he went and shot two African-American people. And the president said that if the synagogue had a gun, this may have been prevented. Well, in the Kentucky shooting there was a man who had a gun and fired back and still two people died. So I don't think that is a solution.
I certainly agree that, you know, we are politicizing his issue but it is very hard not to when you have a president who during Charlottesville as white supremacists marched down and said Jews would not replace us, he came out and said that there are good people on both sides and that is a huge issue.
PAUL: Just for clarity the president did call Bowers a whacko yesterday, just for clarity there.
BALLABON: There was no question the president was as clear as could humanly than possible and looking to try to say otherwise, the president was clear in condemning this and the president was clear in condemning wicked people on one side and good people on the other side. The fact is the president called on violence and hate from the beginning on all sides. That is what has to be called out. One side's hate and violence is not acceptable and the other side is wrong. Hate and violence on any side is a problem.
PAUL: Rochelle? RITCHIE: It is a problem but as we continue as African-Americans or as people of the Jewish faith, as we continue to give a pass on the president just because he is making a statement is true. That's it. I'm not saying he does not care that these people died but I don't think he recognizes that his own words in some ways have incited this sort of political violence.
[07:50:09] PAUL: Rochelle, I appreciate you being here. Jeff --
BALLABON: Excuse me, I just found his words of comfort. I understand there was some controversy. People tried to say he should or shouldn't have had the rally.
But I appreciated the fact that he used the bully pulpit of a rally to bring up this issue and make it front and center. So, I appreciated that.
We're going to differ. Obviously, we see the world differently. Why can't we stop politicizing this? Why can't we stop -- this is obviously an insane person, a crazy person, an evil, a wicked person.
And I don't mean legally and said, I want to get off the hook for that. Someone who wanted to kill us of who we are because we're Jews.
PAUL: I know that this is personal for you. I appreciate you both being here. Sharing your thoughts with us as we try to all reconcile what's happening and what to do about it from this point on.
Rochelle Ritchie and Jeff Ballabon, thank you both so much.
OK. Well, his father survived yesterday's synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. Do stay with us, because there is one man who says knowledge is what saved his father's life. What does he mean? We'll tell you.
[07:55:34] PAUL: Well, this morning, we're hearing from a man whose father survived yesterday's shooting in Pittsburgh. I want you to listen to what he credits to his father's survival.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZACHARY WEISS, SON OF EYEWITNESS (via telephone): My father, fortunately, made it back home. He's 100 percent healthy and safe, unharmed.
The real savior of the day was all of those who sacrificed in one way form or another and the fact that there was an active shooter training that was put into place last year that a lot of people, including my father, took which really was able to help in the event of this tragic active shooter incident.
The first thing occurred, he heard a loud noise. And -- (END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Thank you so much for starting your morning with us.
"INSIDE POLITICS WITH JOHN KING" starts after a quick break.