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Christchurch in Lockdown for Reported Active Mass Shooting; Trump has Police, Military and Bikers as Supporters. Aired 11p-12m ET
Aired March 14, 2019 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is "CNN Tonight." I'm Don Lemon. President Trump issuing what sounds like a veiled threat of physical violence to people he considers his political opponents, telling Breitbart News, and this is a quote here, "It's so terrible what's happening. You know, the left plays a tougher game, it's very funny.
I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don't play it tougher. Okay? I can tell you, I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don't play it tough until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad."
Those words spoken by the president of the United States. We're going to discuss that in just a moment. But first I want to get to some breaking news and the breaking news is out of New Zealand tonight. Police in the city of Christchurch responding to what's being called a serious and evolving situation involving an active shooter.
According to local media the incident took place at a mosque, and there are reports of another shooting at a second mosque. Police have not confirmed deaths or injuries yet. CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell is here to discuss this. So, Josh, this is the breaking news right now. What do you know?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That's right, Don. We're hearing as reports coming out of New Zealand where police are calling it critical incident involving a suspected gunman who walked into a mosque and opened fire.
Now, we've been talking to local reporters there that are on the ground. They are reporting that as of this point there are possibly as high as six casualties right now. That number may go higher as there are reports that were over 200 people that were inside this house of worship when this happened.
This is just around 1:45 p.m. local time. Police have much of the city of Christchurch -- they're on the south island of New Zealand -- in a state of a lockdown. They are sending word out to local population to shelter in place, to remain off the streets. Again, with these reports coming in, that there may be a possible additional location of another possible incident.
Obviously they don't want innocent citizens out in the streets whenever that's happening to try and respond. Now, we know when these incidents whenever they happened that there's always a state of chaos at the outset as communication is coming into law enforcement from witnesses. And again, we cannot confirm yet that there is an additional location, but that's some of the reporting that we're receiving right now.
We've seen video of ambulances departing the location there of the mosque going out to the hospitals. Again, this is what the police are calling a very serious critical situation involving an active shooter. We also know based on seeing so many of these in the United States, that an active shooter is active until it's not.
And until the police actually have that sense of comfort that they've neutralize that threat, they're not going to send out that all clear. So as we're seeing right now, talking with some of our local media partners there on scene, this is very much an ongoing situation.
Police have not sent out the all clear. They haven't yet identified the threat and released that information as far as the extent of what is going on, but we'll continue to cover that, Don.
LEMON: And again, the shooter, do we know anything about the shooter?
CAMPBELL: So we don't have any information yet. Again, we've heard reports that there may be multiple people involved. Obviously, that would bring this to an entirely different phase if you have more than one person that is responding. Again, there's so much that police officers don't know. We did hear reports from an eyewitness on the scene that there was one person that was on the ground. That this person had described may have been the shooter.
We have not confirmed that ourselves. Again, unfortunately, we've seen so many of these in the United States where we know that if the person is neutralized and is taken alive, the police officers can obviously glean a lot of information as far as what's going on, whether this person acted alone, if the person is deceased, if this person is neutralized by authorities in some type of shootout.
Obviously, they don't have that information. They are not able to conduct that interview. And as far as the eyewitness reports as we continue to get information that at least people are reporting to the authorities that there may be additional threats out there, that there may be another scene. Obviously, this is going to be a situation where authorities are very much on high alert.
We've already seen the video footage there coming from multiple sources of officers fusing (ph) out through the city. Very much a state of lock down as they try to determine what exactly is going on there in Christchurch.
LEMON: All right, Josh, stick around. We may need you for the reporting. Again, the breaking news, police in Christchurch in New Zealand responding to an ongoing where they say is a serious firearms incident. We should also say that the New Zealand police commissioner, Mike Bush, has announced that all Christchurch schools have been placed into lock down, adding in a statement that police urge anyone central Christchurch to stay off the streets. Again, it is a serious situation.
I want to bring in now Mehdi Hasan, Matthew Rosenberg and Juliette Kayyem. Good evening to all of you. So, I want to get your response to the breaking news, Juliette, of a little that we know at this point.
[23:04:55] JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So, just building off of what Josh was saying, it was definitely you're going to focus on the fact that the target is a mosque. Now, we don't know if it's someone who knew members of the mosque and you might have the equivalent of a, you know, sort of a workforce -- workplace environment shooting, but we do know that the mosque will be a focus in whether that this was a hate crime.
Not uncommon in New Zealand and what most people might be surprised by that, but also on the sort of public safety side because of some sort of horrible natural disaster incidences in New Zealand and particular in the Christchurch area.
This is a very, very sophisticated law enforcement emergency management agency. I'm looking at the pictures right now. And so you could be pretty confident that their response was quick, and that if they have the person or people who were doing it, we will probably hear from the police I would guess within the next hour -- within your show we will probably hear from them.
LEMON: Yes. We're all learning about what's going on right now, Mehdi, at the same time. What's your reaction?
MEHDI HASAN, COLUMNIST, THE INTERCEPT: Don, speaking as a Muslim, it's very Muslim's worst nightmare to be attacked while you're in a place of worship. Tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of Americans are going to go to Friday prayers and this is Friday in New Zealand right now -- remember the time gap.
This was time to be maximum impact when the mosques are full. It's horrific. Go back to January 2017, Quebec City. A far-right winger inspired by the media, inspired by Trump's Muslim ban, walks into a mosque, kills six Canadians Muslims at prayer. It's horrific. Islamophobia is out of control across parts of the world and we need to start taking it much more seriously. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Muslims and nonMuslims in Christchurch today.
LEMON: Matthew, what assistance if any will or can the United States provide in a situation like this?
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I mean, I'm sure whatever New Zealand asked for. They're an incredibly close ally. I think the folks in New Zealand are perfectly capable to kind of handle it on their own. Can I just second what Mehdi said? You know, this sort of looks like a hate crime, especially if there's a second mosque involved.
And he is right. You know, we have a real problem in a number of western societies for Islamophobia with people who don't think Muslims are somehow part of our society. And when you -- then those views become internalized with a certain group, these are the results. LEMON: So, you know, we're going to keep on this situation in a New
Zealand. Again, a very serious situation. We're looking at pictures coming out of new Zealand right now and we're going to get back to it as soon as we get more information, all the information we can get, but I want to turn back now to a story here at home.
So, Mehdi, President Trump says he has the support of tough people, the police, the military, Bikers for Trump, and they could make things very bad for his critics on the left. Is there any question what he's getting at here?
HASAN: No, none whatsoever, Don. It's very clear what he's getting at, and he's said it before as you pointed out earlier in the show. He has a long history of talking like a mob boss of issuing these kind of threats, of talking about the violent people, the armed people who he can call on for support.
He did this when he was running for election in 2015, 2016. We all remember seeing him telling people at rallies that he'll pay their legal bills if they punch his opponents. He said the Second Amendment folks could take matters into their own hands with Hillary Clinton. The Secret Service had to tell him to dial it down as president, Don. He hasn't stopped.
He told a gathering of police officers in 2017, don't be too nice to the people you're shoving into cars, move your hand away when you shove them in. He praised a Republican congressman who body slammed a reporter and said he's my kind of guy. He talks about the media as enemies of the people, as scum, sick. People have rung (ph) into your network, Don. Threatened you personally and your colleagues using the exact same kind of language as Trump.
And now you have him talking about the military and the police? Can you imagine if Barack Obama had done an interview saying I have the police and the military and the New Black Panthers and things are going to get really bad f my opponents come for me. They're tough. We would all be losing our minds and we should be losing our minds right now that Trump is saying this stuff.
LEMON: But it's 2019 and nothing seems to matter right now. Listen, I'm not -- it's not funny. It's just that it's laughable. It's just really unbelievable.
HASAN: It's dangerous as well, Don, isn't it? It's very dangerous.
LEMON: It's dangerous, yes, and it's beneath the dignity of the office. So, Matthew, listen, these comments remind me of what Michael Cohen said to Congress about what may happen if Trump loses in 2020. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FORMER ATTORNEY: Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So he also said that Trump talks in code. Do you think people who want to do harm could hear the president's comments today as a direction?
ROSENBERG: I mean, yes. If you want to do harm, if you are somebody who is out there thinking, you know, what, I don't like these people who don't like Trump. I'm going to go hurt one of them. You definitely got permission tonight to go do it. You know, is this going to lead to some kind of election violence or transition of power disruption in 2020? That's a prediction I think any of us would want to get to making.
[23:09:56] I have spent a lot of time, though, around the military in my life. And, you know, there is plenty to criticize about our military, but civilian control is certainly not a thing that's been a problem for our military.
And I have a lot of trouble imagining that in kind of just following the orders of a president who is totally beyond the law saying you need to enforce my will or enforce loyalty to me. That's not the oath the military takes and it's not what most of the military believes. I mean, maybe Bikers for Trump believes that but I don't think it's the military. I don't think it's the police.
LEMON: I don't know if Bikers for Trump believe but who knows. Who knows, I don't know. And I would hate to disparage them because they maybe good guys who would say we wouldn't harm anybody, but listen, Juliette, you say that this destabilizes our national security. How so?
KAYYEM: So, I've overseen public safety agencies including the National Guard here in Massachusetts. We depend on them to not be political. And as a political person or someone who worked for political people, you know, that could be frustrating at times, right? But you are dependent on them not to take into consideration that the person in charge is a Democrat or pro-Choice or for the wall or whatever it is.
So, one thing I want to say that we or sort of sometimes forget in this conversation is how sort of bloody disrespectful Trump is of public safety and the military to absorb them as his own. That is not why they joined. That is not why they defend our community. That is not why they defend our nation.
The other problem is of course in the polarization of our public safety, which we see across the board, from his criticisms of the FBI and the CIA to the military, to even, let's just be honest here, the FAA in the Boeing decision.
Why Trump was involved with that is, you know, not consistent with sort of objective public safety is that it gives our allies very little confidence in the operational objectivity of our military and our law enforcement. So this is the national emergency we should be voting on. I don't want to hear someone from the White House say he was just
joking, which is what they always do. I believe that Trump believes this, and that's the thing that makes me very nervous. I don't think the military or the cops believe this. I believe Trump believes this, and that's why he is unfit to hold the office he holds right now.
LEMON: All right, I need you guys to please standby. I want to get to it prime minister of New Zealand on our breaking news, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is speaking right now. Let's listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: -- in it is the harm. They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which is it is clear this act was.
For now my thoughts and I'm sure the thoughts of all New Zealanders are with those who are being affected and also with the families. My thoughts also to those in Christchurch who are still dealing with an unfolding situation. The advice from police continues to be that people remain indoors.
I acknowledge that that may mean that some families are separated, but please continue to listen out for information as it comes to light that's been directly provided by the New Zealand police with further information.
But as I say, please remain in lockdown. We are potentially still dealing with an evolving situation and again, as I say across multiple sites. Please be sure, though, the police are actively managing the situation. Christchurch hospital is dedicated to treating those who are arriving at the hospital as we speak as well.
As soon as I leave here I will be returning directly on a (inaudible) flight to Wellington. Agencies are already convening in Wellington. I will be looking to meet with them as soon as I land. It's my expectation that once I arrive and have been briefed I intend to speak again publicly after that point. I'm happy to take questions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prime Minister, what can you tell us about how we (inaudible).
ARDERN: Look, it's only a matter of a few hours ago. Of course I was advised of the situation and that it was an evolving situation. Again, public reporting took place not too long after events began unfolding. But as to the precise details, at this stage, I'll wait until I have a bit more of precision from a briefing directly from the police when I arrive in Wellington.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Now, you're listening now to a briefing from the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, talking about the shooting, a very serious situation that they say a firearm situation or firearm incident in Christchurch, again, that is according to the prime minister and police as well.
[23:15:01] They're saying the city of Christchurch is on lockdown. Also the schools, all schools have been placed on lockdown as well and they're waiting to get more information, asking people to stay in place, to lockdown the place even though families may be separated. And this is reportedly, this incident happened at a mosque and there's a possibility of a second shooting that has not been confirmed yet, but we're working on getting it.
Let's get back now to Matthew Rosenberg, Juliette Kayyem, and also Mehdi Hasan. So listen, let's talk about this. You heard what the prime minister -- I'm going tp bring in Mehdi, because this kind of thing as you said before is personal to you and it speaks to the violence that is going on in our culture.
HASAN: Very much so. And I think to kind of talk about the story we talked about before in terms of Trump's rhetoric as well, western government for far too long have turned a blind eye to domestic terrorism, to domestic far right terrorism. We now know from stats for example here in the U.S. that there are more attacks, more casualties from domestic terrorist groups, far right groups than there are "jihadist or Islamist groups."
You have Muslim victims of terrorism tonight in New Zealand and I mentioned the attack in Canada, Quebec Coty shortly after Trump was inaugurated. There have been attempted attacks and attacks in Minnesota, in various places across the U.S. We do need to start taking this seriously.
Hate crimes against minorities, against Jewish groups, against Muslim communities, against people of color, on the rise in Britain, across Western Europe, United States, Canada, Australia and now sadly New Zealand. And that requires politicians to take the problem seriously and also to deal with their language.
You asked Matthew earlier about is there someone out there tonight who is going to hear Trump's rhetoric and act on it? I mean, less than six months ago we know one of his big supporters sent pipe bombs in the mail to dozens of people who Trump had personally attacked and demonized, who is driving around in a van with pro-Trump imagery and anti-CNN imagery.
We know that lots of far-right attackers have claimed to be Trump supporters in recent months. So, this is not just about Trump but this is about politicians especially on the right taking seriously this problem and really being careful about their language at the very minimum.
LEMON: Juliette, talk to us about -- you're the security person here. Talk to us about what's going on and what is the reaction? What's happening here?
KAYYEM: Okay, so, I'm sorry, I'm just managing some incoming here. So, I want to just deconstruct this for the viewers. So first of all, it is clear that they have one and two mosques. You do -- let's just very be blunt here -- you do not lockdown a city unless you believe that there could be others because you just don't do that. You don't do a major city.
So, what I'm taking out of the prime minister is the lockdown is consistent with concerns that there's going to be three, four and five. They don't have a sense of what is going on yet. Keep the people inside, secure them in place. That's what you do in any of these counter terrorism incidents.
Number two, a very, very important facet of what the prime minister said is a recognition of the family separation, urging people to not -- that essentially you are putting yourself or your children in more harm if you go out in the street right now. You know, the inclination in any disaster are where are my kids, people will want to get out in the streets. She's urging them to fight that inclination.
And also, third that, you know, basically you're having a whole of government response. She's moving over there. You're going to have the massive amounts of security effort. This is what we have right now and my, you know, sort of assessment of what the prime minister is saying right now, they do not have this under control.
You do not close down a city, an entire city unless you are concerned that you're not just dealing with what they have right now. That lockdown could be lifted relatively soon, but we've only seen that, for example, in the United States with Boston when they were in the search of the Tsarnaev brother. And so that's a big take away and it's a scary time for the city right now.
LEMON: Well, I want to thank all of you for being so nimble and agile and responding to this breaking news when we had planned to talk politics only. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. And again we're going to keep on top of the breaking news here.
Just to add to that, this is what the New Zealand commissioner, Mike Bush, is saying, that there are multiple fatalities at two mosques in Christchurch and the Canterbury area. There is one person who is in custody right now. Multiple fatalities caused by an active shooter. They are saying -- describing a serious grave situation.
Bush adds that the police are unsure if other locations outside the area are under threat. We'll stay on top of it for you and bring you any of this breaking news as soon as we get more information. We'll be right back.
[23:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Tonight, President Trump's tough talk drawing comparisons to another embattled president, and that's Richard Nixon. He too was under the cloud of an impeachment threat, one that ultimately ended with his resignation. Joining me now to discuss all of this is veteran journalist Mr. Sam Donaldson. Sam, thank you very much. Can I please get your reaction to this breaking news out of New Zealand? SAM DONALDSON, JOURNALIST: Scary times. Scary times in a scary world.
We don't know where to go because it's not sure that they would go to church or a synagogue, a house of worship, go to a movie theater, go to a ballpark, some place that we've been used to go to safely. And we're not sure we can do that anymore. I don't know what to say, Don, except we've got to get a hold of this. You've got to get hold of the guns and we got to have a leader who leads us toward our better angels and not towards darker times.
LEMON: We'll continue to update our viewers on this breaking news. Let's talk some politics now Mr. Donaldson. You know, we've been talking about all this tough talk from this president. What do you think of that kind of rhetoric coming from the White House?
DONALDSON: Well, we've heard it before, but we had to wait for the tapes. Nixon on the tapes, they're Jews aren't they? I mean, Hoffman's a Jew. The judge's a Jew. And the way he talked in those tapes, we had to bleep them. They put out a transcript to try to say what was on the tapes and every other word -- I'm exaggerating, but only for effect -- had to be expected to be deleted.
So, we know that there's tough talk, but at least Richard Nixon didn't come out in public or on a tweet. He didn't have tweets in those days, and feel free to say it or go to a crowd and urge them on to violence. He didn't do that.
LEMON: So let's talk specifically about what he said in this Breitbart interview. He said, "I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don't play it tough until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad." What kind of impact does that have on people who oppose him? Does it sound like a threat to you?
DONALDSON: Well, I think it sounded like a threat. One of your earlier guest went over a number times, that the president and in the campaign urge people at the crowd to take matters into their own hands, rough this guy up, I'll pay the bills and all of that.
This is nothing new for Donald J. Trump. That's the way he's acted all his life, really, as far as his enemies go. And that's the way it kind of looks like Richard Nixon. Nixon saw enemies everywhere in the shadows when they weren't there. And I think his golden rule was do unto others before they have a chance to do unto me. And in that sense, I think Donald Trump and Richard Nixon are one in the same.
LEMON: You brought up Richard Nixon so I just want to play a clip now. This is from a new CNN Original Series. It's called "Tricky Dick."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRSIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't give a goddamn what the story is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Richard M. Nixon has lied repeatedly. NIXON: No reporter from "The Washington Post" should ever be in the
White House again. Do you understand?
The tougher it gets, the cooler I get. I have what it takes.
[23:25:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE/FEMALE: Defeat Nixon now! Defeat Nixon now!
NIXON: I want to say this to the television because people have got to know whether or not their president's a crook. Well, I'm not a crook.
There is crap about Watergate.
Let others wallow in Watergate. We're going to do our job.
I'm going to kick their ass.
Nobody is going to package me. Nobody is going to make me put on an act for television. I'm not going to engage in any gimmicks or any stunts wearing silly hats.
If people looking at me say that's a new Nixon, well all that I can say is maybe you didn't know the old Nixon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: In looking at that, I just -- I wonder if the folks in this administration realize that history's being written in every moment and when we look back on those moments in history can you imagine being one -- can you imagine, first of all, being Richard Nixon or someone who was involved in Watergate?
DONALDSON: Well, history repeats itself somewhat. I mean when Donald Trump started in on the press I thought, yes, I know Richard Nixon and the press. He appealed to the silent majority. His vice president, Spiro Agnew, went out (inaudible) and other little couplets (ph). Attacking the press was one of his favorite techniques.
His southern strategy based on is the civil war really over was another one of his techniques. But he was just a little more refined than the president we have today. But if you want to use the word thug in a sense politically, Richard Nixon was right up there with Mr. Trump.
LEMON: Let's just please look at some of the examples of your reporting for ABC News during Watergate. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALDSON: The Democratic National Committee is trying to solve a spy mystery. It began before dawn Saturday.
Now, it is on the public record. John Dean's damning if largely unsubstantiated testimony against the president. Tomorrow, the urban committee begins cross-examination of Dean and it is sure to be fierce. For nothing less than Richard Nixon's presidency may ride on whether the public believes John Dean or not.
But there is a feeling of relief that perhaps the trauma that's stopped (inaudible) here for so long is over, and the House and the country can move forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That could be today. That could be today. What do you think happens after the Mueller report?
DONALDSON: Well, it could.
LEMON: Do you think we're looking on impeachment?
DONALDSON: I hope the system works. Well, I don't know. It's up to the House and it's up -- I think Nancy Pelosi is right, unless you have now something that you can pull out and say this is the smoking gun, you're not going to convince Mr. Trump's base, 30, 31 percent, whatever it is, that he's done anything wrong.
The smoking gun was of course the tape that came at the very end of the impeachment process, in which we heard Richard Nixon and Bob Halderman, his chief of staff, four days after the burglary break in, cook up the cover up. Yes, tell them a CIA, you know, tell it's a national security. You tell the FBI chief it's a national security.
So, we need something like that. What's going to happen is the system is going to work. John J. Sirica, "Maximum John," the judge, threatened those burglars with 40 years in prison if they didn't come clean as to who put them up and one of them wrote a letter saying, yes, they were up for other people.
The urban committee that you talked about, hearing John Dean talk about a cancer in the presidency and Alexander Butterfield. Do you know that name? I don't blame you if you don't. He's the guy who installed the taping system in the Oval Office, in the Nixon hideaway.
DONALDSON: Yes. And he was asked the question. He said, do you know any -- Mr. Butterfield, do you know any of -- any taping system in the White House? He said, yes I do. He said later he understood by blowing the whistle and the fact that tapes existed, he'd probably do in the president.
But he said I'm not going to perjure myself for this person or anyone. And then we had the Rodino committee in the House. What I'm saying, Don, is and pardon me if I'm talking really fast, but bringing back those memories you want to get it all in if you can, is that the system worked.
Reporters like Woodrow and Bernstein and others brought to the attention of not just to the public but officials. I mean, how did Judge Sirica figure out that maybe he should -- they're burglars? Does he threaten every burglar? No. But he had read enough to know that these weren't just anybody. They were people that were special. LEMON: Yes. I can listen to you all night. When you come to New York,
please I want to have dinner and I want to hear all of those stories. I do have to say something though that watching those tapes and we watched you and we watched John Dean and we watched Dan Rather, and we have them on and we look back on those times.
And it is important for us to remember that presidents have always been held accountable by the media, right?
[24:00:00] And this administration acts as if they're the first administration or the first presidency to be challenged, criticized and held accountable by the media. That is part of the bedrock of this society of America. That's what the press does, and it's done it with every single -
SAM DONALDSON, FORMER ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: And I just want to say, Don, I think the reporters I watched today and read today are terrific. They're terrific in Washington. People say, would you like to be back? Not really. These guys and these gals are doing a terrific job against odds I never had to face.
LEMON: Thank you. And you still got that hair, same hair. I ain't mad at you.
DONALDSON: And by the way, if we have dinner, are you going to pay for it?
LEMON: Of course, it's on me. It's on me. It's on CNN. Thank you, Sam, I appreciate it.
DONALDSON: All right, Mr. Lemon.
LEMON: Always a pleasure. The CNN Original Series, "Tricky Disk," premieres this Sunday night at 9:00 only on CNN. We'll be back in a moment.
LEMON: Beto O'Rourke, making it official today, launching a bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination, 46-year-old former congressman from Texas, nearly beat Senator Ted Cruz last November, losing by less than three points.
My CNN colleague, Ryan Nobles, caught up with Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in South Carolina tonight and asked him about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Senator, do you have any comment on Beto O'Rourke entering the race? Senator?
BERNIE SANDERS, INDEPENDENT, VERMONT: Free country. Anybody can run.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I want to talk about Beto O'Rourke's candidacy with Bakari Sellers and Neera Tanden. Good evening. Was that shade, y'all? Was that -- so listen -
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think -
LEMON: We know what it was. Bakari, Beto O'Rourke grabbed the headlines today with his announcement, fancy spread at Vanity Fair. You're a skeptic. Why is that?
SELLERS: I'm not necessarily a skeptic, but I do think the -- I was born to do this. I think that some of the lines that he had are simply lines that are draped in privilege. I think he had some quotes today that I'm absolutely certain that Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand and Tulsi Gabbard cannot get away with.
[23:35:06] But I'm excited about his candidacy. I think a lot of people are excited to see where he goes. I want to see if he has any policy depth or if he is just someone who people are trying to cast in the same shadow as Barack Obama, which I think is not a winning strategy to say the least.
LEMON: Neera, so let me read -- this is quote from the piece in Vanity Fair, OK? And it says, "O'Rourke is acutely aware to perhaps his biggest vulnerability, being a white man in a Democratic Party, yearning for a woman or a person of color, a Kamala Harris or Corey Booker. The government at all levels is overly represented why white men," He says.
"That's part of the problem, and I'm a white man. So, if I were to run, I think it's just so important that those who would compromise my team look like this country." Again, that's a quote from Vanity Fair there.
He goes onto say that he gets that almost every single one of our presidents has been a white man, and people might want something different for the country. What do you say to that?
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Look, I think a lot of people in the Democratic Party want to have a president who more represents the true nature of the country, which is we have had a lot of white male presidents, and people thought it was a historic presidency to have Barack Obama, and also that perhaps an antidote to Trumpism is a woman candidate.
So I think it's important that Beto O'Rourke shows that he understands that, he gets it, that he appreciates that there will be a lot of people in the party who want that kind of candidacy. I will say that as a Senate candidate, and even today, I think he recognized a lot of the issues that animate concerns from the broad diversity of the party.
So, he has spoken in depth about the criminal justice system and how it treats white people very differently and much better than people of color, and how that is a big problem. And so, I think -- I think that -- I do think he has spoken with some depths today, but that's the most important thing for the next couple of weeks. LEMON: I want to talk about something since you brought up people of color. Because at a meet and greet in Iowa, he spoke about reparations. Bakari, this is for you. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETO O'ROURKE (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When the rates of wealth or the possession of wealth in this country disproportionately favors one race, when African-Americans were not allowed to accumulate wealth, and when wealth is accumulated it was stripped from them, taken from them.
When we have suppression of democracy, in Texas, we ranked 50th in voter turnout in the nation not because we don't love our democracy but because our elected officials were so skillful at drawing people out of congressional districts based on their race and ethnicity. Do not take my word for it. In 2017 alone, four separate times the courts ruled that to be true and ordered Texas to fix it. We have systemic racism in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: He also said in order to make sure that we repair this country we first have to confront the truth. He's not afraid to have the conversation. What do you think, Bakari?
SELLERS: No, I mean, I think that's a great response. I think that many people are drawn to Beto O'Rourke because he gives that response. But I think -- let me educate the audience just briefly if I can. When people are talking about reparations, no one is talking about black people going to their mailbox and necessarily getting a check. And we're not talking reparations just simply for slavery.
We're talking about a 400-year continuum that actually began 400 years ago, in 1619, and we're talking about slavery. We're talking about Jim Crow. We're talking about degradation. We're talking about oppression, and that continuum over 400 years. But the fact that he understands and can recognize that systemic racism is important, that actually separates him from other candidates like Bernie Sanders who actually believes or has some issue grappling with reparations.
I will say what Beto O'Rourke has to do now is take that one step further. What does that plan look like? What does that plan look like? Are we talking about reinvesting in our HBCUs? Are we talking about reinvesting and making sure more African-Americans can take part in the middle class? Are we talking about combating African-American women who actually died at a much higher rate than their white colleagues when giving birth? I mean what are we talking about? What is his plan to tackle that?
It's great that he acknowledges that and he wants to weigh in, but now your running for the president of the United States. He has another 200 or 300 days to come up with a plan to tell us how he's going to address that. LEMON: But he's also talking about the probably the most important issue when it comes to an election and that is gerrymandering and that is voter suppression that I don't think most people in this country are -- I should say knowledgeable enough on that particular subject.
And quite frankly, we, here in the media, don't give it enough coverage and we're absolutely sure because -- I say that -- and I'm veering off a little bit -- because there are many in this country who see what happened in 2016 as a complete -- it's a total election or electoral fluke because the country is actually more liberal than it is conservative.
[23:40:06] But yet, you have the people who have fewer, the smaller number of populations actually have the most number of representatives and have the most power in this country. So, I think he is talking about something that I feel that's very important.
Neera, I've got to ask you. Because the question is, you know, you want a diverse candidate, should be a woman or black person or Hispanic person, all of that, right? I wonder if Democrats are aware of it's about winning more than anything, right, for them?
So you currently have the most diverse field, right? You've got Kamala Harris. You got Corey Booker. You got Tulsi Gabbard. You got Julian Castro. You have Kirsten Gillibrand. Yet, the early front runners, you know who they are? The early frontrunners are Joe Biden, Beto O'Rourke and Bernie Sanders. So, why isn't that diversity showing up in the top candidates?
TANDEN: First of all, it's really early. And I would say that the two top candidates, which -- who are Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, who happen to be older white men, have the highest name ID. So, they have near 100 percent name ID. Bernie Sanders ran before, and he's definitely in the top two, not where he say a few years ago but definitely in the top two.
And I think -- I think what the beauty of the race is that we are going to hear from these candidates in detail about their positions. I completely agree with Bakari and you that now is the time for candidates to really go and talk about not just the analysis, but it's important to get the problem but also their ideas on how to solve the systemic problems we have.
I think Beto can do that. But I would say that I'm hopeful that a lot of our more diverse candidates will have as much of an opportunity as everyone else in this race.
LEMON: I've got to run. But if you can just -- if you can give me a yes or a no, because when the way that -- what I told our viewers is that we were going to try to figure out Beto O'Rourke had gain African-American voter support. Do you think he can, Neera?
TANDEN: I do. I would defer to others on this.
TANDEN: But he did get very strong support in Texas.
LEMON: All right.
TANDEN: He was running against -- he was running against Ted Cruz, but a lot of those people came out for him.
LEMON: What do you think, Bakari?
SELLERS: We'll see. It's impressive that he was talking about issues of race in Iowa because there weren't too many black folks in the room. But we'll see what happens when he comes to South Carolina. That would be his first test. I think he would do well. I'm not sure to be enough to overtake some of the others. But I think he will do well.
LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate your time. Could we see the president's tax returns soon? Well, the Treasure secretary, Steven Mnuchin, says he'll comply with the law when it comes to releasing them. So what happens now?
[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, says that he will comply with the law on releasing the president's ever so elusive tax returns, that as House Democrats seek to establish a legal basis to request them. So, will the public eventually see what the president has been hiding? Here to discuss Catherine Rampell and Steven Moore. Steven is the author of, "Trumponomics." Good evening to both of you.
So, Catherine, let me start with you. Let's listen to what Steve Mnuchin said about releasing Trump's tax returns. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN MNUCHIN, SECRETARY OF UNITED STATES TREASURY: I you have the request for me today. I'm happy to accept it.
If I have a request, which I presume from what I've read in the press I will receive, I will consult with the legal department within Treasury, and I will follow the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Do you think democrats are really going to see Trump's tax returns?
CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, they should. The American public should at this point. Trump has defied basically a half century of norms about the president releasing his tax returns -- his tax returns. I think we have to assume he doesn't want us to see something quite badly, and maybe that something is that he's not paying very much in taxes or he's committing tax fraud or bank fraud, or overstating the actual income he has coming in. That would be embarrassing, possibly criminal.
I think what we actually want to know is who does he owe money to and who is he getting money from? That's what's important here. That's what the American public needs to know at this point, because you have to remember, like, you know, this is a guy who banks would not lend money to. This is a guy who was buying golf courses -- money losing golf courses in all cash, which if you know anything about real estate transactions you know makes no sense. LEMON: Listen, I think who he owes money too. I think maybe a better way of putting it is if the people he's in business with, if that in some way com compromises him, right?
RAMPELL: Oh, absolutely.
LEMON: And yes, I think that's important to know. And if it's someone, a foreign government who happens to be a foe and there is something that's compromising about them.
RAMPELL: Yeah. I mean it may explain why he's made some otherwise inexplicable comments about Russia ad about other foreign dictatorships.
LEMON: Yeah. So, listen, Steven, about those tax returns, this is what Michael Cohen had to say in his testimony to Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, DONALD TRUMP'S FORMER ATTORNEY: What he didn't want was to have an entire group of think tanks that are tax experts run through his tax return and start ripping it to pieces, and then he'll end up in an audit and he'll ultimately have taxable consequences, penalties and so on.
REP. JIMMY GOMEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: So that's an interesting point that basically he said he didn't want to release his tax returns because he might end up in an audit. So, could you presume from that statement that he wasn't under audit?
COHEN: I presume that he's not under audit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Steven, has the president been lying?
STEVEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: Look. This has been adjudicated so many times. I probably did 20 interviews on CNN during the campaign and was asked this question over --
LEMON: We didn't have testimony from his personal lawyer or fixer, though.
MOORE: No. Look. There isn't a law that requires a presidential candidate or a president to release their tax returns. Catherine seems to be -- suggests that he is guilty until he's proven innocent. But look, if the Democrat --
RAMPELL: No. I just think he clearly has something to hide --
MOORE: Catherine, hold on.
RAMPELL: -- if he has defied 50 years of norms.
MOORE: Catherine, let me just make my -- here is my point. If you want to make a law that requires presidential candidate provide tax returns, pass a law. There is no such law. And what bothers me about this story, about the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee saying he is going to invent some law to require Donald Trump to release his tax returns --
RAMPELL: No, no, no. There is a law. That's incorrect.
MOORE: Catherine, hold on. Let me just finish my point, Catherine, and then you can respond.
RAMPELL: The chairman didn't say he was going to invent a law.
RAMPELL: He was going to invoke an existing law.
MOORE: Hold on, Catherine. Let me just finish my point. Don't you think Donald Trump has the same kind of civil liberty protection that every American has? I mean, what gives Congress the right to simply require Trump to release his tax returns? There's no such law. He's not required to do it.
RAMPELL: Oh, it's section of the -- there is a law. It's a section of the Internal Revenue Code. It was last invoked in 2014 related to the investigation over whether the IRS was improperly auditing conservative groups. This law has been around for about 100 years. It dates back to the tea pot dome scandal.
[23:50:02] It explicitly says that if the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee amongst a small subset of other lawmakers asks the treasury secretary for a tax return, the treasury secretary shall furnish the tax return. It does not say may furnish, shall furnish.
MOORE: I just think that's a real slush (ph). And I think you're trying to invent the law --
LEMON: Yeah. I got to go.
MOORE: You're trying to invent a law to get to the outcome that you want.
RAMPELL: No. The law exists. The law exists.
LEMON: I got to go.
LEMON: I just got to say these two are good. We'll be right back.
RAMPELL: It exists.
LEMON: So, we're back now. Here's our breaking news tonight. Police and the New Zealand city of Christchurch say there are multiple fatalities after active shooters opened fire in two mosques in the city center. One person is in custody.
I want to bring in now Anna Burns-Francis, a reporter with TVNZ live in Auckland, also Juliette Kayyem. We're going to get to Anna in just a moment, as soon as she's ready. So, Juliette, we've been reporting on this breaking news now. You see the new information that we have. What can you tell us?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So, the on -- this is ongoing. And so, just taking a step back. The prime minister, and of course, the police chief in Christchurch, there's a complete city lockdown. There's very rare in counterterrorism efforts. We've rarely seen it in the United States. That is because they do not know if there is a third, fourth, or fifth. They warned people that Twitter is not a reliable news source on instances.
But obviously, the police believed that there could be other people out there. And so, they're doing something called sheltering in place, telling every one to stay inside and to fight the inclination to go home and find out where your kids are. You just got to fight it right now and stay where you are.
The second issue is, of course -- must be said, of course, is that these are mosques. This is -- one has to assume and be direct about it that these are targeted of hate crimes and a form of terror. We don't know who the assailants are yet. We will hear, but as -- it looks like that this is something that would be would be targeted on a Friday night -- the Friday night prayers for mass her within the Muslim community.
LEMON: Juliette, I need to -- I need to get to Anna Burns-Francis, the reporter we have on the ground in Auckland, New Zealand from TVNZ. Anna, thank you so much for joining us. Can you please update our viewers on what you know?
ANNA BURNS-FRANCIS, TVNZ REPORTER: Sure. Well, at this stage, we have nine confirmed deaths as a result of two shootings across the Christchurch City, both of those occurred at the Al Noor Mosque, quite close to the hospital (inaudible).
And then there a second attack carried out at the Linwood Mosque, a short drive away. They are believed to be dozens of people injured in those attacks. We understand that they are still arriving at the hospital to be treated for their injuries. But the city itself is now lockdown. All schools are in lockdown. Supermarkets have closed across the city. Government department buildings are close. Public art galleries are closed.
There was a climate change rally, multiple school children -- schools across the city has school children out of school today to participate in that rally. Those areas have been cleared. But of course, the issue is now what everyone being told to stay where they are that those families cannot -- those parents cannot connect with their children.
Mosques have been told to shut their doors. Police in New Zealand are sending patrol cars to every single mosques and every single town and city across the country to make sure that they are safe tonight.
And we have now got reports that the (inaudible) police force was also deployed to Christchurch City. This is an unfolding situation. Police have told us while they have arrested one believed gunman and he has been taken into custody, they are not sure how many offenders have taken part in this attack and there is potentially -- or there are fears at this stage. There is still one more gunman on the loose.
[23:55:05] LEMON: Do we know anything about this gunman, before I let you go, Anna?
BURNS-FRANCIS: We do have reports coming in. We have been seeing some horrific -- it can only be described as horrific footage of the attack being carried out, which was live streamed at the time, we understand, on Youtube. New Zealand authorities have been in touch with Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter to request all links to that footage be removed. That is, of course, very graphic video footage.
We understand there was a 37-page manifesto published on the Internet to be released as the attacks unfolded. That's also being sent out to multiple sources at this stage and staffs in our newsroom have also begun reading its content. And it appears that this was a coordinated and pre-planned with a very specific purpose.
LEMON: Anna Burns-Francis of TVNZ in Auckland, New Zealand, thank you so much, Anna. We appreciate you updating our viewers.
I want to get back now to Juliette Kayyem, our security analyst here on CNN. You heard what she said, nine dead. There are two shootings at two mosques, dozens injured, some people are still on their way. The hospital, schools, businesses, government offices, government agencies are closed, stay in place.
I got just a couple of seconds left, 15 seconds left, what do you make of what she said?
KAYYEM: Absolutely now should be constituted as a terror attack against the Muslim community and the fear that this is going to be ongoing. So, you're going to just shutdown the city right now till you know what's happening. The platforms that we complain about, Facebook and Twitter, show you can do what you know how to do, get these videos off right now. We do not want them circulated. It's what terrorists want. It's for notoriety,
LEMON: What should people do if they come across these? Don't share them, right?
KAYYEM: They've -- don't show them -- we shouldn't show them. This is what the terrorists want. They clearly had the manifesto. They want notoriety. Third quick thing, every mayor in the United States should deploy addition resources to mosques, not because there's a specific threat, but because this is a community that's going to feel under threat. Given the environment right now, it is the responsible thing to do, and I hope the mayors around the United States are going to do that.
LEMON: Juliette Kayyem, thank you very much. Nine dead and two shootings and folks are on lockdown in New Zealand right now. Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.