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At Least 49 Dead, Dozens Hurt In New Zealand Terror Attacks, North Korea Threatens To Suspend Nuclear Talks With U.S., Mueller's Team: Rick Gates Not Ready For Sentencing, Trump To Veto Senate Rebuke On Emergency Declaration. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired March 15, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: The gunman also wielded a video camera and streamed live these massacres on social media.
Hours earlier, he's believed to have posted a hate-filled manifesto, as we said earlier, Poppy. This is simply an act of terrorism driven by hatred. We should call it that.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: You're exactly right, Jim. At this hour, four people are being held by police. But officials say it's not yet clear whether the other three were accomplices or bystanders. No one of these four arrested was really on anyone's radar and any of these watch lists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CALL)
MIKE BUSH, COMMISSIONER, NEW ZEALAND POLICE: What I want to tell you right now ss that we had no agency had any information about these people. And I can also tell you that I've been in contact with my Australian colleagues. They have no information on them at all either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: All right. We are joined by our Anna Coren, who joins us this morning in Hong Kong. Also by journalist Blis Savidge, she's live in Christchurch, where it's just after 3:00 in the morning. Blis, let me go to you first and let's just talk about the scene, what you're hearing. I know you're outside of a hospital.
BLIS SAVIDGE, FREELANCE PRODUCER: Yes. So it's relatively quiet right now, obviously, 3:00 in the morning. We do occasionally hear helicopters flying above, we think probably law enforcement. Outside, you do see a lot of people coming in and out, some law enforcement, some that maybe family, maybe other people. But it's a heavy, high- level of security right now in front of a hospital. You see a lot of extra security and armed guards, armed with really large guns, which is unusual in New Zealand, in general, considering a lot of the police officers don't carry weapons on them. So to see police officers here with really large weapons is just unsettling.
Right now, this hospital that we're at, Christchurch Hospital, where a lot of the victims were taken, is less than a mile from where that first mosque attack happened. So more than 40 people still in the hospital here, and we've heard reports with people as young as three and, of course, many others, at least 49 dead. Still not a ton of new information coming out right now.
Tomorrow morning, the man accused is going to be in front of the court for the first time and there will be more press conferences tomorrow with hopefully a little bit more information.
SCIUTTO: --, place this into context for us, the New Zealand Prime Minister calling this one of the country's darkest days. 49 people killed in a number of minutes here in a very small country, not used to this sort of gun violence. Tell us what a shock it is this morning there.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim. New Zealand is a country of 5 million people. It's peace-loving, it's welcoming of migrants and of Muslims. This has rocked New Zealand to its core. It's interesting when you played that clip of the New Zealand Police Commissioner. He spoke about these suspects or these people who have been apprehended as not being on Australia's watch list either.
Well, the gunman is a 28-year-old Australian citizen. We believe from Australian media reports that he is from a town called Grafton. It is in Northern New South Wales. It's a country town, a sleepy town that, no doubt, will be inundated with international media trying to find out where this man became radicalized in his thinking, his ideology. How he went so off the rails. This is not Australia, this certainly is not New Zealand. So for him to reign this terror on what is a beautiful, welcoming, a peace-loving country that has opened its borders, opened its country to refugees from war-torn countries, it is just absolutely shocking.
That gunman, I should also mention, Jim, he streamed live his killing spree on Facebook. And I watched the full 17 minutes and it was absolutely horrendous, something I have never seen in my life. This was not a movie. This was not a computer game. This was a man who was executing people at Friday prayers in cold blood.
SCIUTTO: It's sickening. And as I said earlier, Poppy, I watched portions of it as well. And the calmness and the joy of this killer take your breath away.
HARLOW: Yes. Anna Coren, thank you for your reporting, stay on it. Blis, we really appreciate you being on the ground there at Christchurch. Jim?
SCIUTTO: We're going to speak now to Chelsea Daniels. She's with the New Zealand Herald, also on the scene there. And, Chelsea, one key question here, because our reporter in front of the hospital mentioned, you still have police helicopters circulating, you have armed guards around the hospital. There is still a question here as to whether all the members of this, if it was a multimember plot, whether all of them are now in custody. What do we know?
[10:05:00] Can you hear me there, Chelsea? A little trouble. We're -- of course, we're going to -- we're going to come back. We're, of course, trying to cover this from many thousands of miles away. We have a lot of reporters on the ground there. We want to correct those problems and come back to you. We do have other guests following this as well.
The suspected gunman accused of attacking those two mosques is believed to have posted a link to an 87-page racist white nationalist manifesto site on Twitter in each [INAUDIBLE], place where a lot of the stuff shows up.
Jessica Schneider of CNN, she's been looking into this. What kind of stuff was this murderer, terrorist, talking about?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: A lot of disturbing things, Jim. We've been going through this. This is it here, 87 pages of this. It was white supremacist-filled rant and it's filled in these pages with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim ideas, as well as some explanations for this attack that, of course, has left 49 people dead at two mosques in New Zealand.
So in this manifesto, this gunman really goes point by point, answering some of his own questions about why he's committing this attack. Now, he says he's a 28-year-old native of Australia. And the first and foremost thing he says is that he carried out this attack for what he calls revenge. Revenge against the people he calls invaders in European lands, the gunman really saying that he wants to intimidate immigrants. And also interestingly, I guess, he said that he used guns in this attack to stir discord right here in the United States by really creating further conflict over the second amendment.
In addition to that, the gunman also wrote that he has been -- started thinking about this attack two years ago in the spring of 2017. That's when he was traveling in Western Europe. And in particular, he says he remembered the terror attack in Stockholm, Sweden. That was where a truck was driven into crowds that killed five people. And he said one of the victims in particular really resonated with him. And he took that attack in Sweden as an attack against his own people, and at that point, really vowed to retaliate.
So this mass shooting in New Zealand based in part on this manifesto, 87 pages, that was posted online. And by the looks of it here, it looks like this gunman may have been triggered when he was traveling in Western Europe back in 2017, remembers the truck attack in Sweden in 2017. And, Jim and Poppy, it looks like, as a result of this manifesto, this gunman seems to have been thinking about this attack for at least two years now. Guys?
SCIUTTO: Premeditated. Jessica Schneider, thanks very much.
Let's discuss now with Wajahat Ali. He's a contributing op-ed writer for the New York Times. Wajahat, It's so good to have you this morning. And you were right on this as it was happening. A series of Tweets that helped just put this into context, and I'm just going to quote from one of them here. You say, he, the attacker, was inspired by a right wing ideological infrastructure that thrives, recruits and radicalizes online, and you a lot of that language in this manifesto here. Is there evidence, and you've been covering this for some time, that more people and more places around the world are being inspired by this kind of thing to commit acts of violence targeting Muslims?
WAJAHAT ALI, CONTRIBUTING OPINION WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Allow me to be bold, Jim. What we're witnessing around the world is the death rattle of white supremacy that has become the death march of white supremacy. This is a globalized ideology of supremacy that believes that white people, or whoever represents white people, are superior and have a shared fear and conspiracy theory, something called the white genocide or the great replacement, which says that Jews are the head of this Kabul [ph]. They are trying to weaken and subordinate the white race specifically through the savages, that's us, the Muslims, black people, Latinos.
And if you see this language of invasion and trying to punish immigrants and take revenge against them, well, that used allegedly by this New Zealand shooter. That was also the language used by Anders Breivik in 2011, the mass murderer who killed 77 people and left a 1,500-page manifesto, saying he wants to punish Europe for multiculturalism and pro-immigration, and for integrating Muslims. And also we saw in Quebec, two years ago, right, the shooter who was anti-Immigrant, anti-Muslim. He went and he killed six people, where, at a mosque.
Also, I want to just make this point, this connection, this ideology, this conspiracy theory, has been mainstreamed, I don't want to really be bold here, and you can connect the dots. This has been mainstreamed by republican elected officials, such as Congressman Steve King, who has sworn by the replacement theory. He has Tweeted about it that we cannot replace our civilization with their babies, right?
And so Donald Trump in the midterm elections in 2018, when he's promoting the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory of George Soros, the Hungarian-Jewish-American billionaire, allegedly funding the caravan of rapists and criminals and Middle Eastern suspects who are going to invade us, that language sounds very similar to the language used in this manifesto.
And that's why there is a link here. There's a reason why the number one domestic terror threat in America, according to the FBI, are these white supremacists, it's number one domestic terror threat according to the number of plots and we have to call it out for what it is. It's an act of domestic terrorism, which makes all our communities unsafe. Because it's not the first time a religious house of worship has been the site of a mass murder. It's happened to Sikh temples, it just happened in October in the Tree of Life synagogue, where 11 people died.
And the shooter, Jim and Poppy, said what? He wanted to punish HIAS. He wanted to punish organizations that were bringing in refugees and he re-shared a post on Gab, a right wing social media site, that said we have to punish the filthy, evil Jews for bringing in the filthy, evil Muslims. The connections are right there.
SCIUTTO: It's a great point, Poppy, that the hate is connected. The Pittsburgh synagogue shooting at a synagogue with similar hate driving that against Jews, similar hate to what we saw today in Christchurch, poppy?
HARLOW: Wajahat, what is the most effective tool to tamp it down?
ALI: Well, let's see the world. First and foremost, you have to call it out for what it is. You have to acknowledge it. You have to call it domestic terrorism. Secondly, you have to look at the facts and listen to our counterterrorist experts and national security experts that says they need more resources, they need education, you need an off-ramp for these individuals who are being radicalized online. So you need to fund groups like Life After Hate that was getting funding, by the way, from President Obama and his administration.
But when President Trump came into office, all of a sudden, Life After Hate was defunded. You need to have prosecution of these individuals as terrorists, name them as terrorists. And we need to have a really come to Jesus moment here in America, where we have to realize if there's a suspect happens to be a white man, you don't call him a lone ranger, right, or a lone wolf, and their double standards when it's a Muslim suspect. We have to have equal language and equal coverage because a Georgia State University study that came out last year says that when a suspect who commits the same exact act of domestic terrorism happens to be Muslim, there's seven times more coverage. When it's a white man, seven times less. So let's have equality when it comes to the language, when it comes to the prosecution, let's have education, awareness.
And I want the President of the United States of America, President Trump, to Tweet something. Because when the suspect is an ISIS suspect, he Tweets hard.
HARLOW: He did.
ALI: He Tweets he's going to get him. He's going to go after him. He's going to extreme vetting. But when it comes to Charlottesville, very fine people.
HARLOW: If we could, I don't know in the control room, do we have the President's Tweet from this morning about this condemning the attack? Okay, we don't have it.
SCIUTTO: The President did condemn --
HARLOW: He did that early this morning.
ALI: But it came late, Poppy. It came late. Because last night, when this was happening, you know, what he Tweeted out? He Tweeted out Breitbart article. And Breitbart is a site for promoting and mainstreaming much of this anti-Immigrant, anti-black, anti-Muslim sentiment in the past few years. And Steve Bannon, who was his Chief Advisers, his number one book that he recommends is a novel Camp of Saints. Do you know what Camp of Saints is all about? It's a dystopian, fictional, racist novel, which warns about brown immigrants invading and overtaking Europe. Notice the connections.
HARLOW: Let me just read the President's message this morning. Quote, my warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all. That from the President at 4:41 Eastern time this morning.
Wajahat Ali, I appreciate your time. We do need to go to the ground where the reporter, Chelsea Daniels, with the New Zealand Herald is back with us. Chelsea, we are hearing the horror stories, the victims, the dozens injured, victims as young as three and five years old.
CHELSEA DANIELS, NEW ZEALAND HERALD: There has been some horrific eyewitness accounts here on the ground. I mean, I spoke to one man who was driving past on Deans Avenue, where the first mosque is. He saw people running out of the mosque, apparently, for their lives. They kind of looked and thought, what are they running for? And then he automatically saw them drop one-by-one. He cradled a 5-year-old girl in his hands as she was critically injured. And they were waiting for ambulances to arrive, but the ambulances couldn't get past those cordons so they made a decision to take her to hospital themselves, kind of those acts of heroism coming through by the dozens. The same man saw his co-worker holding a man in his arms, trying to say, everything is okay, hold on, words of encouragement. But, unfortunately, that man who was shot three times in the back died in that man's arms.
So these are some of the stories that are coming out from today, what we've heard from this afternoon. As you know, it started at about 1:40 P.M., and we've been getting stories like those continuing right on through the night.
HARLOW: Chelsea, thank you for your reporting on the ground. Please update as you get more. And we're so, so sorry that this had to happen to your country.
Still to come, our denuclearization talks back to square one. North Korean, a top official there, saying things are not looking good, threatening to walk away from the table, possibly restart nuclear tests. We'll update you on that, next.
[10:20:05] HARLOW: All right. As North Korea calling off denuclearization talks with the United States is a really important question this morning as North Korea's Foreign Minister says Kim Jong- un is considering that option following last month's the failed summit with President Trump.
SCIUTTO: This North Korean diplomat blames the U.S. for the breakdown in negotiations, claiming that National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo created, quote, an atmosphere of hostility and mistrust. A short time ago, Pompeo called that characterization in his words wrong but does not see it impacting future talks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: -- sort of being called gangster-like from a visit that I took one time previously. And following that, we continued to have very professional conversations where we tried our best to work together and represent our respective sides. I have every expectation that we'll be able to continue do can do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Paula Hancocks is live in Seoul this morning. And, Paula, it's interesting, because the North Korean diplomat there struck on what we know to be a rift within the Trump administration. He certainly had Mike Pompeo and John Bolton taking a harder line view on concessions to North Korea here. How are South Koreans reacting to what appears to be at least an impasse in these talks?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, it was interesting that the Vice Foreign Minister was unwilling to criticize the U.S. President himself, saying that the relationship between the U.S. and the North Korean leader was as strong as ever, talking about the chemistry being mysteriously wonderful. So very clear that as far as Kim Jong-un was concerned, she was speaking for him, it was Secretary of State Pompeo and also John Bolton that were the ones that were trying to pull back from these talks in Hanoi.
But she did say that Kim Jong-un is going to soon make a decision as to whether or not he wants to continue with these diplomatic talks with the United States, and also critically whether or not he wants to keep this moratorium on the nuclear and the missile testing.
Now, we did hear from the U.S. Secretary of State saying that he knows that Kim Jong-un said to President Trump that he wasn't going to test. And he said that was chairman Kim's words, and this is something that the U.S. President mentioned while he was leaving Hanoi as well. So this is really something out of the playbook of North Korea, trying to put pressure on Washington, trying to get more out of what it sees as, once again, a stalemate and disappointment according Choi Sun-hee that these talks did not go anywhere.
But, clearly, this is going to be watched very closely here in South Korea. The [INAUDIBLE] saying you can't just take the comments from Choi Sun-hee. Clearly, there has to be more than this. Choi Sun-hee is saying we would be hearing from Kim Jong-un very soon as to what exactly he wanted to do. But this is a sanctioned message from the North Korean leader, make no mistake about that. And the [INAUDIBLE] are also saying they are going to work very hard to try and make sure these U.S.-North Korean talks are back on track soon.
Jim, Poppy, back to you. SCIUTTO: Yes, the status and we're coming a vacuum [ph]. Paula Hancocks, thanks very much.
Now, breaking news, more breaking news this morning. As Special Counsel Robert Mueller says that the former Trump campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates continues to cooperate on several investigations.
HARLOW: Kara Scannell joins us with the latest. How significant is this and what does it mean for -- the key question of is the Mueller probe almost wrapped up?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Poppy, that is the key question here. And in this joint status report we were expecting today, we learned that Rick Gates' cooperation is not over yet. This report was supposed to give us a sense of how quickly they would move to sentencing Gates. And Rick Gates was the deputy chairman of Trump's campaign. He was the star witness at Paul Manafort's criminal trial. That resolved this week with the sentencing of Manafort, the second sentencing that he had.
And he also, though, is the deputy chairman of the President's inaugural fund. We know that that fund is now under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York. It appears that that might be one of the investigations that Rick Gates is still cooperating on. So it tells us on one hand that, as far as the Mueller investigation is going, Manafort's element of that, which Rick Gates was key to is over and we departure of one of the top prosecutors imminent from the Special Counsel office, Andrew Weissmann.
But on the other hand, we see that Rick Gates is still cooperating with, as they put it, several ongoing investigations. So Rick Gates is still a key player here in his role even if the Mueller investigation might be winding down. His role appears that it's going be still very important to ongoing investigations elsewhere in the Justice Department.
HARLOW: Right, and plural investigations, right? Kara, thanks very much for the reporting.
One day after republicans rebel against the President's national emergency, President Trump could do something today that he has not done before in office.
Will we see his first veto?
[10:29:47] SCIUTTO: We are told this hour that a public ceremony is now in the works if President Trump can sign his first ever veto possibly sometime today. This after an embarrassing rebuke by republicans in the Senate, 12 republicans siding with democrats voting against the President's emergency declaration over border wall funding.
Of course, not enough, though, to get to that two-thirds to override a veto.