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Hate Crime the New Rising Threat; Anti-Immigrant and anti- Muslim Killed 49 People in Christchurch, New Zealand. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 15, 2019 - 21:00   ET



[21:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: -- safe. Rabbi Myers, I appreciate your time. Thank you.


COOPER: Well, obviously, we'll continue to follow this in the coming days. Right now, I want to hand it over to Chris Cuomo Prime Time. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Very heavy, very important.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

We are following breaking church. New Zealand is trying to come to grips with what's being called one of the darkest days in its history. But the nightmare will ever be over for dozens of families whose loved ones were massacred as they worshiped.

Here is the latest on the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch. The suspected gunman appeared in court a few hours ago, remaining silent as he was charged with murder. He has been remanded in custody until his next court appearance in April. Here is how it unfolded minutes ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are Brenton Harris Tarrant. Mr. Tarrant, you are remanded without plea. Your next appearance on the Christchurch high court of 5 of April 2019, at 9.15 am.

I have noted that you are not making an application to be admitted to (Inaudible). I've also noted that you're not making any application for suppression of publication of your name or any particular that could lead to your identification.

I do however make an interim order, until the date of the next appearance, suppressing publication of the name of the named victim, or any matter that could lead to that person's identification. That is murder is made on the grounds that otherwise there could be undue hardship to the family. On that basis, Mr. Tarrant, you are remanded in custody until the 5th

of April, at 9.15.


CHURCH: Authorities say the Australian man killed 49 people during Friday prayers. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said he had a gun license and she is already vowing reforms.


JACINDA ARDERN, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND: While work is being done as to the chain of events that led to both the holding of this gun license, and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change.

There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012, and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change. The new effect, when people of course hear that this individual was acquired a gun license, and acquired weapons of that range. Then obviously, I think people will seek change and I'm committing to that.


CHURCH: CNN's Alexandra Field is in Christchurch, New Zealand, where all of these horrific events unfolded. Alex, in fact, you are outside of the courthouse. It has to be said, we just listen to the prime minister of New Zealand there, we do need to explain to a whole world that New Zealand is not a gun toting nation by any sense of the imagination.

This tragedy has shocked that country not used to mass shootings like this, and that's exactly why the suspects apparently elected Christchurch in New Zealand. What's being said about that very point, and how are people been coping with this heinous crime?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, people are saying that this is a person who came here to spread hate. Not a person from this community, not a person who was a part of a religious community. But someone who had been in and out of New Zealand in Australia, and as you pointed out, somebody who was staying in Dunedin but came to Christchurch to spread his hate. That's simply the way that they are putting it.

I'm actually now outside the mosque, where more than 40 people were killed just a day ago, Rosemary. And behind me, you can see heaps of flowers, and people who are stopping here to mourn and to grief.

And what is so exceptional about the scene out here, so stunning, is just how stunned people are. You know, Rosemary, you talk about the fact that mass shootings are something that you just do not see in New Zealand, and that's why the words are not coming easily to those who are out here visiting today.

You know, they are talking to me, but they have tears in their eyes. They are describing the gunshots that they heard in this neighborhood just a day ago, some of them telling me about their own children being in lockdown in schools.

And what is most striking, perhaps, are the number of people I've seen out here who have brought their children today, and they say that is because they want to explain what has happened here.

[21:04:59] It is something they say is unknown and incomprehensible to their children, they want their children to be able to come out here and understand what it is that has rocked this community so deeply, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Exactly right. And New Zealand is one and three people, maybe it's more than that own guns. It's for hunting, it is not for anything like this. It's nothing like the United States. So, you were there in front of the courthouse, what more are you learning about the suspect and his court appearance?

FIELD: Well look, we know that this is a suspect who was silent in court today. It stands as a stark contrast to the fact that you have witnesses who were describing the sounds of 10 or 15 gunshot just a day ago in the mosque down the street.

Security was a concern when he was brought into the Christchurch district courthouse, it was closed to the public. He was escorted by three police officers who were armed with tasers.

He had nothing to say, he faced just a single charge of murder, which bears a maximum penalty of life in prison. But certainly, Rosemary, we know that this is just the very beginning, officials saying that he will certainly face (TECHNICAL PROBLEM).

They got two other people in custody. They are investigating whether those people have direct links to this, but this is the person who they continue to focus on, we will see them continue to focus on as they investigate exactly what happened in that mosque down the street.

We're also learning a little bit more about the arrest that took place after at two mosques. Police talking about the struggles they had to detain him.

You saw some of it caught on video, police now telling us that it was particularly complicated, this tussle because of the fact that they came to learn that this is a man who they say had IEDs in the car, as well as firearms.

So, an incredibly dangerous operation, certainly those involved in bringing that man into custody. Being applauded for their heroism, and really for doing a job well done. Rosemary.

CHURCH: And rightly so. Alexandra Field bringing us the very latest there from Christchurch in New Zealand. Many thanks to you.

While a suspect faces charges, and with the nation on high alert, a community must come to terms with devastating loss. It came on a day of worship. Police say the attack was planned.

Randi Kaye is in New York to tell us how it all happened. RANDI KAYE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: One-forty p.m. in New

Zealand, and the Al Noor mosque in the community of Christchurch is under attack in the middle of Friday prayers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many of the people just run through the back door just to save themselves.


KAYE: The shooting last 10 or 15 minutes. At the first mosque.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just continuously shooting and coming inside slowly because he was killing all the people who were at the entrance.


KAYE: Shortly after 2 p.m. schools in the area are on lockdown, soon after, residents are told to stay indoors.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, we hide behind the cars and you know, under the cars, and then when we see the fighting still on, we tried to, you know, jump the fence.


KAYE: In all the chaos, desperation and determination to survive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I smashed the window just jumping, and the people are waiting outside, they run away from the mosque as well, they say what's going on. I say, just run away.


KAYE: The shooters appears to fire randomly, both inside and outside the mosque. Before he leaves, he shoots a woman on the sidewalk from a distance. Then moves closer to deliver the fatal shot.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was thinking that he must run out of bullets, you know, so what I did was basically waiting for that and praying to God, please, now, let this guy run out of bullets.

KAYE: At a second mosque this man says he saw someone grab the shooter's gun.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SYED MAZHARUDDIN, WITNESS: There was one young guy who usually takes care of the mosque and helps in parking and other stuff. So, he saw an opportunity and pounced over him and grab his gun. And by --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Grabbed the gun from his hands as he was shooting?

MAZHARUDDIN: Grabbed his gun, yes.


KAYE: Police go into lock down. By the time it's over, 49 people are dead.

Dozens including children with a gunshot wounds are admitted to Christchurch hospital for treatment.


PETER BRADLEY, CEO, ST. JOHN NEW ZEALAND HOSPITAL: Injuries ranging from gunshot wounds to the head and face to the arms leg and torso, and soft tissue injuries.


KAYE: Investigators recover weapons at both locations, plus two improvised explosive devices attached to a vehicle. Police arrested 28-year-old man now charge with murder, two others are arrested for suspected weapons possession. None of them had been on any security watchlist.


MIKE RUSH, POLICE COMMISSIONER: No agency had any information about these people.


[21:00:54] KAYE: Long after the shooting is over, some from inside of the mosque still aren't answering their phones, leaving loved ones to wonder, are they alive.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) a lot of bodies outside. So, interesting, waiting here since then just to see if our son is all right. But he is not answering his phone.


KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

CHURCH: And many in New Zealand are wondering why the gunman targeted their peaceful country. The mayor of Christchurch spoke to reporters Friday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIANNE DALZIEL, MAYOR OF CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND: This sort of extremism is not something that we've seen here, but he is not from here. He came here. He came here with hate in his heart, and intention to kill in his mind. So, he did not develop his hatred here. He came here to perform this act of terrorism.


CHURCH: And New Zealand's prime minister also said that law enforcement authorities are wary of extremist, but said these suspects were not on their watch list.


ARDERN: I want to be very clear though. That our intelligence community and police are focused on extremism of every kind. Given global indicators around far-right extremism, our intelligence community has been stepping up their investigations in this area. The individual charged with murder had not come to the attention of the intelligence community, nor the police for extremism.


CHURCH: And that leaves people wondering, what more can the security community do to prevent attacks like this? To help answer this I'm joined now by Steve Moore, a retired FBI supervisory agent and CNN's law enforcement contributor. Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So, Steve, as a former FBI special agent, looking at the details that we know so far, what would authorities be doing right now to try to figure out what happened? How so many people were slaughtered, and how to stop this from happening again?

MOORE: Well, there's going to be a several -- several pronged investigations into this. First of all, they are going to be talking to him and you know, with that manifesto out there he is probably willing to talk about certain things.

Maybe not anybody who sympathizes with him, but they're also going to be going into his electronic footprint, into his social media, into his e-mails into all these little breadcrumbs that show where he's been for the past year or so. And try to figure out who he was communicating with, how he obtained those weapons, and why he didn't come up on anybody's radar.

CHURCH: Yes. I mean, that is the big question, isn't it? And also, how was it possible for the shooter to kill so many people in such little time?

I mean, the heroes of course were those who got him, and arrested him at the end there. But he was able to kill 49 people, and of course, Facebook had a role to play in that. It took them a very long time to get that video that he was live streaming off line, and it was the police that had to tell them to do that. So, there's many players in this.

MOORE: Yes, there are. And you know, one of the things is that I heard over and over is how peaceful New Zealand is, and that's true. They are -- it is a peaceful country. But part of -- part of the feeling of being that peaceful makes them vulnerable, because you say it can't happen here. Well, it can.

And so, if you don't have a robust response for something like this, and I know they do have a good response, and I know their police departments are good, but you have to have an emergency response capability.

We know in the United States, unfortunately, that for every minute a shooter is allowed to shoot without being interdicted or at least face that they kill one person. This person was shooting at a rate higher than that, killing at a rate higher than that.

So, New Zealand, as peaceful as it is, can't rely on that as a basis for not having quicker response times.

CHURCH: Yes, it's a wakeup call for New Zealand, for Australia, for other nations where life seems easier, seems quieter, but of course it's being shattered now. And that's exactly the message that the suspect apparently wanted to send.

Now Steve, we know that two other suspects have been charged, we don't know much about them, but we do know that the 28-year-old Australian suspect Brenton Tarrant, posted a manifesto that said he did this alone. You referenced it there. What do you make of that and the two other suspects?

MOORE: Well, that's what I would expect him to say, that he did it alone whether he did it alone or didn't do it alone.

[21:14:59] You know, he'll tell you all about his beliefs and tried to justify this sickness he has, but he won't tell you about anybody else who sympathizes with him.

And that's why you need the electronic footprint to go and find anybody who has helped him, who knew about this possibly. There may not be any, but apparently the police do believe there are some. And you can aid and abet, you can suspect that this person is doing something, and if you don't tell somebody, you bear some responsibility for this.

So the police have to do a post-mortem, they have to write at the book on how this happened, and then they have to go back and say where in the entire process could we have interdicted it. Where in the entire process was the best chance at detecting this kind of attack. And it is going to change how New Zealand, and the world, response to these types of attacks and works to prevent them in the future.

CHURCH: All right. Steve Moore, thank you so much for your analysis. We always appreciate it here on CNN.

Well, we mentioned that unsigned manifesto filled with anti-Muslim rants, it looks like it may have been written by that gunman. We will dive deeper when we return. Stay with us.


[21:20:01] CHURCH: Welcome back to our coverage of the New Zealand attacks. The suspect seems to have left behind a manifesto filled with hateful white nationalist rhetoric.

The document is unsigned and it's covered with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim comments along with online inside jokes.

CNN's Alex Marquardt takes a closer look.

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a diatribe filled with hate and anger and vows of revenge. Eighty-seven neatly formatted pages of ranting about immigrants, minorities, and Muslims.

More than 16,000 words that the 28-year-old who says his name is Brenton Tarrant posted on social media shortly before the attack. The attacker repeatedly calls immigrants invaders. And says immigration must be crushed.

And like other white nationalists he falsely claims there is a genocide of white people underway. It's the kind of toxic message heard in Charlottesville and from the Charleston massacre shooter Dylann Roof.

The New Zealand shooter references Roof's attacks in his manifesto, Norwegian mass murders Anders Breivik who killed 77, mostly children, is held up as an inspiration.


ARDERN: These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact, have no place in the world.


MARQUARDT: The U.S. president is also referenced once, calling President Trump a symbol of renewed white identity though he doesn't consider Trump a leader.

The suspect claims to not belong to any organization and decided to carry put the shooting, which he admits is terrorism on his own. An attack, he says, that he'd been thinking about for two years and chose the targeted mosque three months ago. He expresses no remorse for those he planned to kill even the children.

With white nationalism growing in the U.S. and in Europe, the gunman points to a number of global events that fueled his hate including a terror attack in Sweden's capital in 2017 when an asylum seeker plowed a truck into a crowd killing five.

CHURCH: All right. We do want to get some perspective on this. Joining us now live from Auckland, New Zealand, Professor Paul Spoonley, author of "Politics of Nostalgia, Racism, and the Extreme Right." Thank you, sir for being with us. And I want to say the world stands behind you and your country as it deals with this horror.

PAUL SPOONLEY, PRO VICE-CHANCELLOR, MASSEY UNIVERSITY: Thank you, Rosemary. It's a very, very sad time.

CHURCH: It is. It is just horrendous.

So, I do want to ask you this too. Why do you think it is that we appear to be witnessing this apparent rise and hateful ideology, what's fueling it in your view?

SPOONLEY: Well, I think it's a general sense of unease in many western countries which comes from an uncertainty about the economic future. So, we're seeing some communities affected by the fourth industrial revolution in rather negative ways.

It's also tied together with a sense that your culture in this case, the shooter's culture are being white and western is under threat by Muslims. I would note attempt in terms of the manifesto it does reference Jews as well.

So, it's a slightly unusual combination that the prime enemy are Muslims but Jews are seem to be behind the takeover as he sees it by Muslims of the west.

CHURCH: Yes. A very important point. So, U.S. President Donald Trump doesn't think a global threat is being posed by white supremacists and their hateful anti- immigrant, anti-Muslim ideology and he doesn't think it's on the rise. What would you say to him about that?

SPOONLEY: Well, I think he needs to look around the western world and look at populist governments and how popular they have become to the general elections. So, we are seeing in many countries parties which expressed anti-immigrant policies and sentiments are being voted in or being voted to positions of power.

The other thing which I would note that your previous commentator noted the international content of that manifesto. And when you look at Breivik 2083, the Declaration of European Independence, there's a lot of similarities here.

So, there's a bit of international copycatting or referencing of these communities and individuals. So, I think that there is an international rise and a connectivity particularly online amongst these groups and this particular shooter reflects many of those movements and developments in recent years.

CHURCH: Do you think that whites supremacist terrorism is treated differently to other forms of terrorism? Do you think this crime may change all that and make people rethink the threat posed by these white supremacists and nationalists? [21:25:07] SPOONLEY: Well, it will do in New Zealand because I've

been researching these groups since the 1980s. I've been saying for some time that they do represent a threat to our community. Firstly, in terms of the ideology that they express which is vilification and demonization of particular groups.

But I've always pointed out there's always the possibility that they will carry out the threats that they've made. And in this occasion the person has done so. And I think we've been naive. I think we've been a little reticent, a little unwilling to consider that these groups represent a threat to our community. That has changed.

And so, like other communities around the western world we have experienced something which is deeply, deeply tragic, but which is highlighted our naivety in terms of the threat posed by these ultra- nationalists and white supremacist groups.

CHURCH: Right. And on that subject on naiveite, I want to return to social media platforms and their slow response. Facebook, Twitter so many of them don't seem to have a means to actually stop these sorts of things going out.

And of course, now, that video that was live streamed by the suspect is doing the rounds. It can't be stopped, it just keeps going, because that's what the algorithms do.

So, with that in -- you know, I want to consider that and how big a role the current political dialog plays into all of this in perpetuating this hateful speech and then of course we see it on the social media platforms.

SPOONLEY: Yes. And those social media platforms present all of us with the challenges to our democracies. They are done by people who are often anonymous, they went to many, they're cheap. There is no filters. It's not like, the media like CNN where you get to evaluate and test facts and opinions. They are simply out there and people are being convinced by them in various ways.

So that presents a challenge for our political democracies and that we have these repeating and very often false untruthful, hateful web sites and views that are being expressed on those web sites.

Coming back to the point about Facebook. I am very critical of Facebook. Facebook recently claimed that they have taken down 82 percent of hateful comment within 24 hours. In this occasion 24 hours is way too long. So, they've got to get their metrics, their content managers able to react much quicker to these sorts of situations than has been the case in Christchurch.

CHURCH: Yes. They need to do a better job it has to be said, and it has to be --


SPOONLEY: They do.

CHURCH: -- and has to be put out there.

SPOONLEY: hey do.

CHURCH: Professor Paul Spoonley, thank you so much. We appreciate your analysis.

SPOONLEY: Thank you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: We'll take a short break here. Still to come, how Muslim leaders around the world are responding to the terror attacks in New Zealand. We're back in just a moment.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Rosemary Church.

We are following breaking news. The suspected gunman in the New Zealand mosque attacks appeared in court just a short time ago where he was charged with murder. The 28-year-old has been remanded in custody until his next court appearance in April. New Zealand prime minister shared some more details.


ARDERN: This individual has traveled around the world, with sporadic periods of time spent in New Zealand. They were not a resident of Christchurch. In fact, they were currently base in Dunedin at the time of this event. Inquiries are ongoing to establish whether the other two who were arrested were directly involved with this incident.


CHURCH: Those two other people remain in custody. Two mosques in Christchurch were targeted on Friday and local officials are calling this a terrorist attack.

Forty-nine people have been killed, and more than 40 are receiving medical care.

Islamophobia and right-wing extremist views are being largely blamed for the Christchurch mosque attacks. Majority Muslim countries have widely condemned the incident. In Istanbul, Turkey people gathered to voice their anger and pray for those people.

CNN's Arwa Damon is there.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There has been so much shocked at every level here in the region and widespread condemnation from just about anyone who you will talk to. In Turkey, following Friday prayers in Istanbul at one of the main mosques, people held a commemoration, something of a funeral in absentia for those who had perished in that horrific New Zealand attack.

And Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had some pretty pointed comments, saying that this was by and large a result of rising Islamophobia. He said that Islamophobia has long been watched and even encouraged in the world, and now this attack has crossed the line from individual harassment to resulting in mass murder.

And then he went on to try to urge nations to come together, calling on the entire world, and especially western countries, he said, to take measures against these types of events which threatens all of mankind.

And that was a sentiment that we heard from normal people that we were just talking to. A cab driver was telling me that as heartbroken and horrified as he was, over all of this, he also went on to emphasize that people should not allow this kind of hatred, these kinds of horrific attacks to ferment even further divisions.

[21:35:02] Because whether it's terrorist organizations or whether it's individuals, whether it's a result of Islamophobia or rising anti-immigration rhetoric, or anti any sort of religion that's out there, there is so much hatred that all of us as individuals have a duty and responsibility to try to stand against. To prevent this kind of violence from taking place once again.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul.

CHURCH: Well let's bring in Abbas Barzegar who with more on this. He is the director of research and advocacy for CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations. He joins me now from Washington. Thank you, sir for being with us. Our thoughts are with you and your community at this very difficult time.

ABBAS BARZEGAR, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY, CAIR: Thank you, Rosemary, and thank you to CNN. I believe that your coverage has been absolutely, you know, responsible and right on target throughout the day, so I really appreciate your work.

CHURCH: And we appreciate you saying that, thank you so much. What impact has this horrifying attack had on Muslims across the globe?

BARZEGAR: Look, Muslims believe that the body of believers are like a human body, and so if one part is ailing, the entire body suffers. And so Muslims first and foremost are mourning, they are healing, they're horrified and they're thinking about their families.

You know, Friday prayer is a player that literally means the Jumu'ah prayer, it's the day of gathering, it's the day of communion where you're closest to your community and closest to God. The unity that you experience, you know, in your prayer is reflected in the unity of the community.

So, to think that somebody would assault a community of believers in this way is absolutely horrific. We think about the messages that we are going to tell our children and we think about how to prepare them.

But make no mistake, this isn't the first time that Muslims have experience such kind of violence, whether it's at the hands of white supremacists or Islamic extremist such as, you know, ISIS and others. And hate has the same DNA, and Muslims are prepared to deal with it.

Muslims have been fighting this kind of rhetoric on all sides for a number of years, and we are emboldened and empowered by our allies in the faith community who have been showing a support the way that we've been showing them support.

And so, there's a number of beautiful stories that are emerging around the world right now --


BARZEGAR: -- of Muslims coming together with their neighbors to, you know, to stand vigilant in the face of this hate. I think that's a very important point.

I do want to ask you this, how much do you think the anti-immigrant rhetoric of U.S. President Donald Trump helps fuel the white supremacists and their hateful ideology? Giving them a platform and a very attentive audience.

BARZEGAR: Look, we recognize anti-Semitism, anti-black racism, and the dog whistles associated with that, and I believe that what's happening now is that people are recognizing the dog whistles that the Trump administration sends out there.

But make no mistake, this isn't about a lone wolf shooter, and it's not about one president who can get voted out of office. It's about policies from the state that refer to immigrants as invaders.

That language, as your segment show just now, that language appears throughout the -- throughout the entire manifesto. This is a Trojan horse ideology, a class of civilizations ideology that must be rejected.

So, when we hear that rhetoric coming from highest levels of office, it's absolutely dangerous, it's heartbreaking. It makes everyone feel as if we are at war with one another, and it's contrary to what we are seeing on the ground.

People want us to believe that we are fighting one another, but I'll tell you when a Tree of Life shooter -- you know, when the Tree of Life suffer its attack in Pittsburg, Muslims responded in kind by raising funding.

And today, the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh is returning in kind to the Muslim community to help them. The same thing in Charleston in South Carolina. When churches got burned Muslims supported them.

Right now, Christians are supporting us. And so, we have to reject this hate because it's not real. The narrative that they portray is not real. What's happening on the ground is beautiful, we're fighting Islamophobia in all levels, we're fighting racism and anti-immigrant -- anti-immigrant sentiment at all levels.

And getting the right message and getting the true stories out there is the right thing to do. So, the very fact that you blur the killers face, that's responsible journalism, we thank you for that.

CHURCH: Yes, absolutely. And of course, we see the prime minister of both the New Zealand and Australia saying this is not us. We see the people there in New Zealand and Australia standing behind your community saying this is unacceptable.

Thank you very much.

BARZEGAR: No. It's absolutely great. Thank you very much, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Abbas Barzegar, thank you for talking with us. I appreciate it.

BARZEGAR: Thank you.

CHURCH: And if you would like to help the victims of the Christchurch shooting, CNN has vetted organizations that are collecting donations. You can find the list at

Well, U.S. President Donald Trump weighs in on the Christchurch mosque attacked, his take, white nationalism is not on the rise. We will look at that and break it down. Stay with us.


CHURCH: The man accused in the two New Zealand mosques shootings has made his first appearance in court, the 28-year-old is charged with one count of murder and said nothing during his appearance.

At least 49 people were killed in the Friday mass shootings. Two other suspects remain in custody. New Zealand's prime minister has vowed to change the country's gun laws.

Well, President Trump spoke to New Zealand's prime minister Friday and was asked about the attack as he issued the first veto of his presidency.

CNN's chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta has more.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Surrounded by supporters the president trying to veto into the day's main event, visually rejecting a bipartisan measure in Congress that rebuke Mr. Trump for trying to use a national emergency declaration to go around lawmakers to build his border wall.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congress has the freedom to pass the resolution and I have the duty to veto it.


ACOSTA: The president also sounded off on the mosque terror task in New Zealand.

[21:45:01] TRUMP: It's a horrible, horrible thing. I told the prime minister that the United States is with them all the way.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: Earlier in the day, the president offered his condolences, tweeting, "My warmest sympathy and best wishes go out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the mosques.

But the president's critics question whether that response should have been more forceful in condemning the attack allegedly carried out by a right-wing extremist. Mr. Trump was asked by reporters whether he thinks white nationalism is rising threat.


TRUMP: I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess. If you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that's the case. I don't know enough about it yet. They are just learning about the person and the people involved, but it certainly a terrible thing.


ACOSTA: As a candidate, Mr. Trump once called for a ban of Muslims into the U.S., a campaign promise the administration later try to turn into policy.


TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.


ACOSTA: Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke said thoughts and prayers are not enough, adding that attacks like the one in New Zealand are now all too common.


FMR. REP. BETO O'ROURKE, (D) TEXAS: They're on the rise around the western world. They're on the rise right here in this country. They're part of a larger disease of intolerance that is taking hold from what was thought to be the most tolerant, the most open, the most welcoming country the world had ever known.


ACOSTA: Before the mosque attack authorities say the killer in New Zealand wrote a long manifesto expressing his anti- Muslim and anti- immigration views even describing the president as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose. Top White House officials are blasting the notion that the president's rhetoric had anything to do with the violence in New Zealand.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: He says I'm not a conservative. I'm not a Nazi. He sounds like he's an eco-terrorists and he's certainly, absolutely is a ruthless killer.


ACOSTA: But just this week questions are being raised about whether the president's rhetoric simply crossed the line. In an interview with the conservative Breitbart web site, Mr. Trump bragged about a support coming from, quote, "tough people."

Saying, "I can tell you I have the police the support of the police, the support of the military the support of 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." Democrats say the president is playing with fire.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT: I interpret that kind of comment as a danger to peaceful transition to power in our democracy as one of the fundamental principles of our Constitution that we have that kind of peaceful transition of power and respect for the rule of law, which that kind of comment utterly portrays.


ACOSTA: The president said he hadn't read the New Zealand killer's manifesto. So, Mr. Trump declined to weigh in on that, but as for the president's claim that white nationalism is not a rising threat.

He may want to reconsider recent FBI figures and other study showing right-wing extremism is a growing concern for the neo-Nazi on the streets of Charlottesville to the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh last year and now the mass attack in New Zealand it is a threat that can't be denied.

Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

CHURCH: And in other news we are following work is underway on the data recorders from Ethiopian Airlines flight 302. French aviation investigators the so-called black boxes questions about the crash could be answered as soon as this weekend but only if the recorders are not too heavily damaged.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is there.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Work there has begun to inspect the so-called black boxes, the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder. And to begin the download of the data from those recorders that will give investigators a far better insight into what happened with the pilots on board Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, as well as of course what was happening with the plane itself and all of its systems.

If all goes well, this process could be concluded as early as Saturday night or some time on Sunday. But a source here to the investigation cautioned us that if there's any damage to the cockpit voice recorder or the flight data recorder it could take longer. And this is a slow and painstaking process. It begins with a visual

inspection of the boxes themselves then opening them up removing the electrical components that record all of the data and record the voices and then inspecting those components one at a time, finally, you can begin to download that data.

At that point when that has concluded and all of that data has been downloaded it's up to the Ethiopian authorities what they want to do next and who they want to turn to for on analysis of what happened on board that plane.

They could of course use the BEA here behind me and French aviation investigation authorities or they could go the NTSB or one of the other handful of groups around the world able to analyze that data and the glean from the information which is crucial at this point to the investigation.

That decision rests with Ethiopian authorities as the entire world looks to see what happened on board that plane.

[21:49:58] Meanwhile, countries around the world have grounded the 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 waiting to see what happens with the investigation. The FAA has not joined that as has Boeing.

Boeing has said they will continue construction of the airplane but they will pause deliveries as essentially, they monitor the situation.

Meanwhile, we've learned that shortly after the takeoff from Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, the pilot radioed and that he was experiencing problems and was returning in for a landing.

The New York Times has reported a bit more detail on there, saying the pilot radioed tin, "break, break, request back to home request vector for landing." Air traffic diverted two try to give that pilot as much leeway as possible to try to make it back to the airport.

But just a couple of minutes later, Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crashed killing all on board. The investigation now focusing here on the cockpit voice recorder on the flight data recorder, to try to pull that information to help investigation to understand exactly what happened on board that led to such a terrible ending.

Oren Liebermann, CNN, Paris.

CHURCH: Yet to come on this special edition on CNN Newsroom, moving tributes for the victims of Christchurch are being conducted around the world.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

Well new developments out of New Zealand. Police say they are not, at least for now, searching for any additional suspects following the mass shooting in Christchurch. They also say the alleged gunman resisted arrest. The 28-year-old man

from Australia appeared in court just a short while ago, where he was charged with murder. He will remain in custody until his next court appearance in April.

Two mosques in Christchurch were targeted on Friday, and local officials call it a terrorist attack. It appears to have been live streamed on social media from the suspects body cam, at least 49 people have been killed.

And thank you so much for watching. I'm Rosemary Church. I'll be right back with the latest on the terror in Christchurch. But before we go, a look at tributes from around the world for victims of the mosque attacks including from world leaders who are sending condolences to a nation mourning the senseless loss of life.


SCOTT MORRISON, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: Their family members with New Zealand cousins today, we grieve. We are shocked. We are appalled. We are outraged. But I particularly, want to express my sincere prayers and thoughts for those New Zealand, as indeed Australians of the Islamic faith today.

[21:55:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) And we are here in our community with you to deliver a very simple message. It was an active extremism, that it was an act involve boundless horror and violence. All of us decry that for what it was. An unacceptable from an (Inaudible).

JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, LABOUR PARTY: Communities come together. Communities support each other, and we are happy with our diversity in our society.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colleagues, I propose a minute of silence starting now.

SADIQ KHAN, MAYOR OF LONDON: As far as we are concerned, our diversity is a strength not a weakness. We don't simply tolerate it, we celebrate it, we embrace it, and we respect it.