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Two Weekend Mass Shootings; Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) is Interviewed about Gun Legislation; Twenty Dead in El Paso Shooting. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired August 5, 2019 - 09:30   ET



[09:34:15] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, CNN has learned that right now the FBI is actively working across the country trying to identify any similar threats following these two attacks over the weekend in El Paso and in Dayton, Ohio, Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: The FBI director, Chris Wray, has ordered field offices to conduct new threat assessments nationwide due to major concerns over copycat attacks in particular.

Let's discuss now with Tom Verni, he's a former detective for the New York Police Department and Mary Ellen O'Toole, she's a former senior FBI profiler.

Mary Ellen, if I could begin with you, because what's different about the El Paso shooting, and I'm standing, again, outside the Walmart where it took place, is that the shooter turned himself in. The police have him now in custody. He's said to be cooperating.

[09:35:03] What information would investigators want to learn from him that could be helpful at this point?


Well, some of the information might actually include who he communicated with on some of the social media platforms where he had a presence. And through that they can get contact information and be the follow-up that you just referenced. So that may be one of the primary pieces of information they're extracting from him right now.

HARLOW: You know, guys, Tom to you specifically, because you have said, look, if foreign shooters were using the U.S. as a shooting gallery, we'd be at DEFCON One right now. And there was a DHS funded study by Rand just earlier this year that found that the funding efforts aimed at countering violent extremism were significantly lower -- are significantly lower in this country than in other developed western democracies.


HARLOW: I mean what does -- what does that tell you, including the warning from Christopher Wray earlier this year, the FBI director, about white supremacy. But, still, we're under funding these counter measures.

VERNI: Yes, and that's terrible because clearly we have a problem in this country. Americans -- the biggest threat to Americans right now are other Americans. I mean, you know, we can talk about Russia, we can talk about North Korea, we can talk about Mexicans, you know, but really, on a day-to-day basis, going to see a movie, going to Walmart, going to a church, sending your kids to school, the biggest threat are other Americans. The government needs to get their act together. This president needs to take a stand, regardless of the political ramifications that he may face, take a stand against this.

And, you know, by the way, during the time of the Dayton shooting, there were seven people shot in Chicago. So while we can talk about white supremacy, because it is a big problem in this country, we have to talk about guns, guns, guns awash in our streets by inner city gangs and by -- by psychos running around the country shooting up the country.

HARLOW: Coming from a former police officer. Yes. Yes.

SCIUTTO: Yes, guns and the magazines, too, let's be clear.

Mary Ellen, let me ask you this. As a profiler, when you're looking at motivation here, you look at this manifesto of the El Paso shooter echoes the anti-immigrant feeling that, frankly, then stoked by the president.

When you were profiling people like this, are they, in your experience, influenced by the words that they hear from their politicians, from lawmakers, from public figures?

O'TOOLE: Yes. I can stretch out the answer, but the answer would be yes. And, in fact, when we do an assessment for someone that's made a threat, if that threat, whether they're known or they're anonymous to us, if they invoke God or they invoked some person that is of a higher rank than they are, or somebody that's in a position of importance, if they say, these people support me doing this, that actually can make them more dangerous because they can now carry out that threat because they've got the backing of God or some religious figure or somebody that's in a higher position of authority.

SCIUTTO: Well, you gave a direct answer there. Do the president's words matter? Your answer is simply, yes.


SCIUTTO: Tom Verni, Mary Ellen O'Toole, two people with an enormous amount of experience in law enforcement handling these shootings. We appreciate it.

So, here's a question, will anything change after these two deadly shootings in 24 hours? Three in a little more than a week. Lawmakers are getting hard pressed to do something. What will they do? I'm going to speak with a Republican lawmaker, one of 50 we asked to join this broadcast, he said yes, and that's coming up. HARLOW: Also tonight on CNN, Anderson Cooper will sit down for an

exclusive interview with 2020 presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. You don't want to miss it. It's 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN tonight.


[09:43:07] SCIUTTO: Welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world.

It's a sad time here in this country, two horrific mass shootings just this weekend just hours apart. One here in El Paso, Texas. I'm standing in front of the crime scene there. There's still blood on the floor of that Walmart here in El Paso. The other, Dayton, Ohio. In all, 29 people killed. Both massacres involving high-powered weapons with extended clips of ammunition.

Joining me now is Republican Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida.

And I want to give credit where credit is due here. This broadcast, we reached out to 50 Republican lawmakers to speak about this issue today. Forty-nine of them said no. Ted Yoho, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, he said yes.

Congressman, we appreciate you coming on this morning.

REP. TED YOHO (R-FL): Thanks for having me on, Jim. This is an important topic we need to talk about as a nation.

SCIUTTO: It is. And I know your -- you represent a district in the state of Florida. Of course Florida had its own tragedy in Parkland.

YOHO: Sure.

SCIUTTO: You have experience in this.

Let's start with what happens now because I think that's what our viewers want to hear. They want to hear what's going to be done.

You heard the president this morning -- or we saw the president this morning in a tweet raise the prospect of background checks as a step. He's going to speak shortly. We'll see if he follows through on that again.

Would you support universal background checks as a piece of legislation?

YOHO: Jim, I'd have to look at how the legislation is written. I support background checks now. But if it gets too inclusive or encumbering, again, I'd have to wait to see it before I can answer that.

The important thing is that we come together and I heard the president was talking about bringing us in and calling us back into session, which I think is an awesome idea. But I don't want to have a knee-jerk reaction that we move on a motion instead of coming together for a solution for this long-term.

[09:45:04] SCIUTTO: What would be too encumbering about universal background checks? Why is it encumbering for people buying weapons, particularly high-powered weapons like the ones we've seen in these shootings, why would that be too encumbering?

YOHO: That part's not. If you're going into a store to buy a gun through a dealer, I think that's something we already do. And we have to make sure that we're connecting the dots as people do that. But when a grandfather wants to pass on a gun to his grandchild or, you know, a friend wants to pass it to his friend, I think you can get into, you know, into the -- just the Second Amendment where people have the freedom to do those things.

And what we don't talk about is the responsibility people have. We, as Americans, this is a mental health issue and this is a responsibility of all citizens from the family members, to the school members, to the church members, the local community to make sure that the people that are having challenges like these young men that we're seeing, that they get directed in the right areas and that the red flag laws that we have on the books are enforced by the local police force, by the FBI.

SCIUTTO: I know that speaking of mental health is something of a safe space for lawmakers, but let me show a picture of the weapon used in Dayton, the weapon and the magazine.

YOHO: Right.

SCIUTTO: And I want to ask you if this weapon and this magazine that has 100 rounds -- I spent ten years covering wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congressman Yoho, I never saw something like that there. Does any American have the right to buy something like we're seeing on the screen right there? Now, that allowed him to kill nine people in less than a minute. Should that be legal?

YOHO: You know what, the way I understand it, it's already illegal in the state of Ohio. And, you know, my personal belief is, no, I don't need something like that.

SCIUTTO: But state laws don't -- state laws -- you know as well as me, state laws don't do the job. You can -- in the Gilroy shooting, the weapon was illegal in California, so he bought it in Nevada and drove across the border.

YOHO: Sure.

SCIUTTO: You know that these have to be national laws to make a difference.

YOHO: They do. But, you know, you can get rid of the guns, and we saw what happened in Japan, people used arson and they killed 30 some people. Somebody else used a knife and they killed three people. Bad people are going to do bad things and this is why --

SCIUTTO: You can't kill -- you can't kill nine people in 40 seconds with a knife, congressman, to be fair.

YOHO: Well, they killed 35 -- no, come on.

SCIUTTO: He walked in there with a semiautomatic weapon.

Can you grant that the weapons -- can you grant that the weapons make a difference?

YOHO: Yes. I mean what about that young man that was blowing up things in Texas, you know, or the Timothy McVeigh. Of course that was a terrorist attack against the government. He blew up that whole building and killed hundreds of people. Bad people are going to do bad things if they're hell bent on doing that.

What we can do is, again, is, you know, do whatever we can to keep guns out of people's hands that post stuff on the Internet. You know, big -- big tech has a big responsibility in this. They're already searching this information, they're collecting this data. They've been doing that for years. These things need to be reported and they need to have these people look into that that are posting manifestos out there. They have the ability to do that instantaneously.

SCIUTTO: Well, Congressman, forgive me, it just sounds to me like this moment will be no different because the points you're making, making it an issue of mental health, not the kinds of weapons or magazines, questioning the usefulness of universal background checks, I mean those are points I and our viewers heard before after -- after tragedies like this.

So I have to ask the question, what's different this time? And I don't -- based on what you're saying, it doesn't strike me that there's support among Republicans in Congress to do something different this time. Do I have that wrong?

YOHO: Yes, I think you have that wrong because you're asking me to comment on something I haven't seen legislation. And that would be irresponsible.

If we bring out legislation, if we sit down in a bipartisan manner, not making an emotional decision, if the president calls us back, there's going to be all of this, you know, fanfare and people are going to get in front of the news and say I did this and then they're going to regret it down the road. If we come -- systematically come through a process to where we agree, I think we can get good legislation. But to have a knee-jerk reaction and say, we're going to Washington and we're going to fix this in two or three days I think is a joke.

I commend the president for doing that. In fact, we asked the president to reconvene Congress right before the break to deal with border security and a workable guest worker program for agriculture.

SCIUTTO: Well, folks at home might have more urgency. We'll see. But we'll be watching how Congress reacts.

Congressman, we do appreciate you taking the time this morning. We tried with a lot of folks and you said yes and we appreciate that.

YOHO: Thank you, Jim. Have a great day.

SCIUTTO: Please stay with us.

[09:50:00] We'll be right back.


HARLOW: In El Paso today, where you are, Jim, a two month old baby is waking up an orphan. Paul was found alive in that Walmart under the body of his mother, Jordan. She was shielding her baby boy from the gunshots. Both Jordan and the baby's father, Andre, were murdered there and all they were doing was simply shopping for back-to-school supplies.

SCIUTTO: Their infant boy, Paul, just one of too many whose entire worlds have been rocked by these shootings, their families now suffering.

Rosa Flores joins us now with more on the victims.

You know, I spoke to the mayor of El Paso, Dee Margo, and he had met the grandparents and he met that two-month-old child. And as he was describing that, he teared up -- a grown man teared up at just the emotion of seeing an orphaned two month old. And this is now a community where a number of families are going through this.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And we know that the victims involved children as well. So, Jim, I've been talking to a lot of people in this community and they all reflect on the instinct of the mother and the father who grabbed their children to safety and tried to do what they could. And, in this case, in the case of Jordan Anchondo, we know that the 24-year-old used her body to shield her two-month-old. Unfortunately, her husband died. Their son, Paul, had broken bones. But the two-month-old survived.

[09:55:23] SCIUTTO: Yes.

FLORES: And we talked to their family and they had a few words that we'd like to share. Take a listen.

SCIUTTO: We don't -- it looks like we don't have the sound, but tell us what they said.

FLORES: They're heartbroken and they talk about just how great of parents this couple was.


FLORES: And as you might imagine, a mother that uses her body to shield her baby boy from --

SCIUTTO: Gave her life for her child.

FLORES: Gave her life for her child. SCIUTTO: Yes.

FLORES: And so those are the types of stories that we're learning. We know, of course, that there are 20 people dead. We don't know all the names, unfortunately. But we're hoping to learn more about them and their stories and their life, because their families, for sure, will be celebrating their life and not the tragedy that happened to them.

SCIUTTO: And they're getting the word now because as of yesterday afternoon, the families still didn't know, they hadn't been informed. But then we were getting word last night that they were being introduced to grief counselors and getting that news. That's our understanding now.

FLORES: Right. Well, and I was at the reunification center yesterday --


FLORES: And I can tell you --


FLORES: I observed these families sobbing and embracing because they were walking into a building, which is an elementary school --


FLORES: And they were being notified.

SCIUTTO: Notified of the loss of their loved ones.

FLORES: Of the loss of their loved ones, yes.

SCIUTTO: This is happening in too many communities in America.

Rosa Flores, thanks.

We're going to have much more right after this break.


HARLOW: All right, good morning, everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto here in El Paso, Texas, outside another American crime scene, another sight of a massacre by guns. Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world.

[10:00:05] Any minute now we will hear from President Trump. This as the nation mourns 29.