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Manhunt Underway for Sniper Who Shot L.A. Sheriff's Deputy; Police: California Man Planned to "Shoot Up" Hotel; Trump's Shifting Comments on Background Checks Raise Doubts over White House Plan to Tackle Gun Violence; Trump Grows More Erratic Amid Economic Warnings; Trump Repeatedly Attacks Obama in Erratic Rant; Trump "Seriously" Considering Ending Birthright Citizenship Amid Push to Detain Immigrant Families Longer. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 22, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:17] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining me.

Up first, a sniper on the loose and another mass shooting averted. Two separate but downright scary situations playing out right now in southern California.

A manhunt is underway for a possible sniper who fired on a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy. Authorities there say the deputy was just walking to his car when he was shot from a four-story building next door. His bulletproof vest credited with saving his life.


REX PARRIS, LANCASTER MAYOR: He's walking out of the sheriff's station and a sniper took a shot at him. That's what happened. It is incomprehensible that that sort of thing is happening in our city.


BOLDUAN: But it was and is.

This comes as Long Beach police reveal details about an alleged plot to attack a hotel there. Several guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition were found in the suspect's home. He is behind bars this morning.

CNN's Stephanie Elam and Nick Watt are tracking these stories.

Stephanie, first to you.

First, to the manhunt. What more are you learning and what's happening with that manhunt underway right now?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is an unbelievable situation, Kate. You have this deputy walking to his personal car but still had his bulletproof vest on. They're saying that the shot actually hit him in the chest but ricocheted off the bulletproof vest and went into his shoulder. They're saying the deputy, Angel Reinosa, is recovering and he's expected to make a full recovery.

Other deputies ran to his aid and were also fired upon, officials say, but none of them were hit.

They're saying this happened outside of their Lancaster station. But to take into account this four-story apartment complex that is across from the station, this is where they believe the sniper was. They don't know that he lives there. They've gone through the building and they've also locked down a school that was nearby and have still come up with nothing to let us know who this person is.

But still, take a listen to what the mayor of Lancaster has to say about that building.


PARRIS: The building is a government-subsidized building for people with mental health issues. But it's not secure. It doesn't have any -- there's no control of who is in, who is out. This is just where people live who have mental health problems. Unfortunately, the location of it is less than desirable.


ELAM: Now, we do know that at least a couple of people were detained in that building because they weren't leaving as the officials were making their way through that building. But they still don't know who this shooter, this sniper is and they're looking for this person.

This all happening just about 3:00 p.m. yesterday afternoon to let you know how long they've been on the hunt for this person.

BOLDUAN: Stephanie, thanks so much.

We'll bring updates as we get them.

Nick, what are you learning about the mass shooting plot that police say they uncovered?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, right now, in custody is a 37- year-old cook who worked at a Marriott Hotel just a mile or so from Long Beach airport.

Apparently, on Monday evening, he told a fellow employee that he was planning to shoot the place up, to open fire on fellow employees and anybody who he could see in the hotel.

Now, that employee told management. Management told police. And within 24 hours this cook was arrested at his home nearby.

And in that home police say they discovered a cache of weapons, including an assault rifle that is illegal to own in California, illegal high-capacity magazines, tactical gear, everything, the police chief said, that he would need to carry out a mass casualty event.

And the police chief stressed that, had this not been alerted, had the fellow employee not told authorities about this threat, that police chief believes that lives would have been lost.

Now, the suspect right now being held on $500,000 bail. We expect that the Long Beach Police Department will present their case to the district attorney today.

But the message out of Long Beach is that this could have been horrific, was it not for that hotel employee alerting officials and them acting so quickly -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Similar story we have heard quite a bit in the last two weeks.

Guys, thank you so much.

Nick, thank you.

Stephanie, thank you so much.

At least 29 people have been arrested over threats to commit mass attacks since the fatal shootings in El Paso and Dayton just two weeks ago, sparking new urgency for something, anything to be done about gun safety in America.

[11:05:06] And the only way to describe President Trump on this is all over the place.

After saying that he wanted stronger background checks, reports then are of the president telling the head of the NRA universal background checks are off the table.

And at the same time, the president then denied that that conversation happened, but also said that there already are tough background checks in place in the country. And then said this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have an appetite for background check. We're going to be doing background checks. We're working with Democrats. We're working with Republicans.

We already have strong background checks but we're going to be filling in some of the loopholes.


BOLDUAN: Again, the only way to describe the policy position here is that he doesn't have one. All over the place.

Let's get to the White House. CNN's Sarah Westwood is there.

Sarah, what are you hearing from there this morning?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, we're hearing all kinds of mixed signals from President Trump on this.

Despite, as you just heard, President Trump yesterday claiming that he still supports tougher background checks, sources do tell CNN that, in private conversations, Trump has started to cool on that idea after a sustained effort from conservative lawmakers, from the NRA, from aides and allies to try to get him to change his mind.

Some of those aides have warned President Trump that if he were to reach out for the bipartisan background check bill, that he might not score any political points but he may actively hurt himself with his base. We sort of heard him express some of that sentiment speaking to reporters yesterday.

Meanwhile, the White House is preparing a range of options for President Trump to consider, options that the administration could frame as efforts to prevent future mass shootings.

But, of course, there's no timetable for rolling out those options. All those sources say they're aiming to have some kind of proposal ready by the time Congress comes back from August recess. That date, by the way, is fast approaching.

But President Trump has at different times framed this as a mental health issue. He's talked about strengthening the death penalty, having it apply more easily to mass shooters and hate crimes.

But, Kate, it seems like the sense among the allies is that the easiest lift might be red flag laws. That's something that Senator Lindsay Graham has supported. And it appears, Kate, President Trump, for the moment, still considering red flag proposals as well.

BOLDUAN: Or at least hasn't outwardly, openly, publicly, thrown any cold water on that one yet.

Sarah, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Joining me right now, Josh Dawsey, CNN political analyst and White House reporter for the "Washington Post."

Josh, thank you for being here.

You reported on the president's call with the NRA, that universal background checks are off the table. What are you hearing about the president being all over this issue and lots of other issues yesterday? I mean, he just --does he just not want to take any stand on it? Is he, I don't know, scared? What are you hearing?

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: If you talk to current and former officials in the White House, they would say, if left to his own devices, the president's inclination would be to do something like stronger background checks on gun control.

But the president has heard from Mitch McConnell, from conservative lawmakers, from the NRA that the votes are not there in their mind and his supporters would disagree with that measure, potentially, as he's heading into a reelection year and he's cognizant of what his voters think.

So you have a president who, after the shootings at Parkland, after the two most recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton, has floated the idea of doing something more robust, most substantive, and then has seemed to back away from it.

Officials in the White House now tell me that they're working on packages of legislation or potential fixes that are not likely to include universal background checks or the Toomey-Manchin stronger background checks that they've talked about doing on the Hill.

BOLDUAN: Just the erratic nature of yesterday, is anyone at the White House trying to make a case to you that this is a strategy? It is hard to understand. Just take one of the issues from yesterday, it's really hard to understand the president saying that we need to juice the economy even though the economy doesn't need it and everything is great.

DAWSEY: Well, the president and his advisers are certainly aware that some of the economic numbers have not been as robust recently. But they are still positioning a message and they have a way to back it up that it's doing well.

So they're trying to straddle a line. They're trying to both say the economy is doing well and look at other measures to potentially make the economy better.

The president has repeatedly criticized Jerome Powell, the Fed Chair, even as others in the administration don't really believe that's who is to blame. The president is looking for different solutions.

But a lot of that is driven by news coverage. If you talk to people in the White House, they say the president has been closely monitoring the newspaper stories and everything that's being written and is looking to have a response. Even as some, Larry Kudlow, Mick Mulvaney and others are striking a more bullish tone and saying there's no need to do anything rash on the economy.

[11:10:06] That's why you have message that are a bit all over the map. You have a president who is saying both China gives us lots of money for tariffs and we're going to take the tariffs away to help people around the Christmas seasons.

You have a president who is saying everything is great, but also looking to take some measures that would suggest maybe everything is not.

So it's a bit of a muddled messaging from the White House. But if you talk to many in the building, they say they don't want to see an overreaction yet.

BOLDUAN: One of the things we know the president definitely does is definitely read your reporting and your headlines very closely. So we'll see what comes next.

Great to see you, Josh. Thanks so much. DAWSEY: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Joining me also right now, Michael D'Antonio. He's a CNN contributor and author of the book, "The Truth about Trump."

Michael, you've interviewed Donald Trump extensively. One of the things that came out of yesterday is, what is going on with him.

One of the stranger things to happen yesterday was that the president, while he was talking about the economy is great and not great, I have an appetite for guns, I don't have an appetite for guns, I want Russia back into the G-8, whatever is happening at the border, throughout, he couldn't stop talking about President Obama, mentioning him -- I think, the count was like 20 times at least in talking to reporters.

Listen to this.


TRUMP: We can't treat the United States of America the way they treated us under President Obama.

That was outsmarting Obama.


TRUMP: So Russia outsmarted President Obama.

It was President Obama that built those cages. So President Obama had separation. I'm the one that brought them together.

I'm not looking at a tax cut now. We don't need it. We have a strong economy. Certainly, a payroll tax cut -- President Obama did that in order to artificially jack up the economy. President Obama had zero interest rates. I don't have zero interest. I have real interest rates. And despite that, I have a stronger economy.


BOLDUAN: Michael, what do you see in that? Is this his need to have an enemy? Is this something else? Is it ego? What is it?

D'ANTONIO: I think it's both of the things. There's a need to have an enemy and his ego.

In this case, I think it's a bit bruised. It's an expression of a healthy ego but it's an expression of a kind of neediness and almost confusion.

And when I see the president go back to attacking Obama or Hillary Clinton and other of his favorite enemies, I think of it as going back to a comfort zone. So he's very comfortable attacking the former president.

Go back to the Birther claims and you can see the facts on the matter didn't really concern him. He was more committed to attacking Obama personally.

So there's a lot of chaos. From what I read, the White House is almost devoid of grownups who can speak to him and guide him. So he's going back and forth on all these issues and he's looking for stability. And if he lights on attacking President Obama, I think he feels more secure.

BOLDUAN: Maybe he's also looking to the heavens for stability.

I'm going to play the moment that should go down in infamy. This one. Listen.


TRUMP: Somebody said this is Trump's trade war. This isn't my trade war. This is a trade war that should have taken place a long time ago by a lot of other presidents.

I am the chosen one. Somebody had to do it so I'm taking on China.


BOLDUAN: In the hours and hours that you've spent with Donald Trump, does that surprise you? Do you get a sense of what is eating at Donald Trump right now?

D'ANTONIO: Well, he did go a little further than I would have ever expected. But one thing that he did tell me was that the media environment requires evermore extreme demonstrations in order to get attention.

So he's committed to this idea of, every day, he has to push things a little further. And if he set the bar high, he has to somehow set it higher and get over it.

This reference to being the chosen one is remarkable on a lot of levels. One of them being that he's probably the least religiously informed president in history. He's never been a committed churchgoer. I don't think he's studied religious beliefs in any way.

So when he talks about this, he may not even realize what he's evoking in the audience and whether American Jews are hearing this chosen-one thing and considering people saying he's the king of Israel, and that's very disturbing. Evangelicals could hear it as inspiring. It may be a play for their attention.

But he's a bit confused about the theology, so he winds up doing something that looks almost like a joke.

[11:15:07] BOLDUAN: Well, if you have to set the bar and keep surpassing the bar, I think you just set it pretty high with that one --


BOLDUAN: -- literally, figuratively, Biblically, altogether. Thank you so much, Michael. Really appreciate it.

D'ANTONIO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the Trump administration moves to hold families indefinitely at the border. What does that mean? The lawyer who has been leading the fight to stop the family separation policy, fighting in court to get those families reunited, he is joining me next.

Plus, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is doing damage control after President Trump calls the Danish prime minister nasty. Is he going to be able to smooth things over after that?

Stay with us.



[11:20:41] TRUMP: We're looking at that very seriously, birth right citizenship, where you have a baby in our land. You walk over the border, have a baby, congratulations, the baby is now a U.S. citizen. We're looking at it very, very seriously.


TRUMP: I don't know how you found that out, but that's very good. We are looking at birth right citizenship very seriously. It's frankly ridiculous.


BOLDUAN: President Trump there very clearly very serious about somehow overturning the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which just as a reminder reads as the following: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."

This isn't the first time the president has suggested throwing out the Constitution but it comes as the administration is pushing a new immigration rule. One that would mean the government is capable of holding migrant families in detention indefinitely by getting rid of a court-ordered cap, if you will, on how long migrant children can be detained while their cases are being considered.

Here's how the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security described the policy.


KEVIN MCALEENAN, ACTING SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The result of holding families together under the previous administration was a dramatic reduction in the flow of unlawful crossings by families. By closing this key loophole in Flores, the new rule would restore integrity to our immigration system and illuminate the major pull factor fueling the crisis.


BOLDUAN: So what does this mean?

Joining me right now is Lee Gelernt. He's the deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project. He's been fighting against the government for well over a year over the government separation policy.

Lee, thanks for coming back.

Give me your view on this new policy that they're rolling out.

LEE GELERNT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ACLU IMMIGRANTS' RIGHTS PROJECT: First of all, it's illegal and we are hopeful that the courts will quickly put it aside.

But it's also inhumane. What we've learned from the medical community is that separating children causes serious trauma. But also, holding them in detention centers and having them grow up in detention centers will cause severe harm to the children.

So for both those reasons, this shouldn't be done. And this is not what we do in America, hold children in jail.

BOLDUAN: Should we expect the ACLU to be challenging this in court?

GELERNT: Right now, I think the challenge will come principally through the case, the Flores case.


BOLDUAN: The Flores case?

GELERNT: And so we will be prepared to provide whatever assistance is necessary and we'll be monitoring that closely. We're hopeful that in that Flores case itself, the court will simply strike it down and say this violates the agreement and nothing else will be necessary.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you, because is keeping children together with their parents for a longer period of time, is that better than separating them and holding the children for only 20 days? I say that and that would be an if the government would follow the policy of only holding children for 20 days.

GELERNT: So first of all, when they get separated, they're not held for only 20 days. They end up in facilities for months and months.

But what really is going on is it's a false choice. We don't either need to separate them or hold them for long periods of time. We can release them.

But the statistics show, notwithstanding what is coming out of the administration, is that families seeking asylum will show up for their hearings, that we may need to hold some adults if they're genuinely a risk, but we don't need to hold most families. So I think what' we're seeing is a false choice. The administrators are saying either we need to separate them or keep them in jail for months.

BOLDUAN: Kevin McAleenan says this is hopefully going to deter illegal border crossings, illegal immigration. You work with these migrant families. Will it?

GELERNT: Yes, I'm glad you asked that because that's what they said about family separation. The truth is it doesn't deter and this doesn't deter. Because when families are in that much danger, they're going to come anyway.

When I talk to the mothers who have their children taken away and I ask them, would you have come anyway if you would have known your child -- they shrug and say, what choice did I have, I couldn't stay and be killed or have my child be killed.

So we're punishing these families who are genuinely seeking asylum. This is a very dangerous path we're on now.

BOLDUAN: Folks may not realize this. You're still in court fighting family separations, this policy that was in place and it was supposed to be there -- they're all supposed to be back together July of last year?

GELERNT: Right. Yes, absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Like time and space is holding here.

GELERNT: Yes. So --

BOLDUAN: What is the latest?

[11:25:00] GELERNT: -- that's an important point because I think we're looking at potentially the worst of both words. They're going to separate them at the border and ,if they can't separate them, they're going to hold them for months and months and months.

The latest is we're up to almost 1,000 separations just since the court said stop it.

We will be back in court September --


BOLDUAN: There are still separations that you are fighting to get them reunited from their parents since the court ordered them to stop this policy?

GELERNT: Exactly. It's almost 1,000 since the court said stop. We're back in court on September 13th in San Diego. And we're going to say to the judge, it's still going on, the government is using a pretext that they're trying to protect the children from their own parents. When we got the evidence, it was parents for traffic violations or theft offenses for $5.

BOLDUAN: And not human trafficking violations. You're talking about like vehicular traffic violations. GELERNT: Exactly. Exactly. We --

BOLDUAN: And that's a reason to separate a parent from their child?

GELERNT: We certainly don't believe so. And we think the judge will put a halt to it. But right now, we have separations ongoing and the government is saying, if we don't separate you, we're going to hold you for months and months indefinitely.

This is -- I think what the medical community has said is that we are basically causing irreparable harm to little children. And we're doing it deliberately.

BOLDUAN: This is like a powder keg that I feel like I'm watching play out here.

Thanks for being here, Lee, with --

GELERNT: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: -- that update. I really appreciate it. I cannot believe that family separations are still happening under those pretenses.

Wow, thank you. Thanks for coming.

GELERNT: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on cleanup duty, if you will, after President Trump calls the Danish prime minister nasty. Details on damage control, next.