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Gunman Kills Two in Texas Church; Five Stabbed at Hanukkah Celebration; Anti-Semitic Violence Across America; Mulvaney's Role in Ukraine Aid. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 30, 2019 - 07:00   ET



FARAI SEVENZO, CNN JOURNALIST: Wants to attack the United States homeland itself.

So while al Shabab is operating, they are always being hit back by U.S. Africa Command.

Back to you, Poppy.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, I'll take it Farai. Thank you very much for that reporting. Please keep us posted on the developments there.

Coming up, we're going to speak to a man who fought back, surviving a stabbing spree targeting Jews in New York.

NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breaking news out of Texas after a gunman opened fire during a Sunday morning church service.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two parishioners returned fire. And within six seconds, the suspect is taken down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The citizens who were inside that church undoubtedly saved 242 other parishioners.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two men today left a legacy, but a congregation is going to build on that legacy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was during the moment that the rabbi was lighting the menorah, Thomas allegedly began his stabbing spree.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: I consider this an act of domestic terrorism.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If there was ever a time where we say no to religious bigotry, this is the time.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. Alisyn is off. Poppy Harlow is with me this morning.

Great to have you here.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good to be here. I wish there were better news.

BERMAN: Yes, a lot of sad news this morning.

We begin with two horrifying attacks on people at worship. The latest in Texas where a gunman opened fire inside a church during Sunday services. The gunman killed two people before being shot and killed by parishioners. The church's live stream captured the exchange of fire. It was all over in just six seconds. We're going to show you this extraordinary video. We also have the latest on the suspect and the motive coming up.

HARLOW: The Texas attack happening in the wake of the stabbing rampage that happened this weekend inside of a rabbi's home right outside of New York City. That attack left five people wounded and it could have been even more tragic if the people inside the home were not the heroes that they were and did not fight back in the way they did. Police say the suspect was covered in blood when he was caught two hours later. He's pleaded not guilty.

Coming up in just a few moments, I will speak with a survivor and really a hero in the middle of all of this who fought back.

Overnight, the suspect's lawyer released a statement noting his client has a history of mental illness.

New York's governor is calling the attack clearly an act of domestic terrorism. And it is the latest in the string of anti -- violent anti- Semitic incidents across this area.

Let's begin our coverage, though, this morning in White Settlement, Texas. That's where we find our Lucy Kafanov with more about the church where those parishioners were attacked.

What can you tell us this morning?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, there are families grieving this morning, and they're demanding answers. Not as to what happened, that senseless act of violence captured on camera, but as to why.

We know from the video of the live stream that the shooter was dressed in all black. He sat in one of the pews in the back of the church. He then gets up, appears to have an interaction with another individual before pulling out a shotgun and opening fire. Armed volunteer parishioner security members immediately respond. They open fire back. The whole thing over in just six seconds. It's an incredibly disturbing video. I want to warn our viewers to be

mindful of that as they watch. Keep an eye on the upper left-hand corner of the screen.


KAFANOV: Incredibly disturbing to watch. It's not, unfortunately, the first shooting against a church here in Texas. The 2017 mass shooting at the Sutherland Springs Church killed 26 people. In the aftermath of that, Texas enacted a law allowing licensed handgun owners to bring weapons into houses of worship. The pastor here praising that law saying that that was why this attack was over so quickly. Law enforcement calling the two parishioners who shot the gunman heroes.

Take a listen.

We don't have that sound bite, but, again, law enforcement and the pastor praising them as heroes.

We don't have any information about the motive yet. We do know that the FBI has described the shooter as a transient person with roots in the area. He has been arrested in multiple municipalities, but he was not on any sort of a watch list.

That is all we have for you right now, John.

BERMAN: Lucy Kafanov for us in Texas.

Lucy, thank you so much for the reporting. Our heart goes out to the people there.

So, too, do they go out in New York. Five people injured in a stabbing attack at a Hanukkah celebration. It's the latest in a strong of attacks against Jews in the state and across the nation.


CNN's Brynn Gingras is live from Monsey, New York, outside the home where it all happened.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a community on high alert, that's for sure, John. The attack happened on Saturday night in the home right here behind me. There was about a hundred people gathered inside celebrating the seventh night of Hanukkah when police say the 38-year-old suspect named Grafton Thomas walked in carrying a knife that reports are was so big that it looked like a broom stick. And he went allegedly on this rampage, injuring five people in all. One person, we're told, has a skull fracture. People were throwing furniture. There are reports people were grabbing their family members, trying to get out of his way, trying to also just fight back.

We're told by police then Thomas ran allegedly across the street, or really next door, and tried to get into a synagogue, but the worshippers inside were able to lock the doors and prevent him from getting in. And then he was able to flee the scene.

We're learning from authorities that people were able to get his license plate. And he was tracked down nearly two hours later in New York City, about an hour away from here, crossing the GW Bridge where NYPD was able to stop him. And authorities say that he had blood all over him from this attack and that he smells of bleach.

Now, he has been arrested, charged with five counts of attempted murder and burglary. He was in court yesterday for his initial arraignment. And he pleaded not guilty and he's being held right now behind bars on $5 million bail.

Now, as far as a motive, it's still unclear. Authorities aren't really giving any details as to why he carried out this attack, but his family has released a statement through his lawyer saying that he has a history of mental illness.

But as you mentioned, John, there has been a string of attacks. Andrew Cuomo, the governor here in New York, saying there have been 13 anti- Semitic acts of violence within just the past few weeks, three weeks. And he says this act was domestic terrorism. He said, call it what it is. And he says he's going to be doing something about it.


HARLOW: And the governor will join us next hour.

Brynn, thank you for being there. Such important reporting.


HARLOW: So with me now is Joseph Gluck. He not only survived the attack, he is being hailed as a hero this morning for helping stop the attacker.

Joseph, thank you so much for being here. I can't imagine your pain. I'm just so sorry.


HARLOW: What would you like to tell everyone before we get into the details of the horror that you encountered and helped stop? What do you want America, the world to know about your community in Monsey?

GLUCK: What I would like them to know about the community? We have a very tight community. And close knit community. And I haven't (INAUDIBLE) challenge why they refer to it as mental illness if -- my -- my view would be of somebody would be mentally ill should come in and give (INAUDIBLE) all the congregants, not to come out and do -- try to make a massacre. That's a -- that's not a mental illness. That's an absolutely heinous crime. It's not a mental illness how you refer to it.

HARLOW: Joseph, if you could, take us through moment by moment, because I read in "The New York Times" that you said the attacker screamed at you specifically and said, I will get you. Walk us through the moments as you remember them.

GLUCK: I was sitting in the rabbi's dining room just when this rabbi finished the candle lighting ceremony and the attacker came in. He first stood in the entry room, started hitting people right and left with his big machete knife. I don't know what it was. And then that's when I started to run out through a side -- or to get older people in the dining room. We ran out through the back of the house, through the back door, outside. I ran back to the front door to see if I could help anyone from the other side.

That's where the -- that's where -- that's when -- sorry, I'm a bit -- I'm a bit tired. That's when I -- when I came back into -- the other guy who had the brain fracture was still standing there bleeding. And I asked him, let's go, come out, come out, the guy is still -- the guy is still in the kitchen. The attacker's still in the kitchen, let's go out. He said, I can't, I'm bleeding, I can't. That's when I saw him coming back towards me. I ran -- I ran out. And I saw that he went to the old guy. I came back in with -- I came back in, grabbed the coffee table that was on the floor, hit him in his face. And that's when he came back outside after me.

He told me, hey, you, I'll get you, and he started walking towards me. And I was running -- I was going before him like a few feet screaming, he's coming, he's coming, so everybody in the synagogue should run away.

He went almost to the door of the synagogue. He reached for the door, it was locked. He ran to the next door, it was locked too. That's when he walked down the side -- he walked down a side street towards this car. I didn't know where he was walking to. And I walked with him slowly. He sat at this car. I looked for his plate number, called 911.



GLUCK: When I came back up the street, the police officers were already there.

HARLOW: Wow. Does -- I think we all wonder what would we do in a moment like that? And many of us, I think human nature is to run away. And you ran toward and you grabbed a table at threw it at him and then followed him to his car to try to make sure authorities could apprehend him. It is beyond commendable. Thank you for doing that.

As I understand it, there were children, there were even babies in the home as this was happening. Is that right?

GLUCK: Ages two months to 80-year-old.

HARLOW: So I can only --

GLUCK: The rabbi had -- the rabbi had a -- the rabbi -- the rabbi had a couple of -- maybe 20 grandchildren in the house. It was -- all his kids were there. HARLOW: All of -- all of those children. And you can imagine mothers and fathers grabbing their babies, running, looking -- looking for help.


HARLOW: We just had the head of the Anti-Defamation League on last hour and we have Governor Cuomo on next hour. I wonder what your message is to the governor of New York who has called this clearly an act of domestic terrorism? What is your message to him? What do you believe authorities, lawmakers, should do in response?

GLUCK: Condemn acts of violence always in the hardest way possible. And our local -- and our local officials should also condemn every time there is an act of violence and they shouldn't be calling out differences between races and to try to ignite hate between races and communities (INAUDIBLE) on another. Truly unite and do God's work.

HARLOW: Let me ask you this --

GLUCK: And try to say, make everybody -- yes.

HARLOW: As a Hasidic Jew, do you feel that you specifically are being targeted because of the fact that faith is so much a part of your life and part of how you dress, your appearance? Do you feel unsafe daily now as a result and like you are even more of a target now?

GLUCK: No, I don't feel like I am the target. There might be -- might be some lowballs here and there. But I don't feel like I'm a target.

Yes, of course, somebody want to attack a Jew, he is not going to go around and look for a liberal Jew that doesn't look like a Jew. How is he going to then define him as a Jew. (INAUDIBLE) first go around to find the first one dressed to the nines, now they call it, and try to attack him. But it doesn't mean that I'm not safe here -- less safe now than I was last month, last year, that I'm going to be next month. I believe we are all in God's hands. Nothing we can do will change besides prayers and doing good deeds. It's the only thing that's going to change anything from evil to good.

HARLOW: What would you like in terms of protection for the community? We, again, heard the head of the ADL say the Jewish community is under attack and the pattern that we are seeing, especially in this region, especially in New York, is undeniable.

GLUCK: I don't know. I don't know. I'm not an expert. I have no clue.

HARLOW: Do you feel like a hero this morning, because that is certainly how it appears to all of us?

GLUCK: I don't feel like a hero. I feel God is a hero. He sent me in the right place at the right time and he gave me the right set of mind. I don't know why. I don't know if I would have done it tomorrow or yesterday.

In that exact moment, that's what God gave me. That's why -- that's why -- that's how I reacted.

HARLOW: Before you go, could you tell us a bit more about the children in the home and their reaction? Obviously, there were -- there were infants. But I assume also toddlers, some younger children. What was it like going through this and seeing their faces in the middle of it?

GLUCK: I'll tell you that my kids didn't sleep last -- Saturday night. They came into my bed. They tried to -- they couldn't fall asleep until yesterday late afternoon. This night they were all in my bed. They couldn't fall asleep until 2:00 a.m. Afraid -- they were not even there, just heard about it from me and they were there two hours later. They were traumatized.


GLUCK: There are a lot of local kids that are so shaking and vomiting blood three hours later from fear. There was one kid hiding in the entry room behind the coats. He just threw a pile of coats on his head to hid from him. I believe he didn't come out from his home until now. And there's a lot of adults traumatized.

HARLOW: My goodness.

I am so sorry. We are all so, so, so sorry and also so grateful to you for what you did, Joseph.

Thank you very much.

GLUCK: Have a great day. Hopefully not to speak to you again.

BERMAN: I understand what he's saying.


BERMAN: Because this is an attack on all of us and this is the type of thing that no one should have to go through.

Joining me now is Rabbi Jeffrey Myers from the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.


You'll remember the Rabbi and his synagogue were attacked by a gunman last year during Sabbath services, killing 11 people. The Anti- Defamation League called it the deadliest attack in the Jewish community in American history.

Rabbi, it is always an honor to get to speak with you, although I have to say it's a tragedy that it is under these circumstances.

I have to imagine when you heard the news coming out of Monsey, New York, Saturday night, on the seventh night of Hanukkah, you were heartbroken like the rest of us.

How did you react?

RABBI JEFFREY MYERS, TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: Yes, John. Good morning. Nice to see you again.

For me it was an oh, no, not again sort of moment, combined with the flurry of anti-Semitic violence that you've heard has been taking place in New York of the past three weeks. It made me sort of wonder, I don't recall them selling licenses to have open hunting season on Jews, but it sure can make Jews feel that way.

BERMAN: Do you feel that way now? That's quite a statement.

MYERS: It sure makes you pause and wonder what's going on in our society that people feel that they have a God-given right to attack any human being for whatever reason they choose to. It makes you pause and wonder what's going on, indeed.

BERMAN: What do you think is going on, because, look, we've seen the numbers. You can see the success statistics, the rise in anti-Semitic incidents is up 99 percent from 2015 to 2018. I don't have to tell you, Rabbi, about the specific anti-Semitic attacks or attacks on Jews in America over the last few years.

Why do you think it's happening?

MYERS: I wish I could sit here and just say I have answers. We certainly know -- you've heard me say it before when I talk about the "h" word, about hate speech, that there's too much of that, that too much anger in people and that that type of speech will always lead to violence. We see it from all of our elected leaders. We see too much in the Internet and social media. Social media has become this swamp, a breeding ground of -- of all of this violence. I don't see that there's one root cause, but I do see this illness in the United States where a person will attack another person and feel that there's one set of rules for them and another set of rules for someone else. It sure makes one just pause and wonder what's going on in the United States.

BERMAN: Do you feel less safe as a Jew this morning than you might have five years ago, ten years ago?

MYERS: No, I do not. I do have congregants, friends who indeed feel that way. There are those who have literally gone into hiding as the Jews have done over the centuries. I do not feel that way. I feel outrage. How dare you attack another faith community. There is no right that you have to do that. So, no, I'm not afraid. I'm not foolish, but I just feel outrage at this spate of violence that is unacceptable. It's un-American. That's not what America is about.

BERMAN: Did you say that you've had friends and others who feel like they should go into hiding recently?

MYERS: Yes. People who did not light their Hanukkah menorah because particularly after this attack they were afraid to show their Jewishness in the window. People who feel less safe going to synagogue because of an attack like this. It troubles me. It saddens me because when acts of terror do these sorts of things, they terrorize. They create more victims. And then terror wins. And we know that that's not what can happen. It must not happen. We cannot allow that to happen. BERMAN: Indeed. We cannot let it happen. And if there's any message

from Hanukkah, it is you cannot let it happen and you must persist and move on.

I want to leave on this message, because one of the things you speak so eloquently on is the idea of hope over hate. So what's your message to the people in Monsey or the people in Jersey City or the people who have been the victim of these anti-Semitic attacks in New York the last few months? Where is that message of hope for them?

MYERS: Over this past year, I've come to learn, John, that the world, as a society, rejects people who behave this way. Through constant letters, e-mails, cards, thousands of them, people say to me, this is not who we are as human beings. This is a small minority.

Unfortunately, the squeaky wheel is the one that gets the most attention.


There are so many good, decent, caring people out there. We lose sight of who they are and the impact they have on our lives because of evil acts like this. In the end, this sort of evil will never win because that's not who we are as human beings. The good that I've seen over this past year reassures me that we are far better, we are capable of being far better, and there are good people out there, we just don't hear enough of them on a regular basis. It's like your heroes annual tribute. We need to have an annual tribute like that every day to remind the rest of society of all the good people that are out there.

BERMAN: Well, you're a hero to us every day.

MYERS: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, it's an inspiration to speak with you. It's an education to speak with you. And we're honored to have you on this morning, sir. Really appreciate it.

MYERS: Thank you, John. Happy New Year to you, John.

BERMAN: Happy New Year to you and Happy Hanukkah late.

I am --

HARLOW: Hiding.

BERMAN: inspired by him, but also was more troubled than I thought I would be by it.

HARLOW: When -- when he said his fellow Jews, some are going into hiding.


HARLOW: Not lighting the Menorah.



BERMAN: Because it is the antithesis of what Hanukkah is about. That you will light the candles no matter what. That you will endure no matter what.

HARLOW: Of course.

BERMAN: And also Rabbi Myers, who's also -- he's hung up on hope. I mean this is a guy who finds hope in the most remarkable of place.

HARLOW: Well, that -- it's -- it's amazing.

BERMAN: For him to suggest at the beginning of the interview that it feels like open season on Jews --

HARLOW: Yes. Yes.

BERMAN: Took my breath away.

HARLOW: It did mine as well. And I -- I -- when he said that his friend were going into hiding or hiding their faith and their belief, it's -- it gave me chills. As did hearing from Joseph, the hero in the attack over the weekend, say that children were so traumatized they were vomiting blood, OK? That his children couldn't sleep last night. It is unacceptable. It is heinous.

And we're going to have the governor on next hour to talk about his push for a law to call this domestic terrorism.

BERMAN: As Rabbi Myers said, though, we are better than this. We just have to go prove it.

We'll be right back.



BERMAN: All right, the stalemate over the Senate impeachment trial showing no signs of a breakthrough. Sources tell CNN that the president is growing increasingly frustrated over the impasse. It comes as "The New York Times" reports new behind the scenes details, and that's underselling what they've done here, about the White House decision to hold up military aid to Ukraine.

Joining us now, one of the journalists behind the extraordinary report, "New York Times" investigative correspondent Mark Mazzetti.

And, Mark, this is a terrific story, going into the 84 days, you say. And the message that is sent here is how long, how involved, and how much I think a sense there was that this was a problem from the very beginning. And one quote here, this is from Mick Mulvaney, an exchange here, I'm just trying to tie up some loose ends, Mick Mulvaney wrote. Did we ever find out about the money for Ukraine and whether we can hold it back? He was writing to his aide, Robert Blair. The aide, Robert Blair, replied that it would be possible but not pretty. Expect Congress to become unhinged if the White House tried to countermand the spending passed by the House and the Senate.

What's the most important them we should take away from this article?

MARK MAZZETTI, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, that there was a -- a lot of warnings going on inside the government that the holdup of aid would be a problem. Again, Blair's e-mail really undersells just exactly how problematic it would be for the president, in part led to his impeachment, the holdup of aid.


MAZZETTI: But also that there was a lot of divisions in the government about the holdup. There were people who resigned in part, we think, because of the aid holdup. And, you know, again, going back to the impeachment hearings, this is really one of the mysteries that came out of it here -- at the hearings is, how did it get held up, who was for it, who was against it, how did this process play out? And that's kind of why we endeavored to tell that story because it felt like it was one of the untold stories out of the last couple months.

HARLOW: And you told the story of these remarkable 84 days and the president's insistence, even in the face of strong advice, to say the least, from the defense secretary, from the secretary of state, from then National Security Adviser John Bolton. And you write -- this really struck me -- what emerges is a story of how Mr. Trump's demands sent shock waves through the White House and the Pentagon and created deep rifts within the senior ranks of his administration.

How deep were the riffs? How high up?

MAZZETTI: Well, we describe one scene in August where the secretary of state, secretary of defense, the national security adviser the in the Oval Office pleading with the president to get the aid released, arguing that it was essential aid for an embattled ally and this holdup was doing -- potentially doing real damage. So that goes very high up. And it also, I think, shows that some of the people even closest to the president were against what the president had ordered.

Seemingly, you know, again, on a whim, after seeing an article about aid that was going to be released, reacting to that, and what we report in the story is this scramble that set off the president asks about the aid and all of a sudden Mick Mulvaney and others are then trying to find out whether they can even do it. And if they can, how do they do it?

BERMAN: We all learned for the first time reading this article about the Oval Office meeting between President Trump and the defense secretary and the secretary of state and John Bolton over the aid to Ukraine. That seems important that there was an Oval Office meeting and perhaps witness who could say whether or not the president said at the time that the aid, in his mind, was tied to the investigations. Over the course of these 84 days, how much of a tie in did you see? And where did it occur? [07:30:04]