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Gunman Kills Son, Wounds Husband of New Jersey Federal Judge; U.S. Coronavirus Cases Near 3.8 Million, More Than 140,000 Dead; Feds Use Tear Gas on Protesters In Portland. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired July 20, 2020 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day.

And breaking news, an armed attack on the home of a federal judge. This is very rare and cause for serious concern. The son and husband of this federal judge, Esther Salas, in New Jersey, they were shot. The son is dead, the husband critically injured. The judge was not hurt.

A source tells CNN that the gunman appeared to be wearing a FedEx uniform and opened fire at the front door. And this federal judge has presided over several high-profile cases. We will bring you the very latest details.

Also breaking overnight, tear gas fired at protesters in Portland, Oregon. Protesters and local officials there want answers about the presence of hard-to-identify federal officers. We have a live report from both scenes, ahead.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: Also, John, overnight, 61,000 new cases of coronavirus in the United States. The death toll is now more than 140,000 Americans. Cases in Florida are still spiking, where dozens of hospital ICUs are beyond capacity. Arizona is reporting a record death toll, as well.

And President Trump is reportedly bored with all of this. That's the quote in The New York Times from a Republican political strategist. The report goes on to say that Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and other top aides are on a mission to avoid drawing attention to this pandemic.

But let's begin our coverage with CNN's Brynn Gingras. She is live in North Brunswick, New Jersey, at the deadly shooting at that federal judge's home. What have you learned at this hour, Brynn?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn. I mean, this is a neighborhood in disbelief. We just talked to a neighborhood who said that Esther Salas and her husband, Mark, were wonderful people. Their son, Daniel, just 20 years old, also just a wonderful man, who wanted to be a lawyer, just like his parents.

Now, what we're learning from investigators here, what happened at this home behind me, you can see the crime scene tape still up. From sources, we're learning that a gunman came to the door of this home, the door answered by the judge's son, again, 20-year-old Daniel, his father, not far behind him, that gunman wearing a FedEx uniform. It's unclear if it was a disguise or actually a FedEx employee, but opened fire, killing the 20-year-old and injuring the judge's husband, who is now at the hospital. We hear that the judge was home at the time, bunt unharmed.

But a lot of questions here. Of course, motive being the major one. Why did this happen? What are the reasons? Investigators including the FBI and U.S. Marshals are looking into that, as we speak.

We know, that as you guys said, the judge, Esther Salas, she has presided over some really high-profile cases, including the fraud case and sentencing of The Real Housewives, Teresa and Joe Giudice, a couple of years ago. A couple of years ago also, she was involved in the sentencing of a very notorious gang member in Newark. And most recently, she was handed the case that involved Deutsche Bank and its handling of high-risk clients, including Jeffrey Epstein. So that was a class action suit with Deutsche Bank.

So there are a number of things that investigators are looking into. And, again, as I mentioned, her husband, as well, a criminal defense attorney. So a lot here that investigators are sifting through. And it's a massive investigation. Neighbors telling us that the son was really the heart of this family. She recalled the story when he delivered chicken soup through the snow a couple of doors down just to make sure that the neighbors were well taken care of during a massive snowstorm, loved playing basketball and baseball with his father. It's just a heartbreaking story and so many questions still need to be answered this morning.

BERMAN: Indeed, indeed. All right, Brynn Gingras, in North Brunswick, thanks very much for being with us.

Joining us now is CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Jonathan Wackrow. He's a former Secret Service Agent in the Obama White House. Jonathan, thank you so much for being with us.

Look, as we said this judge was presiding over several high-profile cases, the husband also a criminal defense attorney, which raises questions. How are federal agents now going about investigating this case?

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, thanks, John. Listen, this is a very complicated case. But let me just be clear, this was not a crime of opportunity. This was a premeditated attack.

So when we look at, you know, from law enforcement's point of view, they're looking at the attack elements. They're looking at things like the cover, the recognition and accessibility.


What does that mean, the cover that was used? This attacker used the cover of a FedEx delivery person to get close to the house. And think about how brazen this attack was. You could have attacked the judge or her husband or the son at any location. This attacker went right to the front door. They limited their recognition by the potential victim, by utilizing the cover. So being able to get right to that front door, have the front door open, and then launch this brutal attack.

And then the accessibility, the ease of entering into the property and get out to the attack location. The fact that this was done in broad daylight, to me is an indicator that the attacker had no fear of being caught.

So right now, this is the challenge for law enforcement. What is the motive? We know the intent was to kill, but what is the motive of this attack?

CAMEROTA: And, Jonathan, if the intent is to kill, then is it common in these horrible cases for the shooter to leave after killing the wrong person? In other words, the idea -- people are looking at whether or not this federal judge, Esther Salas, was the target, but she wasn't shot, her husband was and her son was killed. What does that tell us?

WACKROW: Well, listen, I think this is the challenge right now. I know everyone is keying in on the federal judge, but we have two very prominent figures that were living in house at the same time. And there are various potential motivating grievances for both of them.

I know just in the previous reporting, we highlighted some of the cases that the federal judge was addressing, but there's a lot of threat vectors that could come from the husband as well. As a prominent criminal defense attorney, there are a lot of people that could have a grievance towards him as to things that he may or may not have done to defend his clients.

So this is where law enforcement has a significant job ahead of them to look at both the husband and the wife separately in terms of threats against them. Who had the means, opportunity and intent to cause harm? That's the underlying factors that they're looking for for both of them. And, you know, this is -- we're really at the infancy of this investigation. And there will definitely be more to come, very quickly.

BERMAN: In terms of the federal judge, one of the cases she was assigned to cover was involving Deutsche Bank and possible fraud on the handling of investments, including those of Jeffrey Epstein, which I know will catch everyone's attention and eyebrows here. How do investigators go about looking at past cases of the judge?

WACKROW: Well, listen, they have to look at everything. Obviously, that's a very prominent thing right now, it's just put on the docket. But they have to go back. Again, we don't know where this grievance came from. We don't know what the motivation was. This could be a case from five, six years ago.

So what law enforcement has to do right now is gather all the facts that they have. They have to look at both the husband and the wife. They have to look at the entire digital domain, who were they talking to, did they receive any types of threats, did their staff receive any types of threats.

A lot of times, the individuals may not know there were a lot of troubling telephone calls coming into an office location or hate mail or anything like that. So, again, law enforcement is going through -- they're going to put out a wide net to collect as much evidence as possible, as much information as possible to then start narrowing down the potential motivating factors for this attack.

CAMEROTA: Jonathan Wackrow, thank you very much for all the expertise in law enforcement. We appreciate it.

WACKROW: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Now, to the surge in coronavirus cases. 31 states are seeing infections rise over the last week and Los Angeles and Miami- Dade counties hitting records for hospitalization as well.

Joining us now is Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, the Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama and Birmingham, and Dr. Damian Caraballo, and Emergency Room Physician in Tampa Florida and Member of the Physicians for Patient Protection.

Dr. Caraballo, I want to start with you because you are in the emergency room. What are you seeing today?

DR. DAMIAN CARABALLO, MEMBER OF PHYSICIANS FOR PATIENT PROTECTION: Well, we've seen a real explosion in Florida in terms of cases. We started noticing in June. It was more 20 and 30-year-olds, initially. And what's interesting is as the months gone by, it's gotten older and older. We're seeing now more 40-year-olds, 50-year-olds, 60-year-olds with it.

This is a big change from May. When May came around, what we were really seeing is the nursing homes. And that was pretty much the only spread COVID we saw pretty much after Memorial Day, about a week after, we saw a real explosion in a -- especially in a 20-something- year-olds.

Concern is now, as it gets to older people, they tend to do more poorly and we're definitely seeing more and more admissions, which is definitely putting a strain on the hospital system here in Hillsborough County, as well as Pinellas county, our neighboring county. We've already seen 40,000 cases here in the area and we've had 500 deaths. We're I think past 350,000 cases total.


So, it's exploded a lot, especially in June and July. And the concern we have is there's definitely a lag by about one to two weeks where we see hospitalizations and deaths that we see from it. So there's a concern that whenever we hit the peak, we're not going to see the peak in hospitalizations until one to two weeks after. BERMAN: A couple of things that Dr. Caraballo said, which are of extreme concern, number one, that the patients are now getting older again, Dr. Marrazzo. We have heard that from doctors around Florida, particularly in Miami-Dade.

And the other concern, if we can put this up on the screen, is the seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Florida, which is rising. I mean, it is rising and rising in pretty steep fashion, Dr. Marrazzo.

So, look, I don't want to play the sound, even of the president talking incorrectly about the surge in cases in the country being just about testing because we can see the rise in daily deaths in Florida alone. What does that tell you?

DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: Yes, it's very disturbing, John. And as you note and as Dr. Caraballo mentioned very eloquently, the surge in death is a predictable trajectory of an increase in cases. And also an increase in cases that are occurring in the patient's most vulnerable to that really devastating outcome, right?

We know that older folks are much more likely to die from this disease. And I think what we're seeing is this cycle of three weeks after, four weeks after we have this large community spread opportunity. First, it was Memorial Day. I'm sorry to say, almost certainly, July 4th weekend is probably going to be one of the focal points for this.

So we're really just seeing these things play out, exactly as we might have predicted, which is really bad. It's really affecting our hospital capacity throughout the southeast, as was just noted. And that's really cause for concern.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Caraballo, one of the things that I think we have a misconception about based on when I read your note, in terms of the younger people, the under 30, we have this vision in our head of the party at the Lake of the Ozarks and nobody is social distancing and they're all too close to each other and then we hear about a spike after Memorial Day, maybe they were all partying together in a backyard somewhere.

But what you're seeing are that they are the essential workers, that these are the fast food workers, these are the responsible young people that are getting sick, because they had to go back to work, because they needed a paycheck.

CARABALLO: Yes. One thing I've noticed, as I started asking people what they do for a living when they come in, and in early June, we were seeing a lot -- these are grocery store workers, these were people that work in restaurants, people who work at auto mechanics and stores and things of that nature. Unfortunately, it's a lot of these people are essential workers that we need, that who can't afford to take weeks off so might, you know, tough it out and go to work when maybe they should be going home or stuff like that.

We're also seeing -- these are people who can't go on a Zoom call to do their job. They have to go into their job every day. Unfortunately too, these are people who might not have the best insurance or might be on Medicaid or might be in real tight budgets. So it's very unfortunate.

And we've seen a seen a very disproportionate -- the people who tend to do worse, definitely minorities are doing bad here in Hillsborough. We have a pretty large Hispanic population. We saw initially with the migrant workers, we saw a lot of them were getting very sick. It could have something to do with viral load if they're in close quarters with each other. But we're seeing that it's been proportionately hitting people, people of color and minorities, more so than people who probably work desk jobs who can work from home.

BERMAN: Dr. Marrazzo, what are you seeing in the country now or not seeing, as the case may be, that will bend this steep curve downward?

MARRAZZO: It's very hard to predict, John, as you know. One of the points that I think might be being missed that has just been mentioned is that the more epidemic the disease is in a community, that is the more sustained transmission there is, the more cases there are, the more opportunities there are for people to get infected.

So you don't have to go to a pool party at the Lake of the Ozarks. You don't have to go to a crowded bar and have a drink and breathe on each other. You can become infected much more easily just by going to the store without wearing a mask and perhaps being very close to someone who's serving you or to a restaurant or something like that.

So how are we going to bend the curve down? We need to reduce this rate of community transmission. The only thing we really have right now are those boring tools that some may be tired of hearing about, which are social distancing and mask-wearing. That's really what we need to do. Hand hygiene, as well.

And then, when we get a little bit better handle on this, we can start to think about contact tracing again, isolation and quarantine.


CAMEROTA: Dr. Marrazzo, Dr. Caraballo, Thank you very much for all the important information this morning.


CARABALLO: Thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: Federal agents using tear gas again on protesters in Portland. Who are these officers and why are they there? We ask a top Trump administration official, next.


BERMAN: Breaking overnight, federal police fired tear gas at protesters in Portland, Oregon, as some of them began disassembling a fence around the federal courthouse. This was the scene overnight. This morning, there were growing questions about camouflaged federal officers who have arrested protesters and put them in some cases into unmarked cars. Portland's mayor says these federal agents are escalating the situation.

Joining me now is Ken Cuccinelli. He's the Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security. Ken, it's great to have you on. Thanks so much for being with us.


BERMAN: Overnight, you told The Washington Post, quote, the agency, the Department of Homeland Security will maintain a heavy presence in Portland and send reinforcements to other cities if violence surges.


What does this mean exactly in terms of other cities and what can we expect in terms of a federal law enforcement national deployment?

CUCCINELLI: So, the violence in Portland was going on for four, five, six weeks before we got intelligence about planned attacks on federal facilities, where we backed up the Federal Protective Service, which is responsible for protecting the courthouse there, and other federal buildings, with other DHS law enforcement components. And that -- and we've been there ever since, wearing by the way the very same uniforms every day, and the crowd has seen them every day, marked and so forth.

But if we get the same kind of intelligence in other places about threats to other federal facilities or officers, we would respond the same way. And we have a responsibility. The Department of Homeland Security is charged with protecting these facilities. And when they're unusually threatened, we advance extra resources. So it's really as simple as that.

And as we've seen all around the country where there's solid cooperation, which is a question in Portland, because of how the civil authorities there want to run things, we see more peace advanced as responsible policing advances as well.

BERMAN: Let's break that down into parts.


BERMAN: The mayor of Portland actually says -- you said the federal officers went in there after several weeks of violence. The mayor there says the violence was actually improving and on the verge of being almost completely better, but the federal law enforcement deployment made it worse. Your response?

CUCCINELLI: No. Look, he has to say something. He's kowtowing to a local political base. And if you look at the day by day, literally, every single day since late May, they've had violence in Portland. The idea that our advancing other agents on the July 4th weekend somehow escalated violence is literally just a talking point. BERMAN: Well, we are hearing that -- by the way, we are hearing that we're hearing that from locals as well.

CUCCINELLI: And by the way -- well, wait a minute, our intelligence was right there that weekend.

BERMAN: We're hearing that from local press, as well.

CUCCINELLI: Well, look the intelligence we had was correct that weekend.

BERMAN: And you said specifically that these federal agents are acting when unusual threatened. Those were the exact words you just said to me. I want to put Chris David, video of 53-year-old Chris David, a Navy veteran up on the screen. I don't know if you can see this. But this happened over the weekend.

CUCCINELLI: Yes, I cannot.

BERMAN: Chris David, a 53-year-old navy veteran. You can see and he's the large man. Our audience can see them, and you can't. But he's standing still and he is being hit repeatedly with batons there. Is that what you mean when you say that federal officers are being unusually threatened?

CUCCINELLI: What you have there is Marshal service folks. You don't have DHS officers. I'm familiar with the video you're talking about and all I have is the video that I've seen. I haven't seen either the audio or the reports of officers of what was going on. But the unusual threats that I'm talking about --

BERMAN: But based on what you see --

CUCCINELLI: Can I finish please?

BERMAN: -- is that unusually --

CUCCINELLI: No. No. No. I don't base things on one -- the reason we came there wasn't because of some future video. The reason we advanced other DHS law enforcement officers is because there is intelligence locally generated that there were going to be threats to federal facilities.

You know, maintaining an appropriate response is an ongoing obligation. I grant you that. And that's for all of us. But at the same time, the threat to those federal facilities and officers did materialize in the July 4th weekend and has maintained since that time, and as long as it does, we will maintain our presence.

When that violence recedes and those threats recede, that is when we would ratchet back down to what I would call normal presence, defending and protecting federal facilities, that is regularly present in Portland, that has been back since 1997.

BERMAN: The question is about the appropriateness and the proportionality of the response and also the people carrying it out. You say they are CBP, Custom and Border Protection agents assigned to the federal protective services. They are in camouflage, they have patches on. Based on my study of the video, it's hard to see. It's hard to make out the patches to find out where they're from.

But I'm going to read to you a Homeland Security internal memo obtained by The New York Times on the training of these officers.


It says, quote, the highly skilled tactical teams assigned to support the civil unrest and riots do not specifically have training in riot control or mass demonstrations. Moving forward if this type --

CUCCINELLI: Yes, that is incorrect.

BERMAN: Well, if this type of response is going to be the norm, specialized training and standardized equipment should be deployed to responding agencies. Your response to that?

CUCCINELLI: Yes, that is not correct. And, I mean, you see CBP, if you remember in the last year or two, rushes at the border where you saw crowd control CBP officers, really OFO officers, deployed, it's the same training. And the people there in Portland have that training from CBP. We have other officers there doing questions --

BERMAN: Why was this DHS memo written? I didn't write this memo. This is your own department that wrote this memo.

CUCCINELLI: Neither did I. Neither did I. Neither did I. It's a big department, 240,000 people. And that is not correct. And FPS, in addition, because all of these agents from outside the federal protective service are there to support FPS and its mission. They have not only been cross-designated, they got additional training from FPS related to their authorities with respect to protecting the facilities.

So not only do they have the base training, they also have the training necessary, which is a largely legal training, which all officers get, to understand the jurisdictional boundaries under which they're operating, as people in support of FPS.

BERMAN: One of the videos that has caused concern and Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon disseminated this as well, was a man being put in an unmarked van on the streets. I wonder if we can show this video so people can see. These are the CBP agents that you were talking about approaching the man, taking him and then putting him in an unmarked van.

Now, locals there were asking for the officers to identify themselves. There are people who have described this, this is not me, as Orwellian, being put in an unmarked vehicle being driven away by officers who don't identify themselves. What's your view of this action?

CUCCINELLI: So, first of all, unmarked police vehicles are so common it's barely worth discussion. I mean, literally, every police department in America has them and uses them. We are no exception. That's one.

Two, the video you see was after a three-block foot chase in which the individual had been identified as matching the description of someone assaulting a federal officer about one hour prior to the video that you see.

And the person was put in the van, you obviously saw the surrounding crowd a little bit there, which was a bit of a dangerous situation, which is why the individual is moved away. And from the time they detained him until the time they released him was under ten minutes. And in that time, they also identified themselves -- by the way, they identified themselves to the subject they picked up. They did not identify themselves to the crowd, and nor do they feel any obligation to do that, nor will wow see that commence. We interact with the subjects we're dealing with and that's it.

And they determine --

BERMAN: I got to let you go.

CUCCINELLI: All right, they determine that was not the person who did the assault and released them.

BERMAN: I got to let you go, but theirs is a U.S. attorney, a federal U.S. attorney launching an investigation into the practices out there. And now members of Congress are calling for the same. And inspectors general -- you're nodding your head. Do you intend to cooperate with these investigations?

CUCCINELLI: Yes, with the inspector general investigation, which is perfectly normal. We run our own investigation of every single use of force, every single one, by the office of professional responsibility. So this is matter of course for us and you bet we will. Of course, we will.

BERMAN: Ken Cuccinelli, great to have you on. Thanks so much for being with us.

CUCCINELLI: Good to be with you.

BERMAN: So this morning, ICUs in Florida's Miami-Dade county, past capacity, as hospitalizations have hit a new record there. A mayor from one of those coronavirus hot spots joins us next.