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At This Hour

Uvalde Schools Police Controversy; Treasury Secretary Admission, Wrong About Inflation. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 01, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Here's what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.

Not cooperating: new questions about Uvalde's school police chief refusing to work with state investigators. CNN speaks to him exclusively.

Wrong on inflation: Biden's Treasury Secretary admits she was wrong about the threat of soaring prices, the White House scrambling to find a solution.

And it just keeps breaking records, the same inflation leading to gas hitting $8 a gallon in California.


BOLDUAN: Thank you for being here, everybody. We begin with a CNN exclusive. The Uvalde school police chief is fighting back against claims that he is not cooperating with investigators.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, chief Pete Arredondo insists he's in touch with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

At the same time, police are again clarifying another key detail of what happened that day. Officials now say a teacher did close the door that the killer used to get inside the school but that the door was not locked.

This contradicts an earlier claim by police that the teacher had left the door propped open.

The town of Uvalde is also continuing to honor more of the victims today. Funerals today for a teacher, who died protecting her students, and also one of the young students killed.

Let's begin with CNN's Shimon Prokupecz, who is live in Uvalde.

Shimon, you spoke with the police chief.

What more did he say about all of these questions that are swirling? SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Well, he's not answering the key questions as to why he made the decision not to send officers in, to take the gunman down, right.

The DPS, head of the DPS, the Department of Public Safety, who was running this investigation, told us on Friday that he was the onsite commander, that he was the one making decisions and he was the one who ultimately decided that the police officers should not barge into that room, waiting almost over an hour until they finally went in that room.

We asked him those questions. When I saw him this morning coming here to his office, I asked him why he made that decision. He wouldn't answer those questions. Take a listen to what he said.


PROKUPECZ: I want to talk to you about --



ARREDONDO: Just so y'all know, so you all know, obviously we're not going to release anything. We have people in our community being buried.


PROKUPECZ: -- I just want your reaction --

ARREDONDO: -- we're going to be -- we're going to be --


PROKUPECZ: -- that you were responsible for the decision.

ARREDONDO: Right. We're going to --


PROKUPECZ: -- that room.

How do you explain yourself?


ARREDONDO: -- very respectful to the families.

PROKUPECZ: I understand that.

And (INAUDIBLE) an opportunity --

(CROSSTALK) PROKUPECZ: -- to explain yourself to the parents.

And just so you know, we're going to do that eventually, obviously.


ARREDONDO: And whenever this is done, the families quit grieving, then we'll do that obviously. And just so you know --


PROKUPECZ: -- how the families --

ARREDONDO: -- just so everybody knows, we've been in contact with DPS every day, just so you all know.

PROKUPECZ: They say you're not cooperating.

ARREDONDO: I've been on the phone with them.

PROKUPECZ: But they say you're not cooperating.

ARREDONDO: Just so you know, we've been talking to them every day.


PROKUPECZ: What is your reaction --

ARREDONDO: Y'all have a good day.

PROKUPECZ: -- what is your reaction, sir?


PROKUPECZ: Of course, Kate, the investigators telling us yesterday on the record, the Department of Public Safety saying that they've had follow-up questions for the chief, that he has not been returning their calls and that, essentially, he has not been cooperating in that investigation.

So they have, certainly, a different take on this. Again, as you can see there in the interview, he was dodging the central question here, the decision that he made. He has not been at any of the press conferences.

Today was the first time this morning that we saw him, our producer, Aaron Cooper (ph), saw him at his home and then me and my producer Matt Friedman (ph), we came here to try and ask him some questions.

And sure enough, he showed up here in the back of the building here. And that's when we asked those questions. And of course, you know, Kate, talking about the -- he's going to wait until the families, you know, finish their grieving, well, that's never going to happen.

And certainly, from the people who we've been talking to out here the last few days, they want answers, Kate. They want to know why he made those decisions. The school has yet to answer so many questions. And that's why we are still here.

In fact, just a short time ago, the school told the police on the media that's gathered here, and they want us off the property. So that's why you could see the police presence here behind me.

But certainly, we're not going to stop. There are still a lot of questions that we need answered. Certainly the door issue, other questions about the police response. So we continue here to ask those questions. We hope to learn more by the end of the week, where we're told that the DPS, who's running this investigation, may be releasing a report, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I mean, most importantly, it seems that DPS also has a lot of questions they're still working through, as we can very well see.


BOLDUAN: Thank you, Shimon. I appreciate it.

Let's go to the timeline. Police in Uvalde are again being forced to clarify and correct details about what happened once the shooter entered the campus, this time having to do with whether a teacher left open a door to the school, allowing the killer to get inside.

There's also new audio of the school district's message to parents that went out as the massacre was unfolding. CNN's Nick Valencia is also live in Uvalde with more on this.

Hi, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. There are shifting details when it comes to this case. And it's frustrating to us. You can only imagine, for those families at the center of this tragedy.

And our affiliate, KSAT, obtained new audio which gives us an insight into what was going on in those first chaotic moments last Tuesday. This audio message, sent by the school to Uvalde parents, while officers were at the school and at least two children were on the phone with 9-1-1, begging for help.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is (INAUDIBLE) with Uvalde CISD. Uvalde CISD parents, there is an active shooter at Robb Elementary. Law enforcement is onsite. Your cooperation is needed at this time by not visiting the campus.

As soon as more information is gathered, it will be shared. The rest of the school district is under a secure status of a precautionary measure to keep our students and staff safe. We appreciate your cooperation and understand at this time and we will share more information as it becomes available. Thank you.

(END AUDIO CLIP) VALENCIA: We know that many parents made their way to the school anyway. And what can only be described as a chaotic scene ensued, as they were held back by law enforcement officials from going inside the school themselves because they saw the inaction in their eyes from those police officers that were on the scene.

And just quickly just to underscore the shifting narratives here, as far as what happened, starkly different from what we heard last week. The door that was supposed to be, you know, that was initially said to have been left open by a teacher, now we're hearing from the lawyer for that teacher that the door was actually shut but it didn't lock. We don't know exactly why, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Nick, thank you.

So two of the victims of this horrible murder will be laid to rest today. A funeral service is underway now for Irma Garcia, she's one of the teachers, who died trying to protect her students.

And this afternoon, there will be the funeral for 10-year-old Jose Manuel Flores Jr. His father tells CNN that he loved baseball, video games and he was always full of energy, is how his dad puts it.

There will also be a visitation and rosary services today for 10-year- old Nevaeh Bravo, Jayce Luevanos, Jailah Silguero, all of them, you can see their faces, beginning those processes of grieving, for their parents and family and friends.

A Texas man by the named of Trey Ganim is donating custom caskets for 18 of the children killed and one of the teachers. He tells CNN that he met with the family members of the victims to curate designs for each casket.

You're seeing some pictures of the process. The designs, inspired by each of the victim's passions, from softball to TikTok and even to Spider-Man.

Let's get back to the investigation though at hand and the continued scrutiny as we've been hearing this hour of the timeline of what happened that day. Joining me now is CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem, and Cheryl Dorsey, retired sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Juliette, you saw this new video exclusive to CNN as we were talking to Shimon. The police chief said he is cooperating, in touch with regard to the investigation with the Department of Public Safety.

But they had said that he is no longer responding to requests for a follow-up interview.

Can both of these things be true?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No. I mean, this is -- I've never seen anything like this, to the extent, we can criticize public safety response the day of the shooting, this is, as a public information operation, right, these are well known established protocols after any crisis, after any active shooter.

You have a single point person, representing all the different agencies that have been involved, who can validate all the facts. Instead, you have here -- well, one, you have a lot of different people talking about information we don't know where they got it from.

So the story about the door, why did we have an original story that the door was open, because someone said that it was true?

And now we have a counterstory. But you also have DPS, the state, serving as both investigator and judge simultaneously. And I really, from the beginning, I never understood the political nature of how the state is presenting itself.


KAYYEM: Whether it's the governor being out in front and alleging statements that were just -- making statements that were not true to, two days later, having to sort of make it about him and defend himself.

So you have the locals, who are under attack or maybe rightfully so, and DPS, an unreliable spokesperson, and DOJ now coming in. It's remarkably unfair to the families, of course. It is not professional. We know there are processes in place.

And finally, it means that a lot is going to be left to reporters like Shimon and others with us and other agencies to figure out what in fact is reality and not. But I don't trust any of these spokespeople anymore, honestly.

BOLDUAN: It seems a lot of people are kind of getting to that place.

Sergeant, this discrepancy, I don't know, suggests what to you?

Does it feel -- is it getting to a place where it feels that officials are protecting other officials when the only people that should be protected are the children, the memories and the names of these victims, who deserve to have true answers to what happened?

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD SERGEANT: Clearly, they're further victimizing the families of these young children, who we've lost unnecessarily. The governor is complicit. The mayor of that town is complicit. And the police chief, he's inept.

He's intellectually dishonest and we can't believe anything that they say. They're now protecting the organism, the entity of that department. And listen, I believe that police chief probably checked out emotionally and virtually long ago.

We know that he was sworn in to their city council under a curtain of darkness on yesterday. So he's a figurehead. He's a warm body on that department right now. And so what he's doing is only further exacerbating what already should have never occurred and is a tragedy of enormous proportion.

BOLDUAN: It's strange and surprising, really, to be quite honest.

I mean, Juliette, the door, this element of the timeline and what was known about the date now changing again and being clarified, with regard to teacher propping open the door but now it's said teacher closed the door; the door did not lock.

Is this a small thing or is this something bigger when you have a series of wrong information kind of being put out there in what happened?

KAYYEM: So -- and the part of it is the natural progression of how we come to understand tragedies. I know that's hard for a lot of people who want the facts on day one. But I'm quite familiar with these narratives changing. And often they change not because someone is lying or because of malfeasance, although that may be true in this case.

But because what one person believed to be true, it's like eyewitness accounts, ends up not being true when you hear other eyewitnesses. So this happens very often. And that's why you want an objective, independent investigation, rather than everyone, you know, going essentially to their camps at this stage and lodging (sic) grenades across this narrative and this tragedy.

The other thing, I just made this clear every time I'm on about this. This public safety response, arguably, you know, the worst that we have ever seen, although I think we will learn more, hopefully, to understand.

The press and communication strategy is beyond unprofessional, unfair and cruel. It's just cruel to the families at this stage.

But the third piece is, there's a gunman, who had access to guns at the age of 18. And we cannot get distracted from that because of the total malfeasance, negligence, incompetence of that agency. So both stories have to exist simultaneously.

BOLDUAN: Great point.

Sergeant, quickly, the state senator who represents Uvalde, Roland Guterres, he was on with me yesterday. And he said he's expecting a full report by Friday from DPS, on where each officer was and when. That is one thing that he says he's asking for and demanding.

He is also saying that, up next, he's going to be asking for radio transmissions because, clearly, you knew children were alive in there. This was not a barricade situation. And clearly, communications broke down in a very big way somewhere.

How important is this information?

DORSEY: Listen, it's helpful. We already know what happened. It will be corroborated by a formal investigation within that state and also with the Department of Justice.

But what I would like to see, as a result of these investigations, is some teeth behind their findings, not just recommendations. Hey, it would be nice if you could do this going forward but some real teeth and substantive accountability for everybody who had a role to play, from the officers who stood outside the door, from the dispatchers who didn't articulate information.


DORSEY: And for the police chief, who failed ultimately to act on the information that was known.

BOLDUAN: Cheryl Dorsey, Juliette Kayyem, thank you both. Appreciate it.

Let's go to Capitol Hill where Democrats say they are cautiously optimistic that common ground can be reached. This on some gun safety measures. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has given the bipartisan group of lawmakers who have come together on this one week to make headway.

CNN's Lauren Fox is live on the Hill. She's been tracking this.

What are you hearing from lawmakers?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yesterday, a significant Zoom meeting happening with Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, who is leading these negotiations, as well as Senator John Cornyn of Texas, Kyrsten Sinema and Thom Tillis.

That group of four had a productive meting, I'm told by aides, and then directed their staff to continue conversations to try to hammer out the specific details of what they might be able to come up with.

Today, we have another Zoom meeting, a different group of lawmakers, although this one also including Senator Chris Murphy, that Democrat from Connecticut, to try to have a larger discussion about what could be possible because, at the end of the day, you need every single Democrat on board as well as 10 Republicans.

And that is where this heavy lift comes into play. The items they're looking at, according to this aide that I talked to yesterday after this significant Zoom meeting, was just a smaller menu of options, things like incentivizing states to pass red flag laws; strengthening background checks, safe storage laws, more school security.

Those are obviously not the kind of measures that some Democrats had been pushing for for the last 20 years, things like an assault weapons ban or limiting the size of magazines.

But in the House tomorrow, you can expect the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, are going to be advancing some of those proposals coming back to Washington to try to make it clear that they are going to be working toward this, that they do not want this recess to interrupt the momentum they feel.

But the package that may pass in the House, that is not going to stand a chance of passing in the Senate, Kate. BOLDUAN: And the reality sets in again. It's good to see you, Lauren, thank you for tracking that for us.

Coming up, Biden's Treasury Secretary admitting she was wrong to downplay the threat inflation. What Janet Yellen tells CNN about why -- next.





BOLDUAN: Now to the president's new urgency to tackle soaring inflation. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen admits to CNN that she was wrong when she downplayed the threat of rising prices last year. Listen in.


JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I think I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take. As I mentioned, there have been unanticipated and large shocks to the economy, that the boosted energy and food prices and supply bottlenecks that have affected our economy badly, that I didn't, at the time, didn't fully understand.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, CNN White House correspondent, John Harwood, and CNN global economic analyst, Rana Foroohar. She's a global business columnist and associate editor for the "Financial Times."

So John, what is the White House saying about this admission from the Treasury Secretary?

How does that fit into this new push we're seeing, from them to trying to show people that they're doing something about inflation?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You could see the annoyance in the statement that Treasury put out after Janet Yellen's interview, to say she was talking about unexpected events and mentioned the war in Ukraine, that sort of thing.

But really, Janet Yellen was simply making a statement of the obvious. Yes, she did not appreciate how much inflation was likely to rise, as Jerome Powell, the Fed chair, didn't anticipate it and many private forecasters.

They said at the time in the administration that, as they balance the risk, they thought the risks of going small were greater than the risks of going big. They went big. It does appear now that people like Larry Summers, who warned that they were going too big, were justified. We got more overheating of the economy than they expected. What Biden

has to do now is, this is a political problem for him. The substantive handling of the issue is really up to the Federal Reserve.

And so when Biden issued his plan yesterday, number one, in about 90 percent of the plan, was saying, I'm going to let the Fed do its job. But he's president; Democrats are on the ballot this fall so he's got to have a political answer in the meantime.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you about that, because "The Washington Post" wrote about what kind of went on behind the scenes of this renewed focus and push from the president. Here's one that stuck out to me.

The flurry of activity comes after Biden has privately grumbled to top White House officials over the administration's handling of inflation, expressing frustration over the past several months that aides were not doing enough to confront the problem directly.

Two people familiar with the president's comments said, if that's the case, I wonder how quickly the president expects the team -- I mean, to turn this around is a pretty big ask.

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Yes, well, for sure. And look, I think we have to be honest with ourselves and say, you know, the White House takes the blame and the credit for the economy always and every administration.

But frankly, it deserves little of either. I mean, the inflation we're seeing now, it's coming from many variables. Sure, you have the supply chain issues.


FOROOHAR: Yes, you had some fiscal stimulus. People could argue, maybe it was too much at the wrong time. But you also had decades of low interest rates, you have 15 years of really, just, tons and tons of money being put into the economy post-financial crisis by the Federal Reserve.

So there's a lot of things going on right now. And the idea of a quick fix, as politically nice as that might seem, is really impossible. It's just not going to happen. Also, I give Janet Yellen a lot of credit, frankly, for being able to say, hey, I was wrong.

When was the last time you heard any Treasury Secretary say that?

To me, that's the mark of someone who's confident enough to be able to admit mistakes and course-correct. I know her well and she's that kind of person.

BOLDUAN: Anyone in elected government or in a cabinet position admitting they're wrong, that's why it's so, I mean, you said it was a statement of the obvious, which is often the thing that's like the last thing to be said, John Harwood, is stating the obvious when it comes to federal government.


HARWOOD: -- journalists as well as public officials, I would say.

BOLDUAN: OK. I agree. You know, I know, you're not looking at me. You're looking at me.

HARWOOD: I'm not looking at you.

BOLDUAN: Just kidding.


BOLDUAN: Let me go to Larry Summers though because you mentioned him. He was critical early of the White House and predicted that inflation problems were coming and what we're seeing now. I want to play for you, he spoke, John Berman this morning, I want to play what his prediction is now.


LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Here's the unfortunate, painful fact and it's true of the U.S. experience and it's true of the experience of other rich countries like it.

When inflation is above 4 and unemployment is below 4, you are almost certain to have a recession within the next two years. Now we may somehow find a way of beating the odds and having a soft landing. But it would be an historic counterexample, not a historic norm, if that proves to be true.


BOLDUAN: John, do you think the White House realizes this?

HARWOOD: Sure. They see the risk. But I don't think they think it's more likely than not that there will be a recession. And many outside economists disagreed with Larry on that point, too.

Everyone agrees that the risk of recession is elevated, now that the Federal Reserve is undertaking the challenge of trying to bring down inflation. There, the risk, if they're not -- excuse me -- if they're not skillful enough, they could push the economy into recession.

But I was talking to Mark Zandi earlier, the Moody's economist. He said he thinks that the tough talk from the Fed, the initial moves that they've made have made a strong impression on the market and made it more likely that inflation expectations will be contained.

And make it more likely that the peak in inflation that we may be experiencing now is going to be followed by a glide down, that will avoid recession. Nobody can say for certain what the outcome is going to be. And the White House is in that position just as Larry is.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you both. Thank you.

Coming up, President Biden announces that the United States is sending more advanced weapons to Ukraine. The assurances that the president required before sending them over. That is next.