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At This Hour

DHS Warns U.S. Could See More Volatile Threats; Senate Gun Safety Talks; Interview with Gina Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, on Soaring Gas Prices. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 07, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

A new warning of a violent summer ahead fueled by the midterms. Senators in late-night talks edging closer to a deal on gun safety.

And the White House weighing new options for fighting inflation. This is what we're watching at this hour.


BOLDUAN: Thank you for being here, everyone.

It is an alarming new threat assessment coming from the U.S. government. The Department of Homeland Security warning America could face an even more violent summer ahead, depicting a perfect storm of violent extremism from within, fueled in part by the midterm elections.

The DHS bulletin tying together recent mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde and many other places, with potential acts of violence associated with the Supreme Court's eventual decision on abortion rights.

This warning comes as the Senate is holding a hearing right now on the threat of domestic terrorism following the racist massacre in Buffalo. And lawmakers are still talking, trying to find common ground on something to combat the gun violence epidemic in the country.

This morning, a teacher who survived the elementary school massacre in Uvalde is speaking publicly for the first time. Every single one of his students in his class were killed.


AMULFO REYES, ROBB ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER: I lost 11 that day. And I tell the parents, I'm sorry, I tried my best. It's what I was told to do. Please don't be angry with me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: Just gut wrenching. We'll have much more of his story in

that interview in a moment. Let's begin with CNN's Whitney Wild on this new threat bulletin.

What more are you learning?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the sixth time since January 6, 2021, that DHS has issued this terrorism bulletin that makes very clear that terrorism risk comes from within the United States.

Before January 6th, these advisories focused on terrorism from either foreign groups or those here in the U.S., inspired by foreign groups. It is a stark warning that shows the environment we were in, leading up to the insurrection at the Capitol, really hasn't changed that much.

This new advisory assesses that some of the risk still centers on elections. The bulletin notes that misinformation, disinformation spun up on social media remains incredibly dangerous.

And this is where foreign bad actors see an opportunity to incite violence based on domestic issues here. Here's just a quote from this really alarming new memo.

"As the United States enters midterm election season, we assess that calls for violence by domestic violent extremists directed at democratic institutions, political candidates, party offices, election events and election workers will likely increase.

"Further, the abortion ruling is another major concern for intelligence officials, who note that people who advocate for abortion rights and those who advocate against abortion rights have, on public forums, encouraged violence."

Here's the challenge: the incidents in Buffalo and Uvalde and other cases throughout the country show that the motivators aren't always the same. They don't necessarily fit into defined categories of terrorism.

Sometimes it is a specific ideology, sometimes it's a personal grievance. But what officials point out is that, whatever the motivator, the pattern of behavior before a mass incident is often similar.

So the hope here, Kate, is that people on the local level, police, health care workers, faith leaders, community leaders will see this information from the Department of Homeland Security and use it as evidence to effect a real intervention here before a crime happens.

BOLDUAN: Whitney, thank you for bringing that to us.

Happening right now on Capitol Hill, a Senate committee is holding a hearing on the threat of domestic terrorism following the racist massacre at the grocery store in Buffalo, New York, that killed 10 Black people. And the senators negotiating a bipartisan deal on gun reforms, they're

now signing a little bit more of what's on and what's maybe off the table at this point. CNN's Lauren Fox is tracking all of this for us.

What are you hearing now?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After about a two-hour meeting late last night, Kate, there is some sense of what could be included in this package.

And one of the most interesting pieces of what is being discussed is how you access juvenile records for individuals who want to buy something like an AR-15 between the ages of 18 and 21.

Specifically Thom Tillis telling my colleague, Manu Raju, and I (sic) yesterday that this could create some kind of a waiting period for individuals in that age category who want to buy a semiautomatic style weapon.


FOX: There's also discussion over school safety, more money for mental health records. Off the table, however, is any kind of universal background check package. That's according to senator John Cornyn, a leading Republican negotiator, as well as an all-out ban on assault weapons.

That is something you saw the president calling for last week. This is not going to be as sweeping as what the president or what many Democrats really had been hoping for all of these years.

Instead, however, it is a moment that senator Chris Murphy and senator John Cornyn both continue to express optimism about. They feel like they are close to a deal. But they have not clinched one yet, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Lauren, thank you for tracking that for us.

For the first time, we are hearing from a teacher who survived the elementary school massacre in Uvalde. He was shot more than once as the killer came into his classroom. And what happened next is the definition of horrifying.

His name is Amulfo Reyes and every one of his students, he says, was killed. Rosa Flores is in Uvalde and joins us now.

Rosa, the way that he describes it all, it's almost too much to take in. Tell us his story.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it really is. He describes those intense moments, when the gunman walked into that school.

I want to set the scene for you and then have him tell the story in his own words. This was on May 24th, a regular day, toward the end of the school year. A lot of the kids were very happy. They had honor roll awards that had been handed out to lot of these students. Some decided to go home after the awards ceremony with their parents.

Some of them decided to stay at school. And so in Amulfo Reyes' class, there was 11 children left. And they were watching a movie that morning.

He tells ABC News that gunfire went off and the children heard this. And that the children asked him, the teacher, what was going on.

He says he didn't know exactly what was happening. And here is what he says happened in his own words. Take a listen.


REYES: The kids started asking out loud, "Mr. Reyes, what is going on?"

And I said, I don't know what's going on. But let's go ahead and get under the table, get under the able and act like you're asleep.

As they were doing that and I was gathering them under the table and told them to act like they were going to sleep, is about the time when I turned around and saw him standing there.

I told myself, I told my kids to act like they're asleep, so I'm going to act like I'm asleep also. And I prayed and prayed that I would not hear none of my students talk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You thought you were going to die?

REYES: Yes, ma'am. It all happened too fast. Training, no training, all kinds of training, nothing gets you ready for this. You can give us all the training you want but it's -- gun laws have to change.


FLORES: Kate, he goes on to say that he played dead for 77 minutes. And process that with me for just a second. All of those students were around him. He says that none of his students survived -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Rosa, thank you. Thank you for bringing us this story. Joining me now for more on this is former Republican congressman from Texas Will Hurd.

Good to see you, Will. You represented Uvalde while in Congress. You heard Amulfo's story there and him telling that day in his own words. I want to play one more thing that he said, what he said happened when a student he heard call out for help.


REYES: One of the students from the next door classroom was saying, "Officer, we're in here, we're in here."

But they had already left and then he got up from behind my desk and he walked over there and he shot her again.


BOLDUAN: "And he shot her again."

What is your reaction to hearing from this teacher and what he says happened?

WILL HURD (R-TX), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Look, it's terrible. Imagine that this is something that he's going to have to live for the rest of his life, that the families and the communities that have dealt with this, not just in Uvalde, all the other school shootings that we have.

This is something they have to carry for the rest of their life. And we don't want other people to have to go through this.


HURD: That's why hearing these stories, as hard as they are, we need to hear them because maybe this is what is going to spur action and do something.

Look, there's not a one size fits all solution to this problem. We're going to have to do a lot of different things. I hope senators Murphy and Cornyn are going to be successful in what they have been working on this week. It's not going to be enough to fix all the problems.

But movement matters. And we should be congratulating them and thanking them for doing this. I know the far left and the far right will criticize them for what's in it and what's not in it. But this can create that momentum to do more.


HURD: This is a tragedy. No, this is a tragedy and I've been getting calls and emails and texts from friends, talking about the conversations they're having with their children right now in the event they're in this kind of situation.

That's just terrible that our kids have to do that. There is a recent study that show that 50 percent of our kids are afraid of a school shooting happening in their schools. That is unacceptable.

Parents burying their children prematurely is unacceptable and anybody who thinks there's anybody who thinks there's nothing we can do, they're absolutely wrong. And we need to -- we hope that -- I hope that Uvalde is something that spurs more action.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about -- Lauren Fox laid out the realm of possibilities that they're negotiating amongst the senators.

If those are the proposals that go through -- and you saw what they said is on the table and what's really off the table right now -- do you really see this as progress if that's what goes through or is this nibbling on the margins?

HURD: Is it nibbling on the margins? Probably.

Is it enough to get things one?

But we need to build that momentum so that the next conversation can happen, so that these senators can see that we can work on these things. We can bring something that gets votes. That builds confidence in the legislative process.

We should be seeing states doing things, as well. And when states pass legislation, you know, I think New York just passed this week that you have to be 21 in order to have a semiautomatic rifle.

When this kind of action happens, you can create a momentum to get more done. We have to address this. We know how a mass murderer is made. And it starts with some kind of childhood trauma. We have to make sure that we have the resources to deal with mental health.


BOLDUAN: Let me -- just to make -- give everyone the context, is you, yourself -- and you have written about it -- you have had an evolution yourself when it comes to guns since you went to Congress, on universal background checks for one; on supporting raising the age to purchase certain high powered weapons.

So what is the argument, what do you say to your former colleagues, to Republicans, that this is something that they should get behind now?

HURD: Every responsible gun owner I know has been through a background check. This is, you know, having everyone go through background checks is not an erosion of somebody's rights. Every responsible gun owner I know has done that. So that's the first one.

You have to be 21 years old to have a hand gun.

Why is that different from a semiautomatic rifle?

And this doesn't prevent you taking your kids or your cousins out to go shoot birds or to go hunting. It doesn't restrict that from happening. And --


BOLDUAN: Everything you're saying, what you're saying is -- seems very common sense, seems very logical, which then comes to, why hasn't it happened?

And it often becomes, because of political influence, because they fear lawmakers; Republicans especially fear they will lose their seats or they will be primaried if they would move in this direction.

So when you say what you're saying to them, can you guarantee that if they would support this, that they would not lose their seat over it?

I guess my point is, do you think the political pendulum is finally swinging on this for Republicans?

HURD: Look, I think so because here is what's fascinating. I think it was CBS did a poll about something needs to be done. And they kept focusing on how 44 percent of Republicans said it's probably not likely.

But 56 percent were the ones that said that something needs to be done and we should be doing more. And so I think there is a -- you know, this narrative that the voters aren't supportive; yes, a fraction of voters are going to be critical.


HURD: There is outside groups that raise money on this particular topic. You can't be afraid of your constituents and do the right thing.

What I tell people all the time, is if you were in Uvalde, Texas and you met with one of the moms that just buried one of their kids, what are you going to tell that mother that will make them feel comfortable, that their kid did not die in vain?

That's what this issue is going to take. I wish I had better answers on why we're not seeing more movement on this issue. But we got to keep talking about it. And hearing stories like the teacher from Uvalde we just heard I think are important in moving this -- in building momentum.

BOLDUAN: And your important point is, momentum can beget momentum. It can continue that way. So that's what this is. That's what you say can happen. It's good to see you. Thank you for coming in, Will.

Coming up for us, Janet Yellen offering a sobering assessment on inflation and what is fueling it. Joe Biden's Commerce Secretary is our guest. We'll be right back.





BOLDUAN: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is on Capitol Hill right now, fielding questions in a Senate hearing about the Biden administration's response to soaring inflation. And the price of gas is one place people are feeling it in a very big way.

The national average for regular gas hit another record high of $4.92 a gallon. CNN's Matt Egan is here and watching this hearing.

What has she been saying?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS SENIOR WRITER: She said inflation is at unacceptably high levels but that this is a global problem, that families around the world are dealing with the high cost of living right now. Listen to this clip from the Treasury Secretary.


JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: We currently face macroeconomic challenges, including unacceptable levels of inflation, as well as the headwinds associated with the disruptions caused by the pandemic's effect on supply chains and the effects of supply side disturbances to oil and food markets, resulting from Russia's war in Ukraine.


EGAN: The biggest pain point here is obviously high gasoline prices. National prices have hit a record in 28 of the last 29 days. The new record, $4.92 a gallon, up 30 cents in just a week. And a year ago, it was $3.05 a gallon.

There's now 13 states that have an average of $5 or higher, with the latest being New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maine. Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Idaho, they're almost there.

Yellen acknowledged that gas prices are high but she said they would be even higher if the Biden administration hadn't released all of this emergency oil, which is probably true. ,But unfortunately, this could get worse before it gets batter. Goldman Sachs is calling for oil to average $140 a barrel, lifting prices higher.

BOLDUAN: The question is, what can be done?

EGAN: No easy answers.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.

Another key and critical voice, though, in the Biden administration's response to inflation and the economy is Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who joins us now.

Secretary, thank you so much for being here.

What really can be done?

White House press secretary was asked about what new moves the administration is considering to bring down gas prices and the response was, "Everything is on the table."

What is actually still on the table to bring gas prices down at this point?

Because the president has said and made clear there's not much left that he can do.

GINA RAIMONDO, U.S. SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Yes, good morning. Thank you for having me.

Unfortunately, that is the brutal reality. You know, this is, in large part, caused by Putin's aggression. Since Putin moved troops to the border of Ukraine, gas prices have gone up over $1.40 a gallon. And the president is asking for Congress and others for potential ideas.

But as you saw, the reality is that there isn't very much more to be done. Some people have talked about a gas tax holiday. Of course, that's something that Congress would have to move on. But the president has already taken very bold moves by tapping a million barrels a day from the petroleum reserve.

But what we need to do is get Putin to end this war. And that is also something that we are working as hard as we can to do, by denying him technology to continue his military operation.

So I think -- what I know is the president is thinking about this every day and pushing his team and Congress to come up with any idea possible, because we're aware of how this is hurting American families.

BOLDUAN: One idea we know is definitely in the works is part of this effort, are you comfortable with the president meeting with and working with the Saudi crown prince to help try to cool things off?

RAIMONDO: Am I comfortable?

I mean, I certainly support the president and his national security team. No one knows more about national affairs than Joe Biden.


RAIMONDO: And I would say that he is very serious when he says he's going to use every arrow in his quiver in order to bring down gas prices for Americans.

BOLDUAN: Even if that means he's working with what he called a pariah state in order to do so?

RAIMONDO: Again, for that, I would just refer you to the president and his national security team. But I have full trust in the president and his global policies.

And even more than that, having spent a lot of time with him as it relates to inflation and economic policy, I know that he wants to do everything in his power to bring relief to American families on this issue.

BOLDUAN: In terms of looking at ways to -- another way to ease inflation, you suggested that you might be supportive of a move to lift some of the tariffs on imports from China to help ease inflation.

The country's leading unions are now speaking out against this. Axios is reporting the head of the United Steelworkers Union filed an official comment last night, saying, "Our government must act in the national interest to strengthen our economy for the future."

They do not want these tariffs lifted. They think it will hurt American workers.

Do you disagree? RAIMONDO: I do. Let me say this, I've worked and the president has worked very closely with United Steelworkers. We have largely maintained the tariffs on, for example, steel and aluminum, because we want to protect American industry and American workers. We're not going to do anything.

I promise you, President Biden would never do anything that would harm or make more vulnerable American workers, manufacturing workers; quite the opposite. We're doing everything we can to make investments in that.

Having said that, some of the tariffs which president Trump imposed make no sense. They're not on products that are going to be made in America. And they are, in many cases, increasing prices for consumers. So it's something that we're looking at --


BOLDUAN: What products specifically would you support lifting the tariffs on?

RAIMONDO: Say again please?

BOLDUAN: What products specifically would you be comfortable lifting tariffs on?

RAIMONDO: Oh, I wouldn't analyze it in that way. We're going through -- there's thousands of -- you know, there's hundreds of products. What I would say is, places where we think it could help the consumer, the consumer would feel it in their pocketbook when they go to the store.

And we wouldn't be harming any American workers. So that's the lens that I would put on it.

BOLDUAN: Secretary, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, the Department of Homeland Security issuing a new warning on the threat of domestic terrorism and how upcoming political events could lead to more volatile attacks, a more volatile summer. The deputy head of the FBI joins us next.