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At This Hour

Survivors and Victims Speak about Mass Shootings; Key Leaders Snub Biden's Summit. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 08, 2022 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Kate Bolduan. We begin on Capitol Hill with the emotional and heartbreaking testimony from an 11-year-old child and also from the parents, who had lost their daughter in the Texas elementary school massacre.

Miah Cerrillo testifying moments ago via video before a House hearing on America's gun violence epidemic. This young girl recounting the horror of what she lived through, talking about the moment when she saw the gunman come in, saw the gunman shoot her teacher and her classmates and how she needed to -- decided to rub the blood of her friend on herself in order to try to survive.

As this hearing continues, there are also developments on the bipartisan talks on gun safety in another part of the Capitol. CNN learned Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell privately expressed openness to raising the age limit to 21 for buying semiautomatic rifles.

A group of senators will be back to meet and negotiate again this hour. Let's start with CNN's Lauren FOX, live on the Hill, watching this hearing and seeing this emotional testimony happen.

Lauren, it was going to be hard to hear a child speak like, this no matter what. It was very painful to watch.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, there are always experts that come up to Capitol Hill and testify. But it is so hard to watch and see a 4th grader be an expert on gun violence and carnage in this country.

And I think that that testimony and the testimony of the parents of Lexi Rubio really made such an impact in that room. You heard at the beginning of this hearing that the chairwoman said that what she wanted was for Republicans to be listening with an open heart.

The reason for that is the kind of testimony that you heard from Lexi Rubio's parents, where they describe the fact that they went to this honor roll ceremony, they took a last photograph of their daughter and they left.

They expected, like parents do, that they would come back and pick their child up at the end of the day. And that never happened. And I think what you saw in there was her mother, Kimberly Rubio, asking Congress to take direct action on items like banning assault weapons, on getting rid of immunity for gun manufacturers.

Those items though, as we discussed, they're not being part of the negotiations in the U.S. Senate. Instead, those talks, so much more narrow when it comes to what they're willing to do, what Republicans are going to be willing to support.

We will see if this emotional testimony changes the minds of lawmakers. But at this point, what is on the table, what is being discussed is going to be a much more narrow set of provisions, including things like incentivizing states to pass red flag laws, things like more school safety.

But Kate, that falls far short of what those parents were pleading with members of Congress to pass in the U.S. Senate.

BOLDUAN: Lauren, thank you so much for that.

Let me bring in right now CNN senior political correspondent, host of "INSIDE POLITICS," Abby Phillip, and CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem.

For those watching in the last 20-30 minutes they saw this testimony from Miah Cerrillo And I want to play what Miah did say when she testified via video to this hearing just now. Listen to this.


MIAH CERRILLO, ROBB ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: He shot my friend that was sitting next to me. And I thought he would come back to the room, so I grabbed a little blood and I put it all on me. And ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you do when you put the blood on yourself?

CERRILLO: Just stayed quiet. And then I got my teacher's phone and called 9-1-1.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you tell 9-1-1?

CERRILLO: I told her that we need help.


BOLDUAN: Juliette, what was your reaction to hearing this 4th grader and also from the parents of Lexi Rubio, talking about their loss?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So she's speaking for a 19 (ph) (INAUDIBLE) testimonial for the dad (ph) that we don't often hear. And the historic nature of this should not be forgotten.


KAYYEM: I don't know of a similar incident where a young child is compared to high school students, have had to speak like this. I think Lexi's parents', testimony of the mother also, well, it's emotional but it's also factual.

I mean, this idea that she takes off her flip-flop, like every mother is thinking. Of course you take off your flip-flops because you have to run a mile because there's traffic. Who wouldn't do that.

And then at the end, she says, we're talking about her death and what happened and who she was before. I want to talk to you about what she would become. And I think remembering that it wasn't just a moment, it cut off a child's life and their future but in concentric circles that that would have impacted just an emotional resonance that then was tied to policy.

And we have to remember that. These parents are actually talking specific policy. Here's what would work and they're realistic about what they can get through the political process as compared to what their wish list is.

And to do something, anything, has to be a mantra for them because they are sophisticated because of tragedy, of what they will be able to get through.

BOLDUAN: Abby, you don't have to be a mother, you don't have to be a parent. You need to be a human with a beating heart, that when you hear from that 4th grader or you hear from Kimberly Rubio, who said I left my children at school and that decision will haunt me for the rest of my life.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is beyond heartbreaking and I think what we all feel, you and I and everybody watching, as mothers, as parents, is only a fraction of what these parents are experiencing.

And what is so unique about this moment is that I think a lot of these parents, these witnesses, we've been here before. I think after Newtown, a lot of people thought, this is -- we can't take anymore.

And then these families, unfortunately, became victims themselves.

And so now the question in Washington is, at what point does it start to matter?

And the reason you're seeing this pragmatism unfolding among the people, who are -- who want an assault weapons ban but they're also saying, we'll take pretty much anything at this point.

It's because I think there's a recognition now that, by being able to do something, it demonstrates that perhaps there is a line that people are willing to draw and that if you can draw the line here, maybe a month later or a year later, you can draw the line a little further.

And I think that matters in our political system. It's a real question of whether there is a line. That is what is facing Congress today. And this testimony, I think, from these parents, you know, as Juliette says, I don't think we've ever heard from a child, who was in the room with a shooter.

BOLDUAN: Ten days ago. This isn't a year later.

PHILLIP: We never heard that and it's because that child really, all she has known is this as a reality for her. And that is something that I think will confront lawmakers as they're trying to figure out what is the possible on this issue.

BOLDUAN: And Juliette, I think something Abby is getting at is -- and I keep having this thought in my head, as I was looking at this panel. It wasn't just Miah. It wasn't just the parents of a child killed. It was also the mother of a shooting victim, who survived but will have wounds for the rest of his life in Buffalo.

Almost like this critical mass of there is now a constituency, if you will, of people, who are directly affected, directly affected within short periods of time. The same story is being told of their lives being shattered by gun violence.

KAYYEM: Right. It's the concentric circles that gun violence in this country is impacting now. So instead of viewing each individual case as separate or this is the Texas school and that's a hospital here and that's a party at 3:00 in the morning in Philadelphia, we then begin to see that these concentric circles are beginning to touch each other.

And I think we have no concept with children, the three of us -- mine are older than yours (ph) -- the extent to which our children are being raised so conscious of irresponsible gun culture.

Because remember -- and I thought that was the power of McConaughey's statements yesterday. He's a gun owner and he squarely is in the responsible gun ownership camp. And they never really had a spokesperson.

So this was a powerful statement to say, well, maybe we could get to responsible. And I think that's what the parents are saying. Look, we know, the policy is clear. We know 18 to 21 will save lives, if you change, if you have a federal mandate that you cannot purchase these weapons.


KAYYEM: We can just look at the data. We also know other laws will work. But any law will get us to (INAUDIBLE) safer. We're not going to get to safe in this culture right now but we can get to safer.

And I think the parents were unbelievably sophisticated in that, that in the midst of this horror, just sophisticated about the anything standard. Like anything at this stage, because here's who my daughter would have been, right. Here's who she would have been.

It's not just what happened that day. Here's what we all lost. And I think that is unique. And I'm more hopeful than I generally am in my, looking at the metrics, that something can get done, even if we can't get the age change from 18 to 21 --

(CROSSTALK) KAYYEM: -- which is so clearly (INAUDIBLE).

BOLDUAN: And also just an acknowledgment amongst the families involved, that this is complicated and it is messy. This is a political -- and I will say political debate and I hate talking about politics -- but that is wrapped up in all of this when it comes to what will work, what will not work.

The acknowledgment, very universally among people advocating for something to be done, that any change is not going to save everyone. Any one age increase is not going to stop all gun violence.

But if it stops one death, at this point, when you see so many happening, every day and within such a short amount of time, that adds up and that is something.

But that gets to kind of, does this move lawmakers?

Is this time -- I'm not going to say it and I don't want people to roll their eyes at me -- is this time different?

Let's get over to Manu Raju, because this hour, a group of Senate negotiators are going to be meeting to discuss what we're getting at here, the gun safety package that seems to be beginning to take shape. Also, new comments this morning from senator Mitch McConnell.

Manu, what are you picking up?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, talks are going to happen, including this hour, with the larger group of members to see whether they can finalize any sort of agreement that's not going to go as far as what some of these survivors of the Uvalde massacre, the parents of the survivors, the parents and the pediatrician who testified just moments ago in Uvalde, Texas, will not go as far in what many of them want.

It will not restrict access to guns. But what they are talking about is a number of other provisions, expanding background checks; to look at juvenile records is part of those background checks as well as red flag laws, incentives to states to develop those laws to allow authorities to take away guns from individuals deemed a risk, along with mental health provisions and the like.

But still not raising the age from 18 to 21. The purchase of those semiautomatic rifles, even though Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, I'm told, has privately expressed an openness to that idea. But in talking to Democrats today, they're saying they'll accept even an incremental change, even if it's not as far as they'd like.


RAJU: A lot of Democrats are concerned that this emerging package is simply not going to go far enough.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), DEMOCRATIC WHIP; CHAIR, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, sure it won't. And listen, I have a goal to really address gun violence at many different levels that I'd like to see achieved.

Now I have to face the reality in the 50-50 Senate, the reality of many Republicans who are resistant to any change. I'm glad that we have some that are willing to sit down and work. If we can save one life with this process, so be it. I support it. But I can tell you, it's not going to be what I would have written myself.

RAJU: Why do you oppose reinstating the assault weapons ban?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: We're trying to get an outcome.

QUESTION: Do you propose lifting the age to 21?


RAJU: So McConnell not saying there what his view is on this issue or whether he does, in fact, support raising the age from 18 to 21, even as I've been told that privately he has expressed support for that idea.

But nevertheless, talks will continue today. The goal is to reach a deal as soon as this week but possibly, those talks could drag on into next week.

BOLDUAN: Manu, thank you for that.

Abby and Juliette are back with me.

Abby, no way of guessing what direction this is going to get. It would be foolhardy to even try to guess even exactly where this is going to end up.

But in what we're talking about, there was an interesting -- (INAUDIBLE) had state of emergency great reporting that Republican senator Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, she actually told CNN that she's been surprised by all the calls, the types of calls that have been coming into her office since this has happened.

This is a Republican senator from a progun state and said she's been surprised that her office is getting a lot of calls from voters, saying they want something done on guns. I add that into this discussion of, we don't know where it's going. But the fact that even the senators talking about this is interesting.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, politics is not a static thing. It's influenced by constituents, by voters.


PHILLIP: So we're not quite sure where this is headed. We know where the politics has been for a long time. And Cynthia Lummis herself said it. She, weeks ago, would not even entertain the idea of anything really touching on expanding gun rules.

But today, in the last week, has been talking more about what can we do that my constituents are asking me to do. And I think that's where this is headed.

And I also noted about a week ago, 250 Republican donors in the state of Texas put out a full page ad with a Texas paper basically addressed to the top Republican negotiator, John Cornyn, saying to him, we want you to do something on the issue of guns, on guns, not just on safety, not just on mental health, on guns.

So it's still an open question how far that goes. But there is some room here. I think McConnell's comments signal that, in his private life, like in a lot of things, he wants something but he doesn't think that the votes are there.

His members can prove him wrong. I just don't think yet that we have the numbers. It would be 10 Republicans or more --


PHILLIP: They would need to have more in order to have the kind of political cover that they need in order to do things like that.

BOLDUAN: No truer statement of the moment now would be Mitch McConnell saying, we're trying to get something done. Let's see what happens. Abby, thank you.

Juliette, thank you so much. I really appreciate it today.

Coming up for us, we do need to get to some breaking news. An armed man has been arrested near the home of Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh. We've got details for you on that next.





BOLDUAN: We do have breaking news. Police in Maryland have arrested a man armed with a weapon early this morning near Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh's home. Officials say the suspect was taken into custody after making threats against the justice. CNN's Whitney Wild is live in Washington, following these breaking details.

Whitney, what are you learning?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, that call for service came in between 1:30 and 1:45 this morning. That's when the Montgomery County Police Department, the police department that handles the area where Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh and other justices live, Montgomery County police contacted this man.

They assessed that there were, as the Supreme Court public information officers pointed out, that this man was making threats against justice Kavanaugh and so he was transported to one of the local substations for the Montgomery County Police Department. Our understanding now is that the FBI is the lead agency on this. Very

little detail at this point, Kate, other than to say this man is an adult man from California. We don't yet know what the nature of the threat was.

We don't know what language the threat was or what kind of weapon this man might have had, if he had one at all because the information at this point is just so thin.

But Kate, this certainly contributes to this overall threat with landscape we've been talking a lot about.

The major concern here with this abortion ruling from federal officials -- and they've been sounding the alarm on this for about a month -- is that Supreme Court justices will certainly be, you know, potentially targeted by violent extremists, who are angered over this pending ruling that is poised to strike down Roe v. Wade.

This is an extremely passionate issue. There are emotions on both sides. Federal officials have made clear over and over they believe the risk truly comes from both sides of this abortion debate.

So certainly this case, you know, really solidifying what federal officials have been warning about. People are angry. They might seek to use the abortion ruling as a justification to cause violence. And that puts the Supreme Court justices, their staffs and other members of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, at risk. Back to you.

BOLDUAN: Whitney, thank you very much for that breaking news. We will continue to track that and will bring more as we get that. I appreciate it.

Also, at any moment now, President Biden will be heading to Los Angeles to host the Summit of the Americas, a high-profile summit meant to bring together leaders from North, Central and South America.

So far instead of the agenda at hand, a major focus has become who will and will not be attending. The presidents of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are all boycotting the summit over Biden's decision to not invite the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela because of their human rights records.

Joining me right now for more is John Negroponte, the former U.S. ambassador to Mexico and former U.S. ambassador to Honduras as well as United Nations.

Good to see you, Ambassador, thank you for being here.

What does Mexico's boycott mean?

How much does that important ally and neighbor, how much can get done without that major player being at the summit?

JOHN NEGROPONTE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MEXICO: Well, first of all, today the president of Mexico decided not to come. But he will be represented by his foreign minister, who's an extremely capable person. I think things will still get done.

I think this is a good opportunity to put the spotlight on a lot of issues concerning the hemisphere, whether it's trade, migration, environment and other issues. So I don't think the damage is irreparable.

And I think as far as the relationship between the United States and Mexico goes, that is really a permanent feature of our foreign relations. Mexico is one of the most important relationships that our country has.

And as confirmation of that, even though the president of Mexico is not going to the Los Angeles summit, he and President Biden will have a separate bilateral meeting together shortly thereafter.


BOLDUAN: And beyond Mexico, with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as well not attending at the top levels, is that not surprising to you?

NEGROPONTE: Yes, it is surprising and disappointing, especially given the great focus that the administration has been putting on the so- called Northern Triangle. That is the countries of Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, which are important to us. We have a free trade agreement with the Central American countries.

And of course, they're very close to us and a primary source of the undocumented migration to the United States, which, as you know, is really very much on the uptick at the moment.

So I'm almost more disappointed that the Central American leadership did not -- is not attending at the highest level and I regret that very much. I think that a lot could have been done.

There will be discussions about migration nonetheless. I think that's going to be important. And there's also a private sector partnership for Central America that has been supporting Vice President Harris' efforts down there. And I'm sure we'll be hearing from them as well.

BOLDUAN: Do you think, I don't know, they should have postponed the summit, given the who's in, who's out, has become kind of a leading kind of part of the conversation going in?

Or would that have created more of an issue?

NEGROPONTE: No, I think you raise a good question. You know, I've been, of course, working in some of those jobs back in Washington. And sometimes these events creep up on you. You agree to them and then other things interfere, other priorities. And of course, we've had the whole problem of the war in Ukraine, which I think has absorbed almost more than 100 percent of everybody's energy in this town for the last several months.

And all of a sudden, the day comes up and I don't think we were quite as well prepared. I think if they had to do it over again, they might have considered postponing it.

But now, I think they're just going to go ahead with it, make the best of it and, as I said at the outset, at the top of my remarks, this is an opportunity to put the spotlight on issues that are important to us in the hemisphere.

And I'm sure the administration will have some success in doing that and I'm sure there will be useful meetings, useful conversations on a whole host of issues.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Good to see you, Ambassador. Thank you for coming in.

NEGROPONTE: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, potentially big news for Moderna on an updated vaccine booster shot. What they say, what Moderna says their new studies show and what it could mean in the battle against Omicron variants. Moderna's chief medical officer joins us next.