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At This Hour

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Resigns; New Report Details Missed Chances to Stop Uvalde Killer, Save Lives. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired July 07, 2022 - 11:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Boris Sanchez, in for Kate Bolduan.

The morning's top story: Britain's prime minister, Boris Johnson, resigning, leaving the United Kingdom wondering, who will be its next leader.

Plus, a disturbing report, suggesting the Uvalde school massacre could have been stopped by one officer.

Plus, we are going to speak to Brittney Griner's head coach, as the WNBA star pleads guilty to drug charges in Russia. That's what we are watching for AT THIS HOUR.


SANCHEZ: We begin with breaking news: British prime minister Boris Johnson stepping down amid a massive revolt in his own government and years of scandals.


BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative party that there should be a new leader of that party and therefore a new prime minister.

The reason I have fought so hard in the last few days to continue to deliver that mandate in person was not just because I wanted to do so but because I felt it was my job, my duty, my obligation to you to continue to do what we promised in 2019.


SANCHEZ: Johnson is vowing to stay on until Conservatives pick a new leader. The brash prime minister desperately tried to stay in power. But dozens of his top ministers resigned in the last 48 hours, calling on him to step down.

Johnson survived a no confidence vote last month over the revelation that there were parties being held at Downing Street during COVID lockdowns. There were also recent revelations that Johnson knew about sexual misconduct allegations against a Conservative lawmaker before he promoted him.

At the center of the controversies that brought him down, concerns over the prime minister's integrity. Let's take you now to 10 Downing Street in London, with CNN's Nic Robertson. He's got breaking news.

Nic, you were there when Johnson announced that he was resigning. He did not give a timetable for his departure.

He said that's coming next week?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Boris Johnson had earlier indicated that he wanted to stay on as caretaker prime minister all the way through October, in the fall, when the Conservative Party conference is on.

The indications from within the party, that's not sustainable. We have even heard from a former prime minister, Sir John Major, saying it would be unwise for the prime minister to stay on in a long term as a caretaker prime minister because he still has influence, power, patronage, that it would be unwise for the party to take that course.

But we still are no clearer when the handover could happen. The current party procedure to replace a leader of the party and therefore prime minister can be a very, very lengthy process, many weeks, even a couple of months.

What we have witnessed in the past hour or so here is an effort by Boris Johnson and supportive members in his government to present unity, to sort of try to end the impression of chaos and try to continue with a government, business as usual, which is what the prime minister laid out that he would really like to be doing at the moment.

But even that, a session -- a cabinet session here, with many of the cabinet ministers walking in and out of here, was very short, unusually short, even for a short meeting.

And I have to say. looking at the faces of the cabinet members going in and coming out, none of them looked particularly happy. Nobody said anything important as they came and went. So that impression of unity, of business as usual and when the change can be, it's all in a state of flux at the moment.

SANCHEZ: Nic Robertson, stand by. We will expand this conversation in just a few moments.

First, obviously the consequences of Johnson's resignation could be felt far beyond the United Kingdom. That includes here in the United States, which has remained the U.K.'s closest ally throughout Johnson's three years in office.

Let's bring in Phil Mattingly, who is live for us at the White House.

Phil, how is the Biden administration reacting to this news? PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Publicly, there has been silence so far. I think a big reason for that is exactly what Nic laid out just moments ago, the uncertainty on the timeline, uncertainty on the process, the uncertainty about pretty much everything, besides the fact that Boris Johnson will eventually at some point be stepping down.

It's largely causing everybody in the international community to be holding back in terms of what they want to see in the next steps forward.


MATTINGLY: I think it is important to note the U.S. and U.K. have a special relationship; that relationship existed throughout the course of Boris Johnson's time in office. But the relationship between President Biden and the prime minister hasn't been as warm as perhaps past ones have.

They have a productive working relationship, a relationship that has grown over the course of the last 18 months, particularly when it comes to the West's response to Ukraine.

Johnson has been a steadfast ally. And the U.S. has leaned on the U.K. several times when it comes to trying to ensure the alliance of more than three dozen countries, staged together on sanctions, on weapons, all these types of things.

But the two are not best of friends. We will see how it plays out in the days and weeks to come. One thing we know is that the U.S. and U.K. relationship is special and will always be maintained. Who will be corresponding with the president going forward? Obviously, still in question.

SANCHEZ: Notably, Johnson specifically sent a message to Ukraine in his speech. His role in the West's response critical thus far. Phil Mattingly, from the White House, thank you so much

Joining us, CNN correspondent Bianca Nobilo and back with us, Nic Robertson.

Bianca, Johnson said he wanted to stay in power because he felt this duty to this vast mandate.

But the polls and massive resignations from his own party tell a different story.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: You hit the nail on the head. Boris Johnson kept repeating that refrain over the last few days. He felt he needed to stay in position because he had a substantial mandate to deliver.

He is referring to the historic election victory, the biggest for the Conservative Party since 1987, which he delivered in 2019. How times have changed since then. Not only has it been demonstrated that, when the public have an opportunity to deliver a verdict on Johnson right now, he is faced with crushing electoral defeat. That's one thing.

And the other being the cascade of resignations, 56 from his own government, many of whom supported him for the leadership and backed him originally. Then we have the polls, showing the majority of voters, including the Conservative voters, wanted the prime minister to resign.

So when he said he had a mandate to continue, that was a hollow statement because his nearest and dearest, closest political allies told him, you don't have a mandate to continue. You need to step aside.

When he says that, it simply doesn't ring true. But it was interesting in that statement he gave at Downing Street today, we saw a slightly more magnanimous side of the prime minister.

He even said that being prime minister is an education and it was almost like witnessing the arc of a politician who began all rhetoric and bombast and charisma and ended up bowed, realizing without the substance, the character, the behavioral qualities expected of a prime minister, he can't stay in post.

And he couldn't enjoy the trust of the country and be perceived to have the integrity required of that office.

SANCHEZ: Nic, more magnanimous, perhaps, than we have seen Boris Johnson before but he offered no apology and no admission of wrongdoing. This is about as close as he came to that. Listen.


JOHNSON: as we've seen in Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful; when the herd moves, it moves.

And my friends in politics, no one is remotely indispensable. And I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world. But them's the breaks.


SANCHEZ: The herd may have moved but this is largely of his own doing.

ROBERTSON: And he didn't really seem to accept that in his speech, that this wasn't about his policies but about his character. He was often either incredibly forgetful or less than honest. The perception grew that he was being less than honest about what he knew, about one of the early scandals, the redecoration of his apartment, how much it cost, who paid for it, how much he knew about who paid for it.

Breaking the rules about the Partygate here during the COVID lockdown, where he and his government had made rules and regulations, meaning only a handful of people could gather. There were social gatherings that broke those rules. The police investigated. He was found to have broken the law. He was fined.

And eventually, the case where the deputy chief whip, who Boris Johnson appointed, had a track record of sexual allegations against him -- sexual abuse allegations against him, that Johnson was aware of and still appointed him.

And all of this, all of this, is why this day arrived for Boris Johnson. But none of it really fitted into his narrative in his speech. Yes, he learned. But he didn't say what he learnt and how he learnt it.


ROBERTSON: And the herd moving against him, in a way, that appears a reference to his party, who have moved against him over the past 48 hours decisively. And the sort of international perception of Boris Johnson, we haven't heard too many international leaders weigh in on this.

But the Irish prime minister has already said that he hopes whoever replaces Boris Johnson will take a softer approach to the sort of outfall of the Brexit deal and toward Northern Ireland, which is a very thorny issue and could put the U.K. on a crash course with the European Union and potentially lead to a trade war between them.

So there is an effort there to hope and see from outside of the country that, whoever replaces Boris Johnson takes a different tone and approach. But at the moment, we don't know who that's going to be and we don't know how we are going to get there.

And that speech from Boris Johnson really didn't even get to any of that, creating the impression even that was a holding pattern speech in some ways.

SANCHEZ: Another foreign leader that just responded to the resignation of Boris Johnson is the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He actually spoke with CNN's Wolf Blitzer a few moments after the resignation. Let's play a clip of that.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): He resigned, not because he was in Ukraine. What Johnson was doing for Ukraine, he was a true friend of Ukraine. He totally supported Ukraine.

And the U.K. is on the right side of history. I am sure the policy toward Ukraine of the U.K. will not be changing. And our relationship obviously gained a lot from Boris Johnson's activities. Yes, we don't know if something will affect our unity but, first of all, we have got military support from the U.K. and that's been secured.


SANCHEZ: Bianca, is there any scenario in which the U.K.'s support for Ukraine dwindles as a result of Boris Johnson's resignation?

NOBILO: Well, two of the front-runners to take on that role of prime minister are actually the current defense minister, Ben Wallace, who has been handling the crisis in Ukraine, and a former defense minister, the first female one over here, Penny Mordaunt.

So it is also something very well received by the Conservative Party in this country to take a strong line on national security and defense. Boris Johnson's policy on Ukraine is something which there is less criticism of.

In fact, most of the MPs I have spoken to today said just that. I was speaking to a former cabinet minister, who said to me, it looks like the leadership contest here is shaping up to be one where it will need to appeal more to the right wing of the party, because Johnson has shifted the base to the right.

Looks like those who would want a softer stance on Brexit or international affairs will maybe not get that at all.

SANCHEZ: Bianca Nobilo, Nic Robertson, we appreciate it. Thanks so much.

A quick programming note for you. You can watch all of Wolf Blitzer's interview with Ukraine's president, airing at 5:00 pm Eastern on "THE SITUATION ROOM," right here on CNN.

Coming up, we are looking into a new report that's outlining how officers missed a chance to stop the gunman in Uvalde before he carried out a massacre. Details in a live report after a quick break.





SANCHEZ: A new report on the Uvalde elementary school massacre outlines missed opportunities by law enforcement to stop the killer and save lives. The report says there was a police officer armed with a rifle, who watched the gunman walk toward the school.

But that officer didn't open fire as he waited for permission to shoot. Let's take to you Texas now and CNN's Rosa Flores, who is live with more.

Rosa, walk us through the details.

What's in this report?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Boris, it is very disturbing, because this report states specifically at least two instances, in which law enforcement could have stopped this gunman, before the gunman even entered the school.

And we, of course, know what happened after. And so, according to this report, the first instance was right when the gunman crashed near the school. There was a Uvalde police officer who was armed. And then I want to quote the report. This says, quote, "The officer, armed, with a rifle, asked his

supervisor for permission to shoot the suspect. However, the supervisor either did not hear or responded too late. The officer turned to get confirmation from his supervisor. And when he turned back to address the suspect, he had entered the west hallway unabated."

Now there is a second instance before the gunman actually enters the school. According to the authors of this report, there was a school police officer in his police cruiser in the parking lot.

But according to this report, he was driving too fast. If he would have stopped or would have gotten out of his car, according to the authors of this report, this officer could have seen the suspect, could have stopped the suspect.

Further, more failures; according to this report, once officers did enter the school, they lost momentum, is how this report states it. In essence, they explain that they didn't return fire with equal fire, because these officers were also armed with rifles.

So this report says they lost momentum. It took them more than an hour to then go back into the school and stop the threat. About the incident command, this is important because, until now, the lead investigative agency, Texas DPS, has been pointing the finger at Pete Arredondo, the school police chief.


FLORES: Well, Boris, what this -- what this report says is that there was a lack of incident command. So that will be interesting, because this report also states that there is going to be follow-up, where more will be explained. We will have to see what the next phase of this report says, Boris.

SANCHEZ: And we are still awaiting a report from the Texas legislature, that has been looking into what happened there. A lot of answers that families are looking for, that simply are out of their grasp at this point. Rosa Flores, from Houston, thank you so much.

New this morning, the father of the confessed killer of the July 4th parade attack in Illinois, in an interview with ABC News, says he's not culpable for his son's actions, despite signing off on a form that allowed his son to purchase the gun used in the shooting.

CNN's Josh Campbell in Highland Park joins us now.

The interesting, important part of that, in September of the same year that his father signed the form, his son threatened to kill his entire family.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That's right, a lot of questions here for the father. As you mentioned, he spoke to our colleagues with ABC News, telling them he doesn't have an inkling -- to quote -- he didn't have an inkling that this was going to happen, this shooting, saying that he and his wife spoke to their son, the shooter in this situation, in the days before the attack, asking them, what are you doing for the holidays.

The son said that he didn't have any plans. The father telling ABC News that he himself does not feel culpable for the shooting. Of course, you raise the big question here, why, after those past police incidents, where police were called to the home of the shooter, where family members said the shooter had allegedly tried to inflict harm upon himself, threatened harm upon other people, why then would the father, later that year, sponsor a firearms application?

We know the shooter eventually obtained five firearms, including the one that was used in the massacre behind me. So several questions remaining there for the father.

This is all coming as we are learning brand new information about past contact at the shooter's residence. We are learning about the shooter's mental state and also, quite frankly, that this was a household in disarray.

We are looking through police reports, showing upwards of 22 police contacts at this residence, including being called there because there was an attempt by the suspect to allegedly attempt suicide, according to the family.

There were also multiple domestic calls, the majority of the police calls, issued between the father and the mother.

The reason we point this out, after so many of these shootings, you often wonder, what were the parents doing?

Were they focused on their children?

We know experts tell us, parents need to take a greater interest in their children, know what they're doing online and the like. But here, this appears to have been a household that was itself in disarray.

Finally, this is important, every new piece of information we were learning about this shooter shows there were warning sign after warning sign that were potentially missed. That's important to point out.

These troubling online posts that we have seen, about him creating annotations, talking about violence, the past police contacts. If you look back at his past, the warning signs were there.

The question we are asking, we will continue to ask of law enforcement, of the family members, why did no one pick up on these signs?

Of course a major question for any parents, asking how do I prevent this from happening in the future, potentially with my own child? Boris.

SANCHEZ: Josh Campbell, thanks.

We want to bring in the mayor of Highland Park, Nancy Rotering. Good morning. We appreciate you being with us. I immediately want to

get your reaction to what the suspect's father is saying, that he doesn't feel any culpability over what happened.

MAYOR NANCY ROTERING (D-IL), HIGHLAND PARK: Thanks, Boris. I appreciate the question. I am going to leave it to the authorities to make that assessment.

But suffice it to say, my community is in absolute despair, grieving, feeling unspeakable pain due to the hands of his son. And he signed off on the FOID application. And I will leave to it the authorities to address the rest of the question.

SANCHEZ: I guess the more imposing question for the future is how this could be prevented, how incidents like this can be stopped. And it is notable that Highland Park police had two encounters with the suspect in 2019 in April.

He threatens -- or he attempts suicide. Then in September, he threatens to kill his family. Then in December, his dad signs off on that form, clearing him to buy a weapon.

What else could have been done to prevent this?


ROTERING: What else could be done is banning assault weapons and weapons of war from the United States of America. We know that there were warning signs. You just heard about his mental health challenges and a difficult family situation.

This isn't a unique scenario. We know that throughout this world there are people who have mental health challenges and difficult family scenarios. But they don't have access to these combat weapons.

It's pretty straightforward that we, as a nation, need to talk about why we allow folks to have access to these guns. It is terrible what has happened to the families who were attacked in the middle of a huge celebration in the heart of our city.

But let's get to the root cause of all of this. Absolutely, we need to be able to provide more resources and more support to folks who are facing mental health challenges.

More specifically, we need to make it virtually impossible if not totally impossible for them to get their hands on weapons that are designed to destroy large amounts of humanity in a very swift action.

That's the answer that needs to be addressed. And I hope that at some point our nation will reconcile its love of guns and address that very pain that's being brought to community after community, week after week.

SANCHEZ: Mayor, I want to pivot our focus to the victims now. The first funeral services are going to take place tomorrow. Obviously all of these deaths, these losses, impact your entire community. But you knew one of these victims personally, Katie Goldstein.

How would you want the world to remember her?

ROTERING: I did not know Katie Goldstein personally. But in a small town like this, we all know each other and know people who know each other. And she was a band mom. And I am a band mom.

And the marching band was my first indication that something was wrong on the parade route, when I saw them racing away from the shooting incident down the sidewalk. We are a family in this community. We will be here to support each other. My heart goes out to all of the families who were devastated by this evil that came into my town.

SANCHEZ: It seems our wires got crossed on that bit of information. Obviously, our hearts go out to all of the victims, though, and we appreciate your compassion in such a difficult moment. Mayor Nancy Rotering, thank you so much for your time.

ROTERING: Thanks, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

Coming up, WNBA star Brittney Griner pleading guilty to drug charges in a Russian courtroom. We are going to speak exclusively with her head coach -- next.