Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

10 Killed In Rampage At Southern California Dance Studio; FBI Finds More Classified Documents In Search Of Biden's Home; Sources: Jeff Zients To Replace Ron Klain As WH Chief Of Staff. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 23, 2023 - 11:00   ET




PRISCILLA PRESLEY, LISA MARIE PRESLEY'S MOTHER: She knew that I loved her. I fear I'll never touch her, but the old soul is always with me.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Presley, of course, died on January 12th from cardiac arrest, and she does leave behind three daughters. So sad. Thanks so much to all of you for joining us today. I'm Erica Hill.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto. AT THIS HOUR with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

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

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon in Monterey Park, California, where investigators are searching for what motivated a man to kill at least 10 people on Saturday night at a dance studio during Lunar New Year celebrations. Police have identified the gunman as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran. He was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound as officers closed in on his vehicle following a massive manhunt.

And this morning, we are hearing from one of the heroes that helped to stop the carnage. A 26-year-old man who subdued and disarmed the gunman at a second location is speaking out for the very first time. Natasha Chen joins me now live with this hero's riveting account. Good morning to you, Natasha. What did you say? What did he say?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, Brandon say told ABC that he was cleaning up really after most customers had gone after a Lunar New Year celebration at the Lai Lai Dance Studio ballroom there in Alhambra. And he said he wasn't paying much attention to the front door, but heard the door close, and he saw this man and heard the sound of metal rubbing together.

This man, he said, seemed as if he was not looking for money, not as if he was trying to rob anyone, but really looking for people to harm, Tsay said. And then he described feeling as if he might die in that moment. And he said he got up the courage to act. Here's what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRANDON TSAY, HERO WHO DISARMED SHOOTER: When I got the courage, I lunged at him with both my hands. Grabbed the weapon, and we had a struggle. We struggled into the lobby, trying to get this gun away from each other. He was hitting me across the face, bashing the back of my head. I was trying to use my elbows to separate the gun away from him, creating some distance.

Finally, at one point, I was able to pull the gun away from him, shove him aside, create some distance, point the gun at him, intimidate him, shot him in, and say, get the hell out here. I'll shoot. Get away. Go. And at this point, I thought he would run away, but he was just standing there contemplating whether to fight or to run away.

I really thought I would have to shoot him if he came at me. This is when he turned around and walked out the door, dropped back to his van. I immediately called police with the gun still in my hand.


CHEN: An absolutely incredible action, quick thinking from Brandon Tsay. He also talked about the fact that the real courage is going to be shared and has to come from these families and friends of the victims of the people who have been injured. And now this morning, we are learning from the L.A. Coroner's Office two names of the 10 people who died in that dance hall. They are 65-year-old My Nhan and 63-year- old Lilan Li.

We were also told yesterday about just the age range of the people who died. So you notice that these people are in their 50s, 60s and beyond. This was a place where couples came to learn how to dance and to have fun and now their Lunar New Year celebration is of course, ended in tragedy. Don?

LEMON: Yes, older couples. Natasha Chen, thank you very much. We appreciate that. And this morning we're learning more about the 72- year-old gunman, but his motive remains unclear. CNN's Josh Campbell has been digging into the suspect's past and he joins me now. Josh, good morning to you. What have you learned about the gunman?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Don, we're learning about the type of weaponry that was used in this attack behind me. Police here describe this as a semi-automatic assault pistol is how the sheriff described it, which is actually illegal in the state of California. Now, there's still questions about how he obtained this weapon. The shooter obviously 72 years old, so it is possible that he obtained this weapon prior to California's assault weapons ban going into effect.

But that remains part of the investigation. We know that after that brave individual who you just heard from, disarmed the shooter at the second location in Alhambra, that it was the weapon itself that allowed police to identify who the suspect was. Police sent information out around the Los Angeles area about this vehicle of interest that they were looking for. And it was actually a police officer in Torrance, California, which is about 30 miles from where you and I are standing here, who saw the vehicle executed a traffic stop.


Officers heard one shot, fire. They backed out, called in the SWAT team, that SWAT team ultimately cleared that vehicle, found the suspect in the vehicle, deceased. Now take a listen hear from the sheriff who described what authorities found when they actually went through that van.


SHERIFF ROBERT G. LUNA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Investigators conducted a search of the vehicle and determined the male inside the van was the mass shooting suspect. During the search, several pieces of evidence were found inside the van linking the suspect to both locations in Monterey Park in Alhambra. In addition, a handgun was discovered inside the van.


CAMPBELL: So just rapid, remarkable police work here, sharing that information, getting that blasted out to officers around the region. And it was one officer, as I mentioned, who actually located that van. There are still a lot of questions on about the suspect's past that investigators are looking into. We don't yet know the motive. We don't know what set this person off. And of course, it's worth pointing out we may never know the answer to that question. The suspect a deceased shot with a self-inflicted gunshot wound Sunday here in California, Don.

LEMON: Hopefully we'll get some more details, though, in the hours ahead. Josh, I want you to stick with me because you can help me with this next interview, because I want to bring in now CNN law enforcement analyst and former Secret Service agent Jonathan Wackrow. Jonathan, thank you very much. Welcome to the program. Listen, help us out here. You heard the account from the 26-year-old who is being credited with preventing further violence in Monterey Park. What is your reaction, further violence, I should say, in Alhambra, what is your reaction to what you heard from him?

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, you know, listen, this hero and let's just label him what he is, he's a hero for stopping, you know, future acts of killing. He used his instincts. You know, Don when I heard that interview, he said, when I overcame or when I got the courage to do, it wasn't the courage, it was his natural instinct that there was a threat in front of him, and he addressed the threat.

You know, for a long time, DHS other law enforcement entities have been promoting run hide fight, right? We've heard this a thousand times. We've talked about it on this program numerous times as well. That has been a great program to raise awareness of what to do, you know, when faced with a hostile intruder, an active shooter situation. But like any program, it needs to evolve. You know, critics of run hide fight have actually focused in on the fact that it really aligns to linear thinking. And what we saw here with this hero was breaking free from that linear thinking and using the instincts to, you know, address that threat and mitigate it. Again, he is a hero. He prevented, you know, numerous other, you know, tragic events from happening. But, again, we think we have to think about applying this to improving how we think about active shooter situations in the future.

LEMON: And Josh, in so many of these situations that we cover, we see people, they freeze or they just and, you know, stand by and take video or pictures rather than jumping in to help. This young man did so what stands out to you most from Brandon's account?

CAMPBELL: Well, two things Don at first, just how chilling it is to think that police could have been standing over another room full of victims, but for the quick action of that brave young man who actually disarmed the shooter. The second thing, which I still can't wrap my mind around is, you know, Jonathan and I were both former federal agents. We went through training academies and agents are trained repetition, repetition, repetition, constantly preparing for the unfortunate event where you might find yourself staring down the barrel of a gun or, you know, faced with some kind of violence.

You're constantly going through the motions mentally, how will I act in any type of situation where I find myself in danger. But this was a civilian. This was a person who had no law enforcement experience, yet it was his bravery that kicked in quickly, trying to subdue that gunman. And, you know, there's something called tunnel vision that happens.

Anyone who's ever interviewed a victim of a crime, particularly gun crime, you laser in on the threat that's in front of you, and hearing the retelling of that young man's story, that's what he did. He saw the gun. He knew he was laser focused. He had to get that gun away from that individual. He did so to danger, to himself. He even talked about the bruises, the suspect, you know, beating him on the head. Yet he knew that there was a threat that had to be mitigated. And he certainly did it in just an incredibly, incredibly heroic way.

LEMON: Yes, tunnel vision and then also adrenaline kicking in. Jonathan, let's turn to law enforcement now. I want to know how you rate law enforcement's response to all of this was -- because according to the L.A. County Sheriff, these were young officers who had no idea what they were going to see once they entered the scene behind us. And it was horrific.


WACKROW: You know, listen, especially for a young officer when you're faced with this type of situation, you know, there's a physiological effect that has on you. But, you know, broadly, the law enforcement response to this incident was nearly textbook and think that, you know, our viewers in the nation actually got, you know, a front row seat to see, you know, this incident play out from almost the moment of the attack all the way through to mitigating the threat. You know, we saw, you know, senior leadership briefing the public, trying to reassure them that the community was safe. We saw patrol acting very quickly on identified items of evidentiary value, specifically the white van. We saw the tactical units deploying the appropriate level of tactics to mitigate that white van and try to stop that threat from continuing.

So when you think about the arch of this investigation, we really saw law enforcement at its finest and bringing a peaceful resolution to a really, really tragic event.

LEMON: Let's talk about motive, Josh, because we know the suspect had a connection here, had been to this dance studio multiple times. I just believe that he actually met his ex-wife here. And I'm wondering how that's going to help investigators figure out a motive. I would imagine having a history here does help.

CAMPBELL: It does and certainly knowing the target location. Now, there are questions about when was the last time the suspect was actually at this place. We know that in past years he had been a regular here, again, as you mentioned, you know, with his ex-wife. But we still don't know why he decided on Saturday night to come conduct this attack. And obviously, you look at the two crime scenes here, this one obviously resulted in a massive loss of life here.

But over at the second location in Alhambra, they were both dance studios. And so he was certainly trying to inflict some kind of, you know, pain on patrons at these locations. But, again, we might never know exactly what was going through his mind. We know that police are executing search warrants, trying to gather information from his residence, you know, were there any notes left behind? Were there any forms of communication talking to people that he knew that were in his orbit to try to determine, did he, you know, talk about wanting to, you know, do this type of thing or to hurt other people? That's all the information that they would be gathering to include from the vehicle itself.

Again, every piece of evidence is going to be important. They can't interview the suspect, obviously, because he is deceased, makes their job a lot harder. And, again, we'll just have to prepare ourselves for the fact that we may never know exactly the answer of why he came here and conducted this heinous attack.

LEMON: All right, Josh Campbell, Jonathan Wackrow, thank you very much. I appreciate it that very fruitful conversation. Kate, you know, it's interesting. They're going to go through the evidence. They know how he did it and then the gun and all of that. The big question, of course, is why? Why on earth would he do it?

BOLDUAN: Yes, I mean, so as Josh was just laying out, so many questions still unanswered, maybe there's more to be learned today in the coming hours. But regardless of any answers, you now have a community just shattered as you've been covering, as you've been hearing from people, Don, ten people dead, ten others injured. There's so much now to go through. Thank you for being there, Don. So this, unfortunately, and very sadly, was not the only incidents of

gun violence this weekend. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 12 people were shot at a bar early Sunday morning. Three of the victims are in critical condition right now, and police call this shooting a targeted attack. No arrests have been made there. Then in North Shreveport, Louisiana, eight people were hurt, including three children under the age of 10 in a drive by shooting Sunday afternoon. Witnesses say multiple suspects fired at least 40 times into a home.

And then in Atlanta, a 13-year-old boy was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds following a shooting Saturday night. The Gun Violence Archive has tallied 36 mass shootings in the United States in just the first three weeks of this new year. Startling and horrible statistics to be facing today. And just look at these numbers. Just look at these details. The running list. Those attacks have now killed at least 50 people, injured more than 100 others, and the list keeps growing.


We're going to have much more on the deadly shooting in Monterey Park later this hour. But first, we're also covering an FBI search of President Biden's home, and it turns up more classified documents. That's next.


BOLDUAN: There were more classified documents found at the home of President Biden. FBI investigators searched his Delaware home for 13 hours. While the investigation is still ongoing, of course, it is clear that this is not going away anytime soon. Paula Reid is in Washington with more details for us. Paula, what can you tell us about this latest search?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, on Friday, the FBI conducted an unprecedented search of the personal home of a sitting President of the United States. As you just noted, the search lasted almost 13 hours, and the Biden team said investigators walked away with what they describe as six items consisting of documents with classification, markings and surrounding materials. It was unclear exactly what that means, how many documents versus pages, but investigators we know are still reviewing the materials, and the lawyers for the President they did get were told a receipt and accounting of what was taken.


Now the President's lawyers are emphasizing their cooperation in this matter and the fact that they offered to allow the FBI into the home. That is, of course, in part an effort to differentiate this investigation from the ongoing investigation into former President Trump. And Kate, it's true, there are some significant differences.

The first one, the volume of material, right? Dozens of documents versus hundreds of documents. And cooperation, also something that distinguishes these two cases. But we have to remember Special Counsel Robert Hur, he's not even on the job yet. So the criminal investigation into this matter is only just beginning and we can likely expect more developments, including potentially more searches of other locations or researches of places that have already been searched.

BOLDUAN: Paula, thank you so much for that. So as the White House defends Biden's handling classified documents, the President is getting a new Chief of Staff. Sources telling CNN that Biden has picked his former COVID response coordinator Jeff Zients to take over for Ron Klain in the coming weeks. Let's get over to MJ Lee. She's at the White House with more on this. MJ, what are you hearing about all this from there?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, this is going to be a big moment of transition for the Biden White House with Ron Klain, his Chief of Staff expected to step down in the coming weeks after serving in that role for about two years. He has been such a powerful force inside this White House, it's hard to overstate what a role he has had on every facet of West Wing deliberations, from decisions small to big political decisions to policy decisions so often when you talk to people inside the White House, around the White House, you ask them, well, who has been taking point on XYZ issues?

And so often they will answer with just one word, and that is Ron. Now, the person who is going to be taking over for Ron Klain, as you said, is Jeff Zients. He, of course, serves as the COVID coordinator for President Biden and he is seen as an implementations guy, an operational guy with less sort of political experience and certainly not a part of that very small, very tight circle of advisers that Ron Klain has been a part of.

But what we are told is that the skills that Jeff Zients would bring to the table were seen as being critical for this next stage of the Biden White House, including implementing some of the legislation that got passed during the first two years that Biden has been in office. Now, of course, I don't have to tell you that this comes at a very pivotal moment for President Biden politically as well. We are expecting a 2024 decision in the coming weeks.

And of course, the whole issue of the classified documents that is really ramping up as well. So there's going to be a whole lot on Jeff Zients' plate whenever he takes over in the next couple of weeks.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. MJ, thank you so much for that great reporting as always. Joining me right now for more on all of this is chief national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny. Let's start there. Let's start with Jeff Zients expected to soon take over as Biden's Chief of Staff and everyone likely can know this or understands it, the Chief of Staff to any President is such a critical role, Jeff, in the functioning of the White House, the success of any President. What are you hearing about Zients in this new role?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, there's no doubt that the White House Chief of Staff has some of the best real estate outside the Oval Office in the West Wing because they convene many meetings in the corner of the West Wing just steps away from the Oval Office and they really are the command center for everything that happens inside there.

As this news was being reported by us over the weekend, I was thinking back to 2013 and that health care website back during the Obama administration that really broke down and did not allow the country people to sign up for Obamacare. Jeff Zients is the man who came in and essentially fixed that website. Since then, he's been known as Mr. Fixit inside the Obama administration and earlier in the Biden administration during the COVID-19 pandemic. So that is what his role is.

He's a managerial expert. He oversees processes. He keeps the trains rolling. He's a leader. The one thing he does not have is political experience. And talking to a variety of a former White House Chiefs of Staff over the weekend, he probably has less political experience than virtually anyone in the modern era, but that could be seen as a good thing as well heading into the new Republican Congress where relationships, old relationships may actually not be that helpful. So when he comes in, likely next month, he is going to oversee processes and that is what his strength is actually.

BOLDUAN: As you were saying that, I was thinking maybe a lack of political experience or prowess or whatever, you know, that actually would be a good thing these days. So, you know, bringing in a Mr. Fixit, I mean it sounds good for everybody, right? We'll see. We will see.

One thing we do know that he'll inevitably have to deal with, if not directly, he will have to deal with the fallout from the classified documents matter, of course. I mean, with more documents found, it's led to more questions for the President and other top Democrats facing over the weekend. I want to play what Senator Dick Durbin said about this to Dana Bash this weekend.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): When that information is found, it diminishes the stature of any person who is in possession of it because it's not supposed to happen whether it was the fault of a staffer or attorney, it makes no difference. The elected official bears ultimate responsibility.



BOLDUAN: And though there are differences, as Paula Reid was pointing out, between Biden's handling of the situation, Donald Trump's handling of classified documents, it's still not going away. The longer this goes on it means what for Joe Biden, do you think?

ZELENY: Well, the answer is we don't really know exactly. I mean no White House is certainly heading into potential reelection, wants to have a special counsel rooting around in your living area of your home, in your private offices and things. So we don't know exactly where this is going. But, Kate, I was so struck by that interview with Dana over the weekend from Senator Durbin as well as from Senator Manchin. And they are allies of this president. They were quite blunt in their description and characterization of how serious this could be.

So we don't know exactly where this is going from here. We do know that it has certainly undercut the President's really central argument that he has the competence and the adulthood, if you will, to govern. That was one of the things he drew a distinction with himself and the Trump administration. So of course there are tons of differences, but right now it's not the differences that are the most important thing.

The Biden administration is clearly trying to move this forward and move this quickly to not have it hang over them. But we simply do not know where a special counsel who hasn't even started work yet is actually going to end up with us.

BOLDUAN: That's a great point. I mean they're trying to move it forward as quickly as possible. But the more things that turn up I mean that longer it's going to linger for sure. And that's separate of the special counsel's investigation that's now just getting underway. I want to look ahead to 2024 with you because I wanted to get your take on Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego. He just announced this morning that he is going to be running for Senate. He's going to be now challenging the now independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema for her Senate seat in Arizona if she decides to run. What do you think this race looks like?

ZELENY: Well, boy, it is certainly going to confirm one thing that we've been able to see from the last few election cycles that Arizona is going to be at the absolute center of the political battleground and now certainly this will be in the Senate as well. We do not know if Senator Sinema is going to seek reelection. Of course she changed her parties. That's a complicating factor for her.

But what it is going to be is a challenge for Democratic leaders. Would they support an incumbent Senator or would they support a Democratic member of Congress who certainly has the support of the left here. So what he is doing is going, you know, front end center into this race, jumping in right now at the beginning of 2023 to start raising money and to start owning this race for himself but without question, the Arizona Senate race is something we'll be talking about until election day on 2024 I can promise you that.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Maybe the bigger question right now is not really what Ruben Gallego's campaign is going to look like. It's if Kyrsten Sinema is actually going to be running for reelection or seat. So stand by to stand by with you. It's great to see you. Thank you.

All right, so the Supreme Court issuing its first opinion of the term, and for the first time in three years, it's happening from the bench. That's next.