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At This Hour
New Details on Michigan State University Mass Shooting; Georgia Court Releases Part of Fulton County Grand Jury Report Urging District Attorney to Pursue Perjury Charges; Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired February 16, 2023 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. At This Hour, new details on the deadly shooting at Michigan State University, as the community really is coming together, gathering to remember the students killed.
Plus there's outrage in Ohio; residents expecting answers on the toxic train derailment and the rail company skips a community town hall.
And the Georgia grand jury report long awaited and now portions are about to be released into Trump's alleged efforts to overturn the election results in Georgia.
This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.
BOLDUAN: I'm Kate Bolduan. We're going to start in Michigan where police are holding a news conference updating on the investigation of that deadly mass shooting in Michigan State University. Police confirmed this morning that a two-page note was found in the killer's backpack that contained a list of other targets.
Meantime thousands gathered last night to remember the students killed with leaders from campus and the state issuing calls for action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. RENE GONZALEZ, MICHIGAN STATE POLICE: Two pages of notes were found in his wallet and were found on his person as well, including the (INAUDIBLE) note that indicated where he was going to visit and also kind of gave an indication of why, maybe a motive but nothing that we can actually confirm just yet.
For our investigation, we found that he had had contact with some of those places and a couple of the other places that it appears that he had some issues with employees there, where he was asked to leave. So it is looking like he possibly, a motive for that is that he felt slighted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Interesting. Joining me now for much more on this is Shawn Turner, a professor at Michigan State and also a former director of communications for U.S. national intelligence.
Thanks for coming in. Let me get your reaction to some of what we've learned in this update from Michigan officials and they have been forthcoming with what they have learned from the investigation.
And part of it is that Michigan State Police said that the note they have found and what they said, quote, "gave an indication" of maybe a motive and they are obviously still working through it. But nothing is firmly confirmed yet and, of course, the man is now dead.
What are you taking that as meaning when the question is going to remain why?
SHAWN TURNER, PROFESSOR, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: Yes. Well, thank you for having me on, Kate. And I wanted to say at the outset, as I watched press briefing, it was encouraging to see that at the outset that the focus remained on Arielle, Alex and Brian, the students that we lost, and their families.
And I felt that it was entirely appropriate. With regard to the investigation, it is the case that we want to understand more of why this individual attacked our campus and our students.
And when I think about the information that we received this morning, the fact that this letter was there in this individual's backpack, what it makes me wonder is if there is a broader set of communication or behaviors that might have given the individuals in this person's atmosphere, his orbit, some indication that he was a ticking time bomb.
Look, it is too early to know that. But those are legitimate questions as we often talk about with these things. We want to know if there is a point at which someone could have said or done something to prevent this from happening.
And certainly when we see a note like this, there is an indication that there was something to that
BOLDUAN: Also they said that he had two handguns, a loaded magazine full to capacity and the note but also bus tickets.
TURNER: Yes, they are. And we know that he had mental health issues. We see people that get triggered, snap and go on to perpetrate these horrible acts. But that does not appear to be what happened here. There is clear indication of intent, of motive.
And some of the details that came out suggest that this individual had issues or gripes with other targets. And so to see that amount of ammunition that this individual had, to see that there was a bus ticket, would indicate that this individual was not looking to come out and attack this campus and then end his life. There were others who would have been in harm's way.
TURNER: And so I think we are all very fortunate that this ended without further harm to anyone else.
BOLDUAN: Police are still searching for a connection between the killer and the campus. Whether or not that's determined, how important is that?
TURNER: There have been a lot of questions about this. And I think whenever something like this happens, it is appropriate for an organization to take a look at safety and security measures.
And we will certainly do that at Michigan State University but people need to know that, as things like this happen around the country, at other universities, every time we have looked at our safety and security measures here and we have made adjustments to make sure that our students, faculty and staff are safe here, I can tell you that the police are ever present here on campus.
So we will certainly take a look at those things. But Michigan State University is 50,000 students from all around the world. And I think when you come to college, your experience should not make you feel like you're in a constant state of lockdown.
So there will be a kneejerk reaction but there will be the appropriate assessment of whether or not we need to make adjustments to ensure our students' safety.
BOLDUAN: There was an amazing turnout at the vigil last night. Michigan State Hall of Fame Tom Izzo spoke about his own emotions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM IZZO, MICHIGAN STATE BASKETBALL COACH: If any of you need help, please speak up. Be vulnerable. Don't be afraid. It is no secret that I do wear my emotions on my sleeve. So I'm not afraid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: How do you make people feel safe on campus again?
TURNER: It was wonderful to see that message from Coach Izzo, to say it is OK to seek help. On Monday, we'll go back into the classroom, make space for students to talk, it's OK not to feel OK. And we will help them to get the support that they need.
And we will listen to what makes them feel safe on the campus and use that to make adjustments here on the campus. And, Kate, it is going to be a long time before it feels normal here. We have lost large members of our community, families who have received horrible news this week.
But this is a resilient community and we'll take care of each other, as Spartans have always done.
BOLDUAN: Shawn, thanks for coming on. I really appreciate it.
Got some breaking news to get to now. The Fulton County, Georgia, superior court has just released sections of the special grand jury's final report. And this was of course, a long examination examining the efforts of Donald Trump and allies to overturn the election results in Georgia, the 2020 presidential election.
We have a team poring over this report. As we get them, we will bring them to you. And joining me now, Patricia Murphy, reporter for the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution." Michael Moore is a former U.S. attorney.
We knew going into today, portions would be released, the introduction and the conclusion and a middle section but key parts of it will remain sealed.
What are some of the reasons to keep part of the report secret?
Why not do all or none of it?
MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I am glad to be with both of you and I think that the judge was trying to be Solomonic and split the baby in half. He recognize that there's a public interest in the case. On the other hand, he's trying to protect the prosecutor and making a decision about who and what she would charge.
And also, protect the due process, so potential defendants in the case.
MOORE: So he is allowing both ends to be served there. I don't know how much we will see. And I mean, I understand with the redactions that we will get some of the meat or the potatoes, rather, and not quite get the meat but we will see later as the week goes on.
But this really gives the prosecutor the chance to make a decision. Now she is not bound by anything in the report and she has complete discretion to charge or not charge and add other people and take recommendations. It is up to her and this is a summary of the findings.
She is going to be looking at the unredacted versions. And remember, these special purpose grand juries in Georgia are not the norm. There is no playbook or go-by or cheat sheet for the judge to follow or for the district attorney or the staff who prepared the report with the grand jury.
So we are a little bit in unchartered waters but I think something here in great detail about the deliberations. And I expect that we will find great correlation between those who fought the subpoenas and the recommendation or the concerns that the grand jury had about people being less than forthcoming when they appeared before them.
BOLDUAN: Michael -- Patricia, we have Sara Murray, who has been combing through it.
And what are you seeing so far?
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, what we have gotten so far is only a couple of pages from the report. As they were saying, the judge has held a lot of this back, including recommendations and whether somebody should be charged with a crime.
But the one section released is frankly a paragraph on the belief that witnesses lied before the grand jury and, in this paragraph, they recommended that the Fulton County defense attorney, Fani Willis, consider indicting some of the witnesses for perjury.
"The grand jury recommends that the district attorney seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling."
So this is a sense of the tone of the grand jury, the belief that there were witnesses who came before them, that lied under oath. Their suggestion to the district attorney, because ultimately it is up to her whether she is going to pursue indictments, that maybe there are indictments worth pursuing coming to the perjury question.
Now again, we are not seeing what their broader recommendations were or the names of the witnesses they believe may have lied. But it is important. They also wrote in the report that they believe unanimously, that there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election in Georgia that could have upended the results.
And people around the former president and the former president himself has contended that there was fraud, despite the lack of evidence there. And they pointed out that they had heard from some witnesses who were still adamant that there was fraud in the 2020 election.
BOLDUAN: Interesting, Sara. Stick with me.
Patricia, this question in this paragraph, in this limited amount here, it says that the majority of the grand jury believe that perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses who came before it. And you were thinking this could be one of the most interesting parts here.
No names; we are not getting any names here.
PATRICIA MURPHY, "ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION": Well, first of all, we know the process is going forward. Fani Willis will take this very seriously. And that's an entire bucket of potential charges, above and beyond other recommendations made by the grand jury.
But something that Michael Moore said is so true and important, there is no playbook for what we are seeing here. There has never been a president indicted on criminal charges before.
And we have never had this kind of finding, that there was no widespread fraud, followed by these layers and layers and layers of actions by a former president and his associates.
And when you are looking at the list of witnesses who went before this grand jury, the governor, the secretary of state, multiple state lawmakers, Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, Cassidy Hutchinson, his own assistant up there in the White House.
We get a glimpse of just how broad and serious this situation is. Some witnesses said that I don't think that anything happened and I don't believe that there was fraud and this is what else I know.
Others were named targets in this investigation as well. And when Fani Willis asked that this report be kept mostly under wraps, which is what we are seeing today, she said that she wanted to protect the due process rights of future potential defendants.
And I think that we are starting to see here that we will expect future defendants in this situation, more than likely.
BOLDUAN: Michael, what do you think about that?
MOORE: I think that she is exactly right. I don't think there's any question that we will be seeing indictments coming out of investigation.
MOORE: And the DA would not have had the time and treasure invested into the case to be at this place. Now whether or not she decides to proceed on the perjury charges is an interesting way to go.
And it may be tougher but it is striking me that she is really going to take the recommendations and the testimony that she has got and bolstered up the evidence she needed, that call that Trump made to the secretary of the state at the time, looking for those votes.
And I think at that point now, she is going to be moving forward. I don't know how broad the net will be. But you know, we have key players, who she has subpoenaed. And I think you will have folks who both may have told half-truths and complete falsehoods when they testified and gave testimony before the General Assembly committees that were looking into this.
And you may have people who have made false statements -- the grand jury believed made false statements to them. And so that compounds the investigation. And so, again, whether she looks at a few potential targets or the key players or she'll try to indict the quarterback.
Or does she indict the whole team?
I don't know how deep she is going to go. She has to be thinking though, that I need to be both able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the criminal standard.
If I get a conviction, if a court lets me move forward and if I get a conviction, can I support the conviction on appeal in this state?
And she is weighing those things out at the same time. So hopefully her comments about the indictments being imminent or decisions being imminent, we will see them in relatively short order.
BOLDUAN: Yes, they are feeling more imminent today, as portions are being released for sure.
Sara, you have more reporting.
What are you hearing?
MURRAY: Well, as everyone was talking about, a lot of the tone that we have heard from district attorney, from the judge in this case and the tone that we are getting from this very limited information from the grand jury report, suggests that indictments are likely.
And I think what a lot of this is pointing to is how much deference there is given to the district attorney in that case. And if you are looking at the conclusion, the grand jury wants to point out if they fail to include any violations, they said they acknowledge the discretion of the district attorney to seek indictments where there is sufficient cause.
Essentially they are saying, in the portions that we have not seen, we made recommendations of who, if anyone, should face criminal charges. Also if there is anything that we missed, we are not legal experts.
But if in the statute, there is crime committed that evaded us during the investigation but where the district attorney believes there is enough evidence to pursue an indictment, we defer to her.
She should go forward. So this is setting up the landscape.
What will the district attorney do and how will it align to what the grand jury has recommended?
BOLDUAN: Sara, this is speaking to one thing that everyone was looking to, when this came out, is what is the overall tone of the report, the release, since so much would be and clearly is being held back.
Is that the take away that you are seeing so far, is the deference?
And you point to the statement of history, Sara, you said -- I think that this is from the opening of the grand jury report -- where they lay out very clearly that the grand jury heard extensive testimony on the subject of alleged election fraud from poll workers, investigators, technical experts and State of Georgia employees and officials as well as persons still claiming that such fraud took place.
And we find by a unanimous vote that no widespread fraud took place in Georgia in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning the election. It is an important statement just for historical purposes.
MURRAY: Yes. And we may not be getting the juiciest part, what everyone wants to see is what the grand jury recommended, who if anyone should face crimes and on what basis.
But what we are getting is the outline of how they approached it and how seriously they took this. They said we heard from 75 people and technical experts, people who still want make the inaccurate claim that there was widespread fraud.
And we believe there is an undeniable conclusion that there was no widespread fraud regardless of what the former president said and his allies say about this.
And in the introduction, they are laying out for the public, look, we did our homework and this was not a surface level investigation, it was a deep dive with witnesses all across the spectrum of election administration and the public officials, to reach the conclusion. And the conclusion, the deference to the DA.
MURRAY: Ultimately it is up to Fani Willis to decide if she believes she can make the case against, everyone they may have recommended in the grand jury report or fewer than that or potentially further than what this grand jury recommended.
BOLDUAN: Michael, what do you think about that?
MOORE: Well, I think this is basically, if you are thinking of the one-sentence report, this is the basically grand jury saying, go get 'em, Madam District Attorney. We have looked at the evidence, heard from the witnesses and believe there is room for a case. So go get 'em.
And it seems that they are giving complete deference to her in that decision. So this grand jury does not have the power to indict. She has to now present that to a criminal grand jury, who can take the summary of the report and consider the witness testimony, the statements that were made.
They are not bound, either, by the special grand jury report but this is basically an affirmation that -- for the district attorney, that the investigation should move forward. Now again, she looks at it both from the facts and the law.
She'll have the take into consideration the court she may be in and what the jury pool is going to look like and all of the things that go into her decision. And it does not mean that she does not enforce the law or move forward on matters brought forward.
But she has to think about things, especially in a case of this magnitude, because we are in historical waters here. And I think she is going to be doing all that and she has been doing it, frankly, over the last couple of years.
BOLDUAN: Michael, you are getting to the reality that this is an investigation about politics. I mean, obviously, it is going to -- if crimes were committed in overturning an election, what you are getting on and what I would like your opinion on is, in this consideration, the big question remains, is she going to go all of the way to going after Donald Trump?
There are risks with that.
MOORE: There are really risks with it. And I have said it before and now that we certainly see it as clear as possible, that we are just at the start of this. Think about the number of motions and court challenges that are going on in cases about subpoenas for grand jury proceedings and other legal proceedings now involving Trump.
So you can only begin to imagine the cases that will be filed and the motions that will be filed and there will be efforts to move the case, I'm sure, if there is an indictment, to the federal court.
There will be motions to dismiss the indictment. We're just getting started on that and so the district attorney has to be thinking, my job is to move forward on cases. But it is also my job to look for the truth and to pursue a conviction if I can.
So she is thinking about that. She is thinking about the jury pool and thinking this is politics. And even though you are in Fulton County that votes largely Democratic, there are parts of Fulton County that are not.
And the jury comes from the whole county.
What happens if the case were moved to the Northern District of Georgia?
It's a broader case, a broader jury.
What would that look like?
So our appellate courts, frankly, there are very good judges and some very good friends of mine. But they are also controlled right now by Republican appointees. And so she has to be thinking about that, too, and how it would play out if she could secure a conviction.
So her thought process cannot be limited to just, well, I heard this call from Trump to Raffensperger. I'm going to move forward. A good prosecutor -- and she is an experienced prosecutor -- will be thinking about supporting a conviction all the way through and what she can do and what evidence she has to support it.
Because that is how she would have to build that case in preparation for the challenges to come.
BOLDUAN: In the report, we know that the grand jury interviewed 75 witnesses. Taking about some of the big names that are among that group and now they know that there's perjury hanging out there.
I'm thinking what everyone told the grand jury and how they said it and what they could be facing now.
MOORE: Well, and I think I --
MURPHY: I am sure there are --
BOLDUAN: Hold on, Michael.
Go ahead, Patricia.
MURPHY: I was going to say, I am sure that there are phones around the country lighting up lawyers right now, anybody who went in front of that grand jury and they probably know who they are, who may have lied under oath.
They have an entire extra bucket of legal problems to face right now. One quick thing on the political realities in Georgia, I think the real political exposure for Fani Willis, who is up for re-election in 2024 on the same ballot as Donald Trump, if they both make it to November, is that the crime rates in Atlanta are continue to increase. Murder rates are up.
MURPHY: So Willis has to demonstrate to Fulton County voters that this is a good use of resources of her county and of their tax dollars. There is just this incredible, intense pressure on her to bring those crime numbers down as well.
And if she is devoting immense resources to Donald Trump's investigation, who is not popular in Fulton County -- he lost Fulton County by large double digits -- but if she is exposed in ways that make Fulton County voters believe she has been sidetracked by this and not taking care of the cases in front of her, I think that is the political exposure she faces.
And she has a spiraling Rico trial that she is trying right now, against rappers; just jury selection in that case is going to take an estimated three months. And so there is an immense amount on this district attorney's plate. And she is going to have to show the voters that it is all really worth it.
BOLDUAN: Sara, can you put a button on this?
This is not the end; obviously we've been discussing that it is up to the DA.
What now, what's next?
What is the expectations?
MURRAY: Now the ball is in the DA's court and the judge has essentially given her this breathing room. This full report should not be out here publicly. Decisions are imminent on whether to bring charges.
Now we wait to see what imminent means. It's imminent in a court sense, not imminent that we will get coffee after this. So I think it is up to the DA to decide when she has this case ready and will go in front of a regular grand jury and pursue indictments.
As the other folks have noted, there's a political reality that is playing in the background. The longer you wait, the closer to the reality of the 2024 presidential campaign, where Donald Trump has already said that he is a candidate.
So she is likely going to face pressure, if she is bringing indictments, she is going to have to move speedily. She has said that she is not the person who bends to the will of public pressure. But if you are in that job, it is very hard to not feel that pressure.
BOLDUAN: Sara, great reporting, thank you for jumping on with all the breaking news and I really appreciate the detail.
Patricia and Michael, thank you both.
Coming up, Ohio residents are demanding answers after the company at the center of a toxic train derailment pulled out of a planned community meeting. Hear why officials they could not show up to answer questions. That is next.