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At This Hour

Nashville School Shooting; Pence Non-Committal on Order to Testify. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 29, 2023 - 11:00   ET




AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone. At this hour, Nashville reckons with the latest spasm of gun violence in America, guns legally bought and used to kill six innocent people.

Former vice president Mike Pence will have to answer the special counsel's questions in its January 6th investigation.

And the FAA says enough is enough, telling airlines they must do more to prevent close calls as a spring travel -- spring break travel season heats up.

This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.


WALKER: And thank you for being here. I'm Amara Walker, in for Kate Bolduan.

We begin in Nashville, where we're learning new details about the shooter who killed six people inside a private Christian school. Police say they don't know exactly why 28 year old Audrey Hale opened fire on Monday morning.

But what we do know is that Hale was able to legally purchase a total of seven different firearms and was under a doctor's care for an emotional disorder.

In another troubling sign, we are hearing from the shooter's former art instructor, that Hale had a breakdown on the first day of college. We're also learning more about the three children and three adults who were killed in this attack tonight. The city of Nashville will hold a victim -- a vigil for those victims.

Let's get straight now to Carlos Suarez live outside the school in Nashville.

Hi, there, Carlos.

What's the latest you're hearing from police this morning?

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Amara, good morning. So police have not said whether they're going to provide an update on the investigation. Today we know that authorities were still spending a good amount of their work and their effort taking a look at the 28 year old's social media as well as cell phone records.

They were also trying to get more information on the revelation that the shooter was being treated for a mental disorder. As you mentioned, coming out to me here, CNN has been able to talk to an art teacher at Nossi Art College. Here in Nashville, Tennessee.

The teacher says that, back in 2017, she taught the shooter for two semesters. And she described an incident on the first day of class, where the shooter became frustrated, was overwhelmed with trying to set up a password for a student portal.

The teacher says that, at some point, the frustration grew to the point that the teacher asked the shooter to leave the classroom. The two of them, it appears, remained friends on Facebook. And apparently, in the last year or so the teacher said that the shooter posted about grieving the loss of a former basketball teammate.

And that at some point after that, the shooter said -- that the shooter wanted to be referred to as he and him when it comes to pronouns.

WALKER: And Carlos, tell us more about what we're learning regarding the victims, those three little children and three adults who lost their lives.

SUAREZ: So we are starting to hear from some of the family members, of some of the victims as well as some folks who knew them from churches in the area. Yesterday, we heard from the family of Mike Hill. He was a custodian at the school. He is believed to have been one of the first people that was killed -- that were killed, rather, because he was standing at the front entrance to the building where the shooter was able to get inside.

His family, his daughter described him as someone who loved his job. The family said he was known around school as Big Mike.

And we also heard from a family pastor here who knew one of the members of the family that were impacted by this. The pastor knew the Dieckhaus family. Little 9 year old Evelyn is among the three kids that were that were killed in the shooting. Here is what the pastor told us.


CLAY STAUFFER, DIECKHAUS FAMILY PASTOR: She's amazing, a shining light. I know her family is going to want to tell her story at some point. And right now we're giving them time to grieve and to be surrounded by their family and friends.

I think that our children deserve to be able to go to school. And come home in the afternoon. I don't have all the answers. It's -- this happens all over our country and we've seen it. But then when it happens in your neighborhood and your backyard, we -- we've got to find a way to do better.


SUAREZ: Yet another incredibly difficult day for this community.


SUAREZ: There is going to be a vigil later this afternoon into tonight to honor all of the six victims.

WALKER: Carlos Suarez, thank you for your reporting.

And joining me now is CNN senior law enforcement analyst Andrew McCabe. He is a former deputy director of the FBI.

Always appreciate you coming on, Andrew. Just want to repeat, you know, we knew the shooter was able to legally purchase seven guns, despite being under a doctor's care for that emotional disorder we heard about from the chief yesterday.

You know, Tennessee, like many states doesn't have a red flag law.

But even if it did, do you think it would have stopped the shooter?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it's a really, really tough question, Amara. But for red flag laws to work, it's -- there's -- you need much more than just having that law on the books.

You need family members or community members who see that a person is struggling and then proactively reach out to law enforcement to put that process in place, in which the guns are taken away from the individual.

And there's a series of kind of legal hearings to determine when and if they get them back. So red flag laws are great. But they don't do anything to protect us if the community and the family and the coworkers, who know the person struggling, don't initiate the process.

That's really why they're not more consistently applied to people who could probably use that sort of attention.

WALKER: And it seems -- sadly when it seems like a shooter is determined to get to a target that they'll find a way, no matter what. I mean, despite this emotional disorder we heard about, Andrew, I mean the shooter, when you look at these videos, right?

The surveillance video inside the school, the shooter was able to meticulously plan this attack. And also I think you mentioned this, the way Audrey Hale moved through the school, almost like the shooter had some kind of training.

MCCABE: That's right. So and I think these are things that we've seen with many mass shootings. You know the ability to think about where you want to go, to plan out the attack, to acquire weapons over a period of time, to become trained and proficient with those weapons, at least go to the range and practice how to use and function those weapons are all things that we see here.

And quite frankly, we see in many -- most mass shootings. Here, you can tell by the way that she carries the weapon; there are times when she puts the weapon up to her shoulder and some of the ways that she moves her body and scanning different rooms that she's entering, this is clearly someone who has watched this happen before.

Whether that's in formal training or just watching videos and things like that on YouTube, she has put some time into thinking about this, thinking how she would go through it. It's very organized.

And all of those things make mass shooters more lethal, that's why they're able to accomplish these objectives to some to some degree and really take lives.

WALKER: You know, we keep hearing from people there on the ground. Something needs to change. You know, it's almost become cliche after a mass shooting. You know that America stands alone when it comes to the gun, culture gun access these mass shootings.

How many of your colleagues view this as a public health issue versus the political one?

Because when you hear from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, you know they're saying things, especially the Republicans, saying things like it's too premature to talk about gun legislation.

Or what about mental health?

What do you say to all of that?

MCCABE: Well, I mean, it's obviously not premature. This happens, you know?

What is this, the -- I can't even remember how many of these we've had in this country just this year. I mean, I think there's something like over a dozen only in schools since the beginning of this year. So it's not premature to have these conversations.

From the law enforcement perspective, you know, law enforcement officers carry guns, are familiar with guns. Many of them are strong supporters of the Second Amendment. I carried a gun every single day for over 21 years on the job. I own guns now.

But despite all that, law enforcement officers know better than anyone how dangerous it is maneuvering through society, being in these crisis situations and having to confront the extremely lethality that people are able to carry around every day.

We often criticize law enforcement officers for being too quick to draw their weapons and escalate encounters. Well, part of the reason for that is they're trained to assume that everyone is carrying a gun, because many, many people are.

So the profusion of guns in this country, the ease with which anyone can acquire things as extreme as an AR-15, is one of the reasons we've ratcheted up the tension and the volatility of what would normally be everyday interactions between law enforcement officers and the public.

So there are many, many ways that the number of guns in this country, which far exceed any other country, comparative to ours, have a negative impact on society, on people's lives, on the level of violence that we experience in America.


WALKER: And still, we're seeing a lot of states moving toward expanding gun access, including right there in Tennessee. Andrew McCabe, we will leave it there. Thank you very much.

I want to bring in Nan Haley (sic) now. She was the mayor of Dayton, Ohio, in 2019, when a gunman killed nine and injured dozens more in a mass shooting. She now works with the United on Guns Initiative, which created a practical step by step handbook, designed to help local officials navigate the hours and days after a mass shooting.

Only in America do you need such a handbook to help local officials. Nan, appreciate your time. I mean, you helped develop this protocol, this handbook for cities.

What is the most important thing for a mayor to do when all this happens?

NAN WHALEY, FORMER MAYOR OF DAYTON, OHIO: Well, thank you for having us on and, you know, I agree with your previous speaker, that this is and can be preventable if we just dealt with what the majority of Americans agree with, is that we have to have common sense gun safety.

And until we do, it is on America's mayors to pick up the pieces of their communities. And one of the first things we do at the United States Conference of Mayors is to talk about mass shooting crises and what you do, not if it happens, unfortunately but when it happens to your community.

And the work on United on Guns is a mass shooting protocol that we put together, sadly, after the Dayton shooting that I have sent to dozens and dozens of mayors since our terrible day in our community but now all across the country.

WALKER: And I understand you're you've been in touch with Nashville mayor John Cooper, helping him lead his city through this tragedy.

What has he been telling you?

And what do you make of his response so far?

WHALEY: Well, one of the things that got me through the tough days in Dayton were mayors from across the country. And so I think it's really important that former mayors and mayors connect with each other, so they know they're not alone leading their communities.

Mayor Cooper is doing an excellent job in this very tough situation. But really, you know, tackling the issues of mental health, recognizing the trauma that will be in his community for the month and months and years to come because of this mass shooting and really doing best practices that, sadly, too many of us from Buddy Dyer in Orlando, across the country, Bill Peduto in Pittsburgh have seen and learned from something that is preventable.

WALKER: You've said this and I know this is, you know, become very apparent to so many of us as we watch this play out time and time again, that it's a matter of if. It's not a matter of if but when for these cities when it comes to these kinds of mass shootings.

What do you tell mayors to do now before such a tragedy happens in their city?

WHALEY: Well, one of the things we're encouraging folks to do is what we call tabletop exercises, that you work with your police and fire departments to prepare.

Unfortunately, these are so common today that, you know, we treat them as we do natural disasters. And we need to think of them as that way so our community is prepared and emergency responders and civic leaders are ready to take fast action, to really help their community through what can be some of the most difficult and darkest and helpless times that a community goes through.

I think you have to make sure, as a mayor, that you're thinking of the victims first and always in those first 24 hours, something that Mayor Cooper was dogged on, and move forward to make sure that police can do their job as well.

So shooting crises are different than other crises and having tabletop exercises before they happen, because they are happening, all too often, is sadly what a mayor has to consider in their jobs today.

WALKER: Sadly, that is the truth. Nan Whaley, really appreciate you. Thank you very much.

Mike Pence must testify about former president Donald Trump's efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss. That order coming from a federal judge. But the former vice president won't have to divulge everything. The details are next.





WALKER: Former president Donald Trump's strategy of exhausting opponents with litigation just ran into a major roadblock and is resulting in another win for special counsel Jack Smith.

A federal judge is ordering former vice president Mike Pence to testify before a grand jury about discussions he had with Trump in the runup to the January 6th insurrection. Pence, for his part, just moments ago, refusing to say today if he will appeal. CNN senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz joining me now.

Katelyn, tell us more about what Pence may do.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pence, what he has said so far today in Iowa is that he's going to be meeting with his lawyers this week, considering what to do the big question here is whether or not he's going to appeal or whether or not he's going to sit for testimony.

Right now we know that there is a judge that has ordered him to sit for testimony appear before that grand jury investigating January 6th in D.C., this federal criminal investigation led by the special counsel's office.


POLANTZ: That judge said that he is going to have to testify, especially about conversations where Donald Trump may have been acting corruptly in some way with Pence.

We know there are several one on one conversations the two had. And Pence for his part, he was fighting having to testify but he did eke out a little bit of a win here in that he did get to have the judge agree with him that the vice presidency does have some protections around it, particularly the protections that members of Congress have in criminal investigations.

Because of that one point he was he was running the Senate essentially on January 6th. So when Iowa today he did indicate he's a little bit happy with where the decisions stands as of right now.


MIKE PENCE (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At the end of the day we will obey the law. And -- but right now we're evaluating what the proper course is.

For me, the reason to challenge a subpoena of a vice president in their role as president of the Senate was an important constitutional argument to have. And now for the first time ever, a federal court has recognized that those protections extend to a vice president.


POLANTZ: So there Pence is. He's talking about it. I should note that, while he's speaking publicly about this, all of this court fight and the decision from the judge, it is still under seal so legal reporters, the public and others are not able to read exactly what the judge decided.

And so now we're waiting to see what Pence does.

Is there the possibility he drags us out further or does testimony come fairly quickly here?

WALKER: Katelyn Polantz, always appreciate it. Thank you. And CNN senior legal analyst and former federal and state prosecutor,

Elie Honig, joining me now?

Hi, there, Elie.

So what exactly is the judge saying Pence must testify about and what he can refuse to talk about?

How much leeway does Pence have?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So Mike Pence has to testify about most but not quite all of what he knows. The best way to understand this is to go through the history here. DOJ subpoenaed Mike Pence.

And then they got hit with two separate legal objections. First, Donald Trump, not a party to the subpoena but he came in as an outsider and he objected based on executive privilege.

The court rejected that. They said basically executive privilege, usually what courts will say is that it does not apply in the criminal context. It's meant to protect legitimate conversations between presidents and advisers.

So that one lost. Separately, Mike Pence invoked this speech and debate clause, which as Katelyn says, protects members of Congress from having to testify about their legislative activity. And the court made an interesting ruling that, as vice president, Mike Pence did have this limited role as Senate president.

So he can't be asked about what he did when he was standing on that dais, serving as Senate president while the votes were being counted. But he can be asked about things leading up to that, including his meetings with Donald Trump, which I think is going to be really important for prosecutors.

WALKER: And what did you think of those comments that we just heard from Pence?

He was asked about whether or not he would appeal this order to testify.

What do you expect.

HONIG: It sounds to me like Mike Pence is not going to appeal and I don't think he should. He largely won the limited legal objection he raised. But keep this in mind. Donald Trump can appeal. Donald Trump lost across the board here. So he can try to get this case taken up to the court of appeals.

I don't think he'll win. I don't think he'll succeed in getting the result changed. But we know Donald Trump likes to litigate and drag things out.

WALKER: And how crucial do you see Pence's testimony to be to the special counsel? HONIG: He's vital to this investigation. He had one on one

conversations with Donald Trump in the days leading up to January 6th that prosecutors have to know about.

If I'm a prosecutor, I would want every detail.

Where did you meet with Donald Trump?

How long did you talk?

What did he say to you?

Did he pressure you?

Did he threaten you?

Did he offer you any enticement?

Did he acknowledge that he knew he had lost?

I know Mike Pence has written about these things in his book. That's great. Prosecutors should read that book. But you have to have them on record in front of the grand jury.

WALKER: Yes, very important point there, Elie Honig, great to see you as always. Thank you very much.

All right, a series of close calls on airport runways has raised real concerns about flight safety. And the current head of the FAA has a new theory about what may be causing the problem. What he's blaming for those problems next.





WALKER: The head of the Federal Aviation Administration says the pandemic may be to blame for a string of near misses involving commercial flights.

At an industry meeting yesterday, FAA acting director Billy Nolen said this, quote, "The long layoff coupled with the increased technical nature of our systems might have caused some professionals to lose some of that muscle memory."

Pete Muntean is live in Washington with those details.

Pete, what else is no one saying about these near misses?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the concern here is complacency caused by the pandemic. It's been something talked about by pilots, by labor unions, by Captain Sully Sullenberger during our prime time special on air safety earlier this month.

And now the acting head of the FAA, essentially saying that the pandemic has created a type of rust among aviation workers, really trying to struggle to catch up to this huge rebound in pandemic air travel.

It was also something echoed by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg during an exclusive interview I did with him earlier this month. And he said that the need is to find a cause here.