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Sen. Angus King (I-ME) & Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) Discuss 2023 U.S. Shootings, Co-Sponsoring Bill To Tackle Gun Violence & Pairing Border Security With Aid For Ukraine; Virginia Officials Give Update On Arlington House Explosion; Eric Trump Will No Longer Testify This Week In Civil Fraud Trial; Lawsuit: Laundrie Told Parents Gabby Was "Gone," He Needed A Lawyer. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired December 05, 2023 - 14:30   ET



SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): And that's -- you mentioned the Second Amendment. That is consistent with the history.

We -- sawed-off shotguns and machine guns have essentially been illegal for 100 years. These weapons, when they have high-capacity magazines, fit into that category. That is what we are focused on.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Senator Heinrich, what has the response been from Republicans? I know the bill was co-sponsored with an Independent and some Democrats. No Republicans so far?

SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH (D-NM): Not, yet. But we are having conversations with Republicans. And we will continue to do that. There has been more interest in this legislation than there was in previous efforts.

We haven't landed anyone yet but the sad reality is practically every Senator has had one of these mass shootings in their state. And we're going to -- this conversation is only growing more urgent overtime.

KING: By the way, the numbers you presented at the beginning are actually worse.


KING: That 37 is for people killed.

SANCHEZ: At least four.

KING: If it's four people killed and wounded, it is 627.

HEINRICH: Two a day.

KING: Two a day.


KING: And that's what we're talking about here.

And again, I come from a state with a very strong Second Amendment tradition, hunting tradition, second-highest rate of gun ownership in the country, responsible gun ownership.

But these weapons are outside of what people use for hunting or sporting.

SANCHEZ: I imagine, Senator, you presented those numbers and the bill and your argument to fellow Maine Senator Susan Collins, a very influential Republican.

Someone that I imagine would be key in getting something like this advanced. What have the conversations with her been like?

KING: She is reviewing it. I think she's taking it seriously. She's never supported a bill like this. She has joined a bill that we are both on about bump stocks, which convert a semi-automatic to essentially a machine gun. She is right there on that one.

And I think she is taking this very seriously.

SANCHEZ: Senator, I'm glad you mentioned bump stocks. Because we have seen previous legislation to eliminate things like bump stocks get reviewed by federal courts and get overturned.

We know the Supreme Court is going to take a look at bump stocks next year.

If this winds up passing, are you concerned that the Supreme Court, one that has undone precedent before, one that leans conservative, may just undo it?

HEINRICH: If they stay consistent to the rulings they've made in the past, including rulings like Heller where Scalia was the primary author.

We have crafted this in a way that is well within the line of those rulings. We have been very careful to put something together that we thought could withstand the precedent as it stands today.

There is nothing I can do if the Supreme Court deviates from that. But we have written this in a way that is very much consistent with existing court rulings.

KING: On page 54 of the Heller decision, which Justice Scalia wrote -- nobody has accused him of being a liberal or anti-gun -- he says the Second Amendment isn't unlimited, there's not a right to carry any weapon whatsoever in any place whatsoever for whatever purpose.

He recognized that there is a category that really could be regulated by the government in order to protect public safety.

HEINRICH: They called it inherently dangerous and unusual. It applies to things like fully automatic weapons. We would argue that these weapons, as we have defined them in this bill, would fall into the same category.

SANCHEZ: Given the numbers and the intensity of the violence that we've seen in these shootings, I think it may certainly apply. I do want to pivot to Ukraine though. I know you had a briefing that

was scheduled later this afternoon with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine. It appears those plans might've changed.

KING: The briefing is still on. He was going to have a five-minute Zoom. I heard there were technical issues.

We'll still have the secretary of defense and the secretary of state and really hear about how catastrophic it would be to not support Ukraine.

SANCHEZ: On that point, many of your Republican colleagues are concerned about sending more aid to Ukraine because they argue that there is corruption and not much accountability for where that money goes.

You're on the Intelligence Committee. Have you seen ample evidence that Ukraine is misusing American funds?

KING: Zero.

HEINRICH: Yes, I'm on the Intelligence Committee as well, and I think they have done an amazing job with what they have had. The real beneficiary, if we are not able to move towards this package, will be Russia and China will be watching.

KING: I met with President Zelenskyy last winter. And that was my first question. I said, if there is corruption or waste, you're going to lose support.

I didn't know what he was going to say. And he said, I know that very well. I spent the rest of the afternoon learning how they're accounting for everything that goes in.

Now, you're talking billions of dollars. I can't sit here and say there isn't a nickel going astray. But I'm convinced that the argument that somehow it is being wasted just isn't valid.

We are on the frontline. They're on the frontlines of defending democracy. We are spending money and arms and they're spending their lives.


SANCHEZ: Senators Angus King and Martin Heinrich, we have to leave the conversation there. We very much appreciate you joining us and sharing your perspective.

We'll actually going to send you straight to Arlington, Virginia, where officials are giving an update on that house explosion last night.

Let's listen in.

ANDY PENN, CHIEF, ARLINGTON COUNTY, VIRGINIA, POLICE DEPARTMENT: And thank you for joining us for this briefing. The Arlington County Police Department and our partner agencies

continue to investigate a home explosion at 8:44 north Burlington Street.

Yesterday, at approximately 4:45 in the afternoon, the Orange County Police Department was dispatched to the 800th block of north Burlington Street for the report of a possible shots fired incident.

On scene investigation revealed that a male suspect this charged a flare-type gun from the residence more than 30 times.

Officers attempted to engage with the suspect without success. A search warrant was ultimately obtained to allow our officers to secure any weapons, to ensure there would be no ongoing threat to the community.

Members of the Emergency Response Team initially attempted to execute the warrant through various forms of communications with the suspect. However, this was not successful.

In an effort to establish communications, ERT breached the front door to allow for communications and possibly surrender.

At this point, officers experienced what is believed to be multiple gunshots from a firearm coming from within the dwelling.

Despite the ongoing threat to themselves, ACPD staff continued to try to engage with the suspect to safely bring him into custody.

As the suspect began discharging several rounds from a suspected firearm inside the house, officers could not locate the source of the suspected gunfire or its intended target.

Officers began to deploy non-flammable, less-lethal chemical munitions to multiple areas within the residents where the suspect was believed to be hiding. The purpose of this type of deployment is to cause irritation in hopes of compelling the suspect to surrender.

Based on the preliminary investigation of this incident, we believe that the resident of the home, James Yoo, 56, of Arlington, is the involved suspect.

The Orange County Police Department does not have prior documented interactions with the suspect at this address other than two calls for service for loud noise over the past couple of years.

We are aware of concerning social media posts allegedly made by the suspect. These will be reviewed as part of the ongoing criminal investigation.

The suspect was inside the residence at the time of the explosion and he is presumed at this point to be deceased.

Human remains have been located at the scene and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will work to positively identify the individual and determine the cause and manner of death. Our investigation has now transferred into a recovery operation, as we

work to collect all available evidence.

There is no ongoing threat to the community related to this incident and no outstanding suspects.

The suspect's residence was a duplex, and the other residents were evacuated prior to the explosion occurring. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries to any officers, other public safety officials or community members.

I can assure you that this incident will be thoroughly investigated.

At this point, the primary investigating agencies are the Northern Virginia Critical Incident Response Team and the Arlington County Fire Department's Fire Marshals Office.

The investigative team also includes members of the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. We will continue to work this incident in collaboration and coordination with our federal partners.

I would like to thank the Arlington community for their support during this time and patience as we complete what will be an extensive and time-consuming investigation.

I also want to express how proud I am of the members of the police department and all of our public safety partners for their courageous and professional actions to ensure the safety of our community.

Thank you for being here.

DAVID POVLITZ, CHIEF, ARLINGTON COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: Good afternoon, everyone. I would like to add a few additional remarks on behalf of the fire department.

The key point, this investigation is ongoing. There is no timeline as to when that investigation will conclude.

The Arlington County Fire Department, the Office of the Fire Marshal, working with our federal partners, local partners on calls and origin, that will take time.


I would also like to share appreciation to the Arlington County Fire Department personnel. Their efforts last evening saved lives. Period. They minimized damaged property and I thank them for their efforts.

The suppression efforts were ongoing through most of last evening and into the early morning hours. At this point, the fire is completely extinguished.

But again, I say the investigation is ongoing with no timeline for the conclusion.

Thank you.

AARON MILLER, DEPUTY COUNTY MANAGER FOR PUBLIC SAFETY, ARLINGTON COUNTY: Good afternoon. Aaron Miller, deputy county manager for public safety for Arlington County.

I want to echo what Chief Penn and Chief Povlitz mentioned, appreciation for the entire public safety family, from our 9-1-1 team all the way through to the police officers, our paramedics, our firefighters, our emergency management staff and all those within the community that have lent a hand to respond to this critical incident.

I particularly want to say thank you to our federal partners, as they continue to walk hand-in-hand with us and provide resources where necessary.

There are about 10 households that were impacted by this incident. Those 10 households, we have been providing direct support to them. We have been in contact with all of them.

And that ranges from helping to provide them some housing and sheltering and also providing some basic needs, toiletries, other necessities. We're going to continue to do that.

We've set up a reception center. We've reached out individually to all of those households that have been affected. We'll have that reception center open for them today as well as tomorrow to continue to provide those services.

Included with that is mental health counseling services that we are making available, some mental health counseling. We're also providing referrals to some of our nonprofit community based partners, including the Red Cross, Salvation Army and others as necessary.

I do want to say that, as the chiefs both mentioned, this is going to be a prolonged and I think a little contracted incident.

We've received resources requests from the Emergency Management Department to assist with debris cleanup, to assist in the investigation, things like that.

As we continue to gather those resources, we will ask for the communities' patience as the surrounding area will remain closed for the foreseeable future.

And we appreciate everybody's consideration of that.

DAVID SUNDBERG, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR IN CHARGE, FBI WASHINGTON FIELD OFFICE: Good afternoon. I'm Dave Sundberg. I'm the assistant director in charge of the Washington Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

I would like to thank Chief Penn and the Arlington County Police Department and Arlington County Fire Department for the opportunity to be here and for the opportunity to collaborate alongside our other federal partners in this very important investigation. The FBI is assisting in coordinating with our Arlington County and our

federal partners on this investigation into how this house explosion occurred and the individual who caused it.

We continue to provide resources to help confirm that this was an isolated incident and that there is no ongoing threat to this community or to other communities.

When the incident occurred last night, the FBI sent special agent bomb technicians along with other federal partners as well as investigative agents to help support our law enforcement partners here in the local community and to assess the scene and provide technical support.

The individual Chief Penn referenced had previously communicated with the FBI via phone calls, online tips and letters over a number of years.

I would characterize these communications as primarily complaints about alleged frauds he believed were perpetrated against him.

The information contained therein and the nature of those communications did not lead to opening any FBI investigations.

Again, I'd like to thank all of our law enforcement and public safety partners and appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this investigation.

Thank you.

SANCHEZ: We've been listening to officials in Arlington, Virginia, where, last night, there was a major house explosion. Officials saying they had been called to the home of 56-year-old James Yoo multiple times, at least 30 times.

They were trying to serve a warrant after complaints from neighbors that he had been setting off flares repeatedly. When they arrived, officials say that there was gunfire inside of the house.

They could not detect exactly where it was coming from. So then officials deployed -- and this was important. They said they deployed non-flammable irritants in multiple parts of the home.

We also heard from fire department officials saying they turned off the gas at the home before the explosion. And then, you saw unfold this giant fireball sending debris flying into the neighborhood.

Officials believe that the 56-year-old was killed in the explosion. In, fact they found human remains inside the home. Now, they're working to confirm the identity of those remains.


There are other people in the duplex in which James Yoo apparently lived. Fortunately, they were evacuated before the explosion took place.

Officials insist the investigation is still ongoing. We will, of course, bring you the very latest as we get it.

In the meantime, more breaking news on the Trump legal front. CNN has just learned that Eric Trump is not going to be testifying in the New York civil fraud trial. We'll take you live outside the courthouse, next.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: This just into CNN. Eric Trump will no longer testify in the civil fraud trial against him, his father and brother.


We have CNN's Kara Scannell outside of the New York courthouse.

Kara, tell us why the change here.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Trump's attorney, Chris Kise, just came into court after the lunch break, saying that they were streamlining their case and that they would no longer call Eric Trump to testify in his defense.

As a reminder, he was called to testify when -- by the New York attorney general when they're putting on their case. He was going to be one of their final witnesses.

Now Trump's attorneys saying they're not calling him because they're moving to shorten the case.

What that means, there will be no court tomorrow. On Thursday, there will be an accounting expert, an NYU professor who will be testifying.

We also understand that former President Donald Trump will be in attendance on Thursday -- that was the plan as of yesterday -- to listen to the testimony.

He then will testify as the final witness and the defense. That will be on Monday. And that testimony is expected to go all day.

Trump's attorney did ask the judge to postpone Trump's testimony until the appeals court could hear arguments and rule on their efforts to lift this gag order.

The judge shut that down, saying, absolutely not, no way, no how, that's a nonstarter, he will testify Monday, and that's that.

Right now, court has resumed with one of the expert witnesses that the Trump team has called to the stand to talk about valuations of these properties. That is expected to wrap up this afternoon and then we are going into the shortened schedule.

As this case nears the finish line -- we are in the tenth week of this civil fraud trial -- next week, after Trump's testimony, the attorney general's team says they will have one rebuttal witness who will be very short and then the case will be over. The judge said he will rule on this, though, not until early next,

year -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Kara Scannell, with the very latest from outside the courthouse, thank you.


SANCHEZ: Now, to the latest chapter in a saga that CNN covered very closely. A lawsuit filed last week by Gabby Petito's parents alleges that Brian Laundrie made a frantic phone call to his parents telling them that Gabby was gone.

You might remember, the couple were on a cross-country road trip documenting their adventures on social media.

Petito's parents have now amending their civil lawsuits against Laundrie's parents, claiming they knew their son killed Gabby three weeks before her beaten body was discovered in Grand Teton National Park.

Let's discuss with CNN's Jean Casarez.

Jean, you've been following this case from the very beginning. What do we know about why this was filed now?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The third amended complaint, because this case was originally filed last year in March of 2022.

No reason is given. On his, face you could say there are more detailed factual accusations here from the Petito's against the Laundries because they are suing them for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

But one thing I didn't note about a month ago on the case summary online from the courthouse -- because I always look at that to see with the latest is -- there was a notice of possible and proposed plea offer from the Laundrie's to the Petito's.

That has gone nowhere. There's nothing about that.

And now we have, boom, a third amended complaint, with really, really serious accusations here.

Let's look at the timeline, because I think the timeline is focused.

First of all, on August 27th, that's when it is believed Brian Laundrie killed Gabby Petito. That was the date, August 27th as alleged in the complaint.

Two days later is when, according to the amended complaint, a phone call from Brian Laundrie to his parents that, says, quote -- this is from the complaint:

"On August 29th, Brian Laundrie advised his parents, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie, in a frantic telephone call that Gabby was gone and he needed a lawyer."

Now, the complaint also says that they immediately contacted Steve Bertolino, now their family lawyer, and that they even gave him a retainer.

And then, two days later, Steve Bertolino -- this would be September 2nd at this point - Steven Bertolino contacted other attorneys in Wyoming to represent Brian Laundrie, including a Public Defenders' Office, in the same county where Gabriel Petito's body was ultimately discovered.

First of all, a public defender, they only defended in criminal cases. And we know that two weeks after that is when her body, her remains were discovered.

It was not because of the Laundries. It was because of campers, people in the area, social media, everyone who was trying to find out what happened to Gabby Petito.

This suit, for intentional infliction of emotional distress, is because the Petito's allege that the Laundrie's cut them off. They wouldn't respond to them. They blocked them on Facebook.

They wouldn't say anything except a letter that went out to the media saying, "We hope you are reunited with your daughter, Gabby."

And they say you knew fully well what had happened to her and you say this?


And so this civil suit continues. But eye-opening things that are alleged in this.

We've reached out to the Laundrie's and the Laundries' attorney, Steven Bertolino, who's a co-defendant. There is no response from them at this point.

But they will have to respond in a legal answer to this amended complaint.

SANCHEZ: Jean, the Petito's already received a $3 million judgment against the Laundrie's for Gabby's wrongful death. That was last year.

What is their objective? What are they looking for, the outcome of this new filing?

CASAREZ: I think they want the truth. I think they want to know exactly what they knew and what the facts are. Because the Laundrie's have never spoken to them.

And in court, we heard that they will not be responding to them and that they have no duty, that the Laundrie's have no duty to say anything to the Petitos.

That is one reason that I think this was filed. They want to understand the truth.

SANCHEZ: Jean Casarez, thanks so much for bringing us this latest eye- opening update. Much appreciated.

We'll be right back. Stay tuned to CNN.