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Suspect Allegedly Posted Plans Online 30 Minutes Before Rampage; 911 Dispatcher On Leave After Call From Whispering Person Cut Short; DHS Warns Of Threats Against Supreme Court Following Leaked Draft; Dhs Pauses New Disinformation Board After Right-Wing Criticism; DHS Pushed Jan. 6 Committee For Witness Testimony Transcripts; Stephanie Grisham Meeting 1/6 Committee Again Today; Dow Tumbles 1,000 Points Amid Inflation Fears & Most CEOs Bracing For Recession. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired May 18, 2022 - 14:30   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Just into CNN, New York's attorney general is launching an investigation into the social media companies used by the suspected gunman in Saturday's mass shooting in Buffalo.

A.G. Tish James tweeted out some of the companies she will be looking at, Twitch, 4chan, 8chan, Discord.

A spokesman for Discord confirmed the alleged gunman posted his plans online 30 minutes before he went to the Tops Supermarket and shot 13 people. Ten of them, all black, died.

CNN's Omar Jimenez joins me now from Buffalo with the stories.

Is there any way to know, Omar, who, if anyone saw the posting?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor, so as you mentioned, this was 30 minutes before the start of the attack on Saturday. That was when a small group of people was invited to and joined what was previously a private server, according to this Discord spokesperson.

Now, in this server, what they would have found were essentially documentation of the planning of this attack, showing that this alleged shooter came, made that initial roughly 200-mile journey from his home county to here in Buffalo back on March 8th.

Went inside the Tops Supermarket multiple times that day. Made notes of the proportion of black people to white people. Mapped out the aisles and the exits, things of that nature.

And it's part of why New York Attorney General Letitia James is launching an investigation into some of the social media platforms, like Discord and Twitch, that hosted some of the material that this alleged gunman posted either before or on the day of this attack.

BLACKWELL: Omar, let me ask you about this 911 dispatcher on administrative leave. County executive said that this person is likely going to be fired over response to an emergency call during the shooting.

What happened?

JIMENEZ: Yes, so this call went to 911 during the shooting. And as we understand from the county executive, this person was whispering on the call, as we can imagine because of what was happening all around this person.

And the only words they would use, officials here, to describe this, was that the operator acted completely inappropriately. And that, at some point later on, the call eventually hung up. The county executive said he wasn't sure from which end it came from.

Bottom line, this operator is now being placed on administrative leave, again, pending a disciplinary hearing for what he's described as inappropriate behavior as well.

It's also important to note that whatever was happening with this call, the county executive wanted people to know it did not affect the speed with which officers were dispatched.

Because that came from what we presume was a separate call within the first 30 seconds of this happening.

BLACKWELL: Lastly, on the supermarket behind you, closed obviously. Still an investigation happening there. Any word on when they will be able to clean it up, restock it, and reopen it?

JIMENEZ: Well, the timing at this point is unclear. But public officials here say they have gotten a commitment from Tops Supermarket to reopen at some point.

In the meantime, they are helping shuttle people to other Tops Supermarket locations.

People here in the community are helping organize local food drives, including the Buffalo Bills, who are out here today helping to hand out food to members of the community.

Again, to try and fill in those gaps that are now even more prevalent without this supermarket. But these are all, though, temporary fixes.

When you look at the USDA data for the census tracks around this area, it shows largely low income and largely low vehicle access, which becomes critical when you look at the fact that the nearest fresh produce is over a mile, in some cases, close to two miles away.

And so just to get the utility back of the supermarket, the demand is as critical as ever -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: It's way too far for people on foot.

Omar Jimenez, for us there on the east side of Buffalo, thank you so much. [14:34:29]

Just weeks after its creation, the Department of Homeland Security's new board to fight disinformation is put on pause. We'll tell you why next.


BLACKWELL: The Supreme Court is now on high alert. The Department of Homeland Security is warning about potential threats to the court, the justices, and their clerks related to the debate over abortion rights.

CNN's Whitney Wild is with us now.

Tell us about this new memo.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Victor, right now, a lot of this is pointing to social media posts that suggest there could be threats not only to the Supreme Court justices but also health care providers, religious groups among them.

This Department of Homeland Security memo warned about threats that include language about burning down or storming the Supreme Court, murdering justices and their clerks, attacking members of Congress, and lawful demonstrators.


This DHS memo warnings that, quote, "Domestic violent extremists and criminal actors have adopted narratives surrounding abortion rights to encourage violence, likely increasing the threat to government, religious, and reproductive health care personnel and facilities and ideological components" -- or excuse me -- "opponents."

One example of occurred May 7th when a social media channel administrator encouraged other users to engage in, quote, "unrelenting violence as an alternative to counterprotests."

The memo to law enforcement partners makes clear, Victor, that the possibility for violence exists on both sides of this debate.

And it follows more than a year of warnings that America remains in its heightened threat environment.

In part, because people here and abroad are latching onto these socially divisive issues and using them as an opportunity, as a vehicle to call for further acts of violence -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about the department now pausing this newly created board to fight disinformation. Why? What happened here?

WILD: Well, a lot of this came from the intense scrutiny of the head of that board. The head of that board now resigning. She put out a statement today in which she laid out some of the reasons for this.

And also said that, now more than ever, based on the events that we've seen, you know, not just here but also abroad, highlights the need for a board like this.

So we can just get to this quote here from her. She says she's "disappointed that the mischaracterization of the board had simply become a distraction from the department's vital work.

And again, "indeed, along with recent events globally and nationally, this embodies why that kind of work is necessary."

Victor, DHS said that this team has always been mischaracterized. But they acquiesce that it could have been rolled out a lot better.

DHS says the team was meant to focus first on disinformation surrounding human migration and potential disinformation threats from Russia aimed at U.S. critical infrastructure.

Mostly, it's just a working group. It doesn't actually have any operational authority.

The head of that board's appointment quickly drew condemnation from GOP lawmakers and right-wing media, who had pointed to her past tweets and statements regarding Hunter Biden's laptops and Christopher Steele, the author of the so-called Steele dossier.

So now the board is on pause as it undergoes a review -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: Whitney Wild, with the latest for us, thank you.

Tensions are growing between the Justice Department and the January 6th committee. At the center of this, transcripts of witness depositions. We'll explain next.



BLACKWELL: The Justice Department has asked the January 6th committee to hand over the transcripts from witness depositions. But a committee spokesman tells CNN the committee has not responded.

That's partly because the House panel chairman says that the depositions are property of the committee.

Let's go to CNN's Ryan Nobles.

Ryan, what do you know?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor this is an interesting development because it tells us two things about these two separate investigations.

One that's taking place in the Department of Justice. The other that's taking place on the capitol with the January 6th committee. And it shows they're not working together all that much.

The Department of Justice asking kind of for a wide range of access to the witness transcripts of these depositions that the committee has taken place.

According to the House chairman, Bennie Thompson, they didn't ask for specific names but, in general, just access to that material.

Now, the committee's conducted somewhere in the range of 900 witness interviews. They have all been done behind closed doors. We've only seen sneak peeks of some of these depositions through some court filings that have taken place over a certain period of time.

But what it shows us is that the Department of Justice is expanding its investigation into what happened on January 6th. And that they are at least interested, in some form or fashion, in what the committee has uncovered.

So this is somewhat of a standoff between the committee and the department as the committee has said they're not just going to hand over this information.

They left open the idea that perhaps investigators from the Department of Justice could come in and read this material in person. But they aren't just going to hand the information over.

The chairman saying that this is their property and that they are going to control it.

And of course, these depositions are continuing, Victor. This is an ongoing investigation as we approach these big public hearings that are scheduled to take place next month.

We're told that Stephanie Grisham, a former White House press secretary, the chief of staff to Melania Trump, the first lady, she's meeting with the committee again today. She already had an informal interview with investigators a couple of months ago.

Grisham, of course, has broken with the Trump family. She's written a very critical book about her time in the White House. And she's also been very critical of the way that the Trumps conducted themselves on January 6th.

She, of course, wasn't in Washington on that day, but she does have unique insight into what was going on during that period of time.

So this is just an example, Victor, of how this investigation is continuing to plow forward -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: Certainly is.

Ryan Nobles, with the reporting, thank you very much.

Let's get into all of that now with former U.S. attorney, Harry Litman. He's a former deputy assistant attorney general.

Harry, good to have you back.

(CROSSTALK) BLACKWELL: Let's start here with the request. What it tells us --

before we get into handing it over and what access they'll have - the request from DOJ for these transcripts, what does it tell you about the progress of their investigation?


HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: It says that it's wide ranging and really accelerating. Look, this letter was sent out a month ago. We're hearing about it now.

But, obviously, even back then, they had done enough of the initial work to want what is a mother lode of information from the committee that's been developed not just about the events on the ground, of course, but also about the pressure on Pence.

We know there's a grand jury looking at obstruction, the funding and organization. And that mean they're casting a very broad net if they've asked in the first instance -- I think this is the open of a negotiation for, give us all you've got.

So, the most important thing about this, Victor, is it shows the scope of this second follow-up investigation by the department, not the events on the ground, but the political actors, is broad and accelerating.

BLACKWELL: So let's talk about access now. The chairman, Chairman Bennie Thompson, says these belong to the committee. It's been a month since the request. Well, they came in April. We're now in mid-May.

Are you confident the DOJ will at least have access to them if they have to even go to Capitol Hill and read them in person?

LITMAN: Look, I am. And again, I think it's important that they're making it now. They could wait.

I mean, this is the committee's crown jewels, right? And they don't want to give them up until they have had the chance to put them on display. You can understand that.

The department will have an easy time of it on the other side, but they want it now.

In any event, yes, I am confident. I think the committee, A, wants to be sure that it gets to -- you know, nobody steals its thunder. And, B, maybe gets something from the department as well. So this, I think, is a sort of dance that is just beginning.

There are different kinds of outcomes. But will the department generally, in fairly short order, be able to see the bulk of what they have even if it's just to review and go home? I think the answer to that is yes.

BLACKWELL: Let's move on. Stephanie Grisham, White House aide who has testified before the 1/6 committee before, is back in front of the committee today. As Ryan said, she was not in Washington, not at the White House on the

day of the insurrection. What do you make of this revisit, this second visit with the committee?

LITMAN: Well, first, this one I believe is under oath. They do some just voluntary interviews, and this is an actual deposition.

But it's very illustrative of what they're doing. They are not trying -- and the department will be different. If it gets its hands on this information, they can use to it push up.

But the committee, I think, is being very careful to take what it can get, to get a Grisham instead of a Melania or anyone in the family, observers who can tell them what she saw of the first family during those days.

So it's secondhand, but very important. And I think that's the story they're going to tell. They want to be comprehensive but they're not going to go for home runs.

We talked and heard Thompson yesterday say, we're not going try for Trump. They just want to fill in every piece, one way or the other. And she gives them a few more pieces.


LITMAN: Also, by the way, they can use this today for video. That's a going to be a big part of what they do with that, chunks of this in video come June.

BLACKWELL: All right. Harry, good to see you. Thank you.

LITMAN: Thank you, Victor.


BLACKWELL: All right, the Dow is sharply down, more than 1,000 points. More than 1,100 points now. The majority of CEOs say a recession is coming. And they're sounding the alarm on the direction of the nation's economy. We'll get into that, next.



BLACKWELL: U.S. markets are down big. Take a look at the big board now. Down 1,100 points. New data on inflation and disappointing retail earnings are driving stocks lower.

And there's a new survey that suggests American business leaders are bracing for a recession. Nearly 70 percent of CEOs expecting the Feds' efforts to tame inflation will trigger an economic downturn.

CNN business reporter, Matt Egan, is with us now.

Is there some link between the projections and all of this red we're seeing on the Dow?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, Victor, I think the common theme here is really high inflation. Both corporate America and Wall Street are worried about how high inflation has gotten and what the Federal Reserve is going to have to do to get it knocked down to healthier levels.

This CEO survey was pretty striking. It showed that CEO confidence is at the lowest level since the going of COVID. And 60 percent of CEOs expect economic conditions are going to worsen. And more than two- thirds expect a Fed-induced recession.

A couple of caveats here. Only 11 percent of CEOs expect a deep recession. Most of them expect a mild recession. That's relatively good news.

And it's not necessarily an imminent recession. It could be something that starts in the next few years. So it's kind of vague there.

But the big worry is the Fed is going to have to raise interest rates so much that it's really going to slow down the economy.

That's also what's unnerving investors. I mean the Dow down 1,100 points, 3.5 percent. NASDAQ down much more, more than 4 percent. And the S&P 500 is getting uncomfortably close bear-market territory.


Target was the central catalyst for this. The retailer put out a surprising drop in profits. They're blaming supply chain turmoil, higher costs. Target is actually on track for its worst day since Black Friday in 1987.


EGAN: Which is pretty amazing.

Walmart also sounding the alarm on inflation. Just yesterday, Walmart had its worst day since 1987.