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Muslim Men Killed in Albuquerque; Edward Ahmed Mitchell is Interviewed about the Killings in Albuquerque; Michigan AG Accuses Opponent of Vote-Tampering; Anne Heche in Stable Condition; Shelling at Ukraine's Nuclear Plant. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired August 08, 2022 - 09:30   ET




ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: The small, tight-knit Muslim community of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is on edge this morning after a series of killings.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So, police believe the death of Naeem Hussain on Friday night may be linked to two other killings last week and the death of another Muslim man in November of last year.

Our Ed Lavandera is in Albuquerque and he joins us now.

I mean you just look at these men, you look at the string of recent shootings, and you look at so many similarities in their background, where they came to the United States from, and police have still so many unanswered questions this morning.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, you know, the four murders of these Muslim men is sending a shock wave of fear and panic through -- as you mentioned, it's a small, tight-knit community here. We're told about 3,000 to 4,000 Muslims who have set up roots here in Albuquerque. Many of them have told us they've never experienced anything like this or any kind of tragedy like this.

But the way these four victims were killed is what is stunning to so many people. According to investigators and Muslim community members that we've spoken with say that these four victims essentially ambushed and surprised and shot with some sort of firearm. And it -- the predominant theme and feeling is, is that none of these men knew or were surprised by the attack. And because of that, and the only real connection between all of them is that they are Muslim, that is what is creating the sensation and the feeling that all of these murders are connected in some way.

Officials are not saying what the motive might be behind the attack, but clearly everyone here operating under the premise that this is some sort of, you know, hateful attack, some sort of, you know, some sort of hateful reason for why all of this is transpiring.

But the predominant theme here right now, Alex and Poppy, is that people here are scared, terrified about why this is happening and if it could happen to them.


AHMAD ASSED, PRESIDENT, ISLAMIC CENTER OF NEW MEXICO: Incredibly terrified, panicked. Some people want to move from the state until this thing is over. Some people have moved from the state. Businesses are closing. They're closing businesses early. Students won't leave their homes. People are not -- it's affecting people from coming over to the mosque to conduct their services, their prayers.

So, in every aspect of daily life that we're used to or accustomed to following, it's impacted it in every way possible.


LAVANDERA: And we should also point out that investigators here have released the photo of a gray Volkswagen Jetta or Passat. They want to find out if anybody has seen that car. They want to be alerted to it. They believe that is the best possible clue they have right now to figure out what is going on with these murders.

Poppy and Alex.

MARQUARDT: All right, Ed Lavandera, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, thank you so much.

Now we are also learning more about the victim, the man killed on Friday in Albuquerque. He was just 25 years old. His name is Naeem Hussain. He had just become a U.S. citizen on July 8th, exactly one month ago. Now, he came to the United States from Pakistan in 2016. He was a Shiite Muslim. He was fleeing persecution in Pakistan. He was a truck driver for several years. And just this year he opened his own trucking business.

His family says that he was making plans to bring his wife from Pakistan. And, according to his brother-in-law, Hussain, quote, had a lot of dreams and he accomplished some of them. His others were cut short by this heinous act.

Joining me now to discuss this string of horrific murders is Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the deputy executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also known as CAIR.

Sir, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

I want to note that the circumstances around Mr. Hussain's death, he was killed the very same day that he attended the funeral of the two Muslim men who were killed right before him, in the two weeks prior. The Islamic Center of New Mexico told CNN that he was worried for his safety. He was told to be careful. What do you believe it means for this small community of Muslims in Albuquerque -- you heard our correspondent there saying it's just a few thousand -- many of whom came here to live the American dream and, instead, they've been killed?

EDWARD AHMED MITCHELL, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, COUNCIL ON American-ISLAMIC RELATIONS (CAIR): Look, what's happening is a tragedy, a disgusting, horrific tragedy. We've seen four different Muslim men ambushed and murdered over the past year, three in the past week. This is unprecedented.


You know, the Muslim community is no strange to hate crimes and acts of hate, but we have never seen something like this, what is -- appears to be a serial shooter or serial killer targeting people who are all Muslim, all of southeast Asian descent, all living or working or worshipping in this same area. It is unprecedented. And it's obviously terrified people in that community and impacted Muslims all across the country. It's a tragedy. It is also a crime. An evil, horrific crime. And whoever is doing it, we got to catch them as soon as possible before they take someone else's life in Albuquerque.

MARQUARDT: The authorities do acknowledge that there's a pattern, but without the suspect, they have not declared -- they have not said that there's -- this is a serial murderer on the loose, they have not declared this to be a hate crime. But it sounds like you do believe and are convinced that this is Islamophobia that has led to multiple hate crimes.

MITCHELL: Look, we don't know who's doing this. We don't know for sure what the motive is. All we know is who the victims are and what they are in common. All four Muslim, all of southeast Asian descent, all living, working, or worshipping in that area. So, you know, we could be surprised by what is going on here. All we know for sure is there is clearly a pattern of Muslims in Albuquerque being targeted. And that is why the Muslim community needs to take steps to protect themselves and why law enforcement is concerned about the safety of the Muslim community there.

You know, when we catch this person, then we can find out why they did it. But, for now, everyone needs to take precautions, being vigilant, preparing for the worst, assuming the worst, but hoping that this will come to an end very soon. And it must come to an end very soon. We cannot have people walking out of their homes in fear they'll be randomly shot or staying in their homes because they're afraid to walk outside. It's completely unacceptable in the United States.

MARQUARDT: Edward, what do you think the ripple effects are going to be beyond Albuquerque among the Muslim communities across this country?

MITCHELL: Yes. Look, I think the American Muslim community has to take our security seriously. We've obviously been doing that over the past 10, 20 years. We have to do that even more.

At the same time, we cannot let ourselves be victimized, right? We want to be vigilant, we want to be safe, but we have the right to be in this country. This is our country. We have the right to practice Islam in this country and we cannot let anyone scare us into not living our lives and not practicing our faith.

So, I think you're going to see vigilance. I think you're going to see increased caution. But I also think you're going to see resilience. We do not view ourselves as a weak, marginalized community that's desperate for public acceptance or government protection. We are a strong, independent, faith-based community. We fear God. And we have confidence in ourselves. And so, I think we're just going to be safe and cautious but also carry on with our lives all across this country.

MARQUARDT: All right, CAIR's Edward Ahmed Mitchell, thank you so much for your time this morning. We will, of course, be following this investigation closely. Thank you.

MITCHELL: Thank you.

HARLOW: Well, still ahead, Donald Trump's former attorney general, Bill Barr, speaking out over the weekend on what he sees now in the Justice Department's criminal investigation into January 6th and why he thinks the former president is, indeed, becoming the focus of this probe.



HARLOW: All right, welcome back.

Now for a story we touched on a little bit earlier this hour out of Michigan. The state's attorney general, Dana Nessel, is calling now for a special prosecutor to investigate her Republican opponent, Matthew DePerno, this is according to documents obtained by "Politico." Nessel cites evidence that ties DePerno, who is a lawyer in Kalamazoo, to a potentially criminal scheme to seize and tamper with voting machines. DePerno's campaign manager pushing back, telling "The Detroit News," the attorney general has, quote, a history, speaking of Nessel here, a history of targeting and persecuting her political enemies.

Let me bring in to talk about this, former federal prosecutor and CNN's senior legal analyst Laura Coates.

So, Laura, let's just start there. So, we went through the reporting a little earlier on the show and now you've got this call from the Michigan AG to bring in a special prosecutor. How significant is this in the grand scheme of election security concerns and, if this does prove to be true, these allegations of real sort of insider threats to secure elections?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Poppy, the idea that somebody could be able to obtain machines and try to tinker with the tabulation or try to insist that you do so, even without actual substantive evidence or probable cause any law has been broken or that the tabulation is incorrect, it does pose a significant risk, which is why you have laws on the books that makes something like this a felony. The idea you cannot go around trying to tamper with our elections.

The idea that the attorney general in Michigan, though, has a prudent course ahead of her and I think the insistence on or the request for a special counsel really turns down the temperature about accusation that she's trying to simply use her advantage and use her platform to persecute or prosecute, excuse me, her political opponent. So you had special counsel as an option to insure independence to insure that it's not going to have a political thumb on the scale.

HARLOW: So, let's turn to Bill Barr's interview with CBS over the weekend, which was, I thought, fascinating. I mean, first, because he doesn't talk that often. And, second, because of how sort of candid he was. In this interview, a few major headlines out of it, but one is on sort of his reaction to the latest news that the federal grand jury subpoenas to high-ranking Trump administration officials and what that signals to him.


Here's what he said.


BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: This suggests to me that they're taking a hard look at the group at the top, including the president and the people immediately around him who were involved in this.


HARLOW: But then, Laura, he said this regarding former President Trump.


BARR: I think definitely the evidence has been building. But after the last set of hearings, I said, you know, personally, if this is what there is, as attorney general, I still don't see that as a sufficient basis to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed by the president. But I'm sure what they're doing is getting deeper and deeper into it.


HARLOW: What do you make of those comments by Barr combined, right, the second seeming to qualify the first, but the first was about the DOJ probe, which we don't know a lot about and the second was really about what the public has seen from the January 6th committee?

COATES: Well, there's a reason we don't know about the DOJ probe. As he well knows, the idea of the public nature of a congressional hearing is quite different than the private and reserved nature oftentimes of a prosecution. The standard by which the committee had to actually explore and evaluate and investigate is different than what a prosecutor would have to do. And so I take that statement to recognize that changing notion of the burden.

For Congress, their burden is to provide transparency, talk about legislative oversight and function and determine whether the people in the United States have enough information to understand the politics of this. The prosecutors, however, they have to look at it from meeting their burden of proof. Can they prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has been committed? So, in saying that, he's not actually undermining the work of the committee, he's acknowledging, I think, the work of the prosecutors.

HARLOW: Right.

COATES: Now, I've also been, you know, a little bit suspicious - not -- that's not the right word. I've been a little bit reluctant, I would say, to confirm or say that this is, in fact, enough to prove that burden because I don't know all that the DOJ knows. But the subpoenas gave you a lot of insight into what they're looking at and investigating. And the higher up the chain, the proximity to those in positions of power tells you a lot about what their focus is. But combine that with what's public and what might be through a grand jury secret proceeding, there's a lot there. And Barr did not say anything, in my mind, to undermine that possibility.

HARLOW: That's right. And if they can get a ruling, if DOJ can get a ruling on executive privilege, vis-a-vis Pat Cipollone, and how that might really change things.

COATES: Right.

HARLOW: Laura Coates, thanks very much.

MARQUARDT: All right, still ahead, actress Anne Heche in intensive care after a fiery car crash into a house in Los Angeles. We'll have the latest on her condition. What we know about what happened as well. That's next.



MARQUARDT: Actress Anne Heche is waking up this morning in intensive care after a fiery car crash in Los Angeles on Friday.

HARLOW: That's right. Her car was engulfed in flames after it crashed into a Los Angeles home. CNN has also obtained a portion of her podcast that was released just hours before the crash. She talks about having a very bad day, about drinking. Of course, we don't know when that podcast was recorded. Again, she's under serious treatment in intensive care.

Our entertainment reporter, Chloe Melas, is here with the details.

How is she doing? Is she going to survive?

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: So, a representative for Anne told CNN yesterday that her condition has been upgraded from critical to stable.


MELAS: We know from CNN's Josh Campbell that authorities have not been able to interview her yet because of the seriousness of her injuries. You know, so many questions about what led up to this crash. And like

you point out, just hours before, an episode of her podcast "Better Together" released. In it she talks about drinking vodka, chasing it with wine and that she had had a really tough week. But, like you said, we don't know exactly when that was recorded. Was it recorded that morning? Was it recorded earlier that week?

We have a little bit of that for you all to listen to.


ANNE HECHE, ACTRESS: Today has been a very unique day. I don't know what happened. Sometimes days just suck. And I don't know if you ever have them, but, you know, some days mama says are - it's just going to be like this -- some days are those no good very bad days.

I drove Atlas to tennis and I'm a little bit shaken. Whatever that means. It's not a very exciting story, it just (EXPLETIVE DELETED) me up, so I'm drinking some vodka and wine.


MELAS: OK, so that episode that was released on Friday has now been removed from its Apple landing page. So I've reached out to her representatives to find out, why was it removed? When was it recorded? And was it recorded that same day?

But, again, terrible timing.

And also let's point out, that when Anne's car barreled into that home causing the fiery crash, there was a woman inside just a few feet away. And there's a GoFundMe page that has been started for this woman by some friends of hers. And, you know, thankfully, everybody is just lucky to be alive.

HARLOW: Alive.

MELAS: And, again, just want to point out, it took over 50 firefighters to put out the blaze.



MELAS: And about 30 minutes until she was extracted from the vehicle.

HARLOW: From the car.

She mentioned driving Atlas to tennis. Is that her child? Does she have children?

MELAS: She does have children. She has two children with her ex- husband. But, again, it's a little bit inaudible at parts as to exactly who she's talking about, what she's talking about, who she's driving to tennis and when that actually took place. But, again, not great timing, which is why I'm assuming it was taken down, but we were able to get it from the production company's website. It was still up there.

MARQUARDT: Right. All right, well, lots of questions still out there.

HARLOW: Thinking of her.

MARQUARDT: Thankfully her condition has gotten better.

Thank you, Chloe Melas.

HARLOW: Thank you, Chloe.

MARQUARDT: All right, well, next, we are live in Ukraine as shelling continues at a nuclear plant that has been controlled for months by Russian forces. The secretary-general of the U.N. is calling the attacks on the power plant suicidal.



HARLOW: The U.N. secretary-general describing the shelling around a Ukrainian nuclear plant as suicidal. Russia and Ukraine both pointing fingers at one another for the attacks. Now Ukrainian officials say some of the radiation monitoring sensors there are damaged.

MARQUARDT: CNN international correspondent David McKenzie is in Kyiv.

David, the Ukrainians are accusing the Russians of firing at spent fuel at that plant.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Alex and Poppy. And just a short time ago the head of the nuclear agency here in Ukraine saying it was very close calls, some 10, 20 meters here away from those fuel -- concrete fuel depots at that massive nuclear facility to the south of where I'm standing.

Now, for several months, the Russians have occupied that site. They've been accused of putting military assets right there in the nuclear power plant's facility's borders. And that, of course, is something that has been roundly condemned for many weeks.

In the last few days there has been shelling and even rocket attacks that have damaged some pf the infrastructure on that large site. Both sides accusing the other of actually doing that. This is extremely tense situation. Very dangerous.

The president of Ukraine, President Zelenskyy, saying that this needs to get more international attention.


That this threatens not just Ukraine, but the whole of Europe, because this is the largest nuclear facility of its kind on the European continent.