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Author Salman Rushdie Attacked Onstage, Suspect in Custody; Ohio Police Identify Armed Man Killed in Standoff at FBI Office; Violent Rhetoric Circulates on Pro-Trump Forums After FBI Search; Polio Virus Detected in NYC Wastewater Samples; Family of Anne Heche Gives Sad Update on Her Condition. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired August 12, 2022 - 14:30   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: A shocking scene this morning at the Chautauqua Institution in New York. Award-winning author, Salman Rushdie, was attacked onstage right before he was going to give a lecture. The suspect is in custody.

We are working to learn more about Rushdie's condition. We do know that he suffered an apparent wound to the neck, was airlifted to the hospital. A reporter saw a man on the stage punching or stabbing the novelist.

This video shows the aftermath.




BLACKWELL: CNN's Erica Hill is here.

This is shocking. He comes out to deliver a speech as he's done many times and then this attack. What do we know?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR & CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You mentioned one of the witnesses said it looked like he was being punched or stabbed.

Another witness tells CNN she counted roughly seven to 10 what she described as stabbing motions before this eyewitness decided to flee for her safety. And she was shaking like a leaf.

It all happened very quickly as he was being introduced for this event, for this lecture.

The police say it is an apparent stab wound to the neck. In terms of how he's doing, we don't have a lot of updates on his condition.

The one update that we have actually came from Governor Kathy Hochul, who was at a separate event, who said, in her words, he is "alive and hospitalized," that he's getting the care he needed.

And she also credited the state police who were on scene there, who acted immediately. You can see in this video, as people rushed to the stage, that they reacted immediately.

They did take someone into custody. We do not have information on that suspect at this point. We are working to get more information on that.

Again, really, just -- one witness saying this was a real shock to see this happening in this moment.

It's interesting, too, there are questions about security. So we were told -- CNN was told by another witness that they had noticed an increase in private security over the last 24 hours at the Chautauqua Institution.

But as for this particular event, there was not a security check coming in. There were no metal detectors. The only sort of check, if you will, that was happening was checking to make sure people had the proper pass or ticket for the event but that was it.

BLACKWELL: All right. Erica Hill, if we get a development, we'll bring you right back.

Thank you.

Ohio police have identified Ricky Shiffer as the armed man killed in a standoff yesterday.

Now we're learning more about the man who attempted to enter an FBI field office in Cincinnati with an AR-15-style rifle and a nail gun.

An account under Shiffer's name was identified on Trump's Truth Social platform. It contains some violent rhetoric. And he was previously known to the FBI.

CNN's Brynn Gingras has been following this.

What do we know about the posts and the investigation into Shiffer?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor, like you said just there, that's new, the fact that the FBI knew who this was prior to what happened yesterday after they learned his name.

That's because there was some sort of connection from Shiffer to the January 6th insurrection.

Also we're learning from sources that there is some sort of known associates that Shiffer had within the right-wing extremist group Proud Boys.

We've also learned that Shiffer had some weapons training. He served in the U.S. Navy and part of his service on submarines was sort of dealing with the weapons system aboard those submarines.

[14:35:06] So he certainly knew what he was doing with high-powered rifles, which we learned from sources is what he brought into that FBI field office yesterday in Cincinnati.

As you mentioned, the social media account, it bears the same name as Shiffer. It also has the same picture, we've confirmed with sources, of Shiffer. Though they are not confirming that this is his account just yet.

But such disturbing details in this account, talking about how the election in 2020 was a lie, calling for combat against federal law enforcement forces.

And the rhetoric really bumped up this past week in the wake of the search of Mar-a-Lago on Monday.

After that, there were several posts by this user talking about how people should go to their local pawn shops and get armed and go to Florida. And if they encounter any FBI agents, they should kill them.

"When tyranny becomes the law, rebellion becomes the duty."

The sort of rhetoric that was sort of building up, certainly within this last week. And it paints a picture of what kind of person this is.

All of this is still under investigation. Authorities are looking at all the social media of Ricky Shiffer to find out closer to what was the motivation of going to that FBI field office.

Certainly, disturbing details coming from that user's account.

BLACKWELL: Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.

Let's discuss this now with former Congresswoman Barbara Comstock and former FBI special agent, Stuart Kaplan.

Welcome to you both.

Stuart, let me start with you.

As you heard in Brynn's report, that the anti-law-enforcement, anti- FBI rhetoric really boosted in the last week. On Monday, there was the search of Mar-a-Lago.

Do you see potentially a connection between some of the rhetoric we're seeing from lawmakers vilifying the FBI and what happened in Cincinnati yesterday?

STUART KAPLAN, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Honestly, no. I think, unfortunately, in this day and age, the FBI is watching hundreds if not, unfortunately, thousands of these types of individuals that are predatory across our nation with respect to utilizing social media.

Unfortunately, the resources of the FBI can only prioritize those individuals that they think the threats are imminent, meaning that there may be a potential threat within the next day or two.

I was part of the Special Operations Division where we would be following individuals 24 hours a day, seven days a week, if not for days, weeks, months, even years.

But the reality is I think the escalation over the last couple of years has culminated, unfortunately, with many of these individuals not only are sitting at home and festering, with respect to seeing things like this play out on the news.

But more importantly, they have weapons. They're in possession of weapons. And they're just a time bomb waiting to go off. Unfortunately, it may be that this may have been the individual's breaking point.

But it wasn't whether or not it was going to happen. It was just when it was going to happen.

It was a definite event that I think would have happened regardless of whether it would have been the search warrant on Tuesday or some other event that would have triggered this individual.

BLACKWELL: Understood.

Congresswoman, let me ask you about some of the rhetoric from your former colleagues over the last several days.

Listen, over 2020 and since 2020, many Republicans have condemned Democrats for being critical of law enforcement, for calling for reduction of funding of some of these departments.

And now, you have some who say, defund the FBI, who are trying to vilify FBI agents.

What's your view of what you're hearing?

BARBARA COMSTOCK (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN FROM VIRGINIA: I think it's just disgusting what we're hearing.

Paul Gosar from Arizona said, "Destroy the FBI." And now you have Marjorie Green, saying "Defund the FBI." And then you saw on Monday, immediately, people attacking the FBI.

Even this morning, you saw Elise Stefanik accusing the FBI of -- and the Justice Department of politicizing this, with absolutely no evidence at all.

Now, I worked with Chris Wray when he was in the Bush Justice Department. He was at the Ashcroft Justice Department, a Republican administration. And he is a consummate professional.

He was appointed by Donald Trump. Which, even on FOX News this morning, Steve Doocy pointed that out to Elise Stefanik. Yet she goes out there and uses that kind of rhetoric that you usually see with Paul Gosar or Marjorie Greene and is attacking with no basis. Really geared to that audience of one. [14:40:06]

So I do think it's very frightening to see even leadership, you know, trying to politicize this instead of having everyone calm down.

I would like to say, though, that you did see earlier this summer Senate leaders come together and try and calm this down when they worked on the gun legislation.

So I would like to commend Senator Murphy, Senator Cornyn, who realized that things had gotten out of hand, whether it's domestic terrorism or crime in the cities, and they came together and worked on that gun legislation.

And we need to have leaders working like that on these domestic terrorism threats.

We need to give more money to the FBI to work on the domestic terrorist threats and not defund the police. More money in our cities so that people like Eric Adams in New York City can work on the crime problem.

BLACKWELL: Stuart, explain the work of deradicalization. Because I imagine one portion of it is calming some of the rhetoric in these places where we're seeing it now flare up on these social media platforms.

But in this environment, is that possible? Is it likely that things can calm down?

KAPLAN: Well, look, Victor, that's a great point. And look, when I was at the bureau, when we conducted, whether it was a national security investigation or a criminal investigation, they were cloaked in secret.

We're living in a world where people have an expectation, as if we're watching a movie or we're reading a novel, where the public believes that they have a right to kind of watch this thing unfold.

And one of the things, with all due respect, that I'm kind of critical of the attorney general doing yesterday, is exactly playing into the court of public opinion.

Obviously, they're feeling the heat. They're feeling the pressure. And now they're moving to release a search warrant where that's a highly irregular, highly unusual -- I don't even know if it's ever been done in modern history.

And my point being is, that we need to have politicians focus on what they're tasked to do, that's to legislate laws and do other things and not police the FBI and worry about the FBI.

The FBI, the men and women of the FBI, they're the unsung heroes. There are so many men and women that make the ultimate sacrifice. And we never hear about the successes that happen each and every day to keep us all safe. And it's unfortunate that this trust, this question of the erosion of

the FBI's integrity, where now the legitimacy of the FBI is being eroded, is something I would have never thought in my lifetime I would have ever heard.

I think we need to get people back to what they're designated or tasked to do, kind of shut up and calm things down. The more you stir it, the more it's kind of smelling. That's why even today, rumors, conjectures, innuendos.

Let the FBI do their job and leave it alone.

BLACKWELL: I will say here that the attorney general said that this was not something that he intended to do. But because the former president made this such a point of public discussion, that he made the choice.

I understand you disagree with it. That is the opinion from Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Stuart Kaplan, former Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, thank you both.

Health officials in New York City say polio virus has been detected in the wastewater. New details on that, next.



BLACKWELL: Polio virus has been detected in wastewater samples in New York City. Health officials say this suggests the virus is circulating, and they're urging people to stay up to date on vaccinations.

CNN's medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, joins us.

So now it's in the wastewater. It's not just in one county, which was in Rockland County.

DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. We know about the one case in Rockland County, probably many more. It was in the wastewater in sewage in Rockland County. And now they're finding it in the wastewater in New York City, which tells us there are cases here.

Polio mostly is asymptomatic. The problem is those asymptomatic can infect someone who will become paralyzed. The problem is low vaccination rates in Rockland County and parts of New York City, too.

Let's take a look at the rates. Nationally, for young children, the vaccination rates for polio are 92 percent, which is good. But when you look at certain neighborhoods in New York City, it is low. Williamsburg, Battery Park City, other neighborhoods, 56 to 58 percent.

And so once it's circulating, you really worry about those children who are not up to date on their vaccines. They're really vulnerable.

BLACKWELL: Of course, of course.

How about the people, though, who fall into that 92 percent, who are vaccinated? Now, this happened a long time ago for a lot of us.

COHEN: Right. So you and I were vaccinated, correctly. Our parents were smart and vaccinated us as children. So we are protected. You are protected, the CDC says, if you were fully vaccinated, even if it was decades ago.

Here is who they worry about. They worry about people who are immune compromised. If you're immune compromised and you are fully vaccinated, it could be a problem. That vaccine may not have worked completely on you.

The other people they worry about, of course, unvaccinated people or people who are born, babies born to mothers who are not vaccinated because they didn't get their mothers' antibodies.

BLACKWELL: We'll watch this one.

Thank you very much, Elizabeth Cohen.

COHEN: Thanks.


BLACKWELL: The family of Actress Anne Heche shares some devastating news on her condition after that fiery car wreck. An update, next.


BLACKWELL: We've got an update now on Anne Heche's condition. She is still in the hospital after she crashed her car into a Los Angeles home on Friday. She was badly burned.

CNN's Chloe Melas is here.

What do we know about how she's doing now?

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Victor, I just received a statement from a representative for Anne Heche and her family. They say she is still on life support but that she is technically -- has no more brain activity. They're saying she is legally brain dead.

And they are saying that the legacy organization at the hospital, that is the one responsible for matching her organs to a recipient, that they still have to keep her on life support to make sure that these organs are viable and they can find people or a person that needs those.


So as of now, the representative says that, you know, her heart is still beating. But they did send us a statement and refer to her in the past tense.

Because they say to us that, you know, "While Anne is legally dead according to California law, her heart is still beating," right?

They say, "We have lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother and loyal friend."

The go on to say, "Anne will be deeply missing but she lives on through her beautiful sons and her iconic body of work."

But again, her heart is still beating. She's on life support. Obviously, this is a very touch and go, sensitive situation right now.

But that is the update.

BLACKWELL: And we learned just a little earlier they said that she was not expected to survive. But this gift of love to find now someone who could benefit from her organs as she was someone who wanted to be an organ donor.

MELAS: Yes, we've known that she wanted to be an organ donor. And they are hoping, that, again, this will be part of this -- a positive part of this incredibly sad tragedy.

BLACKWELL: Chloe Melas, thank you.

MELAS: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right, time is almost up. Any minute now, we will learn if former President Trump's lawyers will oppose the DOJ's motion to unseal the warrant authorizing the FBI to search his home. And there's new reports on what was found on the property.