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Kevin Fixler is Interviewed about the Killing of Four Students in Idaho; New York Increases Protection for Communities at Risk of Hate Crimes; Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) is Interviewed about 2024; Tips and Hacks for Holiday Travel. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 21, 2022 - 09:30   ET



CAPT. ROGER LANIER, MOSCOW, IDAHO, POLICE: A male seen at the grub truck food vender downtown, specifically wearing a white hoodie, a private party who provided rides home to Kaylee and Madison in the early morning hour of November 13th.

Currently, there are no suspects in custody, and we have not located a weapon.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Important clarifications there.

Joining me now, Kevin Fixler. He's an investigative reporter for "The Idaho Statesman."

Kevin, good to have you on this morning.


SCIUTTO: Listen, it's hard to follow this. I'm sure a tough story for you to cover here just personally but also given the drip, drip of details here.

Let's go over one by one what we know and what we've learned recently.

So, Moscow police say that there were other people in the house when police responded to the scene, aside from the two roommates who survived, who were uninjured. Do we know how many and when exactly those additional people arrived in the home?

FIXLER: We don't know the number that was addressed for the first time in the press conference last night. Specifically asked, and the chief of police said he wasn't even sure exactly. So, he would have to get back to us. But, again, that is a new detail we learned just yesterday.

SCIUTTO: Understood. OK, police have said that the 911 call was made from a phone belonging to the -- one of the surviving roommates. Have they given any sense of the identity of who that caller was. Was it that person whose phone was used?

FIXLER: Again, asked specifically of the chief, but we've consistently heard a default that, you know, they want to protect the integrity of the investigation, not jeopardize anything. So, they are keeping a lot of information close to the chest. But we don't know who it was and also there were multiple people apparently who had spoken to dispatch through that phone.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Listen, I mean, it's got to be frustrating for the community here because here we are eight days out and the killer is still on the loose. No sense of the identity. And I know a lot of people on campus there have left because they're concerned about their own safety.

Is it your sense that investigators are managing expectations here, right, to some degree saying we may not have the answers for some time?

FIXLER: Right. And that was a theme that emerged yesterday at the press conference where we're starting to hear where both the chief of police, as well as the college presidents speak to that people need to be prepared for a longer-term investigation. This could take some time.

SCIUTTO: Goodness.

Police do say they've received more than 600 tips. They are still asking for surveillance video from the area.

Is there any sense, given the time you've been on this, that they're making progress here?

FIXLER: Again, I mean, to your point, there's been sort of a trickle of information, and I think police are hearing that they need to both begin to provide more information, yesterday was the second press conference that they've had since the week when the incident occurred, and then also there's another one scheduled this Wednesday.


FIXLER: So, there is a little bit more information coming out and, yes, as you mentioned, about 650 tips. They've also conducted 90 interviews. So, it does sound like they're moving forward and they are clearing more people and publicly disclosing them.

SCIUTTO: Yes. This is, of course, Thanksgiving week. And beyond the fear of a killer still on the loose here, a lot of folks going home for the Thanksgiving holiday. And I imagine a lot of those folks are people that investigators would want to speak with.

Are authorities worried that would impact the investigation?

FIXLER: They actually addressed that early in, that they felt that they had the opportunity to still speak to these individuals even though they might be away. I mean, obviously, there's a way to contact people by phone. But, yes, I mean, it could prolong things if people who may have seen something or have not approached police or informed them that they were familiar with the victims that evening, yes, I mean those are people who probably will come out as they return to campus.

SCIUTTO: Well, one more quick thing. Investigators do say that this home was known as a party house, which might mean, I suppose, that there are a lot of people coming and going, particularly on a Saturday night like this, and might have even then had the access code to enter the home.

Is that causing an issue for investigators trying to determine exactly who was there at some point during that evening?

FIXLER: It's a good question and it's -- the door code, which apparently many people had access to, that's not something specific that police have talked about yet. It's sort of discussion around the community that this was a home that many went to and it back stopped the new Greek row at the university.

SCIUTTO: Understood. And I understand a lot of folks who returned to that home had been to fraternity parties earlier that evening.

Kevin Fixler, thanks so much for joining us. I'm sure we'll have you back as we learn more.


FIXLER: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, New York State Police are increasing surveillance and protection for communities at risk of hate crimes. This after police arrested two men at New York City's Penn Station Saturday in connection with what authorities say was a developing threat to the Jewish community.

CNN's Brynn Gingras, she's live from city hall in New York.

Brynn, this is a phenomenon. You and I have talked with multiple times, hate crimes, threats to the Jewish community, as well as others. What are they saying about these particular arrests?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, Jim, they're saying this was a credible, imminent threat that was thwarted thanks to the NYPD, the joint terrorism task force here in New York, the FBI. Right now there are two New York men who are sitting behind bars on different charges in relation to this. One of them, a 21-year-old, Christopher Brown, he is facing terroristic threats as well as weapons charges. He is behind bars on no bail. And then Matthew Mahrer, another New Yorker, behind bars on $150,000 cash bond for criminal possession charges.

Now, let me walk you through exactly what authorities say was happening here. Basically they became aware of these online postings threatening an attack on the Jewish community, on a Manhattan synagogue back on November 12th. And they were able to trace those postings to a computer that was being used at a veterinary clinic where one of these suspects was working - or where a suspect was working.

And essentially the threats, there were a number of them. One of them, I want to read one to you. It said, quote, going to ask a priest if I should become a husband or shoot up a synagogue and die. There was also postings talking about a date and time, but no specific target where an attack might happen. So, you can imagine our sources are telling us that there was this frantic effort, Jim, to basically not only identify who they were looking for, but also locate them. And that they did. Basically they -- MTA, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, found them on the train system back over the weekend and essentially were able to make those arrests.

But you can manage that the fear that was going through the law enforcement minds wondering if this was going to be some major crisis, which, again, they were able to thwart.

We're going to hear from the mayor a short time from now, as well as the police commissioner, about more details on how this was all uncovered.


SCIUTTO: Goodness. You look at those weapons. They're semiautomatic, extended magazine. So often the kids of weapons we see used in attacks.

Brynn Gingras, thanks very much.


SCIUTTO: Well, some top Democrats tell CNN that they are confident President Biden is their best bet to beat Donald Trump in 2024, but there are worries about the president's chances against a different Republican. I'll discuss with Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton, including other issues, just ahead.



SCIUTTO: New CNN reporting this morning that Democrats are privately worried about President Biden's chances against any Republican other than Donald Trump in 2024. While they are confident Biden is their best bet against Trump in particular, they are concerned that a younger, fresher Republican could be a tough battle for Biden. Asked how they would feel about Biden's chance against, for instance, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis or other Republicans who could make a generational argument without Trump's baggage, Democratic operatives that CNN spoke to used terms like, not great and uneasy.

Joining me now, Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts. He sits on the Armed Services Committee and is a veteran himself.

Congressman, thanks for taking time this morning.

REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): Good to see you, Jim. SCIUTTO: So, first, I want to ask you a big picture question. You have

said, and this was regarding Nancy Pelosi stepping down as Democratic leader in the House, that it is, quote, absolutely the right time for new leadership. Is it time for new leadership and a new candidate at the top of the Democratic Party for 2024?

MOULTON: Well, look, I mean, a lot of people are asking this question, but I have a lot of faith in Joe Biden as president. He's been one of the most productive presidents in the last 50 years. So, he's done an awful lot and, you know, there will probably - we'll see if there's a primary process leading up to them, but I'm certainly prepared to support Joe Biden.

I think the exciting thing is that when you look across the party is we are getting new leadership. We're finally getting new leadership in the House, which is exciting, it will be a new generation, some younger voices.

At the end of the day, we want to be the majority party in this country that represents the majority of Americans. And that means that we've got to have some people who can speak to older Americans. It also means we have to have people who can speak to younger Americans. We shouldn't have just one cabal of leadership all, you know, of one - of one ilk. And I think that's what you're seeing in this party, a much more diverse leadership slate.

SCIUTTO: You mentioned a primary process. In your view, should there be an open primary? Should there be people willing to challenge Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination?

MOULTON: Jim, I wouldn't be here if I hadn't challenged a long-time Democrat in a primary. So, I believe that primaries are part of our democracy. And I'm not sitting here saying that absolutely someone should go and primary Joe Biden. I'm not recommending that because of the faith I have in him as president. But if someone wants to do that, of course. This is the democratic system. We shouldn't discourage it.

SCIUTTO: Final question on that topic, will you challenge Joe Biden? Will you consider it?

MOULTON: No, thanks, Jim, I appreciate that and people have asked, but I'm -- I'm very proud to be representing Massachusetts right now. And the work that we're doing on the Armed Services Committee in particular, with everything going on in the world, Ukraine, always at risk of boiling over, and a new focus of mine, preventing a war in the Pacific over Taiwan.


I just came back from there in October. That's -- that's taking up more than -- more than full days for me. So I'm good where I am, thank you.

SCIUTTO: As you know, the GOP is taking over the control of the House. Kevin McCarthy, this weekend, reiterated his pledge to remove three Democrats in particular, Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell and Ilhan Omar from their committee assignments. I wonder, in your view, did Democrats lay the groundwork for this by removing some Republicans from their committee assignments in the last Congress, among them Marjorie Taylor Greene, but also Pelosi blocking some Republicans from the January 6th committee, Jim Jordan, Jim Banks?

MOULTON: You know, look, we - we did the right thing to respond to some unprecedented situations. I mean Marjorie Taylor Greene, I don't think we've ever seen something the likes of her in the United States Congress. And she deserved to be removed from a committee, so that's exactly what we did.

But if you think that Republicans can just turn around and do this to us, trying to play politics with very serious business, it's not that simple. It requires a vote of the entire House to remove someone from a committee, not just the caucus, the party that's in charge. And you already, in the House, see pushback against this move by McCarthy. Groups like the Problem Solvers, other moderates saying that this is not helpful to moving the Democratic process forward.

I think removing Marjorie Taylor Greene was the right thing for democracy. I think playing politics with this and trying to have a tit for tat, which is exactly what Kevin McCarthy is trying to do now, that's not helpful for our country, it's not what the American people want.

SCIUTTO: On another topic I know close to your heart, and that is the war in Afghanistan, you, of course, served in the U.S. military. You were a leading Democratic voice when it comes to calling attention to the delays in evacuating Afghans, for instance, who served alongside of U.S. forces there.

One of the GOP majority's pledges is to investigate the Afghanistan withdrawal. And I wonder, would you support such an investigation?

MOULTON: I would, but I would support an investigation of the entirety of the Afghan war. This didn't all just go to hell in a handbasket with the withdrawal. There were mistakes that were made by multiple presidents, Democratic and Republican, over the course of 20 years. And if we want to prevent those mistakes from happening again, ultimately do the work, the oversight of Congress, so that more American troops don't needlessly lose their lives, then we will examine the entire conflict.

And I'll tell you, Jim, one of the reasons that it's important to do this now is because so many Americans have forgotten about the fact that we did leave a lot of Afghans behind. And so my advocacy for the Afghans who served along our -- alongside us and are now being hunted down by the Taliban, that hasn't ended. That continues until we bring them all out of danger.

SCIUTTO: Quickly, though, yes, this is -- these are decisions that took place over two decades of the war there, but Joe Biden was president when the withdrawal took place. And that withdrawal could have taken place in a number of different ways or not taken place at all. He had the ability to keep a small footprint of U.S. forces there. Do you hold this president responsible for the many mistakes around that August decision to leave?

MOULTON: I hold this president responsible for the mistakes that occurred under his watch. So, Joe Biden is responsible for the withdrawal. But Donald Trump, President Trump, is responsible for the decision to negotiate with the Taliban, basically give everything away, and pave the groundwork for this precipitous withdrawal that Biden followed through on. I hold President Obama responsible for the decision to surge troops into Afghanistan. And we should have a full accounting of whether or not that worked and whether it was worth the cost. And, of course, I hold President Bush responsible for not only going into Afghanistan in the first place, which I think most people agree was the right thing to do, but ultimately deciding to escalate the war and stay there for what turned into a 20-year conflict.

So, there's a lot of accountability to be had here. But it's our job to do that in Congress. There will be a lot of Republicans and Democrats who don't want to examine this issue, that say it's consigned to the past. They don't want to get their president or their party in trouble. As a United States Marine veteran, we absolutely should have accountability. And I will be pursuing that with whoever is willing to have that discussion in Congress next year.

SCIUTTO: Semper fi.

Congressman Seth Moulton, thanks so much.

MOULTON: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: We'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: You might have expected this. Get ready for packed airports and congested highways. Thanksgiving travel this year expected to be the busiest its been in years. Almost back up to pre-pandemic levels.

CNN's Pete Muntean has the story.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Travel tips you might not know about. Let's go!

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Travel hacks are going viral ahead of this Thanksgiving rush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's a flight hack I bet you didn't know.

MUNTEAN: With AAA projecting more than 54 million people traveling 50 miles or more between Wednesday and Sunday.

So, we turned to a trio of travel experts for the best advice to make your trip smoother.

One of the biggest tips, ditch that checked bag and bring only a carry-on. This summer, when airlines canceled 55,000 flights, passengers flooded the federal government with lost luggage complaints.

SCOTT KEYES, SCOTT'S CHEAP FLIGHTS: If your flight gets cancelled or you miss a connection, it's far easier to get put on a new plane and be nimble if you don't have a checked bag that they have to go find and move to a new flight.


MUNTEAN (on camera): A lot of airlines these days will allowing you to track your checked luggage on their app. But TikTokers came up with this idea. Take a tracker, like this Apple Air Tag, and drop it in your bag.

MUNTEAN (voice over): We put it to the test, tracking my bag as it snaked through Reagan National Airport, into the plane, and out at baggage claim in Charlotte.

MUNTEAN (on camera): Major bag alert. Made it.

KEYES: I think this is one of the best viral tips to happen in years.

MUNTEAN (voice over): Still, most Americans will drive this holiday. AAA said its best to drive when everybody else isn't. The wort times, on Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. On I-85 in Atlanta, congestion could be more than twice the norm. Coming home again on Sunday, try to avoid driving from 4:00 p.m. until 8:00.

PAULA TWIDALE, SENIOR VP OF TRAVEL, AAA: The real (INAUDIBLE) is to be conscience of leaving at a reasonable time where you know traffic should be a little bit better. It's not going to be light, it's not going to be great, but it should be better.

MUNTEAN: Beyond traffic, one of the top concerns for drivers is the cost of gas. But Patrick De Haan of Gas Buddy says a little bit of planning goes a long way, with prices an average 35 cents higher than a year ago. Simply crossing the border from Arizona into California, gas prices can spike by more than a dollar a gallon.

PATRICK DE HAAN, GASBUDDY: If motorists are taking to the road for road trips, I certainly would advise them to shop around. They could be leaving low gas prices behind or the low gas prices could be on the road in front of them.


MUNTEAN (on camera): One more warning about driving. Airports are worried they may run low on parking spaces. None of that surprising when you see the crowds here at Reagan National Airport. But really this is because airports say that people simply got used to driving to the airport during the pandemic and ditched public transit.

The big tip is, book your spots at the airport ahead of time online. But the biggest tips from our experts, simply be patient during this Thanksgiving travel season. You mentioned it's going to be the biggest since the start of the pandemic. The third biggest Thanksgiving for travel in the last 20 years, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, that's the hardest advice to follow, be patient. But we're going to - we're all going to have to do it.

Pete Muntean, thanks very much.

We are learning some new details about the mass shooting that left five people dead at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I'll speak with someone who worked at that club. That's coming up right after the break.