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Justice Dept. Seeking To Question Pence In Jan. 6 Investigation; Investigators Seek Answers In 2 Mass Shootings Days Before Thanksgiving; AAA Predicts Travel Numbers Near Pre-Pandemic Levels. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 23, 2022 - 15:00   ET





The Justice Department now wants to speak with former Vice President Mike Pence in its investigation into the January 6th insurrection.

GOLODRYGA: Prosecutors want to ask him questions as a witness. CNN's Katelyn Polantz has the details.

So Katelyn, Pence has long refused to talk to the House January 6 Committee, but this would be different since it's with the Justice Department and now with this new special counsel as well.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. This is a criminal investigation very aggressive and now they are aiming for information trying to get information from the top person, the number two person in the country during the Trump administration. Justice Department prosecutors did reach out to Pence's team a few weeks ago. Evan Perez and I have been able to confirm, The New York Times first reported this today and furthermore Pence is open to having a discussion with them. That is really a change of tune from where Pence had been previously. He's had quite an evolution on this even from just a few weeks ago.

Here's him speaking about when the House Select Committee, so Congress wanted to talk to him about what happened after the election.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Congress has no right to my testimony. The very notion of a committee on Congress - in Congress summoning a Vice President to speak about deliberations that took place at the White House, I think would violate that separation of powers.


POLANTZ: Now, of course, the Justice Department investigation is different. It's a criminal probe and they often are able to get a lot more answers than Congress can especially when there is a question about what happened inside the executive branch.

This outreach, though, I should note, Victor and Bianna. This happened before Special Counsel Jack Smith was recently appointed to take over the January 6 investigation. So it remains to be seen just what will happen with the negotiations now that Smith is going to come back to the U.S. and take over that investigation, although we should be expecting it to continue to push for answers.

BLACKWELL: All right. Katelyn, we can forgive our viewers for overlapping memories of the congressional, and the DOJ and the state investigations. So just get everyone up to speed on those in the Trump orbit who may have already spoken with the DOJ in their investigation.

POLANTZ: Well, there's quite a bit of overlap, actually. We do know though that the grand jury in Washington, D.C. has been quite active, especially in recent months and they have brought in two of Pence's deputies to testify. After they spoke to the House, they also then spoke to a federal grand jury in secret, that was Marc Short and Greg Jacob.

And there were certain things at that time that they were not willing to divulge, specifically conversations that they knew that would have been presidential privilege. So the privilege that Donald Trump had to protect things that happened in his White House.

Now, Mike Pence is a different situation, though. He has his own areas where he can try and protect the vice presidency. He's not tried to do that with his deputies and has been much more open. And things really did seem to change whenever his book came out in recent weeks and he was divulging conversations he had directly with Donald Trump.

And so this criminal investigation is really circling around those specific conversations and they have talked to a lot of people and heard from quite a bit.

GOLODRYGA: All right. Katelyn Polantz will continue to follow this for us, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Well, now to the latest on two of the mass shootings that have happened in this country in the last week that killed a total of 11 people. The suspect in Saturday's attack on an LGBTQ club just finished a first court appearance. The defendant will stay in jail without bond for now in Colorado.

Let's go to Virginia now. Investigators just identified the shooter in a rampage last night that left six people dead. A survivor said a Wal- Mart employee started shooting in a break room.

BLACKWELL: Today, President Biden issued a plea urging greater action in gun reform saying, "Jill and I grieve for those families, for the Chesapeake community, and for the Commonwealth of Virginia, which just suffered a terrible shooting at the University of Virginia this month.


We also mourn for all those across America who have lost loved ones to these tragic shootings that we must come together as a nation to stand against."

And we do begin in Chesapeake, Virginia. CNN's Brian Todd has been there all morning. So Brian, what more are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bianna and Victor, we're getting some new information from the city of Chesapeake and from Wal-Mart. They're identifying, as you mentioned, that the suspect's name is Andre Bing, 31 years old. They tell us that he was a night manager, a night team leader here at this Wal-Mart.

The City of Chesapeake says that he was armed with a handgun and multiple magazines when he shot. Law enforcement sources telling us he went into a break room and shot people there. We spoke to a witness who had a very close call herself. She was shot at by the suspect, her name is Briana Tyler. Here's what she told me a short time ago about what that experience was like.


BRIANA TYLER, SHOOTING WITNESS: He didn't say a word. He didn't point at anyone. He didn't look at anyone specific. He just had a blank stare on his face and he just literally just looked around the room and just shot and there were people just dropping to the floor, everybody was screaming, gasping and, yes, he just walked away after that and just continued throughout the store and just kept shooting.

In that moment, it still hadn't really kicked in that it was real, because I was thinking it was like a simulation type of thing. Like this is what we do if we have an active shooter and the reason why I think it was that was because I recognized his face.


TODD: Briana Tyler also told us that prior to this, she had been warned by others at Wal-Mart that this manager, Andre Bing, was someone to look out for because there were always some kind of issues going on with him, some kind of odd behavior. She did - she said she didn't have any personal experience with him in that regard, but that she had been warned about him.

Now, we've been pressing Wal-Mart officials for several hours, whether any disciplinary action has ever been taken against Andre Bing previous to this and whether anybody had registered any complaints about him. They have not answered those questions in particular, Victor and Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: He maybe have been a longtime employee there, so you'll continue to ask these questions for us. Brian Todd, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Let's go to Colorado now. A judge just unsealed the arrest warrant to the lawyers of the suspect in the Club Q mass shooting.

GOLODRYGA: The twenty-two-year-old defendant is accused of gunning down five people this weekend and just appeared in court. CNN Correspondent Rosa Flores is in Colorado Springs with the latest. So Rosa what exactly happened in the hearing? ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the suspect appeared in court wearing a mustard jumpsuit. He was handcuffed by the hands. He sat through the entire proceeding. And if you looked closely at his face, you could see some bruising. Remember, the heroes that we've talked to in the past few days have described how they beat the suspect to subdue him, to stop the carnage on Saturday night.

Now, the hearing itself lasted but a few minutes. Again, this is only the first appearance with a suspect speaking softly only to answer questions by the judge. The suspect also waived his rights regarding the reading of the charges in open court. But the DA after the hearing stated those charges saying that they include five counts of first degree murder and five counts of hate crime.

Now, during this proceeding, the Judge referred to the suspect by the pronoun he, this after we've known, based on court documents, that the suspect has asked to be referred to by them and they, they now identify as non-binary. Now the District Attorney was asked if this new non-binary identification by the suspect impacts the investigation in any way, shape or form. The DEA responded by saying that absolutely not, that in the eyes of the law, the definition of the suspect is now the defendant and the DA saying that his job now is to look at evidence and be the voice of the victims in court. Take a listen.


MICHAEL ALLEN, EL PASO COUNTY, COLORADO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I want them to know that we are going to be the voice for the victims in the courtroom and that we will be fighting alongside them through this entire process.


FLORES: Now, the District Attorney says that the former charges against the defendant could be presented on December 6th, that's when the next hearing is, but that could be delayed due to a scheduling conflict, Bianna and Victor.

GOLODRYGA: Rosa Flores, thank you.

Well, let's discuss further. Cheryl Dorsey is a retired Los Angeles Police Sergeant. She's also the author of The Confidence Chronicles, The Greatest Crime Story. CNN Law Enforcement Contributor Steve Moore is a retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent and CNN Legal Analyst Areva Martin is a civil rights attorney. Welcome all of you.

Sgt. Dorsey, let me begin with you. From a policing standpoint, it did appear that the response to both of these shootings in Virginia and Colorado was textbook. The police responded within six minutes at Club Q and within two minutes, we're told, at the Wal-Mart shooting and yet we have five people killed in Colorado and six people killed in Virginia.


Does that frustrate you from a policing standpoint? SGT. CHERYL DORSEY, LOS ANGELES POLICE (RET.): Well, law enforcement can only do what they can do. And sadly, we seem to be getting better because we have so much practice of responding to these types of calls. I mean, there's so much consistency and regularity in these mass shootings and we often learn by debriefing after each one on what we can do to better respond and certainly a timely response is always first and foremost in a patrol officer's mind when you're responding to a high priority call, like a shooting in progress.

BLACKWELL: Areva, let's focus now on the Virginia shooting. There won't be a criminal prosecution because the suspect took his own life. But as it relates to a move to civil procedures, potentially, these generic anecdotes from some of the survivors saying people told me to watch out for him, he was an odd person, I mean, what role does that play, especially for Wal-Mart as they have to protect their customers and their workers?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think, Victor, it sends a message that perhaps there was some information and knowledge that Wal-Mart had about this shooter and the question is what is that information? Was it information that he had some kind of dangerous past that he was currently a dangerous person that should not have been in that workplace?

We heard that eye witness say that she had been warned that he was odd. She didn't have any personal experiences with him. But there are a lot of questions that have yet to be answered about what Wal-Mart knew or should have known and what information they should have relayed to its employees and shoppers in that store.

And the bigger question, Victor, is should this individual have even been employed in that Wal-Mart store, should he have had access to those employees and those shoppers. So all of those questions are going to inform what we should all expect to be - should expect to see, which are civil lawsuits, wrongful death lawsuits and other kinds of lawsuits seeking monetary damages in this case.

GOLODRYGA: And from what we're hearing, he had a supervisory type of position there as well and had worked there for over 10 years.

Steve, let me ask you from a legislative standpoint. We heard condolences from the President, but we also heard him speak again on the need for gun reform, specifically calling for an assault weapons ban. From your standpoint, is there evidence that shows when we previously had the assault weapons ban enacted in this country for 10 years, from 1994 to 2004? Do you think that the evidence shows that if one is enacted, again, that's a big if because we have a divided Congress, do you think that that would lower the number of these mass shootings given the weapon commonly used in them?

STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: I think what would lower it more is to get our hands around - our heads around the mental illness crisis, but it possibly could. The problem is that was, what, 10, 20 years ago.

There are more assault rifles according to legend in the hands of private citizens in the United States, than there are in the hands of the military. So it's kind of late to close the barn door. I'm not saying we shouldn't, but we have to find a way to keep them out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them. And in this Colorado situation, there was more than enough, more than enough evidence to use a red flag law to keep weapons away from him and it wasn't followed. The mechanism was there and they ignored it.

BLACKWELL: Areva, let's stay in Colorado now, and the DA's assertion that the status, the orient - identity, I should say, of the defendant as non-binary will not impact the case, will not impact the prosecution. However, he has said that there will be these bias motivated crimes that are - that this defendant will face. Does this new variable of this non binary identity impact how this DA should approach this case?

MARTIN: Well, what would we know, Victor, is that Colorado recently changed its bias crime laws, essentially hate crime law. And now prosecutors can bring a case for a bias crime without having to prove that it was the sole and exclusive reason for the crime as long as it was a motivating factor with respect to the crime, so it lowered the standards in some ways.

The prosecutors in this case, the investigators, they're going to be looking at everything that this defendant did. They're going to be looking at phone calls, text messages, social media accounts. They're going to obviously look at this location.


And the fact that this shooter showed up on a Transgender Day of Remembrance and that this crime took place at a bar that was a predominantly frequented by gay and lesbian. So whether this was motivated by bias towards the LGBTQ community, I think the prosecutors aren't going to look at how the shooter identifies himself as well as the timing and the location.

And just real quickly to the point that Steve made about the red flag law. Yes, there was a red flag law that was enacted that is active in the state of Colorado, but we know certain sheriffs in certain counties throughout Colorado stated at the time that that law was passed that they were not going to enforce that law and deemed it unconstitutional.

And I think we have to look at those law enforcement agents who have made that determination because perhaps lives could have been saved, but for that kind of determination.

BLACKWELL: All right, Areva, Steve, Sgt. Dorsey, thank you all.

MARTIN: Thanks.

GOLODRYGA: The busiest travel day of the year is here and experts predict the number of Thanksgiving travelers will reach nearly pre pandemic levels. We're at one of the country's busiest airports up next. BLACKWELL: And the Black Friday deals are already rolling out. They actually rolled out weeks ago and despite record inflation shoppers are still expected to spend that money this year.



BLACKWELL: Americans are making their way to Thanksgiving destinations. Today is shaping up to be the busiest day for travel since the start of the pandemic with an estimated 55 million people heading out for the holiday.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is at a very crowded O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. What's it looking like?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, things have gotten a little bit better right now. So O'Hare International Airport, one of the world's busiest, not so busy right now, but this morning it was incredibly packed shoulder to shoulder as that first wave of flights began to take off on this incredibly busy travel day.

Now over the course of this travel period heading throughout the rest of this week, between here and midway Chicago's other airport, officials are estimating they're going to see around 1.7 million passengers which is up almost 7 percent compared to last year and that falls in line with what we're expecting to see country wide. Over the past two days alone, TSA has screened around four and a half million people which is up from last year slightly down compared to pre pandemic 2019, but at the very least comparable when you look at those numbers.

And one passenger we spoke to a little bit earlier this morning, saw some of that dynamic firsthand, take a listen to some of what she said on her way to Texas.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were totally thinking about getting here early, which I'm so glad we did because it's even a little more crowded than we expected. So just hoping we make our flight. We gave ourselves two hours so I hope that's enough.


JIMENEZ: I'm also two hours person, I feel like just peace of mind - you need it there.

Now earlier this week, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was here. He felt cautiously optimistic about the week ahead. So far things have looked pretty good, there is some weather later in the week that could trip things up, but again, overall things have looked so good and over - looks good - overall AAA does estimate flights were expected - are expected to be up around 8 percent compared to last year and so we're bracing for the influx of people heading out for the holidays. BLACKWELL: So you're a two hours person, now of those two hours, how long are you just sitting in the airport most times? Seems excessive.

JIMENEZ: See, here's - I need to just like I need to sit there, I need to have some food, I like to watch a little, so I like to ease into the travel. I can't do the stress getting onto the plane so I like to ease into it.

BLACKWELL: I hear you.

GOLODRYGA: I can see that.


GOLODRYGA: Yes. And look, he's got a smile on his face. He's been easing into this coverage all day.

BLACKWELL: (Inaudible)--

JIMENEZ: (Inaudible) every time.

BLACKWELL: All right, Omar.

GOLODRYGA: We'll check in with you later. Thanks, Omar.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Well, a majority of Americans are driving to their Thanksgiving destinations. The good news here, gas prices have been dropping slightly in recent days. But the bad news, today's average of $3.61 a gallon is still the highest ever recorded during the week of Thanksgiving. So let's discuss with AAA spokesperson, Aixa Diaz.

Aixa, thank you for joining us. So as we said, expecting 55 million Americans to travel, 49 million of those will be traveled by car. So for those who are driving, what are some of your best tips in terms of timing? When is the best time to leave for your destination?

AIXA DIAZ, SPOKESPERSON, AAA: Bianna, right now is the worst time. And I saw Pete Muntean earlier on I-95 and I said, no, Pete, listen to me when I said now is - it's peak congestion right now and most people leave on Wednesday afternoon mainly because they don't have a choice, whether it's because of school or work, they have to wait until today. But AAA recommends leaving after 8 pm if you're going to leave today or ideally get up first thing tomorrow morning if you can leave on Thanksgiving Day itself before 11 am traffic will be lighter.

As you said nearly 49 million people are projected to be driving to Thanksgiving and AAA has been tracking holiday travel since the year 2000 and we're projecting this to be the third busiest Thanksgiving travel-wise.

GOLODRYGA: What about returning home? When is the best time to leave, Saturday night? Sunday?

DIAZ: Well, Friday, Saturday and Sunday is when we start seeing people coming back, try to avoid being on the road between 4 pm and 8 pm on those three days. The thing about Thanksgiving is obviously everybody is in a rush to get there on Thursday, but then people come back in different stages, so it's not quite so bad. But it's going to be busy on the roads and we always recommend planning ahead.


Plan your route ahead and give yourself plenty of time. Slow down and move over. AAA always remind you if you see any roadside issues, move over and give those people room to work with. AAA is projecting that we're going to have more than 411,000 emergency roadside calls during the long holiday weekend.

GOLODRYGA: Wow. So let's be a glass half full here and we are seeing gas prices going down. They're still higher than they were this time last year. But definitely off of the highs that we saw this past summer. Do you expect that trend to continue into the later end of year holidays as well?

DIAZ: Well, AAA can't predict what's going to happen at the end of this year, but what we do know is that that roller coaster we've seen in 2022 where we saw, again, gas prices picking nationally at $5 a gallon over the summer, that has calmed down quite a bit. And we're on this downward trend for the past month we've seen gas prices come down, as you mentioned, nationally we're at $3.60 today. We're down $0.15 from just one week, so they're coming down.

We don't anticipate any major spikes this Thanksgiving week. We don't know what the rest of the year has in store. Remember, oil is a global market, so whatever happens in the world affects what happens here at home. But at least for now, we're not projecting any big spikes.

GOLODRYGA: As you know, there is a potential looming rail strike that could happen within just less than two weeks time now, if that were to happen, are you concerned at all about traffic congestion on the roads given that some of these carry-ons, right, that - some of the deliverables that are passing on these rail cars will have to be turned over to freight trucks.

DIAZ: Well, we're also seeing that trains are more popular this year than last because of travel restrictions being lifted other modes of transportation like trains, buses and cruisers, that's up from 2021. So obviously that would affect travel. And the more people we see on the roads, obviously, the more emergencies we could see on the road, the more traffic so that would definitely affect road traffic.

GOLODRYGA: All right. Aixa Diaz, thank you so much. Happy Thanksgiving.

DIAZ: Happy Thanksgiving.

BLACKWELL: It's been more than a week and there is still no suspect named in a gruesome murders of four Idaho college students. Authorities are expected to give an update next hour. One of the victims' families is now speaking out, that's next.