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Monterey Park Shooter Dead; More Classified Documents Found at President Biden's Home in Delaware; Germany Not Blocking Tanks from Poland to Ukraine; Sheriff: Monterey Park Shooting Suspect Dead; Major U.S. Cities Step Up Security For Lunar New Year Celebrations After Monterey Park Shooting; City Officials Condemn Destruction During Atlanta Protest. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired January 23, 2023 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. Just ahead on "CNN Newsroom"


ROBERT LUNA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Gun violence needs to stop. There's too much of it.


CHURCH: Three weeks into the new year and already 33 mass shootings in the United States with the latest in California leaving 10 people dead. New details on why this tragedy could have been even worse.

Plus, President Joe Biden facing new criticism from within his own party.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): To think that any of them ended up in boxes, in storage one place or another, is just unacceptable.


CHURCH: The fallout continues to grow over the FBI's discovery of more classified documents at the president's Delaware home.

And Germany signals a change of heart when it comes to other countries sending this type of tank to Ukraine. Details in a live report.

Thanks for being with us. Well, the community of Monterey Park in California should be celebrating the Lunar New Year, but instead it's reeling from a deadly mass shooting. The Los Angeles County sheriff says the suspect in that massacre died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a cargo van after a standoff with police on Sunday. He is being identified as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran. We are told he was

once a regular presence at the dance hall where police accuse him of opening fire Saturday night. At least 10 people were killed, another 10 injured in the shooting that broke out during the Lunar New Year celebrations.

The sheriff says Tran went to another gathering, in nearby Alhambra where some people wrestled the gun away from him. It was that seized weapon that allowed police to identify him.


LUNA: I can tell you that the suspect walked in there, probably with the intent to kill more people. And two brave community members decided they were going to jump into action and disarm him, they did so, took possession of the weapon, and the suspect ran away.


CHURCH: U.S. President Joe Biden has ordered the White House flags to be lowered to half-staff, to honor the victims of the Monterey Park shooting, which he called a senseless attack. The sheriff says the investigation is ongoing as police work to determine a motive for the tragic event. CNN's Natasha Chen has more now from Monterey Park.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On Sunday evening on Lunar New Year, when this community was supposed to be celebrating, law enforcement gave a press conference confirming that a man they have cornered in a white van in Torrance, California, was in fact the shooter of this Monterey Park scene, just a couple of blocks away from us, where on Saturday night, he opened fire, police said, killing 10 people.

And almost 24 hours later, still seven people are in the hospital. Now, we understand that the ages of the victim's range in the 50s, 60s, and beyond. The coroner's office began to take away remains on Sunday afternoon and they are still in the process of identifying the people who died.

Now, it took about 12 hours for police to find this person in Torrance, about 30 miles southwest of Monterey Park. This, after police say that he had gone from this dance hall in Monterey Park to a different one in Alhambra, a city north of where we are. That's where law enforcement says that a person matching the same suspect description went in armed and that a couple of people actually wrestled with him, tackled him, and was able -- they were able to recover the weapon that he had.

And that's how police were able to also recover that weapon and begin to trace who this person might be. Now, this community is still reeling and stunned after this mass shooting happened, just after the first day of the city of Monterey Park's huge Lunar New Year festival that had more than 100,000 people on the streets.


And many of the people speaking at the press conference, local leaders, were at those festivities just a couple of hours before this tragedy. They have reassured the community that they are now safe, but the person that police say died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound when police cornered him in Torrance, that person is no longer with us as they put it, and that there is no longer a threat to the community.

And this is, indeed, a huge blow to a predominantly Asian community in Monterey Park here. Again, about to celebrate the Lunar New Year, supposedly a time for joy, for health and prosperity. Instead, having to mourn the loss of their neighbors and loved ones. Natasha Chen, CNN, Monterey Park, California.

CHURCH: I'm joined now by CNN's senior law enforcement analyst, Charles Ramsey. He is a former Washington D.C. police chief and former Philadelphia police commissioner. Thank you, sir, for being with us.


CHURCH: Now, I know I speak for both of us when I say we are sickened by the constant mass shootings in this country. And this time the shooter took his own life after killing 10 people in Monterey Park, California. What were you learning about this tragedy?

RAMSEY: Well, it seems, at least, it's beginning to kind of shape up. It's been something personal, as far as this individual is concerned. Now, what's really unusual about this is the age of the shooter, 72 years-old. Usually, when you have these kinds of situations, it's a much younger offender. And the victims were older as well, in their 40s, 50s, even 60s. And so, this is not your typical mass shooting type scenario, but just as deadly.

CHURCH: And we've learned, too, that the suspect apparently used to teach dancing at this studio and met his ex-wife there apparently. We also know the public helped avert another shooting by subduing the shooter. How does that help police efforts to nail down a motive and why is motive so important in mass shootings like this?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, motive is very important because we learn from each of these incidents on what to look for, for the unfortunate reality that there will be a next one. But right now, they don't have an actual motive. They're still going through a lot of documents that were seized from the van, probably executing search warrants, maybe at a residence, looking for any kind of social media footprint, interviewing family and friends, and so forth, to try to pinpoint a motive.

But as this thing is developing now, it is beginning to look like it's more of a personal type of situation, a domestic situation or something like that. And you know, of course, originally everyone thought immediately it was probably a hate crime, but it's really starting to really show that it's really not that. It's something else that's involved. We just don't know exactly what.

CHURCH: Yes, understood. And what more are you learning about the weapon used in this mass shooting, of course, how the suspect got a hold of it? RAMSEY: Well, it wasn't an assault rifle, apparently. They are still doing the background on the various weapons that were seized as a result of this particular incident. I don't think they really have a firm handle on all this yet, whether or not they were purchased legally, or whether he got his hands on them illegally.

But the bottom line is, there was more than one type of weapon involved. You know, earlier you mentioned the second location where the patrons actually took the gun from the individual. Those folks are heroes, I mean they literally saved other lives because there is no doubt that he would've gone there and done the same thing that he did in Monterey Park.

But because they were alert, because they saw, him because they're able to stop him from actually being able to fire any shots, they saved a lot of awful lot of lives.

CHURCH: Yes. They most certa0inly did. So, what needs to happen in this country to stop these mass shootings from happening again and again?

RAMSEY: Well, they're going to continue to happen again and again. And you know, right after it happens, of course, you get your elected officials that make all kinds of comments, thoughts and prayers, and things like that. But the bottom line is nothing actually happens that really makes a difference.

You're not going to stop every shooting from taking place. There are so many guns in the United States right now that you're going to have some fall off to the hands of wrong people, but that doesn't mean that there aren't steps that we can take to really guard against the opportunity for people to get their hands on guns that should not have them, either because they're suffering from some kind of mental illness that would make them a danger to themselves or others.


Or they are just criminals, and should not have a handgun. But we just tend not to make any real effort toward trying to pass any kind of legislation or taking any action that will really have an impact on this. And so, I'm not optimistic that this is going to be any different from what's happened in the past. And the only thing we do know is that there will be another one. It's just a question of where and a question of when.

CHURCH: Yeah, that is the sobering reality. Charles Ramsey, thanks for joining us.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

CHURCH: U.S. Senate Democrats insist President Joe Biden is committed to a transparent investigation after six more classified items were found, Friday in his Delaware home. That's in addition to approximately 20 items found previously at his home, and his private office in Washington. One House Republican says the law should be applied equally to the

investigations of both President Biden and former President Donald Trump. And Democrats say they welcome the inquiry.


SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): I do think this was inadvertent. The whole point of having a special counsel is to ensure that and to give the American people confidence in that. But frankly, Martha, I also don't think this is an issue that's keeping Americans up and night.


CHURCH: I'm joined now by CNN political commentator and former U.S. House Republican, Charlie Dent, and professor of critical theory and social justice and democratic strategist, Caroline Heldman. Welcome to you both.



CHURCH: So, more classified documents have been found in President Biden's Delaware home after the FBI spent about 13 hours or so she's residents on Friday at Mr. Biden's invitation. What is the likely political impact of this, Charlie?

DENT: I think the political implications are pretty severe for President Biden who ran as an adult, as someone who would be very serious about dealing with nation's secrets. And as a former member of Congress, I must say that I am mystified how a former U.S. senator could have taken these classified materials and somehow, they've ended at his home.

You know, former members of -- members of Congress can only view this material in classified settings what we call SCIF's, secure containment facilities. And he -- you can't walk out with those. So, I think the president of the United States really owes the American public and answer to how this could've happened, and why would this happen? So, I think the political problem is very real. I'm not saying that he has a criminal issue, but he certainly has a political and a legal issue that he must contend with because this looks very, very sloppy.

CHURCH: And Caroline, this goes back years to his time in the Senate. President Biden criticized former President Donald Trump for mishandling classified documents now we find out he did the same. So, how is this materially different to Trump and how -- do democrats deal with this going forward?

HELDMAN: Well, I have to say, I expect those behavior from Trump. I expect him to lie and hide documents and hoard documents. But I don't expect this from Biden. And so, I think it goes directly to his brand as a transparent, accountable politician. I agree with Charlie, he needs to come out now and put an end to this and say, you know, whatever it was, whether it's him or whether it was someone on his staff, he needs to hold himself accountable and apologize to the American public.

This just isn't Biden, the way he's responding to this does not fit with what we've (inaudible) expect. And I will also say that, you know, 77 percent of Americans think that Trump mishandled classified documents, and according to a recent poll, 67 percent say the same about Biden. So, he really needs to address this. And Rosemary, I couldn't agree more that what's most troubling to me is that this goes all the way back to his time in the Senate. So, this is a long- standing problem and they have the audacity to be critical of Donald Trump when he's apparently engaged in kind of soppy handling of classified documents for decades.

CHURCH: So, Charlie, how should both Biden and Trump be held accountable, and what changes need to be made in procedure to prevent this from happening again?

DENT: Well first, we need to let the special counsels conduct their investigations and we need to find out all the facts. There are differences in each case. Donald Trump has been uncooperative and defiant, and Joe Biden clearly has been cooperating. But it's also clear to me that we need to reform this whole system of classified materials. It seems like we classify far too much material and that far too many people have security clearances.

That is something that's bothered me for some time. And sometimes I've also questioned (inaudible) some of the classified briefings I ever see go over the years. Frankly, many times I've dealt with classified briefings only to learn things that I had already found out about in an open source or in a newspaper somewhere.


So, I'm a bit concerned about how we overclassify in the United States. That said, it's inexcusable that the highest officials in our government, from Hillary Clinton with her server where material ended up there, and now, of course, Donald Trump and now Joe Biden. These folks have really mishandled classified material and there are many people who are much in the lower level of government who have lost their careers and their livelihoods for much lesser infractions, it would seem.

And so, I think we need to overhaul the system and really, particularly at the highest levels of government. This shouldn't happen with three presidential candidates being nailed for this.

CHURCH: And Caroline, do you agree that documents are over-classified here and what procedural changes would you like to see?

HELDMAN: I do agree that they are overclassified. I think what this has revealed is that millions of documents are classified at any given time in an active way in politics, and that you have, you know, tens of thousands of people at the highest levels who have access to them. And as, you know, Charlie was pointing out, we do need to standardize this.

Like how is it that the National Archives doesn't know what they should be receiving from a president who is leaving office? It's unprecedented that we have, you know, a sitting president and a former president who are being investigated for essentially of the same thing as Charlie points out. There are differences, as you pointed out, Rosemary, over the weeks. There are differences, right?

Donald Trump is being possibly investigated for espionage. He is possibly being, you know, investigated for lying to or having his attorneys lie to federal authorities. It's not the case with Biden, but it's unprecedented that they're both being investigated for the same, either sloppy or intentional mishandling of documents. We need an electronic tracking, system and I just don't know how you would make that secure. I think that's the big challenge.

CHURCH: Yeah. That seems to be the only way. It's hard to believe that they can't and don't track down these documents. And Charlie, once again this country is on the brink, hitting the debt ceiling. Some analysts have suggested that President Biden could use the 14th amendment of Constitution to tear down the debt ceiling once and for all given the country keeps facing default because Congress fails to do its job, essentially.

Is this a viable option to eliminate this constant political fight that threatens to paralyze the country again and again, and possibly even thrust the rest of the world into a recession at this time?

DENT: Well, certainly Congress could pass a law eliminating the debt ceiling. I don't know that that's would be prudent. But that said, Congress will have to increase the debt ceiling. There is no question about it. I've been through so many of these fights. At the end of the day, they will be raised. The question is how much damage will be done between now and then?

In 2011, I remember the negotiation between President Obama and John Boehner that resulted in Budget Control Act of 2011, and that negotiation ended up rattling markets and actually the United States actually received a downgrade from some ratings agencies. So, really, the issue for Congress is not, you know, how they're going to pass this thing because they are going to pass it.

The question is when, and they need to do it before there would be some kind of a catastrophic economic event. One shouldn't play chicken with the debt ceiling. Sometimes, you know, if you take a hostage in politics, you better be prepared to shoot it. This is one hostage you could never shoot because the consequences would be so severe.

That, said, you know, we're going to be -- I suspect they're going to get to an agreement, and it maybe an ugly one, and it maybe, you know, many months before we get there. But it will be passed, either before or after a catastrophic economic event, hopefully before.

CHURCH: Caroline, what's the solution here?

HELDMAN: Well, I couldn't agree more that it has to get passed. When you think about why the debt ceiling, why this legislation is put in place, a 100 years ago, there was an issue because the executive branch, the agencies in the executive branch, we're spending willy- nilly, and Congress didn't have the oversight it needed. This is simply a matter of congressional oversight over federal agencies.

Now, that's not how it's been used today. It's been, you know, raised proforma about hundred times, and now it's been weaponized and politicized by the parties. And let's be clear about what this is, it's debt that we've already accumulated. It was accumulated under Trump's administration, obviously Biden's and previous administrations.

So, do we need to have a conversation about spending? Perhaps. But this is not the way to do it. And it will have to be raised. It's actually not an option, but the question really is, when will it be raised and how will be raised? What sort of concessions will be made? And as we saw with Kevin McCarthy speaker fight, I think we're in for a very ugly battle, which could possibly again lead to a downgrade as we saw a decade ago. But it will be passed at some point, so let's get to that point.


CHURCH: All right, Charlie Dent, Caroline Heldman, many thanks to you both. Appreciate it.

HELDMAN: Thanks, Rosemary.

DENT: Thanks, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Ukraine's hopes for modern tanks could soon become a reality. Just ahead, how a potential shift from Germany could allow Poland to fulfill Ukraine's request. Back with that and more, in just a moment.


CHURCH: Germany appears to be bending to pressure to supply Ukraine with a weapon Kyiv says it desperately needs. These are German Leopard combat tanks, used by several NATO members. Berlin has been hesitant to supply them from its own arsenal, but now Germany's foreign minister says her government would not stand in the way if Poland wants to provide them.

The news comes as E.U. foreign ministers gather in Brussels to discuss the war in Ukraine. At an earlier summit in Paris, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said all decisions on weapons deliveries would be made in coordination with allies.


So, let's get more now from CNN's Nada Bashir. She joins us live from London. Good morning to you, Nada. So, Germany will allow Poland to send these Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine after initially being reluctant to do so, and of course E.U. foreign ministers are meeting today to discuss additional support. So, talk to us about all of this.

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: That's right. E.U. foreign ministers are currently arriving. Their talks set to begin in just over 2 hours and (inaudible) session that we are expecting to hear from Ukraine's foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba who will be outlining the situation on the ground, a 10-point peace plan, according to European Foreign Affairs Council. As well as Ukraine's current priorities, and of course, those priorities remain. Those offensive weapons and particularly the supply of tanks.

And this comes after the meeting at Ramstein on Friday, in which of course Germany did not offer to transfer those Leopard 2 tanks, which Ukraine has been calling for, much to criticism by its European counterparts. But of course, as you mentioned it, it does appear that Germany may now be bending to some of that pressure that we have seen.

The foreign minister there announcing that Germany will not stand in the ways of other nations supplied with those German made Leopard 2 tanks to supply those to Ukraine. Of course, Germany holds the export license for these tanks, so permission must be sought directly from the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, but it does appear that while Germany may not be taking steps to directly supply those tanks, it may not be allowing its counterparts who have already been supplied with those tanks to transfer them Ukraine.

And this comes after the announcement of a new German military aid package to Ukraine worth about just over $1 billion U.S. dollars. And we've heard from the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, he is very clear that Germany remains firm it its support for Ukraine. Take a listen.


OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translation): We have constantly expanded our supply, with very effective weapons that already available today. And we have always closely coordinated all these decisions with all of our important allies in France, with France, for example. With the USA for example, with other countries in Europe, and of course with all those who are involved with this discussion.


BASHIR: Now, Britain has already announced that it will be fulfilling its pledge to supply Ukraine with its own tanks. France is also considering transferring tanks to Ukraine. But France has also said that it is assessing, currently, whether this can lead to an escalation, and that is the concern, of course, because NATO and E.U. members have for the most part, been engaged in supporting Ukraine on the defensive front, but there are concerns that the potential support offered by these international partners on the offensive front, could potentially lead to a further escalation. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Thanks to Nada Bashir joining us live from London.

And still to come, searching for answers after a mass shooting in Monterey Park, California. An update on the investigation, just ahead.



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Returning now to our top story. The deadly mass shooting in Monterey Park, California. The Los Angeles County Sheriff says the suspect has died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a cargo van after a standoff with police on Sunday. He's been identified as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran and is accused of opening fire at a dance studio Saturday night.

At least 10 people were killed another 10 injured in the shooting that broke out during Lunar New Year celebrations. The Los Angeles County Sheriff says Tran went to another gathering in nearby Alhambra where some people wrestled the gun away from him and the sheriff says a search of the van he was using has provided authorities with evidence.


SHERIFF ROBERT LUNA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: During the search several pieces of evidence were found inside the van linking the suspect to both locations in Al -- in Monterey Park in Alhambra. In addition, a handgun was discovered inside the van.


CHURCH: We're told Tran was once a regular presence at the dance hall where the shooting took place. People who knew him say he met his ex- wife there and that he could be easily irritated and didn't seem to trust people.

Meanwhile, major cities across the U.S. have boosted security ahead of their Lunar New Year celebrations following the shooting in Monterey Park.

In New York City, police ramped up security presence at events out of an abundance of caution. Police in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. have also increased patrols.

In China, concerns about COVID have not stopped millions from welcoming the year of the rabbit with widespread celebrations. State media report more than 26 million trips on Saturday alone, as residents travel to see family for the Lunar New Year.

But there are fears traveling could cause COVID cases to spike more than 12,000 new COVID related deaths were reported in the week just before the new year. But many residents remain optimistic. Those who gathered at this temple in Beijing prayed for good fortune and health in the new year. And CNN's Senior International Correspondent Ivan Watson joins me now from Hong Kong with more.

So, Ivan, what impact could this travel potentially have on surging COVID cases across China?

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, one of the concerns is that people could be traveling to more rural parts of the country and they could bring the virus with them. And those areas could be potentially overwhelmed because there isn't as developed a system of health care in those areas. That is a concern. You have a chief epidemiologist for the Chinese Center for Disease Control, Rosemary, who's come out saying that he doesn't think that there is a great deal of concern about additional waves of infections in the next two to three months.

And this official saying that some 80 percent of the population has already been infected over the course of the last month and a half. The death toll has been going up. The official death toll, 60,000 people at least dying in hospitals according to the Chinese government over the first -- from December to January and additional, as you mentioned 12,600 hospital deaths from COVID over the course of the last week.

That said this is the first time in some three years that Chinese can travel home, can see the loved ones without COVID regulations hampering travel between provinces across the country.


WATSON: And there has been a surge according to state media have traveled compared to the same period last year that railway tickets, passenger flights travel on the roads is up some 50 percent on the eve of the Lunar New Year as compared to 2022. It's still again according to state media down some 50 percent from 2019, the pre-COVID levels, but it does look as if some of the country is starting to get back to some semblance of normal.

The Ministry of Transport is predicting that more than two billion passenger trips will happen by the end of the 40-day Spring Festival in China, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Ivan Watson joining us live from Hong Kong. Many things.

And just ahead, we will have the latest developments and the aftermath of Saturday's protests in Atlanta that turned violent.


CHURCH: Here in Atlanta, city officials are denouncing the destruction of property that took place during Saturday's protest in the city. Meanwhile, the mother of the activist whose death sparked the unrest spoke to CNN about her son. Nick Valencia has the story.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Officials are denouncing the events of Saturday Night as acts of violence saying that protesters have the right to peacefully demonstrate. But what happened here in downtown Atlanta they say was anything (INAUDIBLE) speaking shortly after these events of Saturday night were stopped. The mayor of Atlanta said that several of those that were arrested were from out of town.


ANDRE DICKENS, MAYOR OF ATLANTA: Make no mistake about it. These individuals meant harm to people and to property.

And we continue to protect the right to peace to peacefully protest. We will not tolerate violence or property destruction.


My message is simple to those who seek to continue this type of criminal behavior. We will find you and we will arrest you, and you will be held accountable.


VALENCIA: This destruction of property comes just days after the activist Manuel Teran was shot and killed by police at the site of a proposed training police and fire training facility, a proposed $90- million facility that would take up about 85 acres just outside the city of Atlanta and a predominantly black and brown neighborhood. Demonstrators were protesting the proposed construction of that facility, as well as the death of Manuel Teran.

And it was during Saturday night that I spoke with Teran's mother who denounced the acts of violence, saying though that the movement -- she supports the movement and is planning on showing up here in the United States from Panama to help support this and drive this forward. She said she's also speaking to human rights lawyers to see what her options are and seeking justice for her child.

One thing is clear is that the rhetoric is ramping up between the police and the activists as this proposed construction or this proposed police training facility, the fate of it lies in the balance. Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.

CHURCH: For our international viewers, World Sport is coming up next. Everyone else, do stay with us. I'll be back with more news in just a moment.