Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Pretty Atty. Finds Classified Docs At Former VP's Indiana Home; Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) Discusses About Classified Documents Found At Pence's Private Home; All 11 Victims In Dance Hall Massacre Identified; 66-Year-Old Man Accused of Gunning Down Seven In Half Moon Bay. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 24, 2023 - 15:00   ET




BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: It is the top of the hour on CNN NEWSROOM. Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga.


First on CNN, another development in the growing discoveries involving classified documents. A lawyer for former Vice President Mike Pence discovered about a dozen classified documents at Pence's Indiana home last week. Several sources tell CNN that attorney turned over those classified records to the FBI.

GOLODRYGA: The FBI and the Justice Department's National Security Division have now launched a review of the documents and how they ended up at Pence's private residence. The discovery comes after the former VP repeatedly denied that he held any classified material. And, of course, follows the launching of two separate special counsel investigations into how classified materials were found in the private homes of President Biden and former President Trump.

CNN's Evan Perez joins us now. So Evan, this is getting really, really messy. What more can you tell us about these documents now that the former vice president's home?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor and Bianna, this is very messy, especially for the vice president and everyone who has been handling these classified documents. The vice president's team was doing these searches out of an abundance of caution, in part because of what they had seen develop in the case of the President Biden and the documents that have been discovered, not only at the Penn Biden Center, but also at his home and they did these searches.

Last week, they uncovered about a dozen documents, which they then immediately reached out to the National Archives to alert. They found documents that they thought might be also Presidential Records Act responsive documents and so that's how this all got started.

At about 9:30 pm last Thursday is when the FBI came to the vice president - the former vice president's home in Carmel, Indiana and took possession of these documents, about a dozen documents as you pointed out that have classification markings.

Now, we don't know very much about the documents, we don't know what specifically they entail, the level of classification. But this is something that is now becoming a spiraling issue for the government for the Justice Department, which is doing a review of this to see what these are, who owns this information, which intelligence agency owns this information and to see whether there's been any damage done to National Security.

This is part of the standard process that happens when these documents are found in places that they're not supposed to be. Now, what we know now is that the or the additional - in addition to these classified documents, the vice president's team - the former vice president's team has turned over four boxes of documents. They arrived here in Washington just yesterday, handed over to the National Archives.

Again, this is just early in the process. We don't know whether the FBI and the Justice Department will need to investigate further, whether there are any other places and any other documents that could be missing, Victor and Bianna?

BLACKWELL: All right. Evan, we're going to expand the conversation in just a moment. We want you to be part of it. But first, let's go to the White House. We know that we may hear from President Biden on this news concerning classified documents found at former President Pence his private home in Indiana. The President is meeting right now with the Democratic Congressional leaders at the White House.

Let's bring in CNN's Phil Mattingly.

So the stories of mishandling, misplacing documents had been dug in the president, how is the White House now reacting to this?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Victor, publicly the White House is not commenting at all, making clear that this is an ongoing matter and they're not going to weigh in one way or the other. Privately, they are very cognizant of what's been happening over the course of the last several hours.

And I think when you talk to people inside the White House, they recognize that there's a political element here in terms of having another example of the situation that has really - kind of consumed the President and the presidency over the course of the last several weeks.


One from a Republican vice president in this case that shows very clear parallels. And two, I think there's a sense that for Republicans that have been attacking the President and his actions while he was vice president or in the wake of his vice presidency on Capitol Hill, now they have to look at one of their own doing the same exact thing.

And I think probably more broadly, look, White House officials, again, not weighing in and publicly making very clear that they don't want to be part of an ongoing matter here. But they recognize the political salience here and the idea that when you compare two different vice presidents leaving, both of whom had said that they had no knowledge that these classified documents were in their possession or had been transferred to their property. Those parallels are important to try and underscore, I think, the point that President Biden has been making over the course of the last couple of weeks.

Now, how this plays out going forward, obviously, is an open question. But again, for a White House that has been dealing with this in isolation for the most part trying to draw contrast between their predecessor, former President Donald Trump, this certainly is a - an example that very much aligns with how they have operated up to this point, which once again draws the contrast that they want to point out very regularly with where the former president has been on this.

GOLODRYGA: All right. Phil Mattingly, stay with us.

Meantime, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are now reacting to this discovery of classified documents at Mike Pence's home. For more on this, let's bring in CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

So Manu, what is the reaction been thus far?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of members are stunned. They really are - they're lost at how this is continually happening and wanting to get information. There's some questions that will be directed directly to the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, tomorrow when she appears behind closed doors with the Senate Intelligence Committee.

They have been asking for questions for it ever since it was revealed last year that Donald Trump had records at Mar-A-Lago, they renewed the requests of five leaders, Republican and Democratic leaders of that committee, when it came to light that Biden had these documents, and now they're renewing that request again in light of this aftermath with Mike Pence coming to light.

And Marco Rubio, one of those leaders of the committee said this will definitely come up tomorrow behind closed doors. But there's also questions about what else Congress can do and how these records appeared at Joe Biden's home even records from the time as a senator, questions about how that emerged.

I had a chance to just ask Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer about specifically what Congress should do about this in light of these concerns and in light of the fact that this keeps happening.


RAJU: Given that we have learned about Mike Pence having these documents, is it not incumbent on the Senate to investigate, to have some sort of oversight to ensure that the nation's secrets aren't being leaked out everywhere in people's private homes?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): No, Sen. Peters is looking at bipartisan legislation in terms of classified documents. I support his efforts. In the meantime, on these specific cases to place - the appropriate thing to do is have special prosecutor and that's what was happening.


RAJU: So Schumer was referring to an effort that was happening in the Homeland Security Committee led by Gary Peters, the chairman of that committee to try to change, overhaul record keeping laws, federal record keeping laws. That effort is still taking shape, still coming to light. We'll see if it actually comes to pass.

But lawmakers really at the moment trying to figure out exactly what happened here and calls for an investigation on the Senate side. And, of course, the House Republicans already investigating with Joe Biden has done. We'll see how they press forward on the Pence matter as well, guys?

BLACKWELL: All right. Manu, stay with this. We have also Phil and we have Evan with us. And let's add Josh Skule. He's a former FBI Executive Assistant Director for Intelligence.

Josh, to you, whatever system there is at the White House, at the vice president's residence, obviously, is not working well. The former vice president and the president say they didn't know about these documents. Their lawyers discovered them, they handed them over. Trump's a different story. But is there a simple, easy fix so that this doesn't continue to happen?

JOSHUA SKULE, FORMER FBI EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR INTELLIGENCE: Well, Victor, I'm not sure there's a simple fix for this. But clearly, what's going on across both administrations is the fact that the policies and procedures in the White House are not effective. It looks like that most of this is happening during transition in a rush to get out of the White House. I would call on the Director of National Intelligence to do a review, to see what policies are in place, what else needs to be in place, and really do a holistic look to make sure that this is not continuing to happen.

GOLODRYGA: So Evan, are we in a scenario now where you have the Clintons, and the Bushes, and perhaps the Cheneys now scrambling through their private homes to see if they inadvertently have some classified material of their own? I mean, because these things seem to - we keep getting these headlines every few days. I would be shocked if it was just limited to just two administrations at this point.

PEREZ: Right, exactly. I think that's the big concern. At this point, we know that this happens from time to time. People find documents, sometimes someone passes away and a spouse is going through their belongings and comes across something that they - no one knew was there.


And so this happens from time to time, but the discovery of these documents or rather the legal fight and the protracted litigation with - between Donald Trump and the National Archives, and the Justice Department has really kind of changed the way everyone approaches these things. And this is why, Vice President Pence' team didn't really take any action after the Trump situation, because they just thought that was a complete outlier. It's after this happened with Joe Biden that they decided to do this search and it does raise some important questions that I think you guys are trying to get at. And I think we don't really know until people do these searches to see whether there's anything missing. I think it's going to be a work in progress.

BLACKWELL: Phil, we've heard from former President Trump on his social media about this Mike Pence discovery. And, of course, we know the history between these two up to and since January 6th. And former President Trump said Mike Pence is an innocent man, he never did anything knowingly dishonest in his life.

I wonder your thoughts on if these discoveries at Pence is home and who Pence is and what the country knows about Mike Pence shifts this conversation from a criminal exclusive to how do we fix the system and not just were these men trying to use these for some nefarious purposes?

MATTINGLY: I think it's important to separate what the former president has done when it comes to these documents and his efforts to shield some of those documents or not give them back and where the two vice presidents, the former vice president and now the current president, Joe Biden, have been on these specific issues.

However, I think when you look at the comparative - if you separate the former president from this, if you look at the parallels between the current President and Vice President Pence from both of their times transitioning out of the vice presidency, I think what Manu's reporting has been throughout the course of this day and not just in this conversation with Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, but also with the other lawmakers that he's sent in to our operation or his Hill colleagues have as well.

It seems or at least has appears at this initial moment, and keep in mind, people were pretty stunned throughout the course of this day when this news came out, that that's the direction things are headed. Now, to be very clear, there is still a special counsel investigation and there were still new discoveries of documents in the President's home just a couple of days ago during a search by the FBI.

But I think this is a moment right now, where I think people are grasping the fact that this is a broader issue, one that's always existed in Washington over the course, certainly over the last couple of decades.

But when it comes to this transition process and perhaps there needs to be legislative fixes, perhaps there needs to be fixes from the intelligence community here not necessarily a central focus or a - an isolated focus on the investigation itself.

GOLODRYGA: And Manu, in terms of any potential legislative fixes, I mean, is Congress in a position right now, obviously, given all the bickering that we're seeing transpire over a myriad of issues to come together, at least, on this one, especially now that it appears that a pox is on both of their houses?

RAJU: It just hard to see any sort of legislative solution coming together that gets both sides in line on this issue. Things will probably quickly devolve into partisan food fight and given the divide in the Congress and the fact that there are different priorities between both chambers.

Chuck Schumer really said that he would get behind this effort after I pressed him on that. It was not something he was necessarily making his top of his legislative priority list. I asked Mitch McConnell, too, the Republican leader about what Congress should do. He didn't say there should be any sort of legislation. In fact, he said this is in the Justice Department's purview, the special counsel is investigating. It didn't offer any sort of legislative solution.

We have not heard from Kevin McCarthy about that as well. They want to investigate what Joe Biden has done. And one of the questions that members on both sides have about Biden, in particular, is how a document that apparently was from the - his time in the Senate appeared in his home in Wilmington, that is a question that a lot of members that say - they're saying that they review these documents in close, very secure settings in the capital, that you can't just walk out with a document.

So how did that get there, was a staff member involved, was the President who was a senator at the time involved, all questions that they needed - they want answers to, they just don't have them yet.

BLACKWELL: All right. Manu Raju, Evan Perez, Phil Mattingly, Joshua Skule, thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Congressman Ro Khanna is a Democrat from California and he serves as the Deputy Whip for the Progressive Caucus.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. I'm assuming that you heard the conversation leading up to this. So first, let me ask you your response to news that were classified materials found at the home of the former vice president. And in addition to that, what should be done to rectify what's clearly a broken system at this point?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Well, I think that's exactly right. We need to stop the partisan attacks on the President or Vice President Pence. If there is a system that is broken, then we need to figure out how do we fix it, how do we make sure that classified documents in the executive branch are viewed only in a certain location that they aren't commingled with other documents and that they aren't removed from the premises.


I think that would be much more constructive than for the Republicans to try to score political points on the President.

GOLODRYGA: So whose purview does that fall under? Is it the DOJ, the DNI, Congress itself? KHANNA: Well, it's all three of them. I think the Department of Justice and the DNI can make recommendations to Congress and then Congress can pass a bill to make sure that this doesn't happen in the future.

GOLODRYGA: You call for a bipartisan look into how President Biden ended up with classified documents at his home saying earlier this week that no one can defend this. As you've heard from Manu, this Republican-led Congress now is already starting two investigations at least into how President Biden handled classified documents. Are you convinced? Do you trust your fellow Congressman on the other side of the aisle to open an equally fair investigation into how this happened with both Republicans and Democrats?

KHANNA: I think that should be the inquiry and I hope that's what they'll do. And what I said in full context with President Biden is no one is going to defend the classified information not being where it belongs. But what I also said is that President Biden has shown extraordinary character by cooperating right away, being fully forthcoming, opening his home to search and I think he's handled it as well as he can. And it looks like Vice President Pence from appearances as soon as he found that these documents is cooperating. That I think is what people need to realize in stark contrast to what President Trump did.

GOLODRYGA: So the American public has been about a year and a half now hearing the significance of these classified documents and the potential harm to National Security, they're lying around in an unsecured locations can bring. And as we just heard from Manu when he heard - spoke to both Republicans and Democrats, this is not a high priority, legislatively, at least for your colleagues. Why not? Because Americans have been told this should be.

Well, Americans are concerned but with due respect, well, this is a topic 24/7 on cable news. You know what I hear about when I go back to my district, the price of eggs, the layoffs happening with tech companies and how people are going to get jobs, the cost of going to college, the cost of medical debt.

And this president and our Congress is trying to focus on helping ordinary Americans and improve their lives. Does that mean that classified documents should be kept safe? Of course, that needs to be a priority and legislation. But it shouldn't be the only thing that the country is talking about when there are real problems that Americans are facing.

GOLODRYGA: Let's talk about some of the problems that your home state is facing. Really, this is a national tragedy, but the spate of shootings just the past few days have taken place in your home state of California. The shooting at Half Moon Bay is not far from the district you represent.

My question to you is given that you live in a state and represent constituents in a state with some of the toughest gun laws in the country, what can you tell them when all that they simply want is to go to work and not worry about being killed, go to a dance studio and not worry about being killed?

KHANNA: I'm heartbroken over the two tragedies. And as someone who represents an Asian-American majority district, this has really taken a toll in particular on the Asian American community. We need to tackle gun violence. Yes, California has strict gun laws and these weapons would be illegal to be bought in California. But we're the United States of America and people are purchasing them in other states and they're getting in to California. No one state can tackle this by themselves.

So I hope we finally tackle gun violence and then we need to look at the motives and why this person in Half Moon Bay who apparently has had a history of workplace violence, why that didn't raise red flags and make it hard for him to get a gun. All those questions need to be answered.

GOLODRYGA: The President is quickly calling for Congress to come back and ban assault weapons. You were pessimistic on this issue prior to these last few shootings, you remain pessimistic on it?

KHANNA: Well, we did it. We passed it in the House last Congress. I hope we'll vote on it again. But I need to see some Republicans willing to break with the party to say you can respect the Second Amendment in this country. You can respect the fact that most people who own guns are law abiding, but we don't need military-like weapons in the hands of civilians. And I just think that's common sense. I hope we'll see some religion on the other side.

GOLODRYGA: Congressman Ro Khanna, thank you for your time.

KHANNA: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Well, as Bianna just discussed with the Congressman, California string of mass shootings, specifically in Half Moon Bay, what we know about the police - what they're saying about the suspect, who was arrested and what they say motivated him.

GOLODRYGA: And we're learning more about the innocent victims who are gunned down in Monterey Park over the weekend. Where they invest negation goes from here, that's next.




BLACKWELL: Police in Washington State are searching for an alleged killer. Police say that this 21-year-old man randomly shot two people in a convenience store and another in a car in the city of Yakima. Now, they're the latest in a string of fatal shootings across the country over the last week. In California alone, three mass shootings in just three days.

Yesterday, officers arrested a 66-year-old for allegedly killing seven people in Half Moon Bay. The sheriff said the suspect is a disgruntled worker who targeted those victims.

GOLODRYGA: She also said that gun use was registered in his name.

California governor, Gavin Newsom, plans to visit the farming community later today. He just visited Monterey Park where 11 people were shot to death at a dance hall. The coroner has now identified all 11 victims.

Police say the 72-year-old gunman later killed himself.


CNN's Nick Watt is in Monterey Park.

And Nick, a friend of the suspect is now talking. What more are we learning about him?

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Bianna, there can never be a rational explanation for what happened here. But authorities want to know a motive and the community here wants some answers. And we spoke just this morning with an old friend of the suspect, they fell out a few years ago, but they had been pretty tight.

This man, Adam Hood (ph) told us that there are two words that really sum up the personality of this suspect, hatred and distrust. Apparently, he hated anybody who he thought wasn't being nice to him. And that included other instructors at this and other damsels in this area. Apparently, the suspect would say that they spoke evil of him.

Now, his friend, Mr. Hood (ph), said, listen, that was all in his head. He hated people to the bone. He had very few friends and very few hobbies apart from dancing. He did love to dance, but we still don't know exactly why he came here and slaughtered 11 innocent people who were out enjoying the Lunar New Year.

Now, the 11 suspects (ph) have all now been named - they age - age ranges 57 to 76 out dancing on their Lunar New Year. Now, the suspect as well - we also found out yesterday from Hemet Police, that's where he lived, about 80 miles away, we found out from them that the suspect had actually visited the police station a couple of times in early January to complain that members of his family, 10 or 20 years ago, had committed fraud and theft against him and were perhaps trying to poison him.

He told the police he would come back with documents, with evidence and they say he never returned. And as you say, he killed himself in his van before authorities can speak to him, guys.

GOLODRYGA: Eleven victims gone, 11 families and friends of the victims just got hit by this yet another shooting. Nick Watt, thank you.

Well, let's turn now to the mass shooting that happened yesterday in Half Moon Bay. Joining us now is California assemblyman Marc Berman, who represents the area. Assemblyman, thank you for joining us. I wish it was under better circumstances. How is the community holding up right now?

MARC BERMAN, (D) CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY MEMBER: It's incredibly difficult for the community. There's a lot of shock, there's a lot of confusion as to how something like this could happen in Half Moon Bay, which is a very tight knit community. But they're a remarkably strong and resilient community as well. So the community will get through this, but it's remarkably raw and difficult right now.

BLACKWELL: Remarkably raw and difficult and considering the flooding that we saw just a couple of weeks really hit hard the San Mateo coastal area and this community, anyone would understand that people there are just exhausted.

BERMAN: You couldn't be more correct. I just came into town and driving on highway 92, which is the main road into town where there was a huge sinkhole and created a massive disruption to folks being able to get into and out of Half Moon Bay for the past couple of weeks. So it's one thing after another, but Half Moon Bay residents are tough and they'll persevere.

GOLODRYGA: What else? Are you learning about a possible motive here? We know the San Mateo County Sheriff says that evidence is pointing to an instance of this being a workplace violence. Are you hearing any more details on the specifics?

BERMAN: I haven't gotten more details yet. Hopefully, those details will come out soon, but I think it's important to note that all across the world, we have examples and instances of employees that are mad at their employer or mad about something that happened at work, but it's only in the United States where those disagreements lead to mass shootings and that's something that we need to do more to address.

BLACKWELL: You tweeted out that you had just wrapped up a moment of silence at the capitol for the victims of the Monterey Park shooting and then realized - learned that there was a shooting in your own community. And then you said we must do more to address the epidemic of gun violence.

California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. Is it a legislative fix that you prescribe or is it something else?

BERMAN: I think there's more than the legislature can do. There's obviously more that we need the federal government to do, but I do also want to note that California's strong and smart gun laws are saving lives. And I don't mean a couple of the lives, I don't mean a few hundred lives, but on average, we have 2,000 fewer gun deaths in California than the average state in America on a per capita basis.

So the gun laws that we have in California are saving lives, but they're not stopping every instance of gun violence and gun death and that means that we need to do more.

BLACKWELL: Assemblyman Marc Berman, thank you for your time.

GOLODRYGA: Western allies are urging Ukraine to shift its battlefield focus after six months of fighting in Bakhmut. We'll go behind this proposed strategy up next.