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Police: Shooter May Have Had Weapons Training; Tennessee Authorities Praised For Police Response; Pence: "At The End Of The Day, We Will Obey The Law"; Fact-Checking Trump's Barrage Of Attacks On Florida's Governor. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 29, 2023 - 15:00   ET




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

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Boris Sanchez. We're thrilled to be sharing an afternoon with you. Thanks for joining us.

We start with new insights on the mass shooter who murdered three children and three adults inside of Nashville elementary school earlier this week. A former art school instructor said that she knew Audrey Hale, the person that's been identified as the killer.

Maria Colomy told CNN that she met Hale in 2017 at the Nossi College of Art and she said that for the last year, Hale had grieved online over the death of a girl she used to play basketball with. Colomy said it was around this time that Hale wanted to be referred to as he - him and to go by the name Aiden (ph).

GOLODRYGA: Colomy also said that Hale was suffering. Nashville police say it's still not clear why The Covenant School was the target, which is where Hale had attended elementary school. The chief of police said Hale had pages of details on the attack on the school.


CHIEF JOHN DRAKE, NASHVILLE POLICE: Because our detectives are looking at the manifesto. There've been, in coordination with the FBI and the TBI and combing through all of the documents, all of the writings, the maps - the maps did have a display of entry into the school, a route that would be taken. Quite a bit of writing. It's a notebook. Maybe it has 60 pages in it, I'm not sure how many of the pages are written on but I couldn't give you a true estimate on that.


GOLODRYGA: CNN National Correspondent, Dianne Gallagher is in Nashville. Diane, I know you're learning the police believe Audrey Hale actually received weapons training.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Bianna. So the Metro Nashville Police Department telling me today that they do believe that the shooter had some kind of firearms training, but they're not sure exactly when or where that would have taken place or to what extent that weapons training may have gone to.

Now, the police chief mentioned on Tuesday that they thought that this may be the case, because when police arrived, Hale shot at them through an upper window and the chief noted that they thought that perhaps there'd been some training to teach you how to shoot from above, and also the type of the firing of the weapon and the fact that Hale had backed up away from the window to avoid any sort of return of fire.

Again, that is something they say they do believe indicates that there's some form of weapons training that Hale had. We do know that according to police, he'll purchase at least seven weapons between October 2020 and June of 2022. Those weapons were purchased legally, Bianna? Boris?

SANCHEZ: And Dianne, we're also learning that Bill Lee, the governor of Tennessee, he's backed state laws easing restrictions on firearms. He actually also has a personal tie to this mass shooting.

GALLAGHER: Yes. In fact, according to Gov. Bill Lee in a very lengthy video that he put out last night, he was expecting to have dinner, he and his wife, with one of the people who were killed here at this school on Monday morning, Cynthia Peak.

The governor called her Cindy, was very good friends with his wife, saying that the two of them had taught together as substitute teachers and he grieved in this video, take a listen.


GOV. BILL LEE (R) TENNESSEE: Maria woke up this morning without one of her best friends. Cindy Peak. Cindy was supposed to come over to have dinner with Maria last night after she filled in as a substitute teacher yesterday coming in.


Cindy, and Maria and Katherine Koonce were all teachers at the same school and have been family friends for decades.

GALLAGHER: We're also learning more about one of the younger victims, nine-year-old Hallie Scruggs, whose father was a pastor here at this church. Her aunt posting about that young child in a Facebook post where she just sort of went into what kind of kid this was. Saying, "To watch her these past nine years has been a gift and a privilege." She said, "She was incredibly smart, feisty enough to keep up with her three brothers and my four boys. A love for life that kept her smiling, and running, and jumping, and playing and always on the go."

Of course, three nine-year-olds were killed on Monday morning inside that school. The City of Nashville will remember all six of those victims at a city-wide vigil tonight. In attendance, we expect there to be religious leaders, city dignitary, state leaders, as well as singer Sheryl Crow and the First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden. She will also be in attendance tonight in what is expected to be a very somber, somber evening here in Nashville.

SANCHEZ: Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much for that reporting.

Let's discuss all of these details further. We've got Joshua Skule with us. He served as the FBI Executive Assistant Director for Intelligence. He's now the President of Bow Wave LLC.

Joshua, thanks so much for being with us.

When you watch the footage from inside the school closely and you hear those details from the officers that the shooter apparently had some kind - some level of training, does that coincide with what you see on the video?

JOSHUA SKULE, FORMER FBI EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR INTELLIGENCE: So it does coincide, Boris. It says to me that you can see her movement, you can see her shouldering the long gun. The most recent information with her firing from position of cover to these police officers who are responding, that all goes to some level of training.

I would also say that her garb looks to me like she has a tactical vest on, not a bulletproof vest, but a load-bearing vest and she's prepared to conduct some sort of battle. So that's what it tells me.

GOLODRYGA: We also have Tennessee as some of the loosest gun laws - gun safety laws in the country. And we heard from the police chief earlier this week note that the shooter had a history of emotional disorder and was seeking treatment and that law enforcement was unaware of this. And had law enforcement been aware of the shooter and of the shooter's background seeking treatment that they would have been able to somehow intervene. But given that the state does not have red flag laws, would that have even been possible?

SKULE: It's unlikely if they do not have red flag laws. Here's what we know. We have a challenge with too many criminals, folks with mental health and juveniles having access to weapons. Executive action does not mean inability to do something. So that is some of the discussions that we need to hold our elected officials accountable for.

There's been too many of these going on, too much violence and too many people that think this is the right course of action when they feel aggrieved. So there is action our leaders can take and we need to hold them accountable to do that.

SANCHEZ: Joshua, we know investigators are still piecing together a motive. Can you describe what that process is like and how investigators go about answering the question of why the shooter did this.

SKULE: So investigators - the Chief said, you have FBI, you have National Metro Police, you have the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, undoubtedly the ATF and then other host of folks working together. You have law enforcement investigators and analysts. They are going through the shooter's social media, they're interviewing family and friends, they're dissecting her manifesto. And at each point, they learn more about what is happening and what caused this to happen: When did she start feeling aggrieved? How and why did she select this school? When did she go and conduct surveillance?

We also have reporting that she is looking at a mall as another target. We know there was another school that was a target that had harder security. All of this is a process that takes a long time to uncover and pieced together. Certainly what we're seeing is a professional law enforcement organization, Nashville PD, very competent and we've witnessed that in the video.

The FBI working in concert and this is what we should expect of our law enforcement professionals to put this together to tell the story of what had happened and what caused this. It also is an educational opportunity.

When there is something and somebody in their life that is grieving and is going to potentially conduct violence, folks need to report that to the officials. And we saw that in a text that happened to one of her friends yesterday.



And from what we're hearing from the shooters parents that they weren't even aware of the number of firearms that their daughter had possessed.

Joshua Skule, thank you so much.

Now let's bring in CNN Senior Crime and Justice Correspondent, Shimon Prokupecz.

So Shimon no doubt this is night and day, sort of textbook example of how police should respond to a school shooting. We saw it in their body cam video going ...

SANCHEZ: Oh, yes ...

GOLODRYGA: ... room to room ...

SANCHEZ: I told you guys ...

GOLODRYGA: ... there and really putting their lives on the lines. Looking - not knowing where the shooter may be. Compare that to your sense of work in covering just the tragedy that unfolded not only in the shooting in Uvalde but the horrific response by police.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. So in Uvalde, it started out as a textbook case, right? How you respond to active shooter situations. But what happened was when the officers felt that their lives were in danger, that gunfire was now coming at them from the shooter, they retreated. They went back and they never again would try to get in that classroom for another 77 minutes.

So that is the one really big difference in all of this is that you see Nashville officers going towards the sound of gunfire. They know where it's coming from. They are moving in that direction and they go and they eliminate the shooter.

There are significant differences and that the shooter in Uvalde was in a classroom that - here in Nashville, the shooter is in a hallway kind of vestibule area, okay. But the point is officers have to keep going and in Uvalde at some point they stopped.

The other thing that I think is significant in what we're seeing in Nashville is how the school responded. The school administrators and the body camera footage that we see in the moments that officers arrived, they're out there. They're on the front line, assisting those officers, telling them where to go.

In one of the pieces of video, you actually see a school administrator giving officers a key to get inside the school. None of that was done in Uvalde. There was no school administrator directing any of the officers. There was confusion, whether or not there were kids during the day when school is in session in Uvalde, they were confused over whether or not children were inside the classroom.

And even when they were told by 911 calls that there were children inside. They still didn't take action and they waited for SWAT team. So those are really the big differences and that's why you're seeing the praise that you're - that the officers in Nashville are getting in the foot of police chief twice on the day this happened, came out and said we will never stop. We will keep moving in these situations to eliminate the threat because there was a lot of concern after Uvalde in law enforcement community that people were going to question how officers respond to these situations. There was a lot of worry.

And clearly what's being demonstrated in Nashville is that the training works. You go after the shooter and you eliminate the shooter.

GOLODRYGA: And it seemed like the officers had the authority in Nashville to just go in. They went in unilaterally, right ...

PROKUPECZ: That's right.

GOLODRYGA: ... as opposed to what we saw.


GOLODRYGA: There were so many officers that responded to Uvalde and yet, they were still waiting for some sort of management green light.

PROKUPECZ: Right. There were waiting for some command or some person who's in charge to say, all right, let's go in. When the training tells you, you don't wait. You see those officers in Nashville, the minute they get on scene, the one officer is yelling for the team, let's go, let's go, I need three, let's go, because they know that's what their training teaches them. You go in. You go, you get your team together and you move and every officer has a different responsibility and you work together.

It started that way in Uvalde. But then what happened was the officers were fired on. They got scared and simply had they given themselves some cover and try to open the door, maybe they would have gotten inside that class much sooner.

People also say in some defense of the Uvalde officers, well, everyone was already pretty much dead in that classroom. Well, we don't know that. There were some people who were still alive when finally after 77 minutes that they were pulled out ...


PROKUPECZ: ... and died later. Of course, there were survivors. But every second that one of those kids who have survived had to spend in there extra for no reason is just more trauma and more trauma. And the trauma that these kids have been suffering from being inside that classroom is really measurable and you can measure it in time and it's going to take them years to recover.

I was just there on Monday when Nashville happened ...


PROKUPECZ: ... talking to these kids. And when they hear about school shootings, what it does to them, what it does to the families there, it's just painful and they have to relive all of this. But then they see Nashville, how the police officers reacted and they said, well, why couldn't they do that here.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. What is to say that your - this is your expertise now? That you're (inaudible) ...

PROKUPECZ: It's awful, I mean ...

GOLODRYGA: ... this time and time again, it's really an indictment on the crisis that's uniquely American in this country. And kudos not only to the police officers who responded in Nashville, but to the school administrators who ...

PROKUPECZ: I think to get right ...

GOLODRYGA: ... seem to evacuate ...


GOLODRYGA: ... all of those students and that one went up to the officer and said there are two missing.

PROKUPECZ: Exactly, yes.

GOLODRYGA: Right. Great reporting as always, Shimon. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Vice President Mike Pence will not say one way or another if he's going to testify before a grand jury about his conversations with former President Donald Trump leading up to the insurrection. [15:15:08]

We're going to have more on that when we come back.

GOLODRYGA: And as Trump eyes the Oval Office, he's amping up his attacks on Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, again. But are any of his claims actually true? We'll fact check them, that's next.



SANCHEZ: Former Vice President Mike Pence will not say definitively if he will appeal a federal judge's ruling that says that he must testify about his conversations with Donald Trump leading up to the January 6th insurrection.

GOLODRYGA: The former vice president was asked about it just a short time ago in Iowa.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At the End of the day we'll obey the law and - but right now we're evaluating what the proper course is. For me the reason to challenge a subpoena of a vice president in their role as president of the Senate was an important constitutional argument to have.


And now, for the first time ever, a Federal Court just recognized that those protections extend to a vice president.

SANCHEZ: Joining us now is CNN Senior Political Analyst, Gloria Borger.

Gloria, always great to get your insight on these matters. Before we get into testifying before the grand jury and all of the implications of that, we have to acknowledge the backdrop, right. Mike Pence is in Iowa. There's a presidential election looming and he could potentially be running against the man that he may have to testify about.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, that's a bit of a problem for him and so that's why he kind of straddles constantly when he talks about Donald Trump, he doesn't mention his name unlike Chris Christie, who is the first candidate out there really to take on Donald Trump frontally.

But in the end I think - and this is a month or so ago talking to some Pence advisors. So I think there was always some sense that he would have to testify in some way before a grand jury. That's why I think they're not coming out right now and saying we're going to appeal this.

They won part of this case and I think they understand as we should understand that at this point, this is not about what - Mike Pence - this is about Donald Trump. And this is about trying to learn whether he ever acknowledged that he lost the election and trying to find out some details about what he did and what he may or may not have asked Mike Pence to do to try and decertify it.

So this is about discovering whether Donald Trump behaved unethically or maybe even criminally and I think that's an uncomfortable position for Mike Pence to be in to say the least. But, of course, he has firsthand knowledge of what Trump was saying at the time to him very often privately.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. Well, it may be uncomfortable for him to say in front of grand jury, he's written about it, though and he said that ...


GOLODRYGA: ... he has nothing to hide ...


GOLODRYGA: ... and that he's going to obey the law. So Gloria, does this signal to you that he will ultimately do just that and that he will appear before this grand jury.

BORGER: Right. It's hard to predict. I mean, you can guess about it and say he was very active saying we won this case about presiding over the Senate and being the head of the Senate. He didn't really talk about the other case.

And what he wrote about in his book, Bianna, as you know, is that he had lunch with Donald Trump 13 days after the election and told him that he should accept defeat, and just think about running again in 2024. And maybe they want to know a little bit more about that kind of conversation. I'm sure there were many of those conversations.

On the other hand, Mike Pence, as Boris points out, wants to not alienate that Trump base in a state like Iowa, where he's still quite popular and so he's walking this kind of funny line. But if he's under subpoena, he can say I was forced to do this. So who knows if they're going to appeal or not. We just don't know at this point.

SANCHEZ: And looking forward to the political implications for candidate Pence. As you noted, he's doing this funny walk on a high wire in a way.


SANCHEZ: Is there an audience for him and the Republican Party that is receptive of that sort of Trump without Trump message?

BORGER: Yes. I think there is - look, I think there is going to be a contest for evangelical voters, for example, who will be very socially conservative. And while they might really like Donald Trump, they may feel that their values at this point are more in line with a Mike Pence.

I think the question is going to be how are these candidates going to take on Donald Trump without taking on Donald Trump.


BORGER: You've seen that with Nikki Haley. You've seen that with Mike Pence to a degree. Mike Pompeo, they can criticize the last administration as Pompeo did on the on the debt. And I think now we got Chris Christie out there who is actually being the only one out there now to say his name and to criticize him and say I couldn't support him after January 6.

GOLODRYGA: And what's notable about that is that he was, I believe, the first big name at least going back to 2016, who supported ...


GOLODRYGA: ... and endorsed Donald Trump at the time, and that was a pivotal moment.

Gloria, how do you envision Trump's camp responding now to Pence and potential testimony?

BORGER: Well, the same way they've always responded to Mike Pence. the president after January 6, obviously pulled away from him on the decertification. The President wanted the election decertified and they have not been friends.

And if Mike Pence decides that he needs to testify and doesn't challenge it, the President could say I hope he does the right thing and tells the truth, but he shouldn't cooperate with a weaponize justice department.


And we've heard all of that and I'm sure we'll hear about it again and the former president will make himself the victim.

But in the end - and you hear Mike Pence now talk about the Constitution all the time, he always says now that he did what the Constitution told him to do and that he will abide by that, and that he didn't break any laws. And so that will be his refrain.

SANCHEZ: Yes. You can almost copy and paste some of these statements ...


SANCHEZ: ... just based on how many times they've put them out there, right?

Gloria Borger, thank you so much for your perspective.

BORGER: Sure. Thanks, guys.

GOLODRYGA: Well, meantime, former President Trump is continuing his attacks, excuse me, on his potential 2024 Republican rival and that is Florida governor, Ron DeSantis. CNN's Daniel Dale will fact-check some of Trump's claims about DeSantis. So Daniel, let's start with his claim that Florida is a third worst in crime in the country. Is that in fact true?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Well, there's a handy trick for trying to make the country's most populous cities and states. Look like they're really bad on crime and that is simply using their absolute totals without factoring in their population. So it is true that Florida has, as former President Trump said, the third most reported murders, rapes and aggravated assault.

What he didn't mention is that that is largely because Florida is the third largest, most populous state. And so if you look at per capita figures, which is by far, the fairer way to actually compare between states, Florida fares notably better. It's 25th worst on murder, so right in the middle, 33rd worst on reported rape, so better than the middle, and 23rd worst on aggravated assault. Again, right around the middle.

So very important context that the former president is not mentioning here.

SANCHEZ: Daniel, something fascinating about the former president is his ability to meld recollections of things, like stories change as he tells them more and more. And there's one that he keeps telling ...

DALE: Yes.

SANCHEZ: ... about - yes - about how he only endorsed DeSantis for governor, because he saw DeSantis defend him over his first impeachment battle, set the record straight on that one.

DALE: This is an easy fact-check and the fact is this could not possibly be true, because the President's endorsement of then Congressman DeSantis for Florida governor came in mid 2018. The Trump first impeachment battle began in late 2019. So he could not possibly have seen him on TV, defending him on impeachment and then said what the heck, I'll endorse him for that reason.

Now, it is possible that Trump is thinking of DeSantis defending him on the Mueller Russia probe in 2017. But Trump is the one who keeps raising Biden gaffes as if they're a sign of serious mental decline or something like that. So I think it's important to point out when Trump's own stories are similarly inaccurate.

GOLODRYGA: Well, to be fair, there have been several probes so one can understand how you may confuse them and what year they happened in.

Daniel, Trump also has been attacking DeSantis over his pandemic policies. And in a statement last week, Trump claimed that DeSantis sealed all beaches and other places for ended - for extended periods of time, that is that one correct?

DALE: This is an exaggeration. So it is true that Gov. DeSantis closed some beaches in Florida. He didn't close all of them. In March 2020, he ordered the closures of public beaches in Broward and Palm Beach counties, two populous counties, but he would not order a statewide closure. In fact, he was sued unsuccessfully for refusing to do a statewide closure.

On the other beaches, he simply order that people limit their gatherings to no more than 10 people and stay six feet apart and we know that was in line with what then-President Trump and the Trump administration were urging people to do at the time. So the DeSantis order certainly did not come out of nowhere.

GOLODRYGA: All right. Daniel Dale, keeping us honest by always fact- checking everything, thank you so much.

DALE: Thank you.

Well, on Capitol Hill, federal regulators are grilled over the recent bank failures that put the whole sector on notice and why they were caught off guard. We'll have new details of next.