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CNN This Morning

5 Dead, 25-Plus Hurt After Shooter Opens Fire at LGBTQ Nightclub; Bob Iger Returns as Disney CEO After Empire's Tumultuous Year; Who is the Special Counsel Tapped to Oversee Trump Probes. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired November 21, 2022 - 07:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: We will speak to a bartender just moments, who found himself staring down that

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. And a sudden and stunning shakeup at Disney overnight, Bob Iger is back at the top of the company. Can the man who really revolutionized that media empire resurrect it?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Also this morning, flu and RSV are surging across the country ahead of the holidays. Now, leaders in children's health want the federal government to step in and declare an emergency.

LEMON: And new this morning, CNN reporting Democrats warming to the idea of President Biden running again unless it's against someone not named Donald Trump. We'll explain that one.

HARLOW: But, first, we are learning more about the suspected gunman who murdered five people and injured dozens more at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs this weekend. Take a look at this. You're seeing this video first on CNN that shows the alleged gunman, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, surrendering to law enforcement. This is just a year ago in June of 2021 after allegedly making a bomb threat on his own mother.

Nick Watt is live this morning for CNN This Morning in Colorado Springs. Nick, as I understand it, I believe you're outside the hospital because there are still so many people injured inside.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is right. There are at least 25 people injured, Poppy, five dead, ten of the injured are in this hospital behind me, some of them in critical condition, gunshot wounds and more.

Now, last night, I spoke to two people who walked out of that club just a couple of minutes before the gunman walked in. And they said it was not busy. Maybe 30, maybe 50 people max in there. So, five dead, 25 injured at least amongst that. And those that weren't injured in body, obviously injured in mind during that traumatic, traumatic short burst of gunfire. Apparently the gunman walked in just a little bit before midnight and began opening fire -- opened fire with a long rifle almost immediately. Guys?

HARLOW: I know that the authorities have not released a full list of the victims, those murdered and those who are still fighting for their life in the hospital. We're slowly learning some of the names. I wonder if you've heard from any of the victims' families?

WATT: Well, yes. The parents of one of the victims spoke to the Denver Post. They said that their son, Daniel Aston, was murdered in the club, he was a bartender there. He had moved to Colorado Springs to be closer to his parents and now he is dead.

Now, the investigation, of course, is still going on. Authorities are still not saying what they believed the motive is, but amongst the small LGBTQ community here in Colorado Springs, they have already made up their own minds, that this was an act of hate against their community.

There was a candle lit vigil last night that was supposed to be an interfaith service for the transgender day of remembrance, and, of course, it became something else. It was an overflow crowd at a synagogue here remembering both trans people who have been killed and also the people who were killed in that club. And people were saying this is a reminder that our community is still under threat.

Now, there are, of course, a lot of heroes here as well. Law enforcement was on the scene very quickly. This man was detained. So, the fire department was able to come in and treat people in the club very, very quickly because the gunman had been detained.

And we hear from the mayor of Colorado Springs that two patrons of the club actually managed to subdue this gunman. He came in, as I said, with this long rifle, he also had a handgun. And, apparently, according to the mayor, these one or two patrons used the gunman's handgun to subdue him. And that could have saved a lot of lives. Guys?

HARLOW: Absolutely heroes. Nick Watt, thank you very much for the reporting.

LEMON: So, I want to hear from this next person, you're going to want to as well. His name is Michael Anderson. He is a bartender at Club Q and he witnessed those horrific events Saturday night. Michael, I appreciate you joining us. Can you hear us? Michael, can you hear us?

I don't think we can hear Michael. Let's see if we can get him. But, again, Michael said -- Michael, if you could hear us just raise your hand. You can hear us now?

Michael said that he was bar tending when all of this went down. He said he saw the guy. He said it was really dark. But when he heard people yelling and sort of screaming, he didn't know what to do. It was hard to figure out what was going on.

So, Michael you're there and you can hear me, correct?


LEMON: Listen, thank you so much for joining. And, look, as with these things, the technical difficulties, it happens.


I won't even say good morning to you because I know it's not a good morning to you. How are you holding up?

ANDERSON: I'm taking it minute by minute, hour by hour. I mean, this type of situation tends to come in waves, I found, with myself and other people that I've talked to from that night.

LEMON: Chaotic, can you take us inside if you don't mind reliving this?

ANDERSON: Yes, of course, of course. It -- I was working behind the bar on a seemingly normal Saturday night. And around 11:55 or so, I heard a few pops, popping sounds. And at first, I thought it might have been one of the clacking fans that you see often at LGBTQ clubs. And when I looked up, I quickly realized that was not the case. I saw the outline of a man holding a rifle at the entrance of the club just probably about 15 feet from me. And then, you know, it took a moment to register what was happening, but once it hit me, this was actually happening in real life to me and my friends. I ducked behind the bar. And as I did that, glass began to spew everywhere, all around me.

LEMON: Now, I understand you knew Daniel Aston, who was killed in the club?


LEMON: Can you tell us about him?

ANDERSON: Yes. I've known Daniel Aston for a few years now. Most recently -- he's always been a friend to me, but he was my supervisor at Club Q. He was the bar supervisor and he was the best supervisor anybody could have asked for. He made me want to come into work and he made me want to, you know, just be a part of the positive culture we were trying to create there. And he was an amazing person. He was a light in my life. And it's still surreal that we're even talking about him in the past tense like this.

LEMON: Yes. My colleagues are here as well, and, I mean, we all have so many questions for you. And, again, we're sorry -- I didn't say that. We're sorry about what happened.

ANDERSON: Thank you, don.

COLLINS: We're so sorry. And like Don said, it's tough to ask you about what happened and have you relive it, but it's important, as you know, to the investigation, to what investigators are looking at.

Did you hear the suspect say anything? I know there was music playing, so it was loud, but also quiet because people obviously were witnessing this shooting, hiding from this person. Did you hear him say anything as this was going on?

ANDERSON: I -- the closest I was to him where I could physically see a full body of a person was when he immediately came into the club. I was never close enough or it was never quiet enough for me to hear if he was saying anything at all. You know, I tried to be one of those people who were trying to hide from him. So, I tried to avoid seeing him. So, I didn't hear anything, no.

HARLOW: Michael, thank you for being with us. I know that at one point as you were hiding, you thought as you looked at that gun, looked right at the barrel of the gun, thought you were not going to make it and you did. And there were heroes around you, right, who took down the gunman. What can you tell us about that?

ANDERSON: Yes. There was a moment in time where I feared I was not going to make it out of that club alive. And I had never prayed so sincerely and quickly in my life as I did in that moment, as I was anticipating that outcome and afraid for that outcome. It got quiet as I was praying and hoping, it got silent, the gunshots stopped.

So, we -- I stayed there for a minute, minute-and-a-half. You know, I didn't know what to do. I couldn't see. I was hidden down in a corner. So, I kept my head down. But after about a minute-and-a-half, I decided I needed to get out of there. So, I got up. And when I went inside, I saw what I believe was probably the gunman lying on the ground getting beat up and kicked and yelled at by two very brave people who I still don't know the identity of those two people, but I hope I can find out one day, because I truly believe those two people saved my life.

LEMON: Our correspondent, Nick Watt, Poppy just spoke to him moments before you came on, and he says -- and, look, I don't want to get ahead of myself because we don't know the motive. But he said that most people there have already made up their minds. They believe that it was a hate crime that was perpetrated against the LGBTQ community. How are you feeling about that?

ANDERSON: I have to agree that -- I mean, there are so many clubs. I mean, you look at how many clubs are in Colorado Springs and then you look at how many gay clubs are in Colorado Springs, there's two.


And then all the other clubs would be not a part of that statistic.

I don't know what was wrong with this man. I don't know why he needed to act in this way. But he obviously had some feelings towards -- I don't know if it was transgender people, gays, lesbians, I don't know. Club Q is a safe place for everybody, everybody in the spectrum of the rainbow. So I don't know who he was targeting but I definitely feel it was something aimed directly at my community, yet again another time in our country.

LEMON: Michael, you be well, as well as you can be in this moment, okay? Thank you so much.

COLLINS: We're so grateful for your time, Michael.

ANDERSON: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Don, I really appreciate your journalism.

LEMON: All right. Thank you so much.

So, I mean, Poppy, we just talked about this moments ago. Remember how we felt after Pulse and then --

HARLOW: Yes, and you were there, 49 people murdered.

COLLINS: And it has the echoes of that as we are still trying to figure out more about what happened with this suspect given what that video that we saw earlier of him being arrested after making threats against his own mother.

LEMON: We have to remember words matter. The words of our leaders and people who have a platform, they matter because it can affect things like this. Look, we don't know the motive but, again, every single word is very important. Every single action is very important.

We're going to move ahead and discuss Colorado's Attorney General Phil Weiser. He is going to join CNN This Morning. We're going to ask why the gunman was allowed to be out on the streets given his previous run-in with the law.

HARLOW: Other big news this morning, a stunning shakeup at the highest ranks of Disney. Former Disney CEO Bob Iger is back at the helm of the company taking over again after a significant earnings drop last quarter. That's not all though. This is a major reversal for Iger.

We want you to listen to this. Our friend and tech journalist Kara Swisher talked to Iger just a few months ago about why he left Disney and if he'd ever come back. Here's what he said.


KARA SWISHER, TECH JOURNALIST: But one of the things -- CNBC polled ten media executives anonymously about their 2022 predictions, and one was that they'll return to Disney.


SWISHER: I don't know. A Mickey Mouse character.

IGER: I would love that, yes.

SWISHER: There are rumors you could become Disney's CEO again.

IGER: Well, that's ridiculous.

SWISHER: Ridiculous.

IGER: I was CEO for a long time. You can't go home again. I'm gone.

SWISHER: Really? It's happened before. Starbucks?

IGER: I gave my I.D. up, my name tag up, my office, my email address. It's all gone.

I think if I wanted to still run a company, I'd still run Disney. No, I did that.


HARLOW: But he's doing it again. His successor, Bob Chapek, who has had a rocky two years running the company, is stepping down effective immediately. Chapek's tenure also included a very public battle with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, that involved Florida's controversial bill restricting LGBTQ topics in the classroom. Chapek faced a lot of criticism for not speaking out forcefully and initially against it, like Iger did.

Iger spoke with our colleague, Chris Wallace, about that moment.


IGER: A lot of these issues are not necessarily political. It's about right and wrong. So, I happen to feel, and I tweeted an opinion about the Don't Say Gay Bill in Florida. To me, it wasn't politics, it was right and wrong. And that just seemed wrong. It seemed potentially harmful to kids.


HARLOW: All right. So, this is totally fascinating. I think Iger thought he never going to come back. But just like Howard Schultz at Starbucks, who came back three times, when a company like this is in such need, it always falls on the top. And Iger is someone who is very clear in his leadership, who is not afraid to make hard decisions. And I think good leaders make hard decisions pretty fast and Iger was deliberate about that.

LEMON: But the people have to want you back. Was there someone saying, we need you, we need you, we need you?

HARLOW: People love Iger. Well, the board, obviously. The board that unanimously, in June, re-upped Chapek for three more years is now saying, we need new leadership.

COLLINS: Two things stood out to me here, one, which is Bob Iger has been clear in his criticism of his successor. He has not minced words at all. I think he's only become more emboldened and more outspoken since he's been gone. And it's not just the Disney thing but other aspects as well. We've seen the price hikes that have been happening, a lot of unhappiness with Disney, but also how quickly all of this happened. Because The New York Times says they reached out to Bob Iger on Thursday and asked him to consider returning to the company.

HARLOW: Yes, I think so. But when you're a company like that, an iconic American company in crisis, even if Iger didn't want to come back and run it, I think it's part of him. It's in your blood, right? And so you feel it's a great responsibility.

I thought it was really interesting that Reed Hastings, right, who runs Netflix, a competitor, tweeted, ugh, I was hoping Iger would run for president, he is amazing.


Like I think that says it all when it comes from sort of all places. And I'm reminded of Iger writing in his book, don't be in the business of playing it safe, be in the business of creating possibilities for greatness.

LEMON: I wonder, the thing that happened in Florida with DeSantis, if that -- but Bob Iger was very supportive. He said right is right and wrong is wrong.

HARLOW: And he said right away. So, this is what I think back to the point about good leaders make hard decisions or just make big decisions, informed but you don't doddle --

LEMON: He's supportive of the LGBTQ communities, yes.

HARLOW: That's right. Bob Iger came out before Disney's CEO Bob Chapek and said, this is wrong. And Disney waffled and their employees revolted. And then he later came out and apologized and said that we should have come out more forcefully. But that moment was a real turning point.

COLLINS: But it also opened him up to criticism everywhere because, A, he was criticized for being too slow to speak out on that, then he was criticized from the right for making Disney woke. So, he got -- regardless, it went poorly on any kind of tactic.

HARLOW: It does. But I think it comes down to leaders have to decide what is not politics and what's just right and wrong.

LEMON: And make decisions and say, I don't care what the criticism is.

HARLOW: That's right. That's right. All right, we'll see.

COLLINS: It's fascinating. We'll see what that looks like with Bob Iger now at the helm. We're waiting to hear from him.

This morning, two major pediatric groups are also calling for an emergency declaration. They say that is needed because of the rapid rise that we've seen in the respiratory illness known as RSV. In a letter, they write, quote, we need emergency funding support and flexibilities along the same lines of what was provided to respond to COVID surges.

Joining us with more on this is CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, the question here, though, is, is it a slippery slope of declaring certain things an emergency or is this something that they do believe measures up and it needs the same kind of forceful response that we saw for the pandemic? ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association, they say this is for real, they are not crying wolf. They say they are overwhelmed. They say, you know what, think back to when COVID was overwhelming hospitals with adults. They're basically saying this is the pediatric version of that and that they really need help.

Let's looks at one of the major reasons why hospitals are overrun. It's RSV, that respiratory virus that is just coming out in very high numbers very early in the season. It is to the point now that if you look so far this season, 6 out of every 1,000 U.S. infants have been hospitalized with RSV. That is a huge number. 6 out of 1,000 infants have ended up in the hospital with RSV.

And I want to introduce you, Kaitlan to one of them. Her name is Ira Pokharel (ph), and she is in Baltimore, and she was doing well and then she got RSV symptoms, her parents rushed her to the hospital, she ended up being in the ICU. She was intubated. And they couldn't handle her there at the hospital that she was at in Baltimore. They had to ship her out. They couldn't find another hospital in Maryland. They had to make calls to state after state. Finally, they found one single bed at Children's National Medical Center in D.C. and they saved her life. But imagine if that one bed had not been found. Kaitlan?

LEMON: Yes. Hey, can I ask -- I'm going to ask you a question, Elizabeth. We have flu season now, we got COVID. Does it make this situation more dangerous?

COHEN: Absolutely, when you've got flu and COVID, and staffing shortages, because people left health care during the pandemic. It is a terrible, terrible combination.

Let's take a look at flu in the U.S. right now. These states that are in red, they have high or very high levels of flu right now. That is extremely unusual for November. And then you have the RSV situation, extremely high numbers, so early in the season together, a perfect storm for overwhelmed hospitals.

HARLOW: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you for keeping all of us parents informed. We appreciate it very much.

LEMON: It's been more than a week since the bodies of four University of Idaho students were found murdered in their off-campus home. Police still don't have a suspect, no weapon has been found, fear gripping the community at large.

I want to get now to Camila Bernal live for us in Moscow, Idaho, for CNN This Morning. Camila, good morning to you. What are you learning about the investigation here?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Don. Look, so many questions and not a lot of answers. Throughout the weekend, we saw a lot of movement here at the crime scene. Investigators going in and out of the house, around the back, searching all the four cars that are parked here outside of the house, and yet they're not giving us very many details. They did clarified some of the information on the 911 call. That was placed on Sunday at around noon. What they're saying is that it was placed from the phone of one of the surviving roommates but they will not say who made that 911 call.


Authorities also saying now that there were multiple friends now at the house by the time the police arrived on Sunday, they went over the timeline once again, saying these four students were out Saturday night, got back home at around 2:00 in the morning, were all stabbed multiple times. And they continue to say that they believe this is targeted. But bottom line is we're more than a week later and still no weapon and no suspect in this case. Don?

LEMON: All right. Camilla, thank you very much, I appreciate that.

Up next, a closer look at the special counsel who is now overseeing two DOJ Trump investigations.

COLLINS: Also this morning, Justice Samuel Alito is denying claims he was involved in an alleged Supreme Court leak in 2014. We'll tell you more about the details of that allegation, next.



LEMON: He has been tapped by Attorney General Merrick Garland as special counsel to oversee two major Justice Department investigations involving former President Trump. And so, the question many are asking right now, who is this man? His name is Jack Smith. Who is he?

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty live for in Washington this morning with some answers, hopefully. Good morning to you.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Don. Former colleagues describe Jack Smith as someone who operates very quickly, someone who is really able to drill down on the important part of big cases, which this certainly is. He's not someone who's going to waste any time handwringing over these sideshows. They say he's going to be very aggressive here, predicting things are going to speed up.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I signed an order appointing Jack Smith to serve as special counsel.

SERFATY (voice over): The attorney general taking that remarkable step Friday for two criminal investigations into former President Donald Trump, as Special Counsel Jack Smith will look into the retention of classified documents at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort and parts of the January 6th insurrection.

GARLAND: Such an appointment underscores the department's commitment to both independence and accountability. The extraordinary circumstances presented here demand it.

SERFATY: In this case, the extraordinary circumstances were triggered by Trump's decision to run for president in 2024 and President Biden likely running as well.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: What they have done to their credit at the Justice Department is pick someone who basically checks every single box in terms of a stellar legal resume.

SERFATY: Smith has served in prosecutorial roles since 1994 when he started as an assistant D.A. in New York. In 2010, he chaired the public integrity section of the DOJ, which examines election crimes and public corruption.

But for the past four years he has been living out of the country, investigating war crimes as chief prosecutor for the special corps in The Hague. Smith's experience may help him avoid accusations of partisanship, which plagued the Mueller probe.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: When we talk about the career nonpolitical prosecutor, Jack Smith appears to be the very model of that notion.

SERFATY: But Trump is already taking swipes at the Justice Department.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This horrendous abuse of power is the latest in a long series of witch hunts.

SERFATY: And there is worry that the appointment of any special counsel could slow the entire process down, something Smith pledges to avoid, writing the pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch.

HONIG: He is going to have to get up to speed on this investigation. It's going to take him some time. He will have at least the initial call on do we indict or do we not.


SERFATY (on camera): And as far as what exactly makes a special counsel special, well, this is a lawyer that's appointed from outside the government, they have more autonomy than U.S. attorneys with the goal, of course, being to provide the greatest possible level of impartiality. They have subpoena power and they will only removed for misconduct. They have the ability to build their own staff and their own budget. Smith promising here, Don, in a statement to conduct the investigations, he says, independently and in the best traditions of the DOJ. Don?

LEMON: All right. Sunlen, thank you very much, I appreciate it.

COLLINS: All right. For perspective on all of this, we want to bring in this morning former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who served as the White House counsel to President George W. Bush, and is now the dean of the law school, Belmont University. Thank you so much for being here with us this morning, trying to break this down and make sense of it.

First, I just want to ask if you think that Attorney General Garland made the right call here, which he said was in part -- really in large part because of Trump's announcement on Tuesday night that he is going to be a candidate for president.

ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: In my mind, there's no question that he made the right call. The world fundamentally changed with respect to how you approach cases with the announcement by President Trump that he was going to run against the man who appointed Merrick Garland. And so, absolutely, Merrick Garland did the absolute right thing.

And, you know, to hear Trump rail against this as an abuse of power to me is kind of silly because this was -- this move was intended to protect his interest, protect his rights, to make it clear to the American people that this is about independence and accountability, as General Garland said.