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CNN This Morning

Nashville, Tennessee, Community Grieving Loss of Children and School Employees after School Shooting; Police Response to School Shooting in Nashville Compared to Uvalde; Federal Judge Orders Former Vice President Mike Pence to Testify Before Grand Jury Investigating Former President Trump's Efforts to Overturn 2020 Presidential Election. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 29, 2023 - 08:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Somebody called her and said that they were head of operations at the casino and to bring the money to a lawyer at a specific address. But when she got there, it was actually a hospital. She said she handed the money over to a man who came to her window and went back to get more. She has been booked into the county jail.

CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.


JASON HOFFMAN, HELPED KIDS FLEE SCHOOL SHOOTING: I had no idea at the time what was going on. I didn't know if it was like a police chase that ended up in a shootout. It was when I saw the teacher come out of the woods and the kids behind her that my heart sunk.


LEMON: That was Jason Hoffman. He was on with us last hour talking about just happened to be driving by the school and saw kids running, he says, out of the woods into their parents' arms. He stopped traffic to help facilitate the whole thing and then took some video of it. I mean, just horrific all the way around. The more we hear, the worse it gets.

COLLINS: Yes, I know. But it's nice to see someone like that who did take a heroic action that day, who got involved and tried to help, even if he was downplaying his own role.

LEMON: We have a lot to get to this morning. Good morning, everyone. Poppy is off. We have new video that shows young children escaping and running across the street during a school shooting in Nashville. And we're learning alarming new details about the shooter's past.

COLLINS: Also this morning, for Vice President Mike Pence has now been ordered to testify to a grand jury about one-on-one conversations he had with former President Trump leading up to January 6th.

LEMON: And a judge blasting FOX News lawyers in a billion-dollar lawsuit against the network. As we said, a lot to get to, but we're going to start with new details about the Nashville school shooter, and they are raising major questions at this hour, including how is a person who was being treated for an emotional disorder able to legally buy seven guns and then go on for a rampage, murdering three children and three staff members at a private Christian school.

There's brand new reporting from "The New York Times." The shooter's former teacher at an art college told "The Times" that years ago, the shooter had an emotional breakdown in her class over trouble creating a password for the online student portal. And in recent years the shooter had been grieving on Facebook about the loss of a romantic partner.

We're now hearing from people who were driving near the school during the shooting and helped children escape to safety, including actress Melissa Joan Hart. Listen.


MELISSA JOAN HART, ACTRESS: We did. My husband and I were on our way to school for conferences, and luckily our kids weren't in today, and we helped a class of kindergartners across a busy highway. They were climbing out of the woods. They were trying to escape the shooter situation at their school. So we helped all these tiny little, little kids cross the road and get their teachers over there, and we helped a mom reunite with her children. And I just I don't know what to say anymore.


LEMON: Kaitlan and I were just talking about at the top of the hour, we mentioned that we just spoke to the man who shot this video. His name is Jason Hoffman. He heard the gunshots. He stopped traffic, helping children cross the street.


JASON HOFFMAN, HELPED KIDS FLEE SCHOOL SHOOTING: I stopped the car immediately. We jumped out. The people to the left of me, stop, get out. And once they see these kids crossing the road, everybody stopped and got out and made sure they were safe.


COLLINS: Luckily, those were the survivors, those who did make it out of the school and did cross the road.

We're also learning more this morning about the three young students, nine-year-olds, and the educators who were murdered, including the school's custodian, Mike Hill. Students referred him as "Big Mike." He had seven kids and 14 grandkids. His family says that Mike loved to spend time with him that he had a passion for cooking.

Hallie Scruggs, as you see here was that one of the three nine-year- olds who was killed. Her dad is actually the pastor of the church that runs that school. Evelyn Dieckhaus's family says that their hearts are completely broken. They said that she was a shining light, and they cannot believe that this has happened.

As we are learning more about all of this and staying on top of what the families are saying and their responses, we're also learning more about the investigation in of itself. And our CNN team has been able to trace the path that officers took to actually reach the shooter. Officer Rex Engelbert enters through a first floor entrance at the front of the building. He and other officers quickly clear rooms as they keep moving on the first level. Then the sound of gunshots sends them running up a staircase to access the second floor. That's where they continued toward the sound of gunfire and take out the shooter who was standing by cathedral window. All of that in the span of two minutes and 15 seconds.

For more on this, I want to bring in CNN's senior crime and justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz. But first, we do want to warn you, this bodycam videos that you're going to see, they are disturbing. We just want everyone to be aware of that. And Shimon, I mean, walk us through what we're seeing here. This is the first video that is being worn by one of the officers.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. This is as you can see, Rex Engelbert, an officer. The key thing here is you see a school administrator there. If you stop the video, you go before, the school administrator is telling the officer where perhaps some of the students may be, where students are missing. And this is key, because already officers coming there, arriving, are getting key pieces of information.

And then Kaitlan, as we go here, there's another school administrator where you will see as the officers come in this gentleman here who hands them the key so they can actually go inside, which really tells you that these school officials have drilled for this, sadly, have prepared for something that perhaps could happen like this.

COLLINS: And so then they enter the building, and that is when we start to see them going through into the actual school.

PROKUPECZ: Right. And then here what you hear is the officer saying, let's go, let's go, and calling for other officers to join him, to sort of get into this stack team, to get into this contact team so they can go in. And the leading officer, you see one opens the door, the other one immediately follows, the other officers go in, and they start their search. They're looking for victims. And obviously the key here is they're looking for the shooter.

And what you're seeing here is generally what you see in these situations, officers opening doors, turning handles, getting inside these classrooms to look for survivors, to look for victims, and obviously the shooter as well.

The other thing, the next part of what I really want to point out, Kaitlan, if we can go to the next part, is the gear that these officers have. You're seeing --

COLLINS: Which is really important.

PROKUPECZ: It is important, because this is, sadly, the world we now live in where first responders such as this now carry these long guns. They keep them in their cars. And this all started because of active shooter situations, sort of to give officers this extra level of weaponry. They now have these weapons in their cars in most police departments.

COLLINS: These weapons here.

PROKUPECZ: These here. And here's the thing about this, why I wanted to point this out, because there's a lot of comparison being made to Uvalde. These are the same weapons that many of the officers in Uvalde had when they went into the hallway, yet obviously they went, but then they retreated.

COLLINS: They didn't actually go in.

PROKUPECZ: And didn't actually go in the classroom and waited 77 minutes. They complained at one point that they didn't have the right gear. But they did. They had those weapons. The officers there --

COLLINS: That's really notable. So they had the same gear then that these officers had here.

PROKUPECZ: In fact, they may have had a little more gear at times. They were wearing helmets, some of the officers. Some of the officers did have ballistic shields that weren't rifle rated. That's a little nuance. But they had the gear to go in.

And so this is what the officers now train for, sadly, in these situations.

COLLINS: So this is back in Nashville. This is when the officers then are going upstairs, and this is when they actually come in contact.

PROKUPECZ: They start to go upstairs. They're hearing, obviously, the fire alarm. There's some gunfire. And they start to realize that the shooter could be upstairs. And this is really interesting to watch. Obviously, you have this officer here, Engelbert, with his long gone. You see other officers going ahead with just their side arms, and you can hear the gunshots there.

And then we go to the next camera, which is Collazo, which is the other officer. And here, obviously, you can hear more gunshots. But here's interesting. What happens is one of the officers will push the other officers ahead, the officer with the long run, because that's going to be ultimately the person they want in front to take out the shooter, to sort of intercept, interject the shooter and take the shooter out, and that's what we see here.

COLLINS: And so many comparisons, obviously, being drawn between what happened here and how quickly this was compared to Uvalde. You know what I'm so stuck by is the key that the administrator had given them, because that is what we saw in Uvalde when you were reporting on that, struggling to get in the door. PROKUPECZ: Right, struggling to get in the door, but they didn't even need a key there. Investigators found out later on the door was unlocked. But what the other things that you're seeing here that we didn't see in Uvalde is school administrators being on the frontline, telling officers what's going on. Who is where. Students are missing. Kids are here. People are upstairs. That didn't happen in Uvalde. The school administrators were nowhere to be found. Yes, some of them were in lockdown, and there was a breakdown in communication because some of the officers were confused over whether or not kids were actually inside the classroom. Of course, we know there were.

But you're seeing here school administrators on the front line, working with officers, given keys, giving instructions, giving information, and I think that was key here as well.

COLLINS: That saved potentially a lot of lives. Shimon, fascinating look at both of those. Thank you for that.

LEMON: Many in the Nashville community turning to their faith to help them cope. And joining us now is Clay Stauffer. He is a senior minister at Woodmont Christian Church, just two miles from the Covenant Elementary School. His church served as a reunification center after the shooting, and one of the victims, nine-year-old Evelyn Dieckhaus, was part of his congregation. He joins us now. Good morning. Thank you so much for joining me. We really appreciate it.



LEMON: Sorry that you're dealing with this. The Dieckhaus family has been members of your congregation for years. How are they doing?

STAUFFER: Well, as you heard yesterday, they're heartbroken, and they're sad. And they're having a hard time. And I want to say one thing. Woodmont Baptist Church is the church next to us, and that is where the families were reunited with their children, and I was just able to be there to help. It was not our church, but it was Woodmont Baptist Church. But the Dieckhaus family and the other families are doing their best to get through this.

LEMON: Can you tell us a little bit about Evelyn, please?

STAUFFER: She's amazing, a shining light. I know her family is going to want to tell her story at some point. And right now we're giving them time to grieve and to be surrounded by their family and friends.

LEMON: Yes. I was going to say you can only imagine, but I actually I can't even imagine. Can anyone understand, do you believe, unless you're dealing with it, what's going on there?

STAUFFER: This has been an awful week for the Nashville community. But Don, the Nashville community is strong, and the faith communities, all of them, Covenant, Woodmont Christian, Woodmont Baptist, all the other churches in Green Hills have stepped up, and we're doing everything we can to help these families get through this. And at a time like this, you love each other, you support each other, you're there for each other. And nobody is walking through this alone. But this has been a tragic and horrible situation.

LEMON: You were, the day of the shooting, you helped families reunite with their kids, and there's so much going on. As you said, it's a horrible situation for the Nashville community. What has the response been? I'm sure there's been a lot of along with the grief, a lot of outpouring as well.

STAUFFER: Yes, you can't even imagine the support that's being shown, not only to the families that have lost loved ones like they did Dieckhaus family, the Scruggs family, and others, but also to the families who had children who were in this school behind me and who had to experience this and live through this. They have experienced a lot, and they are reeling as well. And so everybody in Nashville is rallying around this community to help get them through this.

LEMON: What do you guys want done there in order for this not to happen again?

STAUFFER: I think that our children deserve to be able to go to school and come home in the afternoon. And so I think you know people try to politicize this, but I think we've got to find a way to do better. We've got to find a way to do better so that when nine-year- olds go to school in the morning, they come home and be with their families that afternoon. That's what they want, that's what they deserve.

And Don, I don't have all the answers. This happens all over our country, and we've seen it. But then when it happens in your neighborhood and your backyard, we've got to find a way to do better.

LEMON: Yes, I think everyone can agree with that. Clay Stauffer, senior minister at Woodmont Christian Church, thank you and be well.

STAUFFER: Thank you, Don, for having me on.

COLLINS: We want to turn now this morning to the Justice Department's investigation into former President Trump and his actions surrounding January 6th. A federal judge has ordered that former Vice President Mike Pence must testify before a grand jury that's investigating his old bosses role in his efforts to overturn the election. This is a significant win for the Special Counsel Jack Smith and a setback for Trump's legal team. On its face, what it means is that Pence must talk to investigators about conversations that he had with Trump leading up to that day. But the judge did say that Pence can still decline to answer some questions related to his actions on that day itself. January 6th. That's because he was serving as president of the Senate for the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

But whether or not Pence will comply with this or maybe try to appeal this order remains to be seen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE PENCE, (R) FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: We're currently reviewing. But look, let me be clear. I have nothing to hide. I have a Constitution to uphold. I upheld the Constitution on January 6th. We're currently speaking to our attorneys about the proper way forward, and as I said, we'll have a decision in the coming days.


COLLINS: For his part, Pence has already made some of that information public, as many of us know. He wrote it in a book that he published last year. And he wrote that in that New Year's Day phone call that he had with Trump, Trump criticized him for being, quote, too honest when he refused to stop the 2020 election certification. Trump said that hundreds of thousands of people would hate his guts and that, quote, people are going to think you're stupid.


In addition to the details of that conversation and others. Investigators, we believe are also likely hoping that Pence will be able to offer some more specifics, on Trump's campaign, his pressure campaign against him. And just a clearer picture overall of the 45th President's intentions and his mindset at the time. Of course, what we know here and the big picture, Pence is not alone. He is just the latest in a string of former Trump aides who have been ordered to testify, including the former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. He obviously was a central figure and Trump's efforts to reverse the 2020 results.

LEMON: With that and so many other investigations going on. Donald Trump continues to wield enormous power on Capitol Hill House, as House Republicans pursue his fixations through their investigations. They're routinely updating him on their progress every step of the way. CNN's Melanie Zanona joins us now live, there you see her Melanie, good morning to you. Who on the Hill is keeping Trump in the loop? That's the question.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL, REPORTER: Yes, well, in some cases, it is committee staff and general counsels. But in many cases, Don, it is lawmakers themselves were directly speaking to former President Donald Trump. Elise Stefanik is someone that speaks regularly to Trump. She's a member of leadership. She also serves on the committee on so called weaponization of the government. And in fact, she called up Trump from the House GOP retreat in Florida last week. So, she could brief him on everything that House Republicans were doing to investigate the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

Trump is also really close with Jim Jordan, he's the chair of the Judiciary Committee, which is overseeing a number of these key investigations related to Trump. And then of course, there's Marjorie Taylor Greene. She now serves on the House Oversight Committee. She has been trying to use her platform to relitigate the events of January 6, and I want to read you what she told me about Trump. She said, "I keep him up on everything that we're doing. Sometimes I'm shocked at how he knows all these things. I'm like, how do you know all this stuff?" And, Don, we should point out it is not just Trump, there are multiple lines of communication here. Some of his advisors also speak regularly two members on Capitol Hill that includes Boris Ephsteyn, a senior Trump advisor, as well as Brian Jack, he is a former Trump administration campaign official. He's also really close with Speaker Kevin McCarthy. So, we do have some examples of how not only they keeping Trump up to date, but also, how they are trying to exert influence. Last month, a Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina, sent a letter to Jim Jordan and asked him to open an investigation into the Manhattan District Attorney's office over alleged abuses of power. And of course, that is exactly what House Republicans did. Don.

LEMON: All right, Melanie, thank you for the update.

ZANONA: Thanks.

COLLINSL: Our federal regulators were grilled on Capitol Hill yesterday, when it came to the sudden collapse of SVB. Could executives of two failed banks have to pay back their bonuses? Music sounds happy, conversation may not be for some of them. We're going to discuss it all with Mr. Wonderful himself, Kevin O'Leary, he's back on set.

LEMON: I was just laughing at the person into that, person who's testifying at the song was so weird.

COLLINS: That music --



COLLINS: Today, federal banking regulators will be back on Capitol Hill, this time facing House lawmakers about their handling of the second and third largest bank collapses in U.S. history. Yesterday before the Senate Banking Committee, they admitted the banks deserve more scrutiny and suggested that the executives of the failed banks might face punishment.


MICHAEL BARR, FEDERAL RESERVE VICE CHAIR FOR SUPERVISION: This is a textbook case of a bank mismanagement. There risks the bank face interest rate risk and liquidity risk. Those are bread and butter of banking issues. The firm was quite aware of those issues, they were quite vulnerable to risk, to shocks and they didn't take the actions necessary.


COLLINS: Joining us now for his perspective on that hearing. Kevin O'Leary, judge on Shark Tank and chairman of O'Leary ventures. A lot of buck passing that went on during that hearing yesterday, don't you think?

LEMON: Why do you -- Why do you say what you really feel this time? OK, Kev.

COLLINS: But you never does.

KEVIN O'LEARY, CHAIRMAN, O'LEARY VENTURES: Well, you know, were they idiot bankers? Yes. Were they're incompetent? Yes. When you have top lawmakers calling you the worst of the worst, of the worst, it just doesn't get any worse. And it can't get any worse for those people. But they're not even the mandate or story anymore, it doesn't matter. The question becomes, what do we do about regional banking in this country going forward? And that's really what's the debate here.

Because, you know, if you're a consumer, and you're sitting with more than 250,000, in a small bank, in some state somewhere, and you're watching this play out in Washington, with all the grandstanding of hearings. What do you do? Do you feel better or worse? I say you feel worse, I say this is the beginning of the demise of small banks for sure. And that we're going to end up with an oligopoly of very large institutions with an imputed concept that they're backed by the federal government not guaranteed, imputed.

Lemon: But sir, you're not advocating for that you're saying that system is going to happen.



O'LEARY: I am not advocating for. I have come to the conclusion, as many others have, that are discussing this, that I do not want to pay for every idiot banker's mistake. It's not on me as a taxpayer. And there are many idiot bankers. I know it's harsh words, but let's put it the way it is. These people were incompetent, and that's what happened. Now, why do I own that problem? Particularly, if I don't live in California. I don't care what they do in California. And that's why I'm saying, OK, now that we're learning this, what are we going to do about it? What's the new plan?

COLLINS: That is --

LEMON: That's one thing, because here's what you're saying it goes with this. You're saying that every taxpayer should be asking one question right now, and what is that? What is that question?

O'LEARY: Do I personally want to guarantee every tiny bank in America? That's the only question we need to answer. Is it yes, or it no -- is it no? Because you heard Yellen, backpedal from that when she proposed the idea that there's going to be a guarantee no matter what the amount is in every single account in America. And the backlash that came through from that was a heavy wave. And she said, well, OK, maybe not. Now, we have the same question back.

COLLINS: Because what you're saying is different than what the White House is saying, which they're saying taxpayers aren't on the hook for this because it's being paid through the fees. But you're arguing indirectly it is them on the hook for this. The question, though, I think coming out of this is then, what are the solutions? Because you heard a lot of the grilling that happened yesterday, you didn't hear a lot of answers about how to resolve these issues.

O'LEARY: All right, let me suggest a solution. OK.


O'LEARY: If you're a state and remember why we had regional banks in the first place, because you as a state said we're different than anywhere else in America. Our economy is based on technology from --

COLLINS: And they do a big service to community.

O'LEARY: Right, service to community, a kumbaya thing, know your bank. acre mortgages for your commercial real estate, maybe your home. And it's just a wonderful feeling that you used to drive your bicycle to the regional bank and go in and take out $10.00. OK? That's what the emotional title or regional bank is. Is any of that reality today? No, it's all done online. So, we don't even need that building. However, if you really want to have a regional bank and you feel as a governor or a senator of your state, then you should own the risk. You should tell the people in your voting constituency that --


COLLINS: But why? Why can't you have a midsize bank? Why can't you have a community bank and not you, the individual be the person who's on the hook for the bank's actions?

O'LEARY: Because you don't need it. That's my whole point. Did you get a credit card from a regional bank? No, you go online, you put your app --

COLLINS: Lot of people have credit cards from regional banks.

O'LEARY: Do you need that? You don't.

COLLINS: A lot of people do that.


COLLINS: (INAUDIBLE), we talked about this last time you were here --

O'LEARY: Kaitlan, you give me --

COLLINS: -- they were instrumental on helping the people --

O'LEARY: -- you're giving me the kumbaya, why we should keep this open? But you asked me the tough question.

COLLINS: Not kumbaya.

O'LEARY: Well, would you personally guarantee the bank in New Jersey or New York? Would you personally go on the hook? Because you want to have a regional bank in these states? Yes or no?

COLLINS: I think midsize banks are important, and I think --


COLLINS: -- they serve communities. I'm telling you, I'm from a small town in Alabama, when the PPP loans were going out, people don't get online and go to J.P. Morgan, if they own a small mom and pop business or --

LEMON: You can go to a bank then.

O'LEARY: Today, it's different because you basically do everything online. So, what I'm arguing is I just --

COLLINS: I don't think that's true.

O'LEARY: -- want you to take ownership of your kumbaya thing, if you really want to keep original bank open --

COLLINS: It's not kumbaya.

O'LEARY: You eat it.

COLLINS: I'm not a sentimental person.

O'LEARY: Well.

COLLINS: I'm saying that I think they are actually instrumental in that they're helpful to midsize communities. After we had --


COLLINS: -- the one last time.


COLLINS: I heard from people would agree with that.

O'LEARY: Then good. Do you believe that? Then you eat it. I'm Mr. taxpayer in any state, I represent all the rest of us who don't agree with you and they're saying, you want that you eat it? And so, if those --

COLLINS: (INAUDIBLE) are no medium? You know, if your say I understand --

O'LEARY: Because.

COLLINS: -- what you're saying is either --

O'LEARY: Because either you make money, or you lose money, it's binary, it's black or white. Either you you're going to backup that bank because you think it has merit, or you don't. I'm telling you, if you take a vote in America today, and you go to every single constituency in every city and say, do you want to own the problems of a New York bank, or California bank or Massachusetts bank or Minnesota bank? They'll put up their heads, saying, what does it have to do with me? I go online and get my credit card somewhere else. This is the debate we're having in America. Now, what we're going to see today on the Hill is just more bank bashing. And by the way, I listen that testimony as an investor, I'm never going to buy back stock, It's over.

LEMON: All right, let me add, look, I kind of like going to my local in my hometown.


LEMON: -- that's where I live.

COLLINS: That's the kumbaya.

LEMON: No, I kind of liked the idea. But I do understand what you're saying. It's not necessary -- It's not needed anymore. It's not Mayberry USA anymore, even though, you know, we have that, you know, we kind of want that nostalgia, right? We want to go to our local to buy --

O'LEAR: You want it Don, but you don't want to pay for it.

LEMON: No, I'm just saying, you in the universal -- listen, so, I'm not saying me, specifically, but do I like going into the bank and people saying, hey, Mr. Lemon, how are you? Good to see you. I like that, but I understand what you're saying. It's not necessary anymore. We don't necessarily need this. So, I guess --

O'LEARY: It's now the time in America to ask Americans, do they want to pay for these things?

LEMON: OK, got you. All right, I understand that but just quickly, do you think that these execs should have their bonuses clawed back?

O'LEARY: It's going to get way worse than that for them. They're going to be negligent and they --it's never good when you're sitting at home on your sofa, and you're watching Congress, testify with your name, that you're a bad manager. I guarantee you, they're all having bad hair days. And, you know, that's $3 million that they got, then two weeks the CEO sold his stock? He's already spent that in legal fees. They may want to claw it back. But he is up to his you know what in problems because everybody's going to sue that -- those guys are getting sued back to the stone age, but who cares? It doesn't change the big dilemma in America.

LEMON: You know who's having a bad hair day?


LEMON: Kevin O'Leary.

O'LEARY: Well, I never have a bad hair day. That's it, by the way, you guys look terrific and double dress, I got to tell you.

LEMON: It was -- we dress alike all the time. Do we even plan that?

COLLINS: No. We just show up.

O'LEARY: It's the back, we're having this debate last week.

LEMON: I thought about were --

O'LEARY: You're even double breasted? Wow, I was thinking about that, it's been 20 years.

LEMON: I got to tell you something, you know, I thought about wearing white pants, and then I said, you know what, after Easter southerner and I was like, there's no way Kaitlan going to have one, there she is.

COLLINS: Because I like to break the rules.


O'LEARY: I'm just telling you, you guys look fabulous. And I don't give out those accolades very often.

LEMON: We'll take the proper --

COLLINS: Alright, we'll see you to wear it next time here on set. Kevin O'Leary.

LEMON: Thanks Kevin.

COLLINS: Thank you, as always. All right, also, this morning we are tracking a lawsuit Dominion wants Fox News host like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, to go on the witness stand. And their billion-dollar lawsuit against the network. Is it likely though? We'll tell you and why a judge blasted Fox is legal strategy, telling its lawyers, quote, This isn't a game.

LEMON: Kevin, do you always wear the same thing? I didn't notice you always wear.