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CNN This Morning

Investigators Look at Right-Wing Extremism as Possible Motive for Texas Shooter; Protests, Outrage Grow Over Jordan Neely Killing; Negotiations on Debt Ceiling Continue as Default Nears; Carlson & Allies 'Preparing for War' Over FOX Contract. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 08, 2023 - 06:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR/CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Thanks for joining me this Monday morning. I'm Christine Romans. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It's Monday. Good morning, everyone. We are so glad you're with us. Kaitlan is on assignment this week. I've got my buddy, Phil Mattingly, here.

Thanks for making the trip up from D.C.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thanks for having me. Thanks for letting me out of the White House.

HARLOW: There you go. And you get to sleep in a bed alone without four children.

MATTINGLY: I should be making breakfast right now, and I'm not. So this is good.

HARLOW: Dad will be back soon, guys.

All right. Let's get started with "Five Things to Know" for this Monday, May 8.

It was a weekend of tragedy in Texas. We're getting new details about the gunman who killed eight people and wounded at least seven others at a Texas outlet mall. Authorities are looking into whether he was driven by right-wing extremism and white supremacy.

How a patch on his vest, his tactical vest, may tie in all of this.

Also in Texas, eight people are dead this morning after an SUV slammed into a crowd of migrants waiting at a bus stop outside of a shelter. The drive is under arrest, and police say he is not cooperating this morning.

MATTINGLY: A new protest over the subway chokehold death of Jordan Neely. Police have arrested 13 people so far, and the NYPD says it's looking for six more, wanted for jumping onto the tracks. And debt ceiling deadlock. The treasury secretary warning of catastrophe if Congress doesn't act soon, as President Biden prepares to meet with congressional leaders tomorrow.

HARLOW: And it is the final day of King Charles' coronation festivities, marked by the Big Help Out. That's right. People don't have to go to work today. Instead, they're asked to volunteer, moments from now.

Prince William and Princess Kate will volunteer with local Scouts, after they rocked out last night with Katy Perry in a fabulous gold dress and Lionel Richie.

We've got all that ahead. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

So we do begin with that tragedy out of Texas this weekend. Investigators this morning looking into far-right extremism as a possible motive for the killer, who murdered eight people at a Texas outlet mall on Saturday afternoon.

A senior law enforcement source tells CNN the gunman had an extensive social media presence online with lots of neo-Nazi white supremacist posts. A photo obtained by CNN shows the shooter on the ground after police -- a police officer shot and killed him. And you see that he's wearing a black tactical vest and gear.

And CNN's source says that he had a patch on that tactical vest with the letters "RWDS." Now why does that matter? Because police believe that stands for Right-Wing Death Squad. Extremists have been known to wear that insignia at rallies.

So let's go to our senior national correspondent, Ed Lavandera, who has been following this tragedy. And what else have you learned that you can tell us this morning?


Despite those details that we've been able to gather from sources, investigators here in Allen, Texas, have largely refused to answer any questions about this investigation.

That as witnesses and survivors struggle to come to terms with the evil they witnessed here on Saturday afternoon.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): They come to leave flowers and reflect in front of a makeshift memorial honoring the shooting victims just outside the outlet mall in Allen, Texas, where on Saturday, a gunman opened fire, killing at least eight and injuring seven others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the most terrifying moment of my life.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The Texas Department of Public Safety identified the suspect as 33-year-old Mauricio Garcia. Police searched his home in Dallas Saturday night. Neighbors tell CNN they saw police searching his parents' home in

Dallas Saturday night. Garcia had been living in some form of temporary housing, according to a senior law enforcement source.

MOISES CARREON, NEIGHBOR: Nothing ever showed me any signs of, hey, this guy seems to be the kind of guy that, you know, would do what he did.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): A neighbor described Garcia as someone who kept to himself, a loner, and worked as a security guard.

As investigators continue combing the shooting scene, CNN has been able to determine the approximate path of the gunman's rampage, using images and witness interviews.

He is first seen getting out of his car in the parking lot near the H&M store, where he begins firing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He pretty much was walking down the sidewalk, and he was just, like, blazing for the most part and just shooting his gun.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): According to witness, he then made his way to the Northeast corner of the mall building. Bill McLean was in a cosmetics store there.

BILL MCLEAN, WITNESS: He's not running, but he's kind of in a deliberate assault-type move. And he either had an M-16 or an M-4 carbine. And he was firing. He shot about four or five shots as he proceeded toward the hamburger place.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): The attack ended when a police officer shot and killed the suspect in front of a burger shop.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Sunday afternoon, hundreds gathered at Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, along with state and city officials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We offer our sincere sympathy to the victims and their families.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): It's a community seeking answers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel that it sort of brought us together.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The family of Christian LaCour identified the 20-year-old as one of the eight victims killed. He worked as a mall security guard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was the kindest and sweetest, most caring man you would ever interact with. He was just the kind of person who would walk into the store, and everyone in the room would light up because he was there.


LAVANDERA (on camera): Poppy, we made several attempts on Sunday to reach out to the suspect, Mauricio Garcia's family that lives in Dallas, but they refuse to answer any questions from us.

Here, you know, we continue to gather more information as to given the suspect's background and what the motivation was and what brought him here to this outlet mall in this Dallas suburb -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And Ed, obviously, a lot of attention goes to the motive and, you know, the killer. But the victims, we only have the names of two of eight this morning. Is that right?

LAVANDERA: Yes. It is right. So far, two of the eight, and we really don't know much about them. As I said off the top, investigators have been very reluctant for some reason that we don't know at this point to answer any questions or to share those details about the -- the victims in this case.

HARLOW: Ed, as you get their names and learn more about them, please bring that to us. Thank you for the reporting.

MATTINGLY: And also happening in Texas this morning, a horrific weekend in the state. The death toll rising to eight after an SUV plowed into a group of people outside a homeless shelter in Brownsville, Texas.

The driver was injured and taken to a hospital. Police say he has not been cooperating.

The shelter had been housing migrants. Thousands have come to the city with the pandemic-era expulsion policy coming to an end in just a couple of days. We'll take you live to Brownsville, Texas, in moments.

HARLOW: Back here in New York, protests over the death of Jordan Neely are intensifying and even spilling onto subway tracks. The homeless street artist died Monday after he was put in a chokehold on the subway. He reportedly had been shouting at passengers beforehand.

We've also learned the identity of the man who held Neely in that chokehold. His attorneys identify him as a 24-year-old Marine veteran. His name, Daniel Penny.

Omar Jimenez joins us live from an Upper East Side subway station where protests are so intense they actually affected the train service on Saturday. Omar, what can you tell us?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, 13 people were arrested after these protests spilled onto the subway tracks at the station behind me as a train was actually coming towards them.

And the train had to stop, and a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the MTA, says trains with about 450 passengers couldn't move forward for about an hour as they cleared those subway tracks.

And they're among what have been the relatively small but scattered protests over the killing of Jordan Neely.

Now, the New York City transit president called these protests reckless and dangerous but also said, as part of a statement, "While peaceful protest has always been part of American fabric, endangering transit workers and other responders while also delaying New Yorkers just trying to get to where they need to go, by deliberately risking contact with an electrified third rail, is unacceptable."

HARLOW: What's the latest, Omar, on the investigation? There obviously is a big debate and legal questions here over does this person get charged? And if they do get charged, what do they get charged with? Any answers this morning?

JIMENEZ: Yes, Poppy. So of course, that's the big debate. You mentioned one of the bigger pieces of news, that the person who put Jordan Neely in a chokehold was identified as 24-year-old Daniel Penny.

And his attorney says that his client was just trying to protect people on the train and could not have foreseen this ending in death.

Now, protesters and many others disagree with that, many others who want to see him charged.

The district attorney's office here in Manhattan says they're continuing to review evidence as we await any potential decision.

But attorneys for the Neely family say that we can't have someone dying on our subway floors as, of course, they are among the many who are calling for charges in this case. But bottom line, we are still waiting to see.

HARLOW: Omar, thank you for that reporting very much.

MATTINGLY: And also this morning, closing arguments set to begin in the civil battery and defamation trial against former President Donald Trump.

E. Jean Carroll alleges Trump raped her in a department store in 1996 and then defamed her when he denied that claim. Trump has denied all wrongdoing.

Now, Carroll's legal team presented 11 witnesses in her case, including Carroll herself, over the seven trial days. Trump did not put on a defense and has decided not to testify after the judge gave him a Sunday deadline to change his mind.

Jury deliberations are expected to begin on Tuesday.

HARLOW: Thirty-three Republican senators coming together, refusing to raise the debt limit without cutting spending. We'll have the latest on negotiations and the impact on not just the U.S. economy but the global economy if they can't reach a deal. MATTINGLY: Pretty big deal.

And new this morning, President Biden is proposing a new rule that would force airlines to pay up if they delay or cancel your flight. Details on that ahead.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The last thing this country needs, after all we've been through, is a manufactured crisis, and that's what this is. A manufactured crisis. And that's what it is from the beginning to end. It's a manufactured crisis, driven by the MAGA Republicans in the Congress.


HARLOW: Tomorrow, President Biden will meet at the White House with the four congressional leaders he's invited as the clock ticks toward a possible debt default in less than a month.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says that come as soon as June 1st if Congress does not act and raise the debt ceiling, like it has done more than 70 times before.

The White House has warned that default could wipe out eight million jobs if it is sustained for several months. It could also tank the stock market. Failure usually in Washington where they are arguing and sometimes working to get a deal done.


MATTINGLY: Yes. Sometimes, almost always, figuring out a way. I think the problem at this point in time is we don't actually know what the pathway to figuring things out is. And I think that apathy, to some degree, is what's most concerning.

Let's start again on that calendar. We were just showing you the countdown clock. This is ominous. Right now, it's May 8. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said as soon as June 1 the Treasury Department may no longer be able to pay its bills.

The United States is a very liquid country. That shouldn't be a problem unless you have a statute that requires you to raise the debt limit.

Now, here's the issue. Some lawmakers, some Republicans saying June 1 can't possibly be real. That's just a made-up pressure-filled deadline. Well, this is what the treasury secretary said on Sunday.


JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Early June is when we project that we'll run out of cash, and there is a chance it could be as early as June 1. Of course, there is a lot of uncertainty. And I plan to update Congress as new information becomes available. But that's still our current thinking.


MATTINGLY: Obviously, those updates will be closely watched. What else will be closely watched? This meeting on Tuesday.

Now, keep in mind, Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden met well over 100 days ago to start laying the groundwork for this moment. They've not really spoken since. And that, of course, is a problem. A problem that Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said needs to be addressed.

The president, though, making clear, because of their negotiating positions, a one-to-one meeting isn't going to work. So, he invited all four congressional leaders.

On Tuesday in the Oval Office, you will have President Biden. You'll have Speaker Kevin McCarthy; Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer; and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. These are the power players, the most important people in the room.

Who matters most out of all of them? These two, right here: the speaker and the president. Right now, completely at odds. How at odds are they? Well, here's kind of the parameters of what each side wants for their deal.

The White House, congressional Democrats, very aligned, very unified. They have been very clear they want a clean debt ceiling increase. Then, they're more than happy to have a discussion about setting up a framework for spending and debt negotiations.

House Republicans, kind of surprising everybody. Passing their own legislation that would raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion but would also include $4.8 trillion in deficit reduction, permitting reform, regulatory overhauls, ends the student loan cancellation from the Biden administration. It's kind of an agenda wish list, to some degree. But it got something across the finish line.

That means they have negotiating positions, some leverage.

Here's some other leverage that they have. Forty-three Republican senators. Now behind the scenes, there's some thought, at some point, perhaps the White House could work with the Republican senators, figure out a pathway forward through that chamber, jam House Republicans.

Forty-three senators vowing to oppose debt ceiling increases without spending cuts. That is a significant escalation in advance of the meeting.

What else is? President Biden on Wednesday, the day after the meeting, he'll be traveling to New York to give a speech about the debt limit and about his position on the debt limit. Where will he be giving that speech? In the district of a House Republican freshman congressman. In a district President Biden in 2020 won. That's putting political pressure on, as well. So nobody is backing off and said they're amping up the pressure.

Now, here's what really matters? What's at stake here? This seems some kind of amorphous, what does it actually mean? This is just Congress doing their normal thing. A lot is at stake.

Seven million jobs could be lost, according to Moody's. Eight million, according to the White House. Recession, economic contraction. A spike in interest rates.

Why does that matter? That's your credit card. That's your mortgage. That's your auto loan. That is at the kitchen table, what matters to you.

Stock market plunge wipes out trillions of dollars in net worth. That's a problem, as well.

So where do people stand on this as they watch these dynamics play out? Well, "The Washington Post" had a poll this weekend. Mostly, at least by a comfortable majority, 58 percent, actually back the White House position. Separate the debt ceiling hike from spending.

Only 26 percent say they want it tied to spending cuts.

Here's the problem for the White House and Democrats. Who to blame? Congressional Republicans, 39 percent. President Biden, 36 percent. Again, connect that with the last poll that you saw. People backed President Biden's position, and almost equal amounts of blame.

That, of course, is a big problem. That, of course, is what the White House is dealing with, congressional Republicans are dealing with. By the way, not a lot of time to actually figure this out. Potential consequences, Poppy, could be devastating.

HARLOW: Huge. And that's why I think you're hearing a lot more, Phil, now about this sort of 14th Amendment argument, right? Is it even -- is it unconstitutional not to raise the debt ceiling?

MATTINGLY: And it's something --

HARLOW: We're going to get you a chair at some point.

MATTINGLY: No, no, no. It's all right. I feel personal -- personally, you know, this is -- this is a problem, isn't it? This is you telling me something.

But that's the issue, is constantly people try to figure out what the off ramps are.

HARLOW: Right.

MATTINGLY: The administration has been very clear. The off-ramp here is congressional action. There's no other off-ramp.

Yet --

HARLOW: Unless there is.

MATTINGLY: -- there are discussions behind the scenes. What other alternatives are there? Could you mint a trillion-dollar coin? That's been a big thing on finance Twitter forever.

Or could you say that, because the Constitution says explicitly that the United States has to pay its debts. The debt ceiling, the law itself, the statute is actually unconstitutional.

HARLOW: Right.


MATTINGLY: They just put it bluntly when you talk to the administration officials working on this. They don't want to have to deal with this problem.

HARLOW: Right.

MATTINGLY: They don't want to have to game this out. They don't want the legal challenges. All of that massive uncertainty.

HARLOW: A lot of people looking at Section 4 of the 14th Amendment.

MATTINGLY: A lot of constitutional experts right now.

HARLOW: Phil, your chair is coming, as it does.

Lauren Fox joins us live on Capitol Hill.

Hello, Lauren. Good morning.

Phil just laid it out really well for us. We are headed to maybe a constitutional crisis. Maybe an economic calamity or maybe they'll get this thing done. What you are hearing?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. No good news so far, Poppy. But everyone is really digging in ahead of this massive meeting tomorrow. The stakes really couldn't be higher.

But don't expect any resolution after that meeting tomorrow afternoon. This is really the first opportunity that congressional leaders are going to have to have this discussion about where do they go from here? The problem is that they just don't have that much time. Like Phil is laying out, there are options. There are off-ramps.

But to come up with some kind of massive grand bargain when you only have a couple of weeks to negotiate, that is the challenge that I'm hearing from lawmakers I'm talking to on both sides.

There are moderate Republicans, moderate Democrats who I'm talking to who say we could see a potential deal here in the works. The issue is that you simply do not have the kind of time you would need to get a two-track deal in the works at this moment.

So what people are going to be looking for tomorrow? What kind of tone is coming out of this meeting tomorrow? What is Kevin McCarthy saying? What is the White House saying in terms of how the meeting went?

Yes, there are other congressional leaders that are going to be at the table tomorrow. But Mitch McConnell is a very good example. He and the president have a long, long relationship of cutting these kind of grand deals.

But Mitch McConnell has been clear. This is McCarthy's show. This is up to him and the president to figure out. Yes, they're going to show up to the meeting. Yes, they're going to shake hands and be part of this discussion.

But at the end of the day, this bill is going to have to get through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. And that is the big sticking point right now.

What can Kevin McCarthy bring back to his conference that is not going to turn him off from those conservative members in his conference? And if he brings something back, is he willing to really defy some conservatives in order to get this done?

HARLOW: Yes. Lauren Fox, thank you for laying it out. See where this goes.

All right. Fired FOX News host Tucker Carlson reportedly has plans to, quote, "bully" FOX News. What we're learning ahead about that.

MATTINGLY: And Tom Cruise has once again outdone himself. The "Top Gun: Maverick" actor won the MTV Movie & TV Award for Best Performance in a Movie, and he made his acceptance speech, naturally, from the sky. Watch.


TOM CRUISE, WINNER, MTV MOVIE & TV AWARDS, BEST PERFORMANCE IN A MOVIE: Thank you again for letting me entertain you. It's an absolute privilege. We'll see you at the movies.




MATTINGLY: A battle between FOX News and its former star anchor is spilling out into public view after his firing.

Axios reporting that Tucker Carlson and his allies are, quote, "preparing for war" over the conservative firebrand's contract with FOX News.

One source says Carlson knows where a lot of the bodies are buried and is ready to start drawing a map. His lawyer says, quote, "The idea that anyone is going to silence Tucker and prevent him from speaking to his audience is beyond preposterous."

Sara Fischer contributed to that reporting as a senior media reporter at Axios. She is also a CNN media analyst and joins us from Washington.

Sarah, I feel like we all kind of knew something like this was coming. Lay out the dynamics. FOX wants to probably sideline Tucker. He wants back in, especially before the election. What's at stake here? How messy is this going to get?

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: A lot is at stake here, Phil. And the reason being Tucker is one of the most prominent voices in the conservative party. He's who lawmakers depend on to do interviews and to carry out their message.

And so whether or not he has a platform leading up to and during the 2024 election, will have huge implications for all the Republican campaigns.

Now, where this stands now, FOX essentially wants to pay Tucker out in order to prevent him from going to a competitor. What Tucker Carlson wants to do is relieve himself of that strain in order to be able to maybe start his own thing or go to a competitive outlet.

The challenge, though, becomes FOX has a problem on its hands. You've seen the ratings have dipped dramatically since Tucker has been out. And so if they let him out of this contract, they risk him going to a competitor.

Of course, there's one challenge here. And that is if they don't let him out of this contract, what Axios's Mike Allen is reporting is that Tucker is going to start a war. He's going to disparage FOX, encourage his viewers not to watch, et cetera.

HARLOW: I was thinking about, obviously, TV's the sort of traditional platform. And I guess we'd have to see a copy of his contract to know how much he's barred from.

But ostensibly, could he not start his own thing, whether it be a podcast, whether it be a streaming thing on the Web, on social media? Can he not do any of that unless he gets out of the contract?

FISCHER: I think they're fighting this hard, because there are parameters, Poppy, that would limit his ability to do some of that kind of thing.

But it's important to remember: if Tucker were to go to a direct cable competitor, let's say a Newsmax, at the 8 p.m. slot, I mean, that would be detrimental to FOX.

If Tucker were to go the Bill O'Reilly route or the Megyn Kelly route --

HARLOW: Right.

FISCHER: -- and start his own thing, it's not as direct of a competitive audience. But Tucker could still disparage FOX. He could still say, Don't watch them. Sign up and subscribe to me. Cut your cable bill. You don't even need it anymore, now that I'm no longer with FOX. And so that's sort of FOX's biggest concern. I imagine whatever

agreement they come up with will include some sort of non- disparagement agreement which would mean that if they let him, they'd let him out of his contract, but he has to agree not to push his viewers and fans against FOX News.

MATTINGLY: Yes. That will be fascinating to see if the audience follows. I mean, even on Capitol Hill, like the power of his voice and his message carries --

HARLOW: And lawmakers.

MATTINGLY: -- an extreme, extreme amount of weight.

One final -- there's a nugget in your guys' piece where -- that Axios is learning that Tucker and Elon Musk have talked about working together. That, I think, raised a lot of eyebrows.