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CNN This Morning

Gunman Posted Photos of Guns, Vest and Outlet Mall Weeks Before Attack; Today, Enforcement Operation to Begin Targeting Migrants in El Paso; Three Islamic Jihad Leaders, Relatives Killed in Israeli Strikes on Gaza. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 09, 2023 - 07:00   ET




And we have to get back to where we were, that shining city on a hill that welcomed people from all over the world. We've just got to do it the right the way. Like what's the future for these folks? Are we going to give them a federal I.D.? Are they going to stay here, become citizens? We all could use workers right now, right? I have big economic engines here in my county in Hudson valley. But we have got to figure out who these folks are, can we get them the work, are they going to stay here permanently, what's their future. That's the plan we need.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Steven Neuhaus, I appreciate your time, sir. thanks so much.

NEUHAUS: Absolutely. Thank you for letting me on.

MATTINGLY: CNN this morning continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obsessed with Nazis, guns and mass shooters, these are the new chilling details about the 33-year-old gunman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are seven survivors still in the hospital, three of them in critical condition, fighting for their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For people to realize how tragic this really was, they are forever changed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The nation speeds closer to default and neither side is budging.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The solution here may not be black or white.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no plan B. Our plan is for Congress to act without conditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody needs to get their big boy pants on and start doing their job. ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Jury deliberations are expected in E. Jean Carroll's civil suit against the former president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump's lawyer said Carroll's lawyers want the jury to hate Trump enough to ignore the facts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is not here before you. He did not come.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is going to be interesting to see how that weighs with the jury.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard from President Vladimir Putin claims the true war is being waged against his country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will defend the residents of Donbas and secure our own safety.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Russia is trying to make things appear normal despite a rising sense of insecurity just a few meters from where we saw a couple of drones hit the Kremlin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More than 150,000 migrants waiting in Northern Mexico for the Title 42 to expire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very likely to be messy based on what we have already seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Part of the train journey is on what's called the train of death, controlled by cartels.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says it's for the American dream.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: As you can see there is a lot going on. We have a lot ahead this hour. Thanks for being with us and good morning. Kaitlan is on assignment this week. Phil is here and we are covering a lot, the economy, immigration, what's going to come.

MATTINGLY: It's a huge week of news. Where I'm from in Washington, it's a massive week of news and we're not getting to it for another 15 or 16 minutes because there's so much going on, some disturbing, all extraordinarily important. And I want to start with some of that disturbing.

We're now seeing the trail of social media posts and photos left behind by the mass shooter who killed eight people at a Texas outlet mall. Now, the gunman had a profile on a Russian social media site. His online posts reveal an obsession with Nazis, with guns, with mass shootings. He seemed to indicate he was going to attack the mall. Just a few weeks ago, the shooter posted photos outside that same outlet mall along with a screen shot from Google that shows how busy it was on a Saturday. It says, quote, as busy as it gets.

HARLOW: Posted photos of the tactical vest that he apparently wore during the massacre and it has an RWDS patch on it. Police believe that stands for Right-Wing Death Squad. He shared photos of his gun, a pile of ammunition boxes and a shooting target. And CNN has learned that the mass shooter was able to buy his weapons legally without a background check under Texas law because many of them were from private sales despite getting kicked out of the Army over mental health concerns. We've also learned this morning about the victims, including a couple and their three-year-old son.

So, let's begin this hour with our Senior National Correspondent Ed Lavandera. He is live outside the mall in Allen, Texas. And, Ed, when we were talking at this time yesterday, we didn't know the names or the ages or about the lives of most of the victims, and now we know and three of them were children, 11, 8 and 3 years old.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely heartbreaking. And it's still hard to fathom everything that has transpired here. And that's why the memorial and makeshift memorial that you see behind me has continued to grow. And since Saturday, we have seen a steady stream of people coming here to honor the people who died here Saturday afternoon.

And I just want to kind of talk a little bit about each one of them. You know, the Cho family, they came here -- it was a family of four, Kyu Song Cho, his wife, Shin Young, their three-year-old son James and five-year-old son, or just turned six actually several days before the shooting, William. The first three all of them died. Only William survived. He had been in the ICU. We were told yesterday afternoon that he has been removed from ICU. A GoFundMe page has been set up for that family is now over $1.2 million, so an absolutely staggering outpouring of support for that family.


Then there's the Mendoza family, sisters of Daniela and Sofia, one in fourth grade, one in second grade. The principal at their elementary school in the nearby town of Wiley, Texas, described those two girls as rays of sunshine. Their mother is also -- was also wounded. She remains in critical condition.

There's also Christian LaCour, 20 years old, he worked as a security guard here at the mall. And there's Aishwarya Tathikonda, she was from India, came here, was an engineer, lived in nearby McKinney, she was days away from celebrating a birthday.

And it's also important to remember that many of these victims are survivors, are still fighting for their lives in the hospital. Six victims in all still hospitalized, three of those people still in critical condition. Poppy and Phil?

MATTINGLY: Ed Lavandera for us in Allen, Texas, thanks so much, Ed.

HARLOW: Well, the hate that we see on the shooter's social media page, it's sadly not unique. No one knows that better than the sheriff of Volusia County, Florida. Sheriff Michael Chitwood started naming and shaming neo-Nazis in his community after they held up anti-Semitic signs and dropped hateful flyers during the Daytona 500. And that's made him the target of death threats. We wanted him to join us to talk about what it takes to fight hate like this. And, Sheriff, we appreciate you getting up early to talk to us. Thank you.

SHERIFF MICHAEL CHITWOOD, VOLUSIA COUNTY, FLORIDA: Good morning. Thank you for having me. And I just want to say, my words will ring hallow, but my thoughts and prayers are with those families. Just incredible loss.

HARLOW: I'm sure it means a lot to them. It is. This is the kind of hate you've been fighting so hard and it keeps happening.

CHITWOOD: It is. You know, as they dig into the background of this mass killer, it's the same thing over and over again. It's this indoctrination on these far extreme chat rooms. It's mental illness, the access to firearms, this grievance against Jews, women, people of color, it's just -- and then it explodes that these groups load the gun, they put it in front of these marginalized human beings and then they go out and commit these mass murders.

And this was a well-planned attack, as was Nashville, as was the supermarket in Buffalo. They scout the area. They're looking for a high body count. They know the type of people they're looking to eradicate from the world.

HARLOW: What would you do about it? Do you think you can legislate to fix any of this?

CHITWOOD: I don't know. I know there are feel-good things we can do. I know we do need red flag laws. We have a very good red flag law here in Florida. But the gun show loophole, you know, I don't know if being kicked out of the military for a mental issue disqualify him from legally purchasing firearms. It certainly disqualify him under the gun show loophole. And these guys fly below the radar. This guy has never had an arrest before. So, I don't know. I just don't know how we can stop evil like this.

HARLOW: You mentioned the gun show loophole. Just so people understand essentially if you buy a weapon from a private owner, not a gun store or something, you don't have to go through a background check, and that's the case here, as many of these rifles, including the AR-15 were legally purchased, many of them through private sellers and didn't have a background check. But you mentioned the red flag law. And I think that's so important because this is -- in your state, this was under a Republican governor at the time who we have on the program a little bit later actually who immediately made change after the Parkland massacre. This was not about politics there.

CHITWOOD: Yes. Senator Scott, he really took the lead on this. And he did have a Republican-controlled legislature and it got through. And, you know, I, the sheriff here in Volusia County, I think since we had invoked that, we have used it over 200 times. And every time we go before a judge for due process, we uphold it because there are mentally ill folks out there that are armed that will do harm to themselves and others in a heartbeat.

HARLOW: I wonder how you continue your job every day knowing that this risk is so real and so evident. I mean, Phil and I were talking yesterday about it. Going to the mall on a Saturday afternoon with your kids is something we all do. And yet look at this and look at these children murdered and those in the hospital still fighting for their lives. Do you go to work now preparing for something like this possibly in your community, largely because of this hate?

CHITWOOD: 35 years ago, no. Today, every day, we go to work. We brief on what happens around the country. We do equipment checks. We make sure they have everything they need, the deputies have everything they need, because it's a very real possibility by the time their shift ends they may be in a situation like this. And even if we get there, there's still a high body count.


Even if we get there and do our job, people are going to die.

HARLOW: Yes, like these responding officers did. Well, Sheriff Michael Chitwood, thank you for what you, your team do every day and thank you for speaking out against hate.

CHITWOOD: Thank you very much.

MATTINGLY: Also this morning, federal authorities are set to launch a, quote, targeted enforcement operation in El Paso, Texas, to detain or deport undocumented immigrants as migrant numbers surge along the border. Officials say daily encounters could reach 10,000 after the pandemic-era border restriction policy known as Title 42 ends in just two days. Overnight, Texas Governor Greg Abbott posting this video of a frequent migrant crossing area now, quote, wired shut near the border town of Brownsville. That's where CNN's Nick Valencia is live right now.

And, Nick, officials say there are over 8,000 encounters with migrants every day. What are you seeing on the ground?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Phil. That number could swell to up to 10,000 per day after Title 42 sunsets on Thursday. These communities across the U.S./Mexico border, like the one I'm in here in Brownsville, have already seen an uptick in migration traffic. And it was a week-and-a-half ago that those numbers really started to tick up here. Last month, in fact, they were already starting to see more and more migrants come across into the Rio Grande Valley, leading the city of Brownsville to declare a state of emergency.

We checked in with Team Brownsville. They are a non-profit here that helped migrants after they cross into the United States. They say they have about 1,000 migrants currently in their shelter. And they're at capacity, so much so that we're starting to see people sleeping on the streets here outside of these ports of entry, like the one I'm standing in front of. It is really making a lot of people anxious here along the U.S./Mexico border about what's to come.

You show in that video Texas Governor Greg Abbott announcing a security operation overnight, saying that he's wired shut a point of entry that is used to cross illegally by migrants. He's saying he's going to do more of that across the U.S./Mexico border in places like El Paso, which just like the Rio Grande Valley, is a historically -- it's an area that -- a lot of illegal immigration happens across that ports of entry.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration saying that they have 1,500 active duty troops that they're sending to the border, they'll join 2,500 National Guard members to contribute in an administrative role. We haven't seen them from our vantage point, but that could be because they're working in an administrative role, not in a law enforcement role. They're trying to free up those DHS resources who are preparing and bracing for what they're calling a surge of migrants coming across the border.

Meanwhile, we're also seeing a lot of politicking going on. You mentioned that targeted enforcement operation announced overnight by the Biden administration drawing criticism here from the border patrol union, saying the administration giving a heads up to people that they're trying to capture. Phil?

MATTINGLY: Nick Valencia for us in Brownsville, thanks so much.

HARLOW: Well, today a jury right here in New York will begin deliberating in E. Jean Carroll's case accuse accusing former President Trump of rape. He denies that vehemently. Both sides delivered their closing arguments yesterday. Carroll says the former president raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the '90s. She then says that he lied about it and tried to destroy her reputation. And she's asking the jury to award her an unspecified amount of money for battery and defamation.

Again, Trump and his lawyers say this never happened. They accuse Carroll of lying to try to sell a book and make money.

Our Kara Scannell has been following the trial and now it's in the hands of jury.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, yesterday at closing arguments, you know, Carroll's team saying Trump never showed up. And they told the jury, you know, he never looked you in the eye and denied raping E. Jean Carroll and you should hold that against him. And then, of course, the jury saw about 48 minutes of Trump's video deposition, and in that deposition, they're saying he was actually a witness against himself. They point to the moment where he mistakes E. Jean Carroll in a black and white photo for his second wife, Marla Maples, and he pointed the Access Hollywood tape, which they called a confession. Because on that tape, Trump says, I just start kissing women, I don't wait.

Of course, Trump's lawyers are saying this never happened. He didn't have to come because this never happened. There's nothing else for him to say. And they also said that Carroll's story or elements of it were completely unbelievable and saying to the jury that they called -- Carroll's team called two friends who corroborated her story. They both testified that Carroll told them about the alleged rape at the time. Trump's lawyers are saying this was a conspiracy. These women wanted Trump out of office, they hated him so much.

So, today, the case will go to the jury and then deliberations will begin.

MATTINGLY: I'm going to be like our bosses in the emails that we get every single morning around 4:00 A.M. Do we have a timeline on how long this is going to take? Is it possible that this could come today after trying to watch this trial closely?

SCANNELL: I mean, it's so fascinating. You can never really tell what's in the minds of the juries. These are six men, three women. It has to be unanimous verdict. There are two questions for them, one is battery, you know, whether -- battery is interesting because this is a civil case. You know, the standard of proof is that it was more likely than not. That's what they would have to find to find in favor of Carroll.


And that can be anything, from forcible touching to a rape. That could satisfy the battery claim.

Defamation is a little more complicated. There's a lot of questions they have to answer. Those answers all have to be unanimous. And that standard is a little higher, but then more likely than not.

HARLOW: (INAUDIBLE) public figure?

SCANNELL: Yes. Well, because Trump and she are both public figures, and they have to satisfy that he did this with actual malice, beyond just the denial here. And that's a little -- that standard is even a little bit higher than the battery standard. So, you know, it depends. It could be as simple as whether they believe her and then everything else follows, or if they could really struggle with some of the charges. But you never know.

HARLOW: Well, a split verdict on battery and defamation?

SCANNELL: Absolutely. That's a possibility, too.

HARLOW: Thank you, Kara.

MATTINGLY: All right. This morning, a manhunt is under way for two inmates, including one arrested for four murders who escaped a Philadelphia correctional center. 18-year-old Ameen Hurst and 24-year- old Nasir Grant escaped just after 8:00 P.M. Sunday night. Now, officials didn't notice they were gone until 3:00 P.M. on Monday.

Hurst had been charged for four homicides. Grant is being held on narcotics violations. Three head counts took place before they realized the two inmates were missing.


MAYOR JIM KENNEY (D-PHILADELPHIA, PA): Clearly, the system screwed up and people didn't do what they were supposed to do. It's clear.

I'm really angry about it. There's no reason for this. And if everybody followed through and did what they were supposed to do, we wouldn't have this problem.


MATTINGLY: Now, according to the prison's commissioner, the two prisoners were able to escape through a hole in the fence in the recreation yard of the facility. They also acknowledge that the protocols in place the facility were not followed. Yes, I would say so.

HARLOW: Yes. This morning the FDA advisers there are set to weigh in on whether to allow the birth control pill to be sold over-the- counter. What this could mean for women across the country.

MATTINGLY: And overnight, Israeli airstrikes targeted what they called, kingpin terrorists, women and children are among the dead. CNN is live on the ground in Israel, next.



HARLOW: New, pretty remarkable video to show you this morning, paramilitary troops taking former Pakistan President Imran Khan into custody in a chaotic scene. Watch the moment troops broke through a window while Khan prepared for a court appearance and they arrested him. Watch.

Party officials say that Khan was whisked away by unknown people rather to an unknown location. He was ousted by a no-confidence vote last year and has since led a campaign against the current government. Stay with us for updates.

MATTINGLY: And happening overnight, Israeli airstrikes targeted what it called kingpin terrorists in Gaza. And Israeli Defense Force spokesman said they did as much as possible to focus the attacks but were aware of some collateral damage. At least 13 have been killed in Gaza. That includes multiple women and children.

CNN's Hadas Gold joins us from Israel. And, Hadas, the strikes seemed to be over for now. What's the latest on a very, very complex dynamic?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There's a sense of quiet tension right here in Southern Israel. All eyes are behind me to the south to Gaza, to see if and when there will be a response from militants there to those airstrikes overnight. These airstrikes coming as a surprise at 2:00 A.M., the Israeli military saying that they were specifically targeting Islamic jihad. They killed three of their commanders, including the commander in chief of the Al-Quds Brigades of the Iranian-backed militant group that is based there. But as you noted, along with those three commanders killed were some of their families, including women and at least four children were reported among the dead.

Now, Israel said that they launched these airstrikes in response to more than 100 rockets that were fired by Islamic jihad last week. Those rockets were fired in response to the death of an Islamic jihad former spokesperson who had died in Israeli prison while on extended hunger strike. And the initial Israeli military response to those rockets didn't target anything that was seen as particularly important. But that changed overnight.

The big question, of course, will be what will the response be from Islamic jihad and more importantly will Hamas get involved, because if Hamas, the militant group that runs Gaza, gets involved, this will be a much bigger, a much broader conflict. The Israeli military has already called up reservists and has told residents in Southern Israel to stay close to their shelters in preparation for whatever that response may be. Phil?

MATTINGLY: Hadas Gold, thank you so much.

HARLOW: So, just hours from now, FDA advisers are going to weigh in on whether to allow the nation's first over-the-counter birth control pill. It's called Opill. And right now, it's only FDA-approved with a prescription. The company that makes the pill says it's safe and effective for over-the-counter use. But on Friday, FDA scientists addressed some concern about making it so easily available.

CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now. Elizabeth, good morning. You spoke with someone who left the United States and says it's much easier to get other the counter birth control elsewhere. What is the FDA concern among their scientists?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, the FDA says that they're worried that American women have changed since 1973 when this pill was first approved. They're also worried that American women might not be able to read labels properly.


COHEN (voice over): Citlyn Pace, a native New Yorker, moved to Hong Kong three years ago for a teaching job. She still remembers when she went to buy birth control pills there for the first time.

CAITLYN PACE, USED OVER-THE-COUNTER BIRTH CONTROL PILLS: It was so easy. And I kind of just like looked around and was like, did that just happen?

COHEN: In Hong Kong, you can just walk into a drugstore and get birth control pills. They're right there on the shelf, just like aspirin or shampoo. Advisers to the FDA are meeting this week to consider whether this birth control pill, Opill, should be sold in the same way, right over-the-counter.


It would be the first over-the-counter birth control pill in the U.S.

DR. KRISTYN BRANDI, BO/GYN AND SPOKESWOMAN, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF OBSTETRICIAN AND GYNECOLOGISTS: I think many people have been looking to have a birth control pill like this over-the-counter for a long time. COHEN: Dr. Kristyn Brandi is practicing OB/GYN and a spokesperson for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which, along with the American Medical Association, supports the pill going over- the-counter.

BRANDI: We have to give people all the tolls that they can to protect themselves, protect their health. And this is one great option that I hope will be able to be pushed forward.

COHEN: But in a briefing document filed last week, the FDA seemed less than enthusiastic about the idea. They say more women are overweight now, as are all Americans, than when Opill was first approved 50 years ago as a prescription drug, pointing out that 60 percent of people of reproductive age in the U.S. are overweight or obese. The degree to which efficacy of Opill diminished in individuals who are overweight or obese remains unknown, the FDA scientists wrote.

They also say that studies conducted by Opill's manufacturer indicate in a non-prescription setting consumers may not correctly follow use directions. But Dr. Brandi says there's no reason to think Opill will be less effective in heavier women. And on their second concern --

BRANDI: Well, they're smart and they can read the back of a pill bottle, just like they do any other medication over-the-counter.

COHEN: Perrigo, which makes the pill, says data from our eight-year development program show that consumers can use Opill safely and effectively as guided by the proposed labeling.

Back in Hong Kong, Pace says her friends in the U.S. are jealous.

PACE: I think that if women could just walk into a CVS or a Walgreens and get what they need, I think it could really, really change their lives for the better, 100 percent.


HARLOW: Elizabeth, that was fascinating. And at the end of the day, this is about improving access. How big of a difference do advocates of this think it would make?

COHEN (on camera): Poppy, they say it will make a big difference. About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. And we all know going back to your doctor once a year to get that prescription, it's a barrier. You forget to do it and then don't have your pill, and, I mean, there really are problems here. And so they are hoping that if it can go over-the-counter, that will have fewer unintended pregnancies in the United States, especially important since so many states have now banned abortion.

HARLOW: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you for that reporting.

MATTINGLY: Well, President Biden is holding a high-stakes meeting with congressional leaders today in an effort to avoid the country defaulting for the first time in history on its debt. Our next guest had that same meeting with then-Vice President Biden and President Obama back in 2011. You see him there. That's former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. I spent way too much time following him around hallways back then. And he joins us live in studio, coming up next.

HARLOW: You don't have to follow him. He's here.