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CNN This Morning

Rep. Connolly: Attacker Hit Aide in Head, Intern in Side with Baseball Bat; Shooter Who Killed 3 Roamed Streets, Firing Indiscriminately; Biden to Hold Debt Ceiling Talks with Top Lawmakers; Special Counsel Durham: FBI Shouldn't Have Launched Full Trump-Russia Probe; DeSantis to Announce Presidential Bid by End of May. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired May 16, 2023 - 06:00   ET


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


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Happy Tuesday morning, everyone. Good night?


HARLOW: Happy Tuesday. We are here. There's a lot to news to get to. Let's get started with "Five Things to Know" for this Tuesday, May 16.

New overnight, CNN obtained new video of a man chasing a screaming woman with a bat minutes before he allegedly attacked staffers at a congressman's field office. You hear the screams there.

The suspect this morning is under arrest. And Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly says his staffers have non-life-threatening injuries.

COLLINS: Also in Washington, President Biden is going to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy again today as both try to find a way forward when it comes to the debt ceiling.

McCarthy said that they are not closer than they were, as the treasury secretary is doubling down that America is headed for a default as early as June 1.

Also, the Durham report is now out after three years in the making. The special counsel from the Trump era says the FBI should have never launched a full investigation into connections between the former president's 2016 campaign and Russia.

But he did not recommend any new criminal charges or, quote, "wholesale changes" to how the FBI handles politically-charged investigations.

HARLOW: And Ron DeSantis is ready to run. Sources tell CNN the Florida governor will announce his bid for the White House before the end of the month as he shows a new willingness to take on Donald Trump. COLLINS: And the bounce of a ping-pong ball could change the future of

an NBA franchise. The draft lottery is tonight, and the winner gets a shot to Victor Wembanyama, the French phenom who is considered the best prospect since LeBron James.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

Good morning. And of course, we are following that stop story that Poppy mentioned there at the top of the hour, as we're getting new details about the man who is accused of attacking Congressional staffers with a baseball bat in Virginia yesterday.

CNN has obtained this surveillance video that appears to show the same suspect chasing his neighbor with a metal just minutes before he went to the Democratic Congressman, Gerry Connolly's district office.





COLLINS: After what you see happening here, where he is chasing that woman, police say the suspect then drove to Congressman Connolly's office. It's about six miles away from where this took place.

The Congressman says that the bat-wielding man attacked his intern, who was on her first day at the job at the front desk, and then also struck a senior aide in the head.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This individual caused mass destruction in your office, too.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): Yes. After he was denied access to more staff members he could hurt, he turned his fury on the office itself. And a lot of broken glass, destroyed computers, some furniture.


COLLINS: Luckily, a staffer was able to call 911, and within minutes, police arrived and took down the suspect with a taser.

The father of the suspect that you see here tells CNN his son is mentally ill and that he has not taken his medication for schizophrenia in several months.

The Congressman says the suspect had previously contacted his office for help with some sort of issue and had made bizarre statements to staff.

Washington -- our Washington correspondent Sunlen Serfaty is following this story and tracking the latest in this. Sunlen, first, do we know how the staffers are doing here that were injured whenever he showed up at this office?


Yes, the two staffers that had been injured, they now have been released from the hospital. In an interview with CNN, Congressman Connolly says it was only the quick thinking of his staff that really prevented many more from being injured in his office.

He said the suspect did enter his office, demanding to see the Congressman. He was filled, he says, with an out-of-control rage. He was shattering glass and breaking computers throughout the office with that metal baseball bat.

Now, the Congressman says this person had contacted his office in the past. He reached out for help on an issue. His staff did sense, in talking to him over the period, that he engaged in some bizarre statements, but he said he never made any threats like this brazen and violent attack.




SERFATY (voice-over): Terrifying video caught on a home security camera. Neighbors say it shows the man now accused of attacking a Virginia Congressman's staffers, allegedly chasing a woman with a bat minutes earlier.


CONNOLLY: I don't think there is a motivation. I think we're talking about real mental illness.

SERFATY (voice-over): Several neighbors heard the commotion. Daniel Ashley says it wasn't until he heard about a possible connection to the attack on the Congressman's office that he started looking through his security camera footage.

DANIEL ASHLEY, NEIGHBOR: That was the clip that had the woman running away from the guy with the baseball bat. She's screaming and terrified.

I heard about the Gerry Connolly thing on the news, but I had no idea that it was so close to home.

SERFATY (voice-over): Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly says Monday morning the alleged attacker walked into his district office in Fairfax in an enraged state.

CONNOLLY: Turns out that he had already used that bat to, like, destroy an older woman's windshield out further West. So, he was on a tear.

LISA GARDNER, SPOKESWOMAN, CITY OF FAIRFAX POLICE: He did arrive here in a vehicle. And he walked to the office and began swinging the bat, striking two staff members.

SERFATY (voice-over): The Congressman telling CNN he wasn't there at the time.

CONNOLLY: A man had come into our office with a metal baseball bat and asked for me. And when told that I was at an event, he proceeded to attack the young intern who was at the front desk on her first day.

And then when the noise and commotion became clear, others came running out of their offices, and he attacked my outreach director and hit her badly on the back of her head.

SERFATY (voice-over): Both suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Connolly says police responded within five minutes. They took the suspect into custody after a confrontation with him that left one officer injured.

The father of the 49-year-old suspect tells CNN his son is schizophrenic and hasn't taken his medication for three months. The Congressman hopes this attack will lead to changes.

CONNOLLY: We're going to have to reassess the security we provide or don't provide district offices. So if you have -- if you're a member of Congress and your office happens to be in the federal building, in the courthouse, you're going to have security.

But if you're in a commercial office space like me, you have no security. None. And what could go wrong with that? Well, we learned the answer to that question.


SERFATY (on camera): And that suspect's father told CNN he has tried to get help for his son in the past.

The 49-year-old was also known to law enforcement. He was charged in January of '22 with felony assault on a law enforcement officer, among other charges. The district attorney then declined to prosecute.

Now, for this incident, Kaitlan, he's facing charges of one count of aggravated malicious wounding and one count of malicious wounding.

COLLINS: Yes. Certainly, raising questions about security at these district congressional offices. Sunlen Serfaty, thank you.

HARLOW: No question about that.

Well, new details this morning on a deadly mass shooting. This happened in Farmington, New Mexico.

An 18-year-old gunman killed three people and wounded six others, including two police officers, before being shot and killed by police. The gunman used three guns, one of them an AR-style rifle.

According to police, he roamed a rough quarter-mile area, shooting and firing randomly. Natasha Chen is following it and joins us now. All too common in America, using an AR, like so many others have. What

do we know this morning?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, the police chief posted a video to Facebook last night, describing the scene as wide and complex.

And you mentioned that the shooter apparently roamed for up to a quarter mile through this neighborhood. The chief said shooting at, quote, "whatever entered his head to shoot at." And that included, apparently, at least six houses and three cars.

You mentioned he shot and killed three people. He injured six others, including two members of law enforcement: one Farmington Police officer and one state police officer. They are expected to survive with nonlife-threatening injuries.

Now, the police chief did talk about this as being one of the most difficult days that Farmington has ever experienced. He called it difficult to understand and devastating. Here he is talking about the investigation.


CHIEF STEVE HEBBE, FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO, POLICE: We're doing the best that we can to piece through and talk with family members of the suspect; piece through what was going on; look at the evidence to see if we can figure out what the motivation was.

But at this point, it appears to be purely random, that there was no schools, no churches, no individuals targeted.


CHEN: And for a time, the schools in the area were locked down as they were trying to figure out what was going on here.

Last night there was a vigil held in the community. We want to show you some of that video of people lighting candles.

And an affiliate tells us that they prayed for the families of the victims, the families of the injured, as well as the family of the 18- year-old shooter, who was ultimately shot and killed in an exchange of gunfire with police.


The police chief there did say he was unbelievably proud of the response by three agencies there. And there is expected to be a press conference later this afternoon, where we hope to find more information, Poppy.

HARLOW: OK. Natasha, thank you.

COLLINS: Also just hours from now, top lawmakers are going to be walking into the grounds of the White House for another round of debt limit talks with President Biden and Vice President Harris.

This comes as Janet Yellen is doubling down on that the U.S. is going to be unable to pay its bills potentially as early as June 1. You can see here, that is just 15 days away from where we stand right now.

Kevin McCarthy says that he has seen no movement in the talks so far.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We're only a couple of weeks away. And if you look at the timeline to pass something in the House and pass something in the Senate, you've got to have something done by this weekend. And we are nowhere near any of that.


COLLINS: CNN's Lauren Fox is live on Capitol Hill this morning ahead of those talks.

And Lauren, you hear Kevin McCarthy there talking about timing here, saying that they are still nowhere close to it. Obviously, the clock is ticking. President Biden is set to leave the country tomorrow.

But also, I remember when Kevin McCarthy became Speaker McCarthy. He said he would give his members 72 hours to review new legislation. So what is the realistic timeline here looking like?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, there's a set of challenges here, one of which is they are still trying to figure out what the contours of this negotiation are going to be; what Republicans and Democrats in the rank and file are going to be willing to support, if the leaders and the principals, specifically, are able to come to some kind of agreement.

This high-stakes meeting today at 3 p.m. is really important for a few reasons, Kaitlan. One of which is that the last meeting they had one week ago, it didn't go smoothly. In fact, lawmakers came out; the president came out of that meeting basically holding dueling press conferences about their own plans moving forward. And that really showed you just how far apart they are.

Staff has been working around the clock nearly every single day since that meeting to try and smooth over what the differences are right now, but what you're hearing from people who are watching these negotiations and getting read into them, like Republican Whip John Thune, is that time is running short. And in Thune's view, the right people are not in the room.

They believe that having Biden and McCarthy in this room is going to be really important. Perhaps they'll be able to nail down some more specifics.

But like you noted, Kaitlan, time is running short. And McCarthy has made clear he thinks they need to have a deal in hand by this weekend if they have any hope of moving this through both the House of Representatives, where he does need to give his members some time to review this legislation, and the U.S. Senate, where things just take a very long time on the Senate floor -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes. The staffs could meet and meet and meet, but ultimately, it's going to be up to President Biden and Speaker McCarthy.

Lauren Fox, I know you'll be tracking this meeting and be very busy today. Thank you.

HARLOW: Also this morning, a newly-released report from Special Counsel John Durham slams the FBI's investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign.

It is a scathing 300-plus-page report, four years of investigation. It concludes the FBI never should have opened the investigation into former President Trump's ties to Russia, but ultimately, it falls short of proving that Trump and his allies' claims -- short of proving Trump and his allies' claims of a political witch hunt.

There's a lot to dissect in this. Paula Reid joins us now.

We've been waiting and waiting, again, four years. Now 306 pages in this report. What was the purpose and what is the big take away?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, after Durham was appointed by Bill Barr, former President Trump and his allies claimed that Durham would be able to prove the FBI's investigation was nothing more than a political witch hunt.

But the report released yesterday offered no significant new evidence to support those claims.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm waiting for the report, like everybody else.

REID (voice-over): A nearly four-year investigation is over, Special Counsel John Durham releasing his findings. In a 300-plus-page report, he states that the FBI used "raw, unanalyzed and uncorroborated intelligence" to launch Crossfire Hurricane, the year-long FBI investigation into former President Donald Trump's associates and Russian officials.

But when it came to weighing concerns about Hillary Clinton's campaign of alleged election interference, the FBI applied a different standard.

Durham determined there was no concrete proof of collusion between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia before the start of that FBI investigation.

In his harshest criticism of the FBI, Durham says the agency didn't interview any essential witnesses and didn't do a significant review of its own intelligence databases, adding, the FBI launched the investigation without "any of the standard analytical tools typically employed by the FBI in evaluating raw intelligence."


He suggested that, if the FBI had followed those measures, they would have found no evidence linking Trump's 2016 campaign to Russian officials.

Although Durham identified flaws in the investigation, he did not suggest any changes to the FBI's policies.

Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe defended the agency's handling of the investigation.

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR/CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. I vehemently disagree with Mr. Durham's characterizations of what we did in the report.

Look, the fact is we knew what the Russians were doing and had done in an effort to help Donald Trump. And if we had had any information, any -- any intelligence or information that indicated that the Clinton campaign was colluding with the Russians, we would have investigated that, as well. But that information doesn't exist. And to my knowledge was not happening.

REID (voice-over): Durham was appointed by Trump's former attorney general, Bill Barr, in 2019. The investigation cost at least $6.5 million. It led to one minor conviction and two trial losses.

For years, Trump and his allies have claimed that the FBI's investigation was a political witch hunt.

Posting on social media, Trump claiming vindication: "Wow. After extensive research, Special Counsel John Durham concludes the FBI never should have launched the Trump/Russia probe."


REID (on camera): House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan has announced that he has reached out to the Justice Department to have Durham testify next week, a clear sign that Trump's Republican allies will seek to use this report to advance their own political objectives, even if it didn't produce the blockbuster revolutions that they had hoped -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Paula, thank you for dissecting all that for us. Appreciate it.

COLLINS: Also this morning, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is now reportedly days away from launching his 2024 campaign. It may have seemed like it's already been launched, but not officially yet. The new measures that he is taking to dig on to culture war issues. We'll tell you next.



COLLINS: It's been months in the making, but Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is now apparently just days away from launching his 2024 presidential campaign.

The Florida governor has already hit the campaign trail, as he was in Iowa just a few days ago, crisscrossing the state. It is the first in the nation caucus. Of course, he hinted at a 2024 bid while he was there.

But right now, it is still early, but polls show that he is far behind former President Trump, who's the current front-runner in the GOP race for the nomination.

A recent ABC News/"Washington Post" poll found that 51 percent of Republicans support former President Trump right now; just 25 percent said they back Governor DeSantis. Of course, again, it is still early. We're still quite -- several months away from this.

CNN's Steve Contorno is live in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Steve, what is this announcement going to look like? Because I feel like so many people think -- you know, already think that DeSantis is in this race. He's not officially in it yet. What's it going to look like when it is official?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, DeSantis is making the final preparations towards a campaign launch. And two sources with knowledge of the planning tell me that that announcement will come before the end of the month. And we're already halfway through May. So it's just in the next couple weeks here.

I'm also told that he is meeting with top donors next week in South Florida, where the message will be to them, it's go time and ready to start getting your -- your buddies ready to write some big checks for us.

Now -- but this is coming at a time when DeSantis is in a much more precarious position than many close supporters of him had hoped he would be at this point in the race.

Remember, he had won his re-election by 19 points. "The New York Post" had called him the future. And he seemed to be riding high.

But he is going into this announcement with less momentum at his back than many people had hoped for. But there are still signs and those close to him who believe that he is in good position. They are on schedule. This is the plan all along, was to wait until session was over before getting into the race.

And they still believe they have a good argument that the people are ready to turn the page from Trump.

Listen to what Steve Cortez, a former Trump adviser, told our Sara Sidner last night about why he's backing DeSantis this go around.


STEVE CORTEZ, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: I think any -- any reasonable observer will conclude that Ron DeSantis is doing everything that a person does to prepare to make this run for office.

So, I fully expect that that is forthcoming in the coming days and weeks. It will not help the country's psyche. It will not help the country from a policy standpoint to have a rematch of the 2020 election that almost no one wants.


CONTORNO: Trump, of course, disagrees, and he has been mud -- throwing mud at DeSantis for months now. And in a recent interview, he said, quote, "I'm doing much better against Biden than he is in the polls. And I'm doing much better against him. I did very well in the midterms. Ron is not a winner" -- Kaitlan.

HARLOW: Yes, of course, it remains to be seen what those polls look like. We've also seen the steps that DeSantis has been taking in the days leading up to this announcement. We'll talk more about that later on in the show.

Steve Contorno, thank you.

HARLOW: This morning, allies of former Vice President Mike Pence launching a new super PAC in support of his potential candidacy for president.

The group Committed to America believes Pence would be established as the committed constitutional conservative, in their words, in the field. The launch is one of the clear signs yet that Pence is likely to enter the 2024 presidential race, already dominated by his prior running mate, former President Trump.

COLLINS: Field is growing by the day, it looks like.

HARLOW: By the day. No huge surprises yet.

COLLINS: No huge surprises yet. We'll see. There's time. Time to come.

HARLOW: Months and months and months.

COLLINS: Yes. All right. Overnight in Ukraine on some international news and headlines that we have for you overnight, quote, "a complex assault" on Kyiv, the capital, of course, of Ukraine. We're going to get you he latest from the ground while we're there.

HARLOW: And for the first time, America's debt load has topped $17 trillion. Why it's so high. We'll talk about the long-term impact, why you should care, ahead.




So CNN has now learned the identity of the informant who has allegedly gone missing on House Republicans. Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer mentioned this missing informant in a recent interview he did with FOX News over the weekend. Watch this.


REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): Well, unfortunately, we can't track down the informant. We're hopeful that the informant is still there. The whistleblower knows the informant. The whistleblower is very credible.

We're hopeful that we can find the informant. Now, remember these informants are kind of in the -- the spy business, so they don't make a habit of being seen a lot or being out of profile or anything like that.


HARLOW: Now, a source tells CNN that missing informant is an Israeli professor named Gal Luft, who is wanted by the U.S. for arms dealing. Luft has claimed to have incriminating information about Hunter Biden. He's gone missing in Cypress. That's according to press reports.

One source does tell CNN the House Oversight panel has not investigated Luft's claims at this point. It's just not clear what type of allegations he might be privy to.

And this follows several attempts by Congressman Comer to substantiate allegations that he's made that Biden family members have profited off the family name.

He's also alleged that the president may have been improperly influenced by some of those financial dealings.

Joining us now is CNN political correspondent Sara Murray.