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CNN This Morning

Trump Tightens Grip on GOP; Six People Missing after Shooting and House Fire; Search Continues for Five Marines; Chiefs and 49ers Take Center Stage in Las Vegas. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired February 08, 2024 - 06:30   ET




SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): Presidential year, I will do whatever I can to destroy you because I do not want you to solve this during the presidential election.


LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND HISTORIAN: I mean, this is where we are. This is really where we are. And it is remarkable having people on the floor sitting there admitting, one, that a former president has his hand in the political actions and policy actions of the American people, and not just has a little bit of a hand or just has, like, you know, opinions, has very strong opinions, and the party is falling in line and doing what a former president -- he has no business interrupting there.

But the other thing is that they would openly admit to this. And I think it actually provides a rather large opening for Democrats, including, I think, a coalition of progressive and liberal Democrats, to push for the kind of policy, even risky policy on immigration, without any - any fear of real blow back, right, because they can just simply go -- and they've already snapped it, right, they've already pulled it and said, do you see what we see here? This is playing with our future. This is playing with everything for political risk. And I think this is -


RIGUEUR: You know, having Trump in there right now is a massive, massive mistake.

AVLON: Well, you know, Lankford's speech was extraordinary on several levels, right, because what he's saying essentially is that right now our politics are punishing people who try to solve problems. But that was a conversation about a media figure, presumably somebody in the right wing media ecosystem. And the language he used was, he said, I will do everything in my power to destroy you because I don't want this solved in a presidential year. Every word of that is worth looking at in a deep way.

I will do everything in my power to destroy you. The politics of personal destruction being expressed through partisan media, acting as people who can wield cudgels and try to intimidate members of Congress from doing their jobs. And the second piece is, I don't want this problem solved in a presidential year. The height of cynicism. And that's the ecosystem these folks are leaving -- living in and leading in. And Lankford has the courage of his convictions to speak out and actually try to solve problems, and so many others are just rank cowards.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: I think two important points.

One, the evolution of things we can't do in a presidential year has grown pretty extraordinarily since 2016.




MATTINGLY: Obviously, a Supreme Court justice under Barack Obama, who, Merrick Garland, now the attorney general, not Supreme Court justice.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I was just going to say, don't try to get a Supreme Court justice.


MATTINGLY: Two, I just - for people - I want to contextualize. You may not know who James Lankford is. No offense to James Lankford. But I think that's kind of the point. He is a rock-ribbed conservative.

AVLON: Very.

MATTINGLY: He is fiscal conservative. He is conservative on social issues. He is popular within the Republican conference. He is not some squish. He is not some rhino. He is not some guy Donald Trump attacks. In fact, Donald Trump endorsed him in his last election.

AVLON: Uh-huh.

MATTINGLY: And I think people need to understand like who this individual is. And he's not a maverick. He's not a traditional deal maker. He's a guy who just does his job. And I think the fact that he put himself on a limb like this, actually won more concessions than any Republican in an immigration negotiation certainly since I've been alive.


MATTINGLY: And is now faced with this. I don't know, it's sad.

AVLON: It says everything you need to know. This is the hunting for heretics. When politics starts looking a lot like a cult, right? You know, if the -- now the firing offense is doing your job. Now the firing offense is trying to reach out and reason with people on the other side of the aisle to solve an urgent problem, and one that you said "The Wall Street Journal" editorializes, Donald Trump couldn't get this deal. This is a (INAUDIBLE) to the deal (ph).

HARLOW: Yes. A bill worth passing, they wrote.

AVLON: That's right.

RIGUEUR: But it's also about, I think, a strategy of chaos, right, which is that as the Republican Party sorts through this, you know, I don't know if we're calling it a cult of personality, identity crisis, the takeover of Donald Trump.

AVLON: (INAUDIBLE) stage (ph).

RIGUEUR: Something like that. There's also this -- it's playing out on this national stage. And one of the things that is very consistent is that the strategy of chaos may, you know, cost something politically, larger, in the grand scheme of things. But for many of these Republicans, they actually pay nothing. There is - there is no fee, at least right now, to the -

AVLON: It's the opposite of anything resembling the word conservative. It's this idea that the worse it gets, the better it gets for you politically.

HARLOW: OK, but let's also talk about Biden now.

AVLON: Sure. Please.

HARLOW: Will that -- what we heard, what we just played you -


HARLOW: Sort of the beginning of the next argument for him versus Trump that he'll make. How can he most effectively capitalize on this, John, because -

AVLON: By keeping -


AVLON: By saying it over and over and over again. The messaging. The repetition. Because it's a fact, right? If you were concerned about Biden -- the boarder and you want a bipartisan solution, this was your best deal and the far right and Donald Trump don't want a solution.

HARLOW: But how do you argue against the Republican talking point from some who didn't support this bill who say, you could do this stuff right now, you don't need this.

AVLON: That's not true. That's simply not true. If the border could have been completely shut down, Donald Trump would have done it unilaterally. So - so, you know, the - you know, you know, sometimes we just need to confront lies with facts. And you need to make a case rooted with reality and say, if you support bipartisan solutions that solve urgent problems, Donald Trump and his wing of the Republican Party are not your guide.


In fact, they're trying to stop solutions.

RIGUEUR: And one thing I think we also do know, at least for the Democratic side of thing, and for independents and these people that - really that Biden is trying to loop in, they're a -- you know, they actually will hold Congress accountable, right? So, they see - they place blame squarely on the actors who are acting in bad faith, right? Congress' numbers are in the trash. And I think Biden, if he can - if he can harness that, right, which appears he is able to, that is really important for solidifying this coalition that he needs to win.

AVLON: And again, look - look -- look at those facts, too. When - when - when Nancy Pelosi was speaker and the Democrats had the narrowest of margins in the House and the Senate, they got over 300 pieces of bipartisan legislation done. Over 300 pieces. So, that's a record of success you can run on if they dare talk about it.

MATTINGLY: I mean, to be fair, they almost impeached a cabinet official this week.

RIGUEUR: Not quite. Not quite.


MATTINGLY: But close.

AVLON: That's - that's - yes, that's where we're at.

MATTINGLY: Just about there.

MATTINGLY: So, that's - that's comparable.

HARLOW: Because you can vote with no shoes on apparently.

MATTINGLY: Yes, you can.

HARLOW: You can.

MATTINGLY: You can. Hey, know your whip count.

HARLOW: All right, John, thank you.

Leah, thank you very much.

You'd be a great whip.

MATTINGLY: I'd love it.

HARLOW: Just saying.

A chaotic scene near Philadelphia though. Two law enforcement officers shot, a house set on fire, at least six family members unaccounted for this morning. We'll take you there live.

MATTINGLY: And new data shows our climate has passed a critical warning limit for the first time. We're going to explain what that means, next.



MATTINGLY: Well, this morning, there is an urgent search underway for at least six family members after a shooting and a house fire near Philadelphia. Police were responding to reports of an 11-year-old girl shot inside the home. When they arrived, someone shot two officers and then the home was set on fire.

CNN's Danny Freeman is there.

Danny, what's the latest from law enforcement right now?

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Phil, right now police are still on scene in this area of East Lansdowne where that fire and that shooting occurred. And right now they have the hard job of not only trying to account for those six to eight missing people, including children, who are suspected to have lived at that residence on the street behind me, but also figure out what happened here and what led up to that super chaotic scene that we saw yesterday afternoon.

But here's what we do know. So, Phil, as you said, this call came in just before 4:00 yesterday. Police got that original call that an 11- year-old had been shot. Well, officers from two separate police departments in the area, they responded and almost immediately started taking fire from someone inside that house. Two officers were shot. And, in fact, other officers from yet a third police department in this area had to come and drag them away to safety. Thankfully, those two officers are going to be OK.

But after that, the house was then set on fire, according to Delaware County officials, by someone who was inside of that house. And that's when we started to see these just stunning photos of this house up in flames. And then police officers, also trying to breach the house and secure the location at the same time before firefighters were able to come in and actually put out the fire.

Well, after a little over an hour, about two hours, firefighters were able to start to knock down that fire. But the Delaware County District Attorney says that the hard work only then started to begin again because they're now searching for six to eight people.

Take a listen to what he had to say.


JACK STOLISTEIMER, DELAWARE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Law enforcement is locking down the crime scene.

We're going to be able to get inside and begin the -- what might be gruesome process of trying to find out who was in the house and - and - and - and what happened, if we -- to the best of our ability.


FREEMAN: So, again, Phil, that work continues to figure out exactly what happened on this street behind me, find out what happened to those six to eight people currently missing. A hard day for this community, East Lansdowne, just outside of Philadelphia.


MATTINGLY: Yes, Danny, the pictures were stunning. The questions are still numerous. I know you're on the ground there. Keep us posted, please. Thank you.

HARLOW: So, right now there's a search underway for five Marines after their helicopter crashed and it was found in really rugged California terrain. We have that ahead.

MATTINGLY: And, today, big pharma will testify on why prescription drugs in America are the most expensive in the world. How are they going to explain that? Stay tuned.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we got a call from the Marine Corps captain and aviation safety officer saying that they lost signal for one of their aircrafts in the Pine Valley area. It was a military cargo helicopter.


HARLOW: That was audio released overnight of the moment that officials lost a signal from a military helicopter that crashed in the California forest. And right now the search is very urgent for the five Marines who were on board. They were flying from a base near Las Vegas to one in San Diego. The helicopter was found in southern California's Pine Valley on Wednesday. The Cal Fire captain talked about the really tough conditions for rescuers.


CAPT. MIKE CORNETTE, CAL FIRE SAN DIEGO: We're limited access to the area. It's muddy, steep terrain. It's snowing out, so any of our vehicles that are going out there are -- have a chance of getting stuck.


MATTINGLY: Around the time of the flight, winds were gusting up to 20 miles per hour and a heavy band of rain had swept through the area. The CH-53E, it is a heavy lift helicopter that can carry up to 16 tons of cargo. It's also an aircraft that has been involved in several crashes in the last decade, with at least two of them fatal. In 2018, four Marines were killed during a routine training mission in California. In 2016, 12 Marines died when two helicopters collided in Hawaii. In 2014, 25 Marines and Navy sailors survived a crash in the Gulf in Aden from what was considered a miracle at sea.

HARLOW: But let's talk about this with retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton, who's a CNN military analyst.

What Phil ticked through, obviously, is really concerning. But these are also choppers that, as I understand it, have been in use since 1981, right?


HARLOW: So - so they have a lot of experience with them, tweaking them, making them safer, more effective. What are your questions this morning?

LEIGHTON: Yes, good morning, Poppy.

So, the one thing I'd be looking at is, you know, was weather the main factor in this particular crash. You know, pretty clear from the Cal Fire spokesperson who was just talked to, it was pretty clear that weather is a huge deal at the moment in terms of the search and rescue effort. The problem that you're going to run into, of course, you know, the difference in telling whether just weather was a factor, whether there was a mechanical issue, or were there other issues potentially. Was the type of cargo on board not balanced properly. Those kinds of things could all be players in this. But this is the kind of aircraft that has seen quite a few incidents since its introduction into military service, as you said, in 1981, Poppy.

But, the key thing here is that they had a pretty good safety record after some major incidents in the 1980s and 1990s, but then things started to tick up again fairly recently.

MATTINGLY: Colonel, the search process here, you've said it could take a while. It's going to be complicated. Why?

LEIGHTON: Well, the main thing is the terrain right now, Phil, that you're looking at. You know, this is a remote area in southern California. And one of the key factors whenever there's a crash is often, you know, not to be too graphic, but there are debris that are scattered all over the area. So, it's going to be tough sometimes to find key missing pieces.


They're going to be - they're going to be searching for things like black boxes, and, you know, other artifacts in essence from the crash site. So, that's going to be, depending on the nature of impact, going to be one of the difficult things. But the main issue really is access. And that's going to be tough. And, of course, really the first priority is to find the - the Marines that are currently missing in this - in this crash.

HARLOW: When you look at all of this combined and the fact that, yes, weather may have been in play - been at play, but you would think that something like this, since it's been around and in use for so long, would have - would have factored that in. I guess, I don't know, are there rules about taking off into - into certain weather that may have been at play here?

LEIGHTON: Well, it seems like the weather was different along the flight path, you know, because it started off at Creech Air Force Base north of Las Vegas, Nevada, and then went in transit on its way to Miramar, the Marine Corps air station near San Diego. There clearly are some local issues in terms of the atmospheric river that's been affecting California.

HARLOW: Right.

LEIGHTON: And that really - that very fact may make it difficult for air crews to actually compensate for the kinds of winds that you experience in something like an atmospheric river. And it could be - it could be that they had no experience with this. Of course, that's something that the accident investigation is going to have to look at. But that could be a major factor in this crash.

MATTINGLY: Colonel, while we have you, we'll continue to keep an eye on the search process that's underway.

There have also been -- our colleague, Natasha Bertrand, just reported a short while ago, new strikes targeting two Houthi anti-ship cruise missiles. This is kind of the next step from what has been a very dynamic strike process over the course of the last several weeks.

My question actually is less about these strikes and more about longer term. How sustainable is this tempo in terms of the weapons systems that the U.S. has, in terms of the ammunition the U.S. has. Can we do this for eternity?

LEIGHTON: Well, I wouldn't say for eternity, Phil, but we do have some experience with some long-term operations in the Middle East. Before we went into Iraq in 2003, we had, you know, about a little more than a decade or so of experience trying to contain Saddam Hussein. And we had two operations. One was called Operation Southern Watch. The other one, Operation Northern Watch. And their basic idea was to cover Iraq in the southern part, and in the northern part, to make sure that Saddam Hussein didn't violate the agreement that he had made with us after Desert Storm in the early 1990s. So that is, you know, one thing that we can do. We can sustain some of these operations. I don't think we'll go as far as we did back in those days, but we do have the capability to sustain this kind of effort for some time.

HARLOW: OK, Colonel Leighton, thank you.

LEIGHTON: You bet.

MATTINGLY: Well, we are getting closer to one of the most extraordinary and consequential Supreme Court cases of our time. The implications for the presidential election, they're enormous.

HARLOW: And just turning the corner, just a little bit here, what does Travis Kelce have to say about the prop (ph) bets on him proposing to his lover, I get it guys, Taylor Swift, at the Super Bowl. That's next.





HARLOW: Well, just three days to go to Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas between the Chiefs and the 49ers. The Chiefs trying to win their third Super Bowl in five years.

Andy Scholes joins us now.


MATTINGLY: Andy, there has been a lot of talk this week about if the Chiefs are becoming the villains of the NFL.

HARLOW: That is so mean.

MATTINGLY: I don't - I wasn't saying it.

HARLOW: He is a 9ers fan, obviously.


MATTINGLY: Yes. But I don't think they're the villains. I just think they're going to lose. What's up with that?

SCHOLES: Well - well, you know, we - we just kind of went through this with Tom Brady and the Patriots, right, guys? You know, if you win a lot, and you're always in the big game, you know, people start rooting against you.

And, you know, for the Chiefs, that's the case with them these days. You know, Mahomes and the team, they're playing in their fourth Super Bowl, the past five seasons. Mahomes trying to become just the fifth starting quarterback ever to win three Super Bowls. And, you know, he said he's fine being the bad guy if it means he's on top.


PATRICK MAHOMES, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS QUARTERBACK: I just like winning. If you win a lot and that causes you to be a villain, then I'm OK with it. But, at the end of the day, I'm going to enjoy playing the game and try to win as much as possible.


SCHOLES: All right, so Mahomes may be a villain these days to some, but Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift, they are the most popular couple probably in NFL history. And for the Super Bowl, many fans are wagering on all things Kelce-Swift, including whether or not he will propose on the field afterwards. At U.S. Sports Books, prop bets like these, they are forbidden, but not in other places around the world, like Canada. And Kelce proposing on the field after the game, it pays more than 10-1. You can also place bets on what color top will Swift be wearing at kickoff. Red, of course, is the heavy favorite for that. And yesterday Kelce was asked what he thought about all the different wagers that are out there.


TRAVIS KELCE, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS TIGHT END: These bets are crazy. Being worldwide is way different than just being famous in Kansas City. I mean everybody's having fun with it. And it's not like you guys are up here teeing off on me left and right. You know, everybody's having a good time with it. So, how could I be upset about it.


SCHOLES: Yes, so, Kelce, guys, just having fun with. And I'll tell you what, I give it a less than 1 percent chance that Kelce would propose to Taylor Swift on the field after winning the Super Bowl. I just don't ever see that happening.

MATTINGLY: But you are saying there's a chance.

HARLOW: There's a chance.

SCHOLES: Less than 1 percent.


MATTINGLY: Andy Scholes, appreciate it, buddy.

HARLOW: Thank you, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.