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Half Moon Bay Mass Shooting Suspect Is In Custody; Oath Keepers Members Found Guilty Of Seditious Conspiracy; George Santos Invited To The White House With Other New Members Of Congress. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired January 23, 2023 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST AND SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Breaking news, another mass shooting in California, this time in Half Moon Bay, about 28 miles south of San Francisco. Seven people killed at multiple locations. At least one other person is critically injured.
A suspect is in custody, and San Mateo County sheriff's office has identified him as 67-year-old Chunli Zhao, a Half Moon Bay resident who they believe acted alone. The motive is still unclear.
I want to bring in CNN's Camila Bernal for the very latest. Camila, I mean, it's hard to believe we are talking about another shooting in California, this time in Half Moon Bay. What can you tell us?
CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, we know that it is one shooter who went to multiple locations. This happened at around 2:22 local time this afternoon. We were told that the suspect went to the first location and shot five people. Four of them killed at that location, one of them critically injured. Then he went to another location about a mile apart and he killed another three people.
Now, we have been told that this was a mushroom farm. Authorities are calling it a nursery. In general, it is an agricultural area. Police had not made an arrest until about 4:30 in the afternoon. That is when the suspect was spotted at the sheriff substation.
Now, we know that it was a plainclothes officer who saw the suspect, who saw the car that they were looking for. I was speaking to my colleague, Josh Campbell, who pointed out this was not the massive SWAT team operation that we saw in Southern California. This was an officer who you see there wearing a tie and taking this man down and arresting him.
Josh Campbell also pointing out that they did not seek cover. They were not hiding behind cars. Instead, they thought that this was an arrest that was safe enough to make at the moment.
We know that he was taken into custody. They recovered a semiautomatic handgun after this arrest. We know he is cooperating with authorities. The DA's team is interviewing that suspect at the moment. But we know he acted alone. Authorities say there is no threat to the community, yet they have not given us a motive. They are working on it but, so far, they say they do not know why this happened, Laura.
COATES: Do you know anything about him in particular? We don't have the motive yet. We have his age, there is the picture. Anything we know about him in particular?
BERNAL: So, we know he is a Half Moon Bay resident. Authorities believe that he was an employee at one of these nurseries. We also know, according to authorities, that they believe that the people he killed were also employees in this area.
Again, 67-year-old resident of Half Moon Bay. He is in custody. Authorities are speaking to him at the moment. Hopefully, we get more clarity on why he did this.
COATES: Camila, thank you so much.
I want to bring in now Assembly Member Marc Berman of California's 23rd district. Assemblyman, I mean, such a tragedy. It is unbelievable to think about the pacing of such tragedies. But how is your community grappling with us tonight?
MARC BERMAN, ASSEMBLY MEMBER, CALIFORNIA DISTRICT 23: Thank you for having me. They're shocked. They're shocked in disbelief that this happened in Half Moon Bay, such an idyllic part of San Mateo County, Northern California.
I'll tell you, at 2:22 or just before 2:22, I was on the steps of the California State Capitol with my colleagues for a vigil for the Monterey Park victims, and then I made my way over to my office and I see on social media that there was -- that there was a mass shooting in my district.
And so, it is happening far too often and communities are scared. We are going to do everything that we can to support them, you know, tonight and in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
COATES: No one ever thinks it is going to happen in their hometown. But with the rise and the prevalence of gun violence in this country, has your community developed -- law enforcement collectively, had there been training or a plan in case this were to happen? Have you had to adjust to that cold reality?
BERMAN: Yes. We're very fortunate. San Mateo County is one of the best counties in the state. They have -- as we saw in the video, you know, remarkably professional sheriff's department that covers Half Moon Bay and covers the coast side of San Mateo County. They were able to apprehend the suspect quickly and without any more death to anyone else.
But for -- you know, it's -- I had a couple of school classes up in the Capitol last year. When I asked them, what is the one thing that you would like to change in your community? There are two different groups. And the first group, these are fourth-grade students, 10-year- olds, and the first group, the first thing they said was no more shootings in schools. The second group, the third thing they said was no more shootings in schools.
I wasn't dreaming of that nightmare when I was a 10-year-old. And so, it unfortunately has really permeated every aspect of society, and we need to do more to protect our communities.
COATES: When you talk about children, I have a 10-year-old and an eight-year-old, and to know that part of their school day at some part during the year has to entail having what we used have as a fire drill, they have to have active shooter training or a kind of response. It really is unnerving to say the very least. But there also, I understand, children at the scene. What do you know about the presence of children at the shooting scene?
BERMAN: It was farmworker housing. And there are lot of -- we have a lot of farming and agriculture on the coast, and farmworker housing where the whole family lives. One or two people of the family maybe work on the farm but everyone else, including children, live there.
And so, it is tragic, it is tragic to think, you know, that -- and we're still learning details about the victims. We can also assume that mothers, fathers, sons, daughters were killed far too soon. And the fact that their own families were nearby just makes it that much worse. So, it is really a senseless gun violence that we have in the United States that is so different from anywhere else in the country.
COATES: Do you happen to know why they believe this was targeted? I know we don't have the motive or this precise motive, but any indications to why they believe it was targeted?
BERMAN: I don't know yet, to be honest. I'm sure that information will come out soon. But I don't know.
COATES: We will have to see what is happening as this all unfolds. I'm just thinking about the, as you said, being on the Capitol, you know, just honoring as a vigil the loss of life in another community, only to have it happen right on your front door. Thank you so much. We are thinking of your community.
BERMAN: Thanks so much, Laura.
COATES: I want to bring in former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and retired LAPD Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey is with us here as well. You know, a lot happening as we get the information and it truly is unfolding. I want to begin with you, Sgt. Dorsey, because you've got two mass shootings, frankly days apart in California. Monterey Park was one. Now, Half Moon Bay.
Why has this become so common? Do you think, as my colleague earlier spoke about, Charles Ramsey, that there is a fear that people may become desensitized to what has been happening?
CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD POLICE SERGEANT: I think we are already there. I wonder if the shooting in Half Moon Bay, if this is like a copycat. I mean, obviously, there's a lot of press about what happened here. In Monterey, California, there is an Asian man who victimized other Asians. Now, we have something very similar in Northern California.
Is this someone who has been stewing and brewing and had angst over an issue and decided, you know what, I think I'm going to do that very thing that we just heard about in Southern California. Sometimes, you know, I know that there's a reason why the news puts information out there, but I wonder if we really need to know every single thing that occurs.
COATES: That's an important point. And a colleague of mine, Shan Wu, earlier, we were just speaking about this, Andrew, the idea of not immediately discounting the possibility of hate crimes simply because the person is of the same race of some of the victims. There could be the same type of animus, gender wise or otherwise race wise and beyond that can't be discounted.
But to Sgt. Dorsey's point, the availability of information, the need for transparency at least from a consuming, you know, court of public opinion, do you think that that can at times way against the ability to stop crimes like this?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: You know, that is hard to say, Laura. It is totally understandable that communities are looking for answers to questions like, what motivated this person to commit this horrible act? It is a way of understanding or assessing future danger.
Is there something else out there that we should be worried about? We want to kind of be able to categorize these things in our mind and kind of put them into a particular box in terms of the way that we understand them.
And so, the thirst for inspiration, to understand things like motive and intent is really never-ending. However, that leads to the sort of coverage that we're doing right now, that we did over the weekend, that we always do around these events that could, in fact, serve to draw more attention to these individuals, to their methods, their equipment, their guns, and everything else.
So, it is really hard. We are in very tough spot in terms of trying to bring people the information they reasonably seek but also trying to assess whether or not that is ultimately harmful. So, I think the answer that question is way beyond.
COATES: Sgt. Dorsey, to that point, mass shootings in the past, remember the Boston bombers and beyond, there was a conversation around, even to we as media, mention and talk about the person who committed the crime as opposed to focusing on the victim so as to minimize potential impact.
But I do wonder from your legal, your law enforcement background in particular, you know, in the case of what has happened in Half Moon Bay, you have a living suspect. What is the investigation look like from here in terms of what you are looking for to try to understand or identify that motive? What are the things you're looking most for? How does that investigation expand with an eye towards prosecution, of course?
DORSEY: One would hope that he would be cooperative. I mean, you reported that he was taken into custody at police station. And so, it sounds like maybe he went there to turn himself in. And so, he can provide a lot of information as to the why. That's what everybody wants to know. And with that information, perhaps we can avoid future instances.
What I want to encourage everyone to do going forward is to be your own best advocate and protector if you will because the horse is out at the barn, the guns are out there, people are acting on impulses.
And so, you know, it's a matter of really if you see something, if you know something, if you feel something about a person, you need to say something in an effort to maybe avert these kinds of instances happening over and over and over.
COATES: We have limited time, Andrew, but I wonder from your perspective, for a case like Monterey Park where you're to unpack and the suspect is dead, how do you try to get the answers? What are your investigative tactics from this point?
MCCABE: It's basics, Laura. You got to talk to friends, neighbors, family members, coworkers, anybody who knew him to try to pull together a picture of these sorts of things that he said to other people, maybe complaints that he had, stories that he told.
And then you want his own writings, whether it is on social media or on emails or texts to friends. You got to do the forensics of all those electronic devices that we know that they seized from his residence yesterday. So, there is a lot work for investigators to do here.
And hopefully, that would enable them to stitch together in understanding of what made this guy tick.
COATES: There are so many answers that the families are looking for. They lost their loved-ones. We are still waiting for the identities of those who were killed in Monterey Park and also in Half Moon Bay. Thank you to both of you.
Thirty-eight Americans dead in mass shootings. It is just the first three weeks of this -- we are only three weeks in to this year. So, what will it take to stop the killings of people across this country?
COATES: The mass shootings just don't stop. Police confirming seven people were killed just tonight in the second mass shooting in California in just a matter of days. And this is the state that actually has an assault-style weapons ban. So, why does this keep happening?
I want to bring in CNN contributor Stephen Gutowski. [23:20:00]
He is a gun safety instructor and firearms reporter for thereload.com. Also, Jennifer Mascia, senior news writer at "The Trace."
You know, the question that everyone is asking in addition to trying to understand motives, I think it is of a human nature to try to understand why, not looking for a justification, but what would bring someone or motivate them to do something like this. But Stephen, you say that we're seeing actually a cluster of shootings. What causes that?
STEPHEN GUTOWSKI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, GUN SAFETY INSTRUCTOR, FIREARMS REPORTER FOR THERELOAD.COM: Well, I think that sometimes, you know, it could be caused by copycat sort of effect where shooters see other people carrying out these attacks and feel this affected themselves and then decide this is something they can do.
It's sort of a riot effect that some people call it where the bar gets lower the more people see other people do it. Of course, it is also possible that these are not directly connected at all and it is just incidents that happened that seem similar in some ways but aren't directly connected.
COATES: I mean, it very well could be purely coincidence. We do not know of any connection whatsoever, Jennifer, between these two mass shootings. And sadly, we've got so many shootings across the country that trying to find those common threats is a fool's errand.
And yet some believe that legislative initiatives trying to stop this alone can feel like an exercise in futility because you've got California in particular that has a very strict gun laws, even an assault weapon ban. How does that strike you that it's happening there in particular? Does that lead you to believe that, frankly, nowhere is safe?
JENNIFER MASCIA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, SENIOR NEWS WRITER AT "THE TRACE": Well, the truth is not all mass shooters display warning signs that rise to the level of a gun ban. There are very specific things that you need to do. You have to have an involuntary mental health commitment or a felony that carries a sentence of a year or more, a domestic violence conviction. But, you know, you still can own guns if your behavior doesn't rise to the level where, you know, a family or a police officer invokes a red flag law on you.
The truth is there are 400 million guns in circulation in the United States. Even the strongest gun laws are going to have limited effect. There are already so many guns out there.
COATES: I mean, a very important point to raise is, Stephen, on the idea of, well, one not having necessarily the advance warning or the so-called red flags, maybe even being known to law enforcement that we often hear about, but the number of guns in circulation, does this make the idea of shootings sadly and cruelly inevitable?
GUTOWSKI: Well, I don't know if it makes it inevitable because we didn't always have this issue of mass shootings being --
COATES: That's true.
GUTOWSKI: -- as common as they are today in this country. And we had looser gun laws going back in history. You can be able to buy a machine gun through the mail and have it delivered to your door. Now, in the state like California, which has the absolute strictest gun laws in the country, you're still having these events occur regardless of that.
And so, you know, I don't know if gun laws are going to be the only solution or the magic trick to fix this. There are certainly things that you can do to make sure that these don't happen as frequently including following up on issues where these suspects do run into police or do have events that could trigger charges or involuntary commitments that lead to gun bans.
I know the Monterrey Shooter apparently had a charge for illegal gun possession in his past. I'm sure we'll hear more about both of these suspects in the future. There may be more of those sorts of incidents that (INAUDIBLE) on could have led to like (INAUDIBLE).
COATES: And Jennifer, when we talk about this, the idea of -- I don't want to suggest that legislation is an exercise in futility (ph), nor do I want to suggest that there can be just one panacea to which to create a complete delusion to all of these things. When you think about all the different facets that must come together, who are you looking to in the sense of the federal, congressional legislature or state and local jurisdiction? Who do you think would have the best ability to try to control? Or is it a combination?
MASCIA: Okay. Well, California's legislature is Democrat-dominated. And, you know, they have passed various strict gun laws. Federal is probably a nonstarter. You know, we still -- you know, the Democrats cannot overcome a filibuster in the Senate.
So, you know, a lot of people have stopped looking at legislation and started looking at on the ground solutions.
Community violence interruption has had success in hotspots. But it is not a coast to coast solution. Absence of federal system and strong control like other countries have, we are still going to see the shootings pop up even in states with strong gun laws.
You know, some argue that we need to loosen gun laws so more people can get guns and defend themselves. Well, our gun laws have significantly loosened over the last 30 years. Half the states are permitless carry. You don't even need a permit or training to carry a gun. So, why isn't there less gun violence? Why are more guns in the hands of people not stopping this? In 2021, we have more gun deaths than ever in this country. Nearly 49,000. Why is this number going up and not down?
COATES: These are the questions that we are all grappling with tonight, certainly in communities in California and beyond. I mean, you have states like California, Connecticut and Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, just to name a few that already have assault weapons ban, and sadly, not one seems to have been able to escape gun violence more broadly in this country.
Stephen, Jennifer, thank you. We'll keep asking the questions. We hope to find the answers.
Three members of the Oath Keepers and a fourth person associated with them convicted of seditious conspiracy by a Washington D.C. jury. We're going to dive into the larger significance of those cases, next.
COATES: Well, we have a verdict today in the latest Oath Keepers trial. Four men convicted of seditious conspiracy in a federal court in Washington, D.C. for plotting to stop the certification of Joe Biden's electoral college victory on January 6th.
Now, one of the men, David Moerschel, was a part of a formation. The prosecutor said it was -- quote -- "a battering ram for pushing through the crowd and into the Capitol." The verdict comes amid an ongoing trial of five Proud Boys on separate seditious conspiracy charges.
If any of that sounds familiar, that's because, well, back in November, the Oath Keepers' founders, Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs, were also found guilty of the rare seditious conspiracy charge.
Back with me now to discuss, Michael Fanone, Shan Wu, and Andrew McCabe. We'll begin with you here, Shan, because the DOJ's first successes with the Rhode's conviction, many were wondering if there would ever be a charge that would be successful to something like that, a very rare instance. Did that give some level of affirmation to continue with the new case which I note was separated because of space considerations of trying them altogether?
SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think it did. I mean, a lot of times, prosecutors actually, we've both been prosecutors, they are very concerned about beyond a reasonable doubt standard. But sometimes, a little bit of cold from being a little bit timid. And this is not a charge which has been used very much thankfully because it doesn't happen that much in the country.
And, honestly, I think some of the concern was saying that this is really rare charge, making it really difficult. Just because it's rare doesn't necessarily mean it's difficult. I mean, I've tried cases in D.C. for over a decade. I have a lot of confidence that this jury can see their way clearer in this kind case. I think that has been proven.
COATES: It's true, thinking about the way in which -- Andrew, I'm going to bring you in here. This was a D.C. jury and it was after already having the first Oath Keepers trial. But there wasn't (INAUDIBLE) between that set and this one, the first set of defendants in the Oath Keepers trial.
You had a bit of a patchwork of a mixed bag of convictions, but they were considered more of the organizers, the ringleaders, so to speak. These (INAUDIBLE) were more of the sold called foot soldiers, not the organizers as the prior ones were. What does that tell you about the idea of a DOJ successful conviction for those who were following orders as well?
MCCABE: You know, Laura, excuse me, it's a really interesting discrepancy between the two results, right? It seemed in the first Oath Keepers trial, the results, that the jury really reserved those convictions for seditious conspiracy for the highest-level kind of organizers and planners.
You'll remember that Rhodes never even entered the Capitol, wasn't even on the grounds of the Capitol that day, but nevertheless, took the conviction for seditious conspiracy.
This jury, of course, saw it somewhat differently. They did not have a problem convicting these defendants of seditious conspiracy even though they were admitted lower-level folks, the muscle, the guys who, according to prosecutors, applied brute force to the plans of trying to stop the certification of the election.
It's just that every jury is a little bit different, the perspectives, the way they weigh the evidence, the way they apply it are always a little bit different.
And I think that in the second trial, the one that we had a verdict on today, it's possible that the government kind of retooled their presentation of that evidence having had the experience of the first Oath Keepers trial a few months ago.
So, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what it was. But, clearly, these two juries saw the implications of that charge somewhat differently.
COATES: And Michael, I mean, for the audience as well, there is also a Proud Boys trial happening as well. So, keeping these different charges stray and who is getting charged with what, but it all has the connective tissue of what happened on January 6th. I'm wondering what your personal reaction has been to watching the trials unfold but to have secure convictions.
MICHAEL FANONE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, FORMER D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER: Yes, I mean, excuse me, to me, I see these almost as a witness test. You had the first trial with Stewart Rhodes and some of the higher-level individuals. And now, we are kind of working our way down.
My assumption would be that, you know, if the evidence is the same against the Proud Boys, their membership, as it was against the Oath Keepers, I think the result is going to be the same. It just speaks to at least some of the individuals that participated in the January 6th insurrection and the level of pre-planning an organization that those groups had in place for the events of that day.
COATES: It isn't just saying this. I'm looking at this and, you know, originally thinking about the initial defense was, well, Trump made me do X, Y and Z, or the thought was, hey, are they going to only be able to pinpoint it as the biggest fish in the pond?
And now, you see the distancing of either Stewart Rhodes being on site, the idea of those who are so-called foot soldiers, and the jury is being convinced nonetheless.
There's still a lot more to impact. And obviously, you know, although you do have some similarities, they still have a lot to prove for all of the cases that might follow as well. Thank you to all of you. Appreciate it.
Conviction today on all counts for the January 6th rioter who was photographed with his feet on then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's desk. Richard Barnett of Arkansas is facing eight charges, including entering and remaining in a restricted area with a deadly or dangerous weapon and obstructing an official proceeding.
Now, court documents show that Barnett had a stun gun while inside Pelosi's office, although he testified he believed that stun gun did not actually work. Barnett's lawyer says they do plan to appeal and the sentencing is set for this coming May. He faces up to 20 years in prison for the top charge of obstructing an official proceeding.
Now, guess who is invited to the White House tomorrow? Well, none other than Congressman George Santos. We'll tell you why, next.
COATES: Well, the George Santos lies, well, they keep coming. And still, he is a congressman. And as such, he was invited to the White House tomorrow for a reception for new members. He actually has two committee assignments and even a security clearance.
Former Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger tells CNN that members of Congress don't need a background check to get the security clearance. He says -- quote -- "Your election is constitutionally your clearance. You just sign a sheet that you understand once."
Joining me now, CNN political commentator Paul Begala, senior contributor to "Axios" Margaret Talev, and former RNC Communications Director Doug Heye as well.
First of all, it might be stunning to many people, Margaret, that there's not this requirement of extensive background checks once you are elected because that would be an additional qualification that the Constitution does not actually have. By having a security clearance, they go through everything in DOJ. And yet you could see classified documents and security clearance in the members of Congress. Is that surprising?
MARGARET TALEV, DIRECTOR OF DEMOCRACY, JOURNALISM AND CITIZENSHIP INSTITUTE, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR FOR AXIOS: No. I mean, look, to be a member of the House of Representatives is about as close as you can be to just being an ordinary citizen and being elected to federal office. And that is what being elected to the House is about. Now, you get assigned to committees. And some of those committees are more sensitive than others.
George Santos doesn't actually need to be assigned to any committee, but the republican leadership has chosen to give him committee assignments. And that is where the rub is, you know, you are entrusted by the people who voted for you, which is okay, unless you're a pathological liar. And then there's not really any recourse except for the ballot two years later, and that's the situation that we're in.
COATES: That part, the liar part, what do you say to the fact that this is happening right now? And, of course, you know, there is not the recourse.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there was an election. And Adam Kinzinger says there's no background check the way you and I were in the government. I was in the White House. I had a security clearance. There's a background check. It's called the election.
And the Republican Party, before they put him up, they should've checked him out. Just like, by the way, this man accused in New Mexico, a Republican candidate for the legislature accused of shooting at the houses of Democratic officials. So, they should've checked him out.
Frankly, the press should've checked him out. I talk to Democratic operatives because I called them. I said, did you doctor your job? They had some of this. Not all. And they gave it to journalists in New York. Journalist didn't run with it. They said, oh, he's not going to win. So, people drop the bomb. The Republican Party, they should've vetted this guy. The press should've vetted him.
COATES: In fact, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik has been criticized for fund raising or giving sort of a nod to support as well, as just one person of the many you just named.
BEGALA: She should've checked him out. That one went to Harvard. She's not dumb. She's very, very smart. She should have been smart enough to check this guy out before she gave him her endorsement.
COATES: Do you think the idea of knowing (INAUDIBLE) a sort of a pass (INAUDIBLE) a collective issue going on. It did not stop SNL from giving him the royal treatment, so to speak. Listen to this. We can update how they dealt with this Santos issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: You lied about going to NYU?
UNKNOWN: You lied about working at Goldman Sachs?
UNKNOWN: I filled the gold man sacks.
UNKNOWN: You lied about your mom dying in 9/11?
UNKNOWN: I think I said 7-Eleven.
UNKNOWN: No. No. You even lied about being Jewish.
UNKNOWN: No, I said I Jew-ish, which is honestly icon-ic.
UNKNOWN: I mean, I said that because my grandparents were in the holocaust.
UNKNOWN: Oh, man, really?
UNKNOWN: Yeah, yeah. They actually knew Anne Frank. My ancestors were the ones that told, you should be writing this down.
UNKNOWN: Hang on, Madonna is calling now. Hello? Yeah, like a virgin? I remember. I was there. I was the virgin.
UNKNOWN: Okay, love you, see you at home.
UNKNOWN: I just don't understand why Republicans won't condemn you. I mean, they promoted you to two committee assignments.
UNKNOWN: Yeah, of course, they did. I'm a team player and the sport is lies. At least minor fun. Meanwhile, Marjorie Taylor Greene is saying 9/11 didn't happen. I just said it happened to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: I mean, Doug, the idea that this is obviously getting spoofed from SNL, but they're taking it to a larger statement of how the perception of the Republican Party may shift because of people like Santos. Do you agree?
DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I don't think it changes because of Santos. I think it changes because of one of the people he mentioned, Marjorie Taylor Greene, you know, and others that we focused on in the past couple of weeks.
Santos is such an anomaly. I don't think that he stinks the party in any real way. And sure, some Republicans have called on him to step down, some haven't. The reality is that every Republican can call on him to resign and he won't resign. So, it doesn't have any force.
We can applaud and say they did the right thing. It ultimately doesn't matter until members, whether Republican or Democrat, offer some kind of a resolution for expulsion, and then you get to the further (INAUDIBLE).
But also, to say, really quick, you know, on the question of vetting, Santos is a member of Congress. You can be on the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee and not be vetted. You don't have to be approved or have any real background check. That is how life changes when you're member.
BEGALA: This shouldn't be.
BEGALA: I don't want the executive branch passing judgment on that the legislator can see. I actually think that's right. But it is the --
COATES: Do you really think it's right?
HEYE: He is member.
HEYE: Membership has privilege.
BEGALA: That's right.
COATES: Explain little more of that because that might be counterintuitive. Okay, the document is such a sensitive nature as to have a SCIF, for example. I think that most people would probably assume that there have to be something to allow the person to have a kind of background check to know that you are who you say you are or that you are able to have it. That is surprising that that wouldn't be the case.
BEGALA: They're constitutional officers. Now, if they released a classified information, prosecutor just like you and I, that is good, too. But I don't think you want a country where the executive dominates. Our founders wanted the balance --
TALEV: (INAUDIBLE) presumption (INAUDIBLE) broker. I mean, he relies on that basic contract with the voter, that you're voting for the person who said you're voting for. Now, you're trustworthy on some essential level. You may be political. You may make decisions that more political than policy-based. That's all within the realm of normal politics.
But if you make up everything about yourself, how can you be trusted with anything? And so, I think that puts us, you're right, he's an anomaly, but it puts his case in a different category. It makes all these choices about committee assignments or what could the next two years be like. It puts different sticks (ph) on all of them (ph).
COATES: Then there's oversight (ph). The idea (INAUDIBLE) executive branch is the work chart. You got the DOJ, you got the FBI, et cetera. But the idea of there being some level of oversight within the oversight function of Congress, is that so bizarre?
I remember not too long ago a conversation around wanting to see tax returns because of the thought of what it might mean. There's all these checks and balance in different branches of government. But the idea of wanting to know whether somebody is acceptable, if you're the president of the United States, couldn't Congress (INAUDIBLE) Congress not to look at these issues internally?
HEYE: Sure, and they do. We have the House Ethics Committee and we also have the Office of Congressional Ethics. But these things take a lot of time. It will not be a quick process for Santos. And so, any Republican, any Democrat can offer a motion to expel him from Congress. Reality is it takes two-thirds of Congress to do that. And the last two times it happened, the member of Congress have to be convicted of bribery before that vote happened. Not accused --
BEGALA: I do think he damages the republican brand. This is where we disagree. Everybody in America, the people get the story and following the story. Everybody knows who he is, the things he said, and that he is a Republican. That is going to damage their brand unless they get rid of him.
HEYE: (INAUDIBLE) more problems --
HEYE: -- than the guy who is now on "Saturday Night Live."
COATES: The RNC has a big meeting this week, right, to select their next chairman? Will this person's position impacts what they do?
HEYE: Not at all. Not at all.
COATES: Full stop. No. Actually, no, Laura. Will not. Well, that says something --
BEGALA: People are asking who at the Republican National Committee vetting this guy? Who asked him to run? Surely, there is somebody better. HEYE: Nobody asked him to run. You know how this works. Once you are the nominee, the party leaders, majority leader, minority leader, they go storming for candidates.
HEYE: And they basically say, okay, I'm in Waco, who is our candidate here? They do the black list, they get on the plane, they go to Tucson, who is our candidate here, then they go to Phoenix --
BEGALA: When Republicans nominated David Duke in Louisiana, George Bush, Sr. disavowed him. He didn't care if he was a Republican nominee. He said, I won't have him in my party.
HEYE: Very different case, though. We knew who he was.
COATES: Well, seems to be there are some issues to work out here, everyone.
HEYE: There are some issues.
COATES: And everyone, stand by. It was just three weeks ago tonight on a separate topic that Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was seriously injured on the field. He's already out and about Buffalo. We are going to take a look at that, next.
COATES: It looks like Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is getting stronger every single day. He has posted photos of himself on Twitter and also on Instagram visiting a mural in his honor that is on display in Buffalo.
Hamlin writing on Instagram -- quote -- "Creation from the heart is what makes art. The love been getting me thru the toughest hours. Can't wait to show how thankful I am."
He has come a long way, which is three weeks ago tonight, that his heart stopped in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Everyone, thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.