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Buffalo Suspect Made Plans Public 30 Minutes Before Shooting; Oz And McCormick Locked In Tight Race With High-Stakes; Russian Soldier Pleads Guilty In War Crimes Trial. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 18, 2022 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Shocking and horrific new details today about the racist massacre in Buffalo. CNN is learning the suspected gunman posted his attack plan online and then invited others to give him feedback. CNN's Omar Jimenez live on the ground for us in Buffalo right now with more. Omar?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. So we knew he had been using Discord essentially as a planning diary for this attack. But what we didn't necessarily know was who was seeing these messages. A spokesperson for Discord said that about 30 minutes before this attack unfolded on Saturday, he and or a small amount of people were invited and to join what was previously a private server.

And as far as what these posts showed, it basically was a log of the plan leading up to this, that on March 8th, he came here he traveled the roughly 200 miles from where he was, he came here to Buffalo, went inside the Tops supermarket multiple times taking notes, drawing maps, essentially laying the groundwork for the attack that would then unfold a little bit more than two months later.

Now, what the community is left with here is trying to pull each other up. And what we've seen over the course of this is, look, this was a supermarket in the heart of a community that needed a supermarket as basically its only source of fresh produce. So, people have been setting up kitchens like this, offering fresh food, hot food, even at portions of the day trying to fill that gap. But of course, it's only a temporary solution, as many here in the neighborhood are not only just mourning the lives that are lost, but are going to have to find long term solutions to replace the utility of this supermarket. John?

KING: A temporary solution as you know note, Omar. But again, it is wonderful to see some humanity and some compassion come out of something so dark and horrible. Omar Jimenez live for us on the ground, thank you.

Our great reporters, were back with us as hate and racism once again, front and center in our national conversation. Among our reporters here, Toluse Olorunnipa, who just wrote this book, I'll hold it up right here, we can also show it, there you go, you can do it that way, that's a little easier. "His Name is George Floyd," of course, life shaped by racism. I want to hold the book up here. And thank you for the copy of it.

Racism of a different kind, it was racism and a police force and in a community that led to the death of George Floyd. This is hate by someone who posted online his plan to kill people, ask for input on his plan to kill people. And somehow all of that escapes the red flag laws.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's pretty amazing to think that someone could operate with that level of impunity to talk about this openly and feel like he added a community of other people who had so much hatred in their heart towards people who looked differently, that they would be willing to support him in this effort.

Now, one of the things we found in our book was that there is this backlash in the aftermath of the summer of George Floyd, this backlash that has started with a politician sort of saying, we don't want to talk about the country's history, we don't want to talk about critical race theory. And it spread. And it's led to, you know, people in the media and people online essentially saying that they're fearful of great replacement theory and things like that.

And that's one of the things that we have grappled with over the past two years. We were able to interview President Biden for this book, and he talked about the hate that is so persistent. It was obviously before this happened, but he said that this country has always been a fight between our greatest ideals and our struggles against the hatred of the past. And he says it's a constant struggle.

One of the things he told us was that hate never goes away. It only hides and when it comes in, rears its head and events like this, as we heard from Biden yesterday. It's a symbol of this constant struggle that we have for peace and racial justice in our country.

KING: Right. To that point and one of the things I just want to hit myself for keeping saying it is that here we go again having the same conversation, whether it's a mass shooting, whether it's the George Floyd killing now this hateful mass shooting in Buffalo is, you know, is it going to change anything? Are people just going to say the right thing for two or three days, and then it gets forgotten. You are with the President yesterday as he traveled to Buffalo is an incredibly powerful speech played out live in this hour. Among the things the President said was this.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: White supremacy is a poison. It's a poison running through our -- it really is, running through our body politic, and it's been allowed to fester and grow right in front of our eyes. No more. I mean, no more.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: In a very different context, earlier, we were talking about the authenticity of political candidates. That is authentic Joe Biden, his life shaped by personal tragedy. So when he goes to console a community, and talk about them at a horrible time, he has personal experience. But the port there, the question is, what comes of that? The President says, you know, I have some executive things I can do about guns, but not much. The country has been polarized on these questions for years. And what does he do with his understandable outrage and compassion there?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, for one, it's amazing that it's even notable in 2022 for President, two, just outright and condemn white supremacy and call something what it is that being domestic terrorism. You were just saying it's been a fraught history with this. And that's not just the previous administration, that's going back when Biden was vice president.

We're sending a report that called out those who might be vulnerable to domestic terrorism because of the backlash that would come. This is something that the country has struggled to identify to call out. And with that develop an effective response to. Now, he was in his strength yesterday as he was empathizing with the families of victims, but even just outside of the community center, talking to folks, you could hear the tension, you could hear frustration, and questions over what comes next.

You don't have the votes for gun legislation. I did ask him before he boarded Air Force One, is it time for domestic terrorism statute? Is it time for a law that would allow local prosecutors to basically investigate and charge some of these suspects in the same way that we've done or similar way that we've done with foreign terrorists as well on foreign terrorist? He said that he thinks we have enough laws on the books, but we need to come to a consensus just to identify and call out these threats at this point.

KING: Good conversation again. I hope we can have a sustained conversation that gets to a fruitful ending, whatever that may be, as opposed to revisiting this every now and then.

Up next for us, the latest on that Republican Senate primary vote count in Pennsylvania which is ongoing as we speak. And on the Democratic side, just how did John Fetterman pull off a 67 counties sweep.



KING: We're going to get some local expertise now on this high drama in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This is the Senate Republican primary, Dr. Mehmet Oz who has the Trump endorsement, 2,413 votes ahead of second place, David McCormick, Kathy Barnette, very conservative candidate running a distant third. But this a very close race now as they tried to count the final votes.

Some mail-in ballots still to be counted from a number of places around the state, some Election Day ballots as well. But the bulk we were told of the ballots still to be counted are here in Lancaster County, where they did have an issue with the coding on those mail in ballots. Katie Meyer of WHYY joins me now. Katie, grateful for your local expertise here. What is your understanding number one of the state of play in Lancaster County? And number two, how long is this expected to take to get to a final count? And then we'll have the question, do we have a recount?

KATIE MEYER, POLITICAL REPORTER, WHY: Yes, so Lancaster County, they're still counting the ballots, they did have a printing issue that prevented them from scanning a bunch of them. But hopefully that will be resolved within a couple of days. Again, that's a conservative county, it's a sizable county. So it will be significant. But this race is really close.

And so in Pennsylvania, when any statewide race is within 0.5 percent, the two candidates are within 0.5 percent of each other, then that means we go to an automatic recount. And that doesn't even preclude the candidates from filing lawsuits, things like that. So it could be a while. It could be up to weeks before we have a final result in this race. But as you said most of the ballots are in.

KING: Could be up to weeks, as you say. And just the key point you make I just want to show people the numbers about state law right there. Just today, Trump encouraged Dr. Oz to just declare victory. Both Oz and McCormick last night said the right thing. There are votes to be counted. Do we have any expectation any reporting on how Trump trying to meddle might impact things?

MEYER: Well, Trump, I mean, we have a record of what that does in the 2020 election. It created this long, years long dynamic in Pennsylvania where Republicans were convinced without cause that there have been something wrong with the election, obviously a very different dynamic now. And I think you can see that in both of the candidates not really taking the bait. Oz for instance, not declaring victory like Trump has urged him to do.

So I would say there's less power right now, it seems in Trump's kind of expectations of, you know, make sure my endorsed candidate wins, Mehmet Oz. But again, you know, we'll see maybe these things will evolve as, you know, we go on with no results.

KING: Help us understand, help people around the country perhaps understand what we saw on the Democratic side. The Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman was the favorite candidate heading into this race without a doubt over Connor Lambs, a congressman from this part of the state, Malcolm Kenyatta a state legislator from over here in Philadelphia. But this is wow.


When you look at a map in today's world, and you see a 67 counties sweep and a 59 percent to 26 percent win, what is it about John Fetterman that allowed him to pull that off?

MEYER: Yes, it's certainly a huge mandate from Democratic voters to Fetterman. And I think there are a couple of things I would point to one, you know, Fetterman ran for Senate in 2016, unsuccessfully didn't win the primary. But then since 2016, has really just been almost steadily campaigning. So in 2018, he ran for lieutenant governor, a statewide race, feed off an unpopular incumbent and then ran alongside a popular incumbent governor.

As Lieutenant Governor, he and Tom Wolf, the governor, did a 67 County, all county tour to talk about legalizing recreational marijuana. That was a big issue for Fetterman. It introduced him to a lot of voters. In 2020, he was all over cable news talking about the election. And in his new Senate bid, he had an incredible e-mail list that he was using to reach out to voters. He had incredible grassroots fundraising.

Again, you look at Fetterman, fundraising, it's very different from what we see from a lot of Democratic candidates. He wasn't taking PAC money. These were mostly small donations. So I think that speaks to Fetterman's ability to speak directly to voters. He hasn't used the party establishment. And that has turned off establishment figures from Fetterman but it really has not mattered to voters.

KING: Well, it's interesting to see. That is an impressive statement among Democrats. Now we'll see if Mr. Fetterman can carry it over into the general election. Katie Meyer grateful for your time today, important insights, we'll stay in touch in this incredibly important state, the Senate race, governor's race and beyond. Katie, thank you.

Up next for us, the latest from Ukraine, heavy fighting day and night in the Donetsk region and a guilty plea from the first Russian soldier put on trial for war crimes.



KING: To Ukraine now, in a battlefield scramble in the east. Day and night attacks in Donetsk, but the shelling so far producing scant Russian gains in terms of seizing territory. Moscow though now sending helicopters to bolster Russian artillery, a full force attempt to crack the Ukrainian front line in several Donetsk. Today, Russia says it's also taken out a new shipment of American made howitzers. In Mariupol, mass surrender. Russia says 694 Ukrainian forces, some of the last who were in that steel plant have laid down their guns and are now in Russian custody.

And in Kyiv, a plea of guilty from a Russian soldier on trial for war crimes, quote, yes, fully yes, that word in court this morning from a Russian sergeant when asked by the presiding judge, if he accepts responsibility for shooting and killing a 62-year-old man on a bicycle in the first days of this war. CNN's Melissa Bell live for us in Kyiv, the capitol. Pretty dramatic trial.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pretty dramatic scenes here. We expected them to be fairly dramatic, John, because we're hearing for the first time from the plea would be of that 21-year-old, Vadim Shishimarin, accused of killing that civilian. But the court proceedings had to be adjourned. There were simply too many journalists in the room which speaks to of the huge media interest in this, the first war crimes trial being held by the Ukrainian side since the war began. It will now resume tomorrow.

What we did learn beyond Shishimarin's guilty plea was also that we're going to be hearing from an interesting witness for the prosecution, another Russian prisoner of war that we had not expected to hear from who was traveling with Shishimarin in the car on the day when that civilian was shot. He's going to be able to provide a better picture of exactly what went on.

And this has been interestingly, John, welcomed by both the prosecution and the defense. So it should be an interesting day in court tomorrow. And I think what is also so significant about this trial is that it comes even as the face of those Azovstal evacuees that you mentioned a moment ago hangs in the balance. We've been hearing not only from the head of the Donetsk People's Republic, where those evacuees fighters are now being treated for their wounds for the most severely wounded.

And he was saying that he believed they should now be put on trial. Remember that these evacuees were expected to be part of a straightforward swap of prisoners of war, that no longer appears to be the case. So you have prisoners of war on one hand on trial here in Kyiv. And the possibility that these prisoners of war, those evacuees from that Azovstal steel plants, might themselves be put on trial as well.

Another interesting development as well today, we've learned from that same leader of the Donetsk People's Republic on the Russian side, that in fact, some of the commanders of the Azovstal fighters are still holed up in the plant. So another layer of complication and another interesting angle here, which suggests that even as those negotiations get more complicated between Ukraine and Russia, there are still some men inside the plant holding out, John.

KING: One of the many, many battlefield complications. Melissa Bell, grateful for the live report from Kyiv, thank you so much.


When we come back, you want to know what the Dow is doing, I think.


KING: Some important economic headlines beginning with this, probably not a good day to look at your 401(k). You see it there. Huge slides in the markets. The Dow down nearly 800 points the NASDAQ off more than 3 percent. The S&P 500 also down around 3 percent.

The Treasury Secretary today is signaling the United States will not, likely will not help Russia avoid a default. Janet Yellen traveling abroad in Germany says the U.S. unlikely to extend a carve out in sanctions that have to date allowed Moscow to continue to make payments on its debt. And I'm sorry to tell you this, but Americans should be prepared to pay even more at the gas pump, that a warning from JPMorgan this week. It says the national average for gas prices may hit $6 a gallon before the end of summer.


Don't forget you can also listen to our podcast. Download Inside Politics wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for your time today. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.